What Is the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)?
FERS is a federal retirement plan consisting of three parts: a Basic Benefit Plan, Social Security, and a Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). Employees pay into the Basic Benefit Plan and Social Security through payroll deductions. Your agency contributes the equivalent of 1% of your basic pay per pay period to your TSP account.
Four types of retirement benefits can be applied for through FERS:
- Early Retirement
- Voluntary Retirement
- Deferred Retirement
If you are dealing with an ongoing medical condition that affects your ability to perform your job duties, you have the right to apply for federal disability retirement benefits. Note: your injury or illness does not have to be related to your job for you to be eligible for disability retirement benefits.
How to Apply for Retirement Benefits
Retirement (annuity) claims are processed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). In collaboration with each respective agency, the OPM ensures that applicants meet the eligibility requirements for the type of retirement for which they are applying and calculate their benefits. Therefore, if you are covered by FERS and want to apply for disability retirement, you must submit an annuity application to the OPM.
To qualify for disability retirement benefits, your agency must be unable to:
- Reasonably accommodate your condition in the position you are in
- Your agency is unable to reassign you to a comparable job position that will accommodate your condition
To apply for FERS disability retirement, you must submit forms SF 3107 (Application for Immediate Retirement) and SF 3112 (Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement). For those requesting disability retirement who have been separated from their agency for 31 days or less, their agency can help you complete your forms and submit them to OPM. However, if you have been separated from your employing agency for more than 31 days, you will likely need to submit your forms and request retirement benefits directly to OPM yourself.
Note: you must submit your FERS disability retirement application within one year of the date on which you separated from Federal service.
What Happens After a Disability Retirement Request is Approved?
If your disability retirement benefits request is approved, you may need to submit to periodic medical exams to retain your benefits. This will vary from case to case depending on the medical condition you are dealing with.
FERS disability retirement benefits may be terminated if: you are under 60 years old and have been found medically recovered, have a yearly income of at least 80% of the current rate of basic pay for the position you retired from, or are reemployed in Federal service in a position that is comparable to the one from which you retired.
Review our website to learn more about the basics of applying for FERS benefits and how an attorney may be able to help you during the application process.
What Happens If My Retirement Request is Denied?
If you have applied for FERS disability retirement benefits and been denied, you likely feel discouraged, and like you are out of options. However, this is not the case. In fact, you have the right to petition for reconsideration. If you have requested a reconsideration only to be denied again, you may have further recourse to bring your case before the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB). In some more extreme cases, you may even have the option to file a lawsuit in federal court.
If you are in any of these situations and are dealing with a FERS disability retirement denial, it is crucial that you reach out to an attorney for counsel and representation. In addition to helping you with the paperwork and appeals process, a skilled attorney experienced in managing federal disability retirement cases can guide you should you need to bring your case before the MSPB or to federal court.
When to Hire an Attorney
While working with an attorney to apply for FERS benefits is not necessary, it may be in your best interest to do so, especially if you are applying for disability retirement. The Federal Employees Retirement System can be difficult to navigate, as is gaining a working understanding of the various eligibility requirements. This can become even more complicated if you are also dealing with the stress of managing a debilitating health condition.
By hiring an experienced federal disability retirement lawyer, like ours at John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law, PLLC, you can gain the support and guidance you need to pursue your retirement claim confidently.