LWOP vs. medical retirement


Q. I am an Air Force civilian serving a three-year tour overseas, I have completed four years of government service as of March 20, 2010 and I am 41 years old. However, I suffered a serious spine injury in March 2009 ,which caused me to be on Leave Without Pay due to a work-related injury beginning in April 2009 to January 2010. Since I have been overseas during my convalescence, my housing allowance was misreported and reduced and my post allowance was eliminated. My personnel office calls this an “government incentive for employees to return to work.” Because I was being “starved out,” I returned to work in January part time. I am having difficulty sitting on my job since I returned back to work. and I cannot take my medication during the day. I cannot afford to live and raise two school age children on the $36,000 medical disability that I would receive should I medically retire ,as I am a single parent. I have 16 quarters on Social Security but need 20 for medical disability. My DOL OWCP pay would be substantial to live on but it is not considered retirement. I just learned three days ago that my doctors are now determining that my injury/symptoms are now considered to be chronic and will continue to substantially limit my mobility, and ability to stand, walk, sit, lift, etc. I have completed over 100 medical appointments trying to restore my function and I soon to be scheduled for occupational assessment at home and work. I am quite concerned that I am going to be medically retired and put out on the streets while overseas.

A. Remaining on workers compensation is the best financial option you have at present. However, to protect yourself, you should also apply for disability retirement under FERS. If you do that, you must also file for disability retirement under Social Security. Whether you would be eligible to apply for a Social Security disability benefit depends on your age and the number of credits you have under Social Security. To see where you stand, go to www.ssa.gov/retire2/credits3.htm. If approved for disability retirement under FERS, for the first 12 months you would receive 60 percent of your high-3 average salary, minus 100 percent of any Social Security disability benefit. After that you would get 40 percent of your high-3, minus 60 percent of any Social Security disability benefit.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

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