Whether you need help with applying for benefits or you want to appeal your denied disability retirement benefits application, we can help. Our federal disability retirement benefits lawyers have extensive experience representing the rights of federal employees in cases involving the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). Our experience can help you make the most of your benefits application or appeal.
Nationwide Lawyers | Seeking Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal Employees
If you are (or were) a Federal Employee and are considering filing for disability retirement, or applied for disability retirement and you were denied, we invite you to call our firm. The Bell Law Group has had great success in obtaining Disability Retirement for Federal Employees in all stages of the application process. Additionally, in most cases, our federal employee rights lawyers can handle your case for a flat fee.
We have gotten approvals for Federal Employees who were still employed at the time of submission of the application after the Federal Employee had voluntarily left and even after a Federal Employee was terminated from the position. If you were terminated from your position for a medical inability to perform an essential function of the job, you would be entitled to a presumption that is favorable to your Disability Retirement application.
We Understand How the Office of Personnel Management Works
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the agency in charge of reviewing all applications for federal disability retirement benefits. We know what they look for and what areas raise red flags. This knowledge allows us to work closely with you and your doctors to craft a finely worded, thorough initial application for benefits.
Your Disability Need Not Stem From Injuries Sustained at Work
One common misconception federal employees have about disability benefits eligibility is that their injuries must have come from injuries caused by work or during the course of work. That is not the case. Instead, the only requirements you must meet to obtain disability retirement benefits are:
- You have been employed in your federal position for at least 18 months
- Your injury or illness will last at least one year
- You cannot perform the essential functions of your job
- Your employer does not have another position that you can perform
As long as you can prove the above elements exist in your situation, you should be in a good position to receive the full benefits that you deserve.
The Disability Retirement Appeals Process
In the event that the OPM denies your initial application for disability benefits, you can pursue an appeal. If, it is important to understand all the potential steps you may face throughout the process:
- Reconsideration request to the OPM: Your initial recourse after receiving your denial letter is to request reconsideration from the OPM. At this stage, we can help you submit additional information in an attempt to get the OPM to reverse its initial decision.
- Merit Systems Protection Board hearings: If you do not succeed at the reconsideration step, we will next request an appeal in an administrative law judge (ALJ) hearing before the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). The ALJ will take a fresh review of your record and submit a decision, free from the OPM’s initial decision. If the ALJ does not respond in your favor, we can request a review before the full board.
- Federal Court of Appeals hearing: If the MSPB hearings do not go well, we can pursue an appeal of your retirement benefits all the way to the federal circuit.
What We Bring to the Table
We have secured Disability Retirement at the initial application process, at the request for reconsideration stage and at the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Do not delay hiring a competent attorney to assist you through this process. The firm will ensure that your application is presented in a way that gives you the best chances of securing Disability Retirement Benefits at the earliest stage possible. The firm works with your doctor to ensure that the medical records and Physician’s Statement clearly set forth all the “elements” that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) looks for when making a decision on your application.
The firm will also give you guidance at the outset as to whether or not your condition would likely or not likely qualify you for this benefit prior to you jeopardizing your job status. There are numerous requirements that OPM looks for when considering your application. For instance, you must establish that you are no longer able to perform a critical element of your job due to a disability, and that you will continue to be disabled for at least one year. Furthermore, you have to establish that the Agency cannot provide you with a reasonable accommodation.
We have been successful in getting Federal Employees approved for all kinds of disabilities, including neck and back herniations, radiculopathy, depression, alcoholism, social phobias, carpal tunnel syndrome, cancer, and many others.
If you experience an illness or injury and are unable to work, it is a difficult and often an emotional experience, but as a Federal Employee, you are entitled to claim compensation. The Bell Law Group has had excellent results in obtaining our clients’ rightful Disability Retirement benefits. We will consult with you and determine, based on our experience with FERS law, whether or not your case is viable.
Before submitting an application for disability benefits, you must provide documentation of your limitations to your employer, and after review, your employer must have exhausted all efforts to keep you working and productive. This would include accommodation as well as reassignment, as long as it is to a position at the same grade and is within the reasonable commuting area.
The OPM (Office of Personnel Management) carefully reviews every applicant seeking Disability Retirement benefits. Disability has several conditions for eligibility. You must have worked for 18 months or more in a Postal or Federal civilian service capacity, creditable under FERS (Federal Employees Retirement System).
The event of your disability (i.e. injury, disease) must be expected to last more than one year, it must have occurred while you were employed in a position subject to the retirement system, and it must have a direct impact on your ability to perform your job usefully and efficiently. The term “disability” does not mean you have to be completely incapacitated—only unable to perform the required work for your position.
Your agency must verify that your position cannot accommodate your present condition, and that you have been considered for reassignment in any applicable vacancy of the same grade and pay where you qualify, within the same commuting range.
In order to obtain your maximum benefit, you should seek counsel from a trusted, experienced resource. FERS benefit applications must be executed and received by your agency or the OPM within one year of the date you leave your position of service. The only exception for this deadline is if you were deemed mentally incompetent on the date of your separation or service (or within one year of that date).
Under FERS guidelines, in addition to applying for disability benefits, you must also submit an application for Social Security benefits. If, for any reason, the application for Social Security benefits is rescinded or withdrawn, the OPM will dismiss the Disability Retirement application upon the SSA’s notification of your application withdrawal.
Completing and supplying documentation for your application is a complicated legal process that we will manage for, and with, you. We will guide you through and explain the requirements in order to keep your retirement status active, such as periodic medical exams.
Modifying Retirement Status to Disability Retirement Status
If you are already retired and would like to change the status of your retirement to obtain disability retirement status, and you did not elect to pursue an annuity lump sum payment for your contributions over time, you must submit evidence that you became disabled while working in a position covered by FERS, and that as a result of your injuries or disease, you became unable to perform the duties required of that position usefully and efficiently. Your former agency must verify that it attempted to accommodate you while still under its employ and you must not have declined any offer by your former agency to accommodate or reassign you to a fitting, open position in the area (at the same grade and pay level) where your skills qualified. Employees who retire on disability are NOT eligible to the special retirement supplement offered to regularly retired individuals.
FERS Benefit Termination Under the Age of 60
If you are under the age of 60, your FERS disability benefit will terminate if you are found to be recovered from your disabling condition, and/or your wages during any calendar year are 80% or more than the current rate of your previous position’s basic rate of pay (also referred to as ‘restoration to earning capacity’). Your FERS benefits will also end if you become reemployed in Federal service in a capacity equivalent to your previous position (also known as ‘administratively recovered’).
You can reinstate your disability benefit after you were determined recovered medically or administratively only if complications from your injury or illness recur and you do not exceed the 80% cap on earnings. If you exceeded the earnings limitation, your benefits can still be reinstated the first year after you drop below the 80% earnings mark.
Contact a Disability Retirement Lawyer Today
If you are deemed eligible for FERS Disability Retirement benefits, the amount of your benefit and/or annuity will vary depending upon your age at the time of your separation from service and the number of years you acted as a civil servant. The Bell Law Group will work to obtain your deserved benefits in full, guiding you through the various computations and FERS cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). We will also counsel you on your entitlement to other benefits, and work to assure that your survivor(s) continue to receive applicable benefits after your death. Contact a disability retirement lawyer from our legal team today.