Federal Disability Retirement: Preparing, Formulating, and Filing for the Benefit

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a serious matter. Federal and Postal employees who are eligible for the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement, realize that it is an important, and often irrevocable, step away from a chosen career. As such, Federal and Postal employees must carefully consider the steps necessary in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and plan accordingly. It is, first and foremost, a plan which must be effectively executed to attain two major objectives: First, to stabilize one’s current financial needs, and Second, to secure one’s financial future.   www liteblue usps gov

First, the basic elements which the Federal and Postal employee must consider in preparing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits: Eligibility Requirements. Both Federal and Postal employees are under the same Federal System when it concerns retirement benefits. While the Postal Service became a “quasi-Federal agency” sometime in 1970 resulting from the Postal Reorganization Act, many of the benefits – including the retirement systems – remained consistent and parallel to Federal, non-Postal employees. Thus, despite its change in status as something other than a Federal agency, employees of the U.S. Postal Service continue to be employed and operate under the same retirement system as non-Postal, Federal employees. For those who came into the Federal and Postal Service after approximately 1986, they find themselves under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Otherwise, for those entering prior to that time, many Federal and Postal employees are under the Civil Service Retirement System, or a hybrid animal referred to as CSRS-Offset. For those under the Federal Employees Retirement Systems, in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, a minimum of 18 months of Federal Service must be accrued before becoming eligible to file for Federal Disability Retirement Benefits. For those under the Civil Service Retirement System, the minimum number of years to be eligible for Federal Disability Retirement is 5 years.

Additionally, beyond the minimum number of years required for eligibility purposes for those under either system, the Federal and Postal employee must have a medical condition which “disables” the Federal or Postal employee, and the medical condition or disability must impact his or her ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of the job.

Second, after establishing the eligibility requirements and thus satisfying the initial preparatory stage in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the next step is to enter into the “formulation” stage of things. This will involve multiple aspects of the administrative process, including completion of various forms (for those under the Federal Employees Retirement System, Standard Form 3107, as well as Schedules A, B & C need to be filed; and for those under the Civil Service Retirement System, Standard Form 2801, as well as Schedules A, B & C need to be completed). For both employees under either system of retirement, Standard Form 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, must be completed.

What substantive content needs to be completed in the Federal and Postal employee’s “Statement of Disability” in Standard Form 3112A? For Question Number 4, it requires, “Fully describe your disease or injury. We consider only the diseases or injuries you discuss in this application.” The operative word here, of course, is the term “fully”; for, if you do not identify a medical condition, it will not be considered. Only those medical conditions reasonably identified will be reviewed and considered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Additionally, be fully on notice that once a Federal Disability Retirement application is submitted, you cannot “add onto” or “amend” the Statement of Disability in order to supplement a medical condition. If a medical condition arises after submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and you believe that the subsequent medical condition is sufficiently important to include, then the only way to have it considered is by withdrawing the Federal Disability Retirement application, reformulating the Statement of Disability, and re-filing it with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. But wait! Take the following hypothetical: A Federal or Postal employee files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; he has been separated from Federal Service for 10 months, but files prior to the 1-year Statute of Limitations. In the 11th month, he realizes that he did not include a medical condition he believes to be foundational to his claim. He withdraws his application, and supplements it, then re-files it 2 months later – 13 months after being separated from Federal Service. What would be the outcome and result? He filed too late.