Returning to federal service


I’ve been a FERS disability retiree since 2004. I’m writing because I’m trying to decide if it’s safe to re-enter federal service and not lose my annuity. I still have good skills and would like to do something productive if given the opportunity. My understanding is that under FERS disability I can return to federal service and not have my annuity terminated under certain conditions.

Q1: I need to make sure (1) I don’t exceed 80 percent of my outgoing basic pay and (2) avoid accepting a job similar to the one I left. Is this correct? Example, my 80 percent ceiling is $39,000. If I accept a GS-7 Step 1 position which is $33,979, I’m OK. I’m under 80 percent. In my outgoing position I worked in a busy office (computer, phone, customers, counseling) which magnified a neck injury that occurred on the job. If I took a position that didn’t include those conditions — the ones found in my doctor’s report — than I should be able to conclude that I would be safe from having my annuity terminated. Correct?

Q2: Would my federal salary be offset by my disability annuity? Meaning, I would receive one or the other but not both and my federal income couldn’t exceed the 80 percent rule. Note: The medical condition for my disability is permanent (I passed a medical survey my second year into my retirement).

Q3: I’ve thought about working for the Peace Corps or AmeriCorps VISTA as a teacher, but one time when I called OPM I was told that if I ever re-entered federal service, even as a volunteer where I would receive a small living stipend, that I would lose my annuity. (A) Is this correct? (B) If I could work as a volunteer, would the stipend get zeroed out by my annuity? I would like to volunteer but not at the expense of losing my annuity.

Q4: I was wondering if there is a federal office that assists disability retirees with re-entering federal service.

A: Q1: You are basically correct; however, the 80 percent limit applies to the current salary of the position you left, not the salary you were earning at that time. Q2: Unless OPM concluded that you had recovered from your disability, the salary of your new position would be reduced by the amount of your annuity. The 80 percent limit would apply to your gross salary, not the reduced salary amount. Q3: If you did volunteer work at a federal agency where you received a stipend, your annuity wouldn’t be affected; however, I don’t know if that stipend would be zeroed out. You’d have to ask your potential employer who could, in turn, check with OPM. Q4. No, there isn’t an office that helps disability retirees re-enter federal service.


About Author

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

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