FERS and Social Security disability


Q. I have been hearing impaired all my life. My audiograms (hearing tests) throughout the years have shown a progressive decrease in my hearing. My recent last audiogram showed that my hearing is so bad I automatically meet the qualifications for Social Security Disability Insurance. I have worked in a federal prison for nine years and have feared for my safety for quite a while, but am the sole bread winner of my family and need the money to survive.

As a requirement for FERS disability retirement, I’m supposed to apply for SSDI also. On one hand, I automatically qualify, but on the other hand, since I’m still working, I’ll be turned down? I need both FERS and SSDI benefits to survive financially. I don’t have enough sick and annual leave to stop working and wait it out, to where I won’t be working and be approved for my SSDI. What are my options?

A. Relax. As a FERS employee, when you apply for disability retirement, you must also apply for Social Security Disability Insurance. If approved for disability retirement, during your first 12 months you’d receive 60 percent of your high-3, minus 100 percent of any SSDI for which you qualify. If you don’t qualify, you’d continue to receive 60 percent of your high-3. After the first 12 months and up to age 62, you’d receive 40 percent of your high-3, minus 60 percent of any SSDI. Once again, if you didn’t qualify for SSDI, you’d continue to receive 40 percent of your high-3. As a disability retiree, you’d receive any annual cost-of-living increases applied to FERS retiree annuitants. At age 62, your disability annuity would be converted to a regular annuity. The amount would be based of the annuity payable when you went on disability, increased by all COLAs payable from that time to age 62.


About Author

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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