Frequently Asked Questions About FERS Disability Retirement

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How does SSDI impact my FERS Disability Retirement (FDR) annuity?

For any month in which you are entitled to both Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and FERS Disability Retirement (FDR), OPM will reduce your FDR annuity by a percentage of your SSDI benefit.

Specifically, for any month in which your FDR is calculated at 60% of your high-three average salary, OPM will reduce your FDR annuity by 100% of your SSDI benefit.  For any month in which your FDR is calculated at 40% of your high-three average salary, OPM will reduce your FDR annuity by 60% of your SSDI benefit.

If you'd like to see some sample computations, click here.

Getting Started

I'm thinking about applying for FERS Disability Retirement. Where do I start?

Filing for FERS Disability Retirement (FDR) can be a long and grueling process, and it's easy to get lost in the details.  So before you even start filling out forms and gathering medical documentation, there are three things you can (and should) do to set yourself up for success:

1. Request a "FERS Benefits Estimate" from your agency.  Even if you think you have a good idea of what your monthly annuity will be (during all three phases of FDR), it's a good idea to get confirmation from your agency.  In addition, this estimate can help you make an informed decision about whether to move forward with FDR or to explore other options (e.g., OWCP, reasonable accommodation, etc.).

2. Make sure your medical practitioner is willing to support your FDR claim.  Without a detailed, comprehensive statement from one or more of your medical practitioners, there is a high likelihood that your FDR claim will be denied.  So don't just assume that your practitioner is willing to participate in the process.  Meet with your doctor, explain his/her role, answer his/her questions, and get his/her confirmation.

3. Become familiar with your benefits.  Understanding the FDR eligibility requirements and application process is crucial to your success.  So don't rely solely on your agency HR for information.  Educate yourself about your FDR benefits.  Perhaps the best place to start is the OPM website.  Another great source of information is the CSRS and FERS Handbook: Chapter 60: Disability Retirement.

For a more detailed discussion about the above suggestions, click here.

What are the eligibility requirements for FERS Disability Retirement?

As listed on OPM's website, the eligibility requirements for FERS Disability Retirement are as follows:

  • You must have completed at least 18 months of Federal civilian service which is creditable under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).
  • You must, while employed in a position subject to the retirement system, have become disabled, because of disease or injury, for useful and efficient service in your current position.
  • The disability must be expected to last at least one year.
  • Your agency must certify that it is unable to accommodate your disabling medical condition in your present position and that it has considered you for any vacant position in the same agency at the same grade or pay level, within the same commuting area, for which you are qualified for reassignment.
  • You, or your guardian or other interested person, must apply before your separation from service or within one year thereafter.  The application must be received by either OPM or your former employing agency within one year of the date of your separation.  This time limit can be waived only if you were mentally incompetent on the date of separation or within one year of this date.
  • You must apply for social security disability benefits.  Application for disability retirement under FERS requires an application for social security benefits.  If the application for social security disability benefits is withdrawn for any reason, OPM will dismiss the FERS disability retirement application upon notification by the Social Security Administration.
What forms are required for FERS Disability Retirement?

In general, OPM will NOT process your application for FERS Disability Retirement unless it contains all the following forms:

  • SF 3107: Application for Immediate Retirement
  • SF 3107-1: Certified Summary of Federal Service
  • SF 3107-2: Spouse’s Consent to Survivor Election (if applicable)
  • SF 3107-Schedule D: Agency Checklist of Immediate Retirement Procedures
  • SF 3112A: Applicant’s Statement of Disability
  • SF 3112B: Supervisor’s Statement
  • SF 3112C: Physician’s Statement
  • SF 3112D: Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts
  • SF 3112E: Disability Retirement Application Checklist

Note that some of these forms are completed by you, others are completed by your agency, and SF 3112C is completed by your medical practitioner.

SF 3112: Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement Application

What is SF 3112A?

If you are applying for FERS Disability Retirement (FDR), you are required to complete SF 3112A: Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  This form provides you an opportunity to express to OPM why you believe you are entitled to FDR.  Although your statement is not the only one OPM considers (e.g., SF 3112C: Physician’s Statement, SF 3112B: Supervisor’s Statement, etc.), considerable weight is given to your subjective account of your medical conditions.

It is imperative, therefore, that you describe the nature and severity of your disabilities accurately and completely.  You must also be able to show that there exists a causal relationship between your disabling medical conditions and your inability to perform one or more essential functions of your position of record.

More information and tips for SF 3112A can be found here.

What is SF 3112B?

If you are applying for FERS Disability Retirement (FDR), your supervisor is required to complete SF 3112B: Supervisor’s Statement.  Your supervisor's testimony is a critical component of your FDR claim, because it provides OPM detailed information about your performance, attendance, and conduct.  If SF 3112B fails to document your service deficiency, there is a high likelihood that OPM will deny your FDR claim.

It is imperative, therefore, for your supervisor to describe the nature and severity of your service deficiency accurately and completely.  Your supervisor should also provide supporting documentation where appropriate.

