Of interest is what to do when a Social Security filing for disability benefits has been approved prior to the FERS/CSRS disability retirement application being approved. This is a rarity, and indeed, it should logically be that way: for Social Security disability requires a higher standard of (essentially) “total disability”; while the criteria for approval under FERS/CSRS is that of an “inability to perform the essential elements” of a particular job — meaning, in essence, that an individual is no longer a good fit for a particular type of job, but could certainly be productive in some other capacity of employment.
The cases at the Merit System Protection Board which have addressed this issue have been fairly consistent. An approval in and of itself will not necessarily help a FERS/CSRS application; as with the application process itself, the applicant has the preponderance of the evidence of proving the relevance of the approved Social Security filing. I am often asked whether, in a denial of an SSA disability application, where the decision by the Social Security Administration states that, while SSA acknowledges that the applicant is unable to perform his or her current employment because of the medical condition, yet the applicant for SSA disability benefits is denied because he or she may engage in other productive employment — whether such a statement in the denial (that SSA acknowledges the applicant’s inability to perform his or her current job) should be forwarded to OPM. My answer is that it should not be, because it is not relevant to OPM’s criteria for making a determination.
As to the two most important questions: 1. If a Social Security Disability application is approved, what needs to be sent to OPM, and 2. If Social Security’s determination doesn’t provide the necessary language to be relevant for forwarding to OPM, what can take its place? As to these two questions, I will be addressing each in a blog to be written in the very near future.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire