The Civil Service Disability Retirement Program

Gao ID: 116371 September 16, 1981

More effective actions are needed to remove the economically and medically recovered disabled annuitants from the rolls and to ensure that disability claims are more timely processed. Before age 60, those considered temporarily disabled are by law subject to annual medical examinations until they are determined to be recovered or permanently disabled. Also, until age 60, all disabled annuitants are subject to an earnings test. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) review process does not insure that decisions on annuitants' health are based on current medical evidence, and OPM is inadequately monitoring outside employment by not verifying earned income and by operating within a legislated income limitation that retirees can circumvent. Annuitants can manipulate their incomes and remain on the disability rolls because of a 2-year earnings test. GAO supports proposed legislation to change the earnings test to a 1-year period. Surveys to identify economically recovered annuitants have not been timely, and OPM has not suspended payments to annuitants who have not responded to several earnings surveys. Congress should consider using Federal tax returns to independently verify reported income of disabled retirees. OPM should establish a standard to measure and assess the timeliness of claims processing. The present 106 days needed to settle retirement claims far exceeds the standard of 35 days. GAO found that the failure of OPM to maintain a sufficient and experienced workforce was the primary cause of processing delays as well as a cumbersome claims process and incomplete and inaccurate data submitted by employing agencies.

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