Voluntary FERS retirement and OWCP

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Q. I’m currently receiving Worker’s Comp. payments for a work related knee injury in July 2012. I’ve had two surgeries and tried numerous physical therapy sessions and the problem has only worsened. I’m in pain all the time. I haven’t returned to work since my injury. I told my doctor that I couldn’t keep up the therapy because it was too painful. My agency required a medical answer from my surgeon as to whether I was able to do anything. He stated that I was permanently incapacitated at this time. I was surprised my agency hadn’t separated me, and I was still on leave without pay. I told my doctor, boss and agency, I didn’t see any other way but to retire. I’m 57 with 17 years under FERS. If I take an immediate retirement, MRA + 10. Can I elect to continue my OWCP payments in leu of my OPM annuity until my injury is resolved through additional surgery i.e. knee replacement? Or, do I lose the compensation?

A. You could retire under the MRA+10 provision, postpone the receipt of your annuity to a later time and continue to receive your OWCP benefits. By postponing that benefit, you’d incrementally reduce the 5 percent per year age penalty for being under age 62.

Alternatively, you could apply for disability retirement. If approved, there wouldn’t be any reduction in that benefit. And, if you wished, you could elect to receive the OWCP payments instead. Then if those benefits ended, you could immediately begin receiving your annuity.

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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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