One of the common problems with federal employees approved for retirement disability benefits with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) involves the delays in receiving payments. Most people who retire on disability are not able to continue working in a way that will provide for their lifestyles adequately, and most need that disability money immediately.
Unfortunately, delayed payments have become a serious problem. According to FEDWeek online, this has been a problem faced by the last four presidential administrations, only to be passed off from one to the next without a suitable solution implemented.
It is important to understand the landscape we’re dealing with here, and it is important to avoid taking drastic measures if you are still waiting for your retirement benefits to kick in.
The bad news
First, we need to discuss the bad news:
- These delays are relatively normal: As mentioned, these delays in implementing disability retirement benefits payments are of longstanding.
- These delays are getting worse: Due to staff shortages caused by COVID and an annual increase in retirements at the turn of each new year, these delays will be exacerbated in the coming months. What was once an average of maybe a couple months to receive benefits now could take half a year or even longer.
- There isn’t much that can be done: If your application is in the system, it is caught in a complex, extremely slow-moving bureaucratic system. This is the federal government.
So, that is the bad news; but there is also good news here.
The good news
The good news in these payment delays includes:
- You can still collect other benefits: If you have other retirement insurance, Social Security or other types of benefits, you can still receive payments from those sources while waiting for your OPM disability retirement benefits to start paying.
- Interim payments: Assuming your application for benefits was approved, the OPM should start paying interim payments right away. These payments will usually amount to approximately 80% of what you will receive from your retirement benefits when they start paying out.
- Backlog payments: When your regular benefits do start paying, they will also cover the losses during the interim period. This means that your benefits will cover the difference between what you should have been making on regular disability retirement benefits and what you actually received from the interim payments throughout the time you were receiving interim payments.
Between your interim payments and other sources of income, hopefully you will be able to hold out until your actual retirement benefits checks begin arriving.