How Long Do I Have to Wait for OPM to Approve My Claim?

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The Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. adjudicates all of the claims for federal disability retirement. The office building is big, but the Disability and Appeals Branch is only in one room! There are only about 16 Legal Administrative Specialists to review all of the applications, which total about 10,000 per year!

The fact that the office is so understaffed causes a major delay between the submission of an application and the decision. Many applicants wait up to a year to get a decision back. This is not because they do not qualify, but simply, the case load is so big that the Specialists carry an enormous backlog.

In comparison to other government benefits, the OPM is not that bad. The Social Security Administration can easily take over 500 days to get a decision and the Veterans Administration which can take 2 to 4 years! In comparison, the OPM wait time is short.

Keep in mind that the OPM has little incentive to speed up the process. While the people who work there desire to be efficient, they are hamstrung by budget restrictions and hiring freezes like most of the rest of the federal government.

In addition to budget restrictions, the federal government knows that the faster it adjudicates claims, the faster they have to begin paying out the approved claims, causing even more budget concerns. Legislation has even been introduced in Congress to officially end FERS entirely. While that legislation is not expected to pass at this time, the government is aware of how expensive these defined benefit programs are.

If you have an injury or medical condition that is affecting your ability to do your job, it may be time to consider what is involved in the application process. If you wait until you are no longer able to work at all, you may be faced with a long wait period that can cause financial hardship.

Some applicants are forced to file after they are completely unable to work by the nature of their medical condition. Many do not want to give up on their careers and try very hard to keep working. While this is certainly valiant, it can make the financial pressures more difficult if the wait times at OPM do not go down.

- Harris Federal Law Firm

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