The Federal Disability Retirement process can be quite complex. In order to simplify an explanation of the process (without oversimplification, which would be a disservice to anyone contemplating filing for such benefits), three things must be kept in mind: (1) Forms must be filled out (essentially two sets of forms: Standard Form series 3107 along with Schedules A, B & C (for CSRS employees, SF 2801 series); and Standard Form series 3112 A, B, C & D (the same for CSRS employees). (2) If a Federal or Postal employee is still an active employee, or has been separated from Federal Service but it has been less than 31 days, then the entire Federal Disability Retirement packet must be submitted through his or her agency. And (3) the Federal Disability Retirement application, along with all supporting documentation, will be ultimately reviewed by the Office of Personnel Management, the Federal Agency which is empowered by statutory authority to review and approve/disapprove all Federal Disability Retirement applications.
The entire Federal Disability Retirement process itself involves two (2) administrative stages, and potentially three (3) appellant stages. The following is a short synopsis of each of the stages:
- Initial Application Stage. Approximate Time period to expect: From the initial involvement of the Law Firm of Robert R. McGill to an approval at this stage – 6 – 8 months. Obtaining all medical documentation, including necessary medical narratives; preparation of applicant’s statement of disability; preparation of legal memorandum; filling out all forms; submission to the Federal Agency; in-processing of the application at Boyers, Pennsylvania; assignment of CSA # and forwarding to the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C.
- Reconsideration Stage: If an application is denied at the Initial Stage of the process, then the Federal or Postal employee, by and through his attorney, must request for reconsideration within thirty (30) days of the denial. At this stage, one has the right to supplement the original application; to obtain further medical and supporting documentation; to file additional legal briefs and memoranda to argue for eligibility. Approximate Time period to expect: 90 – 120 days.
- Appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board: Preparation of the appeal; submission of Prehearing Statement; submission of legal arguments; Telephonic Hearing, to include testimony from all relevant sources, including doctors, coworkers, the Appellant, etc. Cross-examination may occur by the Representative from the Office of Personnel Management. Approximate timeframe for the entire process: 120 – 150 days.
- Petition for Full Review: If the Administrative Judge at the Hearing conducted before the Merit Systems Protection Board renders an Initial Decision upholding and affirming the denials of the Office of Personnel Management, then the “Appellant” has the right to file a Petition for Full Review. Essentially, this is entirely a “legal” argument. One must show that the Administrative Judge at the MSPB made one or more legal errors in coming to his or her denial.
- Appeal to the Federal Circuit Court: This is essentially the “last shot” at the “Federal Disability Retirement Process”. Briefs must be filed. It is a long and complicated process, one which should never be contemplated without an attorney.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire
OPM Disability Retirement Attorney