Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Time to File

When should I file?  This is a question which is asked often; it is a telling, revealing question, because it is often a rhetorical question.  It is as if the question begs to be answered with an unequivocal, “You must file now”.  Aside from the time it takes, which is generally between 6 – 8 months from the time the entire process begins until the time the Office of Personnel Management approves an OPM Disability Retirement application at the First Stage of the process (and certainly this general time-frame needs to be taken into account because of financial circumstances, accrued sick and annual leave which may be used, and multiple other factors for consideration), the Federal or Postal worker who is contemplating when to file an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits generally knows the answer to the question.  As a general rule, if one asks the question, then the answer is already known.  If one is expecting a PIP, comes home each day dreading and exhausted, living with the anxiety that the Agency is waiting for an excuse to get rid of the employee; if each night and weekends are spent just recuperating in order to make it into the office for another day, then to ask the question, “When should I file?” becomes merely a tautology.  To arrive at that point is to make it into an emergency; it is better to project into the future; as a football coach once said, “The future is now.”


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Reminder: Statue of Limitations on Filing for FERS & CSRS Federal Disability Retirement

At various times, in various forums, I have noted some confusion on the issue of when an individual can/must file for disability retirement, so I want to clarify some of the issues.

Confusion #1: Do you have to wait 1 year in order to file for Federal dislability retirement? The answer is “No” — the “1-year requirement” is merely that your medical condition is expected to last for at least a year. Thus, if you have a medical condition that impacts your ability to perform the essential elements of your job, your doctor will certainly be able to tell you whether he/she thinks it will last for at least a year. Thus, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you actually have to wait for a year with your medical condition before you can file for federal disability retirement; it merely means that your condition is expected to last at least 1 year, and doctors can normally provide a prognosis of the expected amount of time.

Confusion #2: You have 1 year from the time of your injury to file for disability retirement. The answer: “No” — you have 1 year from the date you are separated from Federal Service to file for disability retirement. If you do not file prior to the expiration of that 1 year statute of limitations, you lose your right forever. Some confuse the 1-year requirement with thinking that it is within 1 year of being on Leave Without Pay, or 1 year from being away from the job, etc. The 1-year requirement is 1 year from the day you have been separated from Federal Service.

Finally, remember that disability retirement can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to obtain, because of the bureaucratic maze which one must go through in the process of filing; thus, it is often a good idea to file sooner, rather than later. Once you realize that you are no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of your Federal job, and once you have the support of your doctor, it is time to file.

Hope this clears up any confusions


Robert R. McGill, Attorney