The general rule for filing an application for a federal disability benefit under the federal employee pension system (FERS) or the public service pension system (CSRS) is that a federal or postal employee must file the application for an occupational disability pension within one ( 1) years after being “separated from federal service.” This is legally defined in 5 USC 8337 (b), which specifically states that a claim can be received and reviewed by the Office of Personnel Management “only if the application is filed with the Office before the employee or member is separated from the service or within 1 year thereafter” and in 5 CFR (“Code of Federal Regulations”) Section 844.201, “an application for retirement disability is only timely if it is filed with the temporary employment agency before the employee or member of the service is separated, or with the former temporary employment agency or OPM within 1 year thereafter. “This is the” legal rule “- as expressly stated in” the law “.
However, as with all laws, there can be exceptions – not just as stated in the law itself, but otherwise, as modified by a judge in a federal court. The latter “modification” and “interpretation” of a statute is important to know, precisely because such “organic interpretations” of the statute are as much “law” as the statute itself. The statute itself provides for an exception to the “1-year rule” (that a federal or postal worker must file a federal disability application under FERS or CSRS while employed by the federal government or within one (1) year of being separated from the Federal Service) – the exception being that the Office of Personnel Management may waive the 1-year limitation period “if the employee or member is mentally incompetent on the date of divorce or within 1 year thereafter, in which case the person or his or its representative must file the application with the former private employment agency or OPM within 1 year from the date the person regains jurisdiction or a court appoints a fiduciary, whichever is earlier. “In simple and practical terms, this means that if a person the time it takes to apply for a federal disability pension benefit to a psychiatric institution, d The 1-year rule only starts when the person regains his or her ability.
However, there is one more exception to the 1-year rule and it is this exception that is important to know. It is common for a federal or postal worker to never be notified of his or her divorce from the federal government or the postal service. Such individuals often follow a similar pattern or paradigm: a federal or postal worker is injured or unable to perform his or her job medically. He has been found eligible for Federal Worker’s Compensation (Department of Labor, OWCP benefits under FECA) and remains with the Federal Service while receiving OWCP benefits. A few years pass. More than a few years may pass. Realizing that the federal or postal worker will not return, the agency “separates” the individual from the federal government or postal service.
However, the problem arises – and this problem is all too common – when the federal or postal worker is never notified of the divorce. Why is this happening? Usually because those on the OWCP roles are forgotten after a while. At the same time, because the federal agency or postal service has to fill the “vacancy” with a working person, they simply initiate a standard form 50 and separate the person from the federal agency.
This is exactly what happened in the case of Johnston v. OPM, 413 F.3d 1339 (US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, 2005), in which the Court allowed an additional exception to the 1-year rule, stating that the “one-year period laid down in 5 USC Section 8337 (b) arises with the service being notified to the employee that he has terminated for medical reasons.” In addition, the Court quoted 5 CFR in Johnston Section 831.1205 (b) (1), which states that where an agency “decides to remove an employee … but the removal is based on reasons apparently caused by a medical condition, the agency must notify the employee in writing inform of his or her possible eligibility for disability retirement. “Emphasis is added to the word” apparently “because a federal agency (and the postal service) often will not explicitly state that a person is being removed because of a medical condition, even though All facts and circumstances surrounding a federal or postal removal of the employee establish such a basis clearly and beyond dispute.
Where does all this leave us? I receive countless phone calls from individuals who have been on the Office of Worker’s Compensation role, and who have never applied for federal disability benefits under FERS or CSRS. In addition, they were never notified of their separation from the federal service. Such former federal or postal workers are beginning to inquire about applying for federal disability benefits because he or she is receiving indications that OWCP benefits will end soon. Such an upcoming action regarding the OWCP benefits will often prompt the former federal or postal worker to make some inquiries – and such inquiries often lead to the discovery that he or she was separated from the federal service several years earlier.
Is it too late to apply for a federal disability pension benefit under FERS or CSRS? It all depends on the specific and unique facts and circumstances of each case. Whether or not a viable argument can be invoked in a particular case to waive the “1 year rule” depends on such unique facts and circumstances. Of course, it is the better alternative not to have to make such an argument and instead apply for federal disability benefits in time within 1 year of divorce from the federal service, or while you are still on duty. For all federal and postal workers, a word of caution to the wise: keep up to date with your own case; make sure and meet deadlines; submit your benefits in time under FERS & CSRS. However, if you believe that you have never been notified that you have been divorced from the federal service, but you are entitled to a federal disability pension, you should investigate this. It may not be too late.