Q: I’m 56, retired from Veterans Administration for five years after a 30-year career in CSRS (including three years active military). I took early retirement. I did not claim disability status at time of retirement but have since acquired physical handicaps and subsequent surgeries typical for my trade (pipefitter). After a multiple discectomy and cervical fusion in 2007, I have been left with chronic pain in my shoulders and numbness in both hands. Can/should I get my status changed to a retirement with disability? How could this help me financially or otherwise?
A: You are too late. You could only have submitted an application for disability retirement within one year after your separation from employment. However, you would have gained nothing financially by doing so because your disability retirement benefit would have been the same as your earned annuity. You could, of course, apply for a Social Security disability benefit if you are disabled for all gainful employment. You can do that online at www.ssa.gov/pgm/disability.htm.