Q. I am a 58 year old CSRS employee with 34 years’ service. I need to retire due to health problems but my agency (USPS) says that I must take optional retirement instead of disability retirement. If I retire, can I apply for Social Security disability?” I have 54 quarters of coverage from other jobs and my SSA statement says I am eligible for disability payments if I qualify as disabled. Also, will this effect my civil service annuity?
A. Your agency is mistaken. You have the option of applying for disability or optional retirement. However, there is no financial advantage to disability retirement and a lot of hurdles to overcome. OPM has explained why the latter may be preferable to the former. Go to www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C060.pdf and scroll down to Section 60A9.1.1-4. Even if you elect optional retirement, you can still apply for disability benefits under Social Security. However, the criteria are different. To be eligible for CSRS disability retirement, you only have to be unable to provide useful and efficient service in your current job or one for which you are qualified at the same grade or pay in your commuting area. To qualify for Social Security disability, you have to be so disabled that you are incapable of any and all gainful employment.