Civil Service Disability Retirement Program

FPCD-81-18: Published: Dec 15, 1980. Publicly Released: Dec 15, 1980.

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In reports issued in 1976 and 1978, GAO recommended several changes to the disability retirement program which would serve to retain marginally disabled yet potentially productive employees. In addition to reviewing the Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) actions on the previous recommendations, GAO examined the processes used in adjudicating disability retirement claims and monitoring the disability rolls and reviewed a sample of disability annuitants.

GAO has been concerned that benefits may have been paid unnecessarily to many retirees. Some disability applications were approved without sufficient medical evidence. Some disability retirees were probably capable of performing other types of work at the time of retirement; some were receiving disability benefits while performing jobs similar to their prior Government jobs; and some were able to earn more than the pay for their prior Government jobs but continued to receive disability benefits. Many reforms are needed to reduce the growing costs of the program and to insure that benefits are only paid to the truly disabled. New OPM procedures require agencies to identify actions taken to place disabled employees in other positions in the agency. Additional changes in the program which are needed include: (1) a stricter definition for disability retirement; (2) improved policing of the disability retirement rolls by both economic and medical reviews; and (3) more timely reviews. OPM could save millions of dollars in payroll costs and improve the program's effectiveness by revising regulations to eliminate the requirement to counsel employees to reduce their sick leave balances before filing for disability retirement and separating employees immediately once the disability retirement has been approved.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status:

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Director of OPM should amend the proposed regulatory revisions to (1) establish the same placement rights for disabled employees as those available to recovered disability retirees, (2) include reassignment of disabled employees across agency lines, and (3) discontinue advising employees to reduce their sick leave balance to 60 days before filing for disability retirement. Also, he should (1) include, as part of the placement policy, the downgrading of potential disability retirees to jobs with duties they can perform, and seek a statutory change, if necessary, to enable this action; (2) develop procedures which will establish complete and timely earnings and medical reviews of disability annuitants; and (3) develop disability case review procedures which provide for medical reviews of annuitants classified as permanently disabled but who display strong individual annual earnings.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management


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