Social Security and FERS disability retirement


Q: I’m confused about the following issue. I have medical conditions for which I am applying for disability under the Federal Employees Retirement System. I’ve already applied under SSI and was denied because I am still working. Will my children receive any money if I am awarded disability under FERS?  I’ve been told that if I were awarded dissability under SSI they would all receive checks. I do not understand this. Do I have to apply for FERS? Or can I skip FERS and just apply for disability under SSI? Also, since my application is currently under review under FERS by the Office of Personnel Management, if I am approved, can I go back and apply for disability under SSI? It just seems like the smarter thing to do would be to apply for SSI so that my children willl get checks also, since I’ve never made over $40,000 a year. It just seems like SSI would keep me from being put out on the street and my kids would be taken care of , as opposed to me just getting one check that won’t cover all of the bills.

A: You have filed for FERS disability retirement, which is the correct thing to do. You have also filed for Social Security disability benefits, which, as an employee covered by FERS and Social Security, you were required to do. Since the criteria for FERS and Social Security are different, you could be approved for the first but not the second. To be eligible for FERS disability retirement, you must be sufficiently disabled to be unable to perform the duties of your current position or one for which you are qualified at the same grade or pay level. To qualify for a Social Security disability benefit, you must be so severely impaired that you cannot perform any substantial gainful activity. Since you were still employed, your application for Social Security disability benefits was turned down. Were you to be eligible for disability retirement under FERS and did so, you could reapply for a Social Security benefit. Although additional Social Security benefits are payable to the unmarried dependent children of someone who has been approved for disability benefits, no additional benefits are payable to someone who retires on disability.


About Author

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


  1. I had a catastrophic injury working for the Government was denied fers disability on a technicality so applied for ssi they said I am approved medically but have to have a financial review i was only partially approved what does that mean and how can I qualify financially when I have federal retiremet

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