More information and tips for SF 3112B can be found here.

What is SF 3112C?

SF 3112C: Physician’s Statement is completed by your physician (or other qualified healthcare practitioner, e.g., psychologist, nurse practitioner, etc.).  This document may be the single most important component of your application, because OPM uses the information contained in SF 3112C to determine whether you meet the medical requirements for FERS Disability Retirement (FDR).

Without a strong, detailed statement from your physician, it is highly unlikely that OPM will approve your claim.

More information and tips for SF 3112C can be found here.

What is SF 3112D?

SF 3112D: Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts is completed by your agency.  This form  provides vital information about your medical restrictions and the severity of your disabilities.  In other words, OPM uses the information provided by your agency to determine whether your medical conditions can be reasonably accommodated.  This includes reassignment to a vacant position, which is often referred to as the “accommodation of last resort.”

If OPM determines that you can be accommodated and/or reassigned, your claim will most likely be denied. 

More information and tips for SF 3112D can be found here.

What is SF 3112E?

Although it's only a checklist, SF 3112E is an integral part of your application for FERS Disability Retirement (FDR).  The primary function of SF 3112E is to provide OPM an overview of the documents contained in your claim package.  However, it also provides you and your agency a comprehensive list of all mandatory (and optional) application documents.  So, if you’re just starting to explore FDR, you may want to print a blank copy of SF 3112E to help you keep track of the forms, sub-forms, and supporting documentation that you need to gather and submit.

Note that your agency may be unwilling to complete SF 3112E if you have been separated from service for more than 31 days.  Furthermore, OPM will often decline to process claims that are missing SF 3112E.  If you find yourself caught in this vicious cycle, be sure to check out this blog for tips on how to address this issue.

Miscellaneous

What happens if my application for FERS Disability Retirement is denied?
Good news!  If your application for FERS Disability Retirement is denied, it’s not the end of the line.  In fact, there are several stages of appeal available to you, including the following: OPM Reconsideration, MSPB, and MSPB Board.  More information about each of these stages can be found here.
Do I need to be approved for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) to be eligible for FERS Disability Retirement?

No, you do not need SSDI approval in order to qualify for FERS Disability Retirement (FDR).

To be clear, however, you do need to provide OPM evidence that you have submitted an application for SSDI.  Typically, when you apply for SSDI, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will send you a confirmation letter to verify that your application has been received and is under review.  A copy of this letter should suffice as proof of application for SSDI.

Am I allowed to collect payments for OWCP and FERS Disability Retirement simultaneously?

Unfortunately, you cannot receive both FERS Disability Retirement (FDR) and Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) payments simultaneously.  (Note: there are limited exceptions to this rule.  See SF 3112-2: Information About Disability Retirement (FERS) for more information).  If you are eligible for both benefits, you will be asked to choose between FDR and OWCP.

If you choose OWCP, you will be allowed to defer FDR.  In other words, if/when your OWCP benefits terminate, you will be eligible to start collecting your FDR annuity (provided you continue to meet the medical and financial requirements for FDR).

For more information on this topic, click here.

If I am approved for OWCP, am I automatically eligible for FERS Disability Retirement?

No.  Approval for OWCP benefits does not automatically entitle you to FERS Disability Retirement (FDR).  Although OWCP approval may strengthen your FDR claim, you must still submit a complete application package to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) if you want to be considered for FDR.

More information about the interaction between OWCP and FDR can be found here.

If I am currently receiving OWCP benefits, does the 1-year application deadline for FERS Disability Retirement still apply?

YES!  If you separate from federal service for any reason (e.g., termination, resignation, etc.), you have exactly one year from your separation date to file for FERS Disability Retirement (FDR).  To be clear, even if you continue to receive full OWCP benefits after you separate from service, the one-year deadline still holds.

So, don’t make the mistake of waiting for your OWCP benefits to terminate before filing for FDR, because it may be too late!

How can I check the status of my application for FERS Disability Retirement?
If you have submitted an application for FERS Disability Retirement to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), you can check the status of your claim via phone, email, mail, or in person (i.e., OPM’s walk-in center).  For the most up-to-date contact information, click here or visit the OPM website.
What is a “FERS Benefits Estimate” and why should I request one?

If you’re thinking about applying for FERS Disability Retirement (FDR), there are certain actions you can take right now to set yourself up for success.  For example, you may want to request a “FERS Benefits Estimate” from your agency.

Why?

A FERS Benefits Estimate can be extremely helpful, because it provides estimates of your monthly annuity during the three phases of FDR.  When you review this document, make sure you understand how the agency arrived at your high-three-average salary, because this will be used to determine your 60% and 40% annuity amounts.  Also, make sure that your creditable service is accurate and complete, because erroneous information could significantly reduce your annuity when you turn age 62.

In general, a FERS Benefits Estimate provides an overview of your financial future (if you are ultimately approved for FDR).

Contact Scott to Get Started