Disability Retirement Insanity?

Maybe, Maybe Not- You Decide

Federal employee disability retirement applications are often confusing to employees.  However, outcomes are generally not.  It has been our collective experience, applications for disability retirement from Federal service are generally approved by the Office of Personnel Management provided you have a knowledgeable servicing retirement specialist who can ensure proper and complete application; most delays in approvals or denials are due to incomplete applications (including missing signatures) or insufficient supporting administrative and medical documentation.  Of course, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) continues to experience significant adjudication delays in processing (about eleven month delay as of the date of this article) even for complete applications. However, this aspect of the process is completely outside the control of your agency and your local retirement specialist.

Removal for Misconduct, Even Crimes, does not Preclude Disability Retirement Benefits

However, what happens when a federal employee commits a federal crime (pleading guilty) and claims the disability occurred after his arrest, and based in part, on resisting arrest?  Short answer:

  • OPM denied the initial disability retirement application.
  • On appeal (reconsideration), MSPB affirmed OPM’s denial on Initial Decision (ID).
  • On a Petition for Review (PFR), MSPB reversed the Initial Decision and ordered OPM to award disability retirement to the former employee.

Of course, as with most cases from the Merit Systems Protection Board, the decision is nuanced and fact specific.  You should take the time to read it (presented below). The broad key points in this case are:

  • Removal for misconduct does not preclude approval (or receipt) of disability retirement benefits.
  • The OPM decision on disability retirement applications cannot be “contrary to the evidence and applicable law” despite other circumstances.
  • Applicant must prove (“show”) he was disabled from performing “useful and efficient service” prior to the effective date of the removal.
  • Supervisory testimony can be critical in disability retirement cases.

Hollywood Henderson  Source: http://www.federal-law.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/10/decision-8-4-082.pdf 

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