We are seeing a disturbing trend in the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) processing and adjudicating of alleged overpayment cases. For those who don’t know, from time to time OPM reviews the financial aspects of cases that are currently in pay status. It is possible, after winning federal disability retirement, and going into pay status, for OPM to revisit an annuitant’s case to determine whether OPM is paying the correct amount.
Keep reading to learn more about the trend in overpayment cases.
How Do Overpayments Happen?
The most common reason why OPM is paying a disabled annuitant too much money is because that person has been approved for social security disability. A disabled federal worker cannot collect the full amount of both social security disability and federal disability retirement. The federal disability retirement benefit is therefore reduced by a portion of the value of the social security disability benefit. More can be read about that offset here, but the point is that if a disabled worker receives both federal disability and social security disability, and OPM is not reducing the value of the federal disability retirement benefit, an overpayment will result.
What to Do When You’re at Risk for Overpayment
The longer OPM pays the full benefit, without any social security offset, the higher the overpayment amount will grow. There are several things we recommend that disabled workers do when they are approved for both federal disability retirement and social security disability:
- Call OPM repeatedly until you reach a representative and let them know you have been approved for both federal disability retirement and social security disability.
- Send OPM written proof of the social security disability approval. Make sure that correspondence is easily trackable so that you have written proof of notifying OPM.
- Don’t rely on OPM to automatically perform the social security disability offset. Make sure it is done, and monitor the monthly payments you receive to make sure you are not getting too much money.
Taking the above steps will maximize your chances of not being hit with an overpayment notice, or if you are, ensuring the alleged overpayment is as small as possible. However, if you do receive the alleged overpayment notice, you must react immediately. OPM only provides 30 days to appeal the alleged overpayment, which you can do by:
- Challenging the existence of the overpayment
- Requesting waiver of the overpayment
- Requesting to repay the overpayment in lower monthly installments
The Root Cause of Overpayment Cases
The disturbing overpayment trend comes into play in the way OPM handles these cases once the alleged overpayment is contested. Once the Request for Reconsideration is filed within 30 days of the alleged overpayment notice, the case generally sits. And sits. And sits. Months and years can go by with no word, one way or the other, from OPM. What we have seen recently is OPM will then, after an enormous amount of time passes, send a request to the disabled worker demanding one or two pieces of updated information. It could be more detail regarding your other debt, more detail about your condition, or some other minor piece of information. OPM will then provide the disabled worker with an unfairly small amount of time to return that information. If that information cannot be gathered in time, OPM denies the entire alleged overpayment. OPM has been denying requests for extensions at this stage as well, which is unbelievable since the case has typically been sitting for months or years. We have been forced to file appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board to attempt to correct OPM’s abuse in the area of law.
Do not let OPM take advantage of you based on your disability. If OPM alleges you owe them money, contact an attorney immediately to ensure the overpayment is processed fairly.
Need Help with a Disability Benefits Claim? Contact Us Today!
The disability lawyers at Andalman & Flynn make it a practice to stay up to date on new regulations and case law to provide the most effective representation to our clients. We normally provide free consultations for clients looking to file for disability insurance benefits or appeal the denial or termination of those benefits, whether the claim is covered by ERISA or not. Please contact Peter Casciano for a free consultation today.
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