Q. I am a FERS employee, eligible for early retirement due to 25 years on the job, but I am only 58 years old, so do not qualify for Social Security. Therefore, I am still working. Meanwhile, I would like to apply for Social Security Disability [SSDI]. If I am turned down, I understand I may qualify for FERS disability retirement. Also, would I still be eligible to get my Social Security benefits at age 62? Can I continue to work until I am approved for FERS disability?
A. The criteria for FERS disability retirement are less restrictive than those for SSDI. To be approved for FERS disability retirement, you only have to be disabled for “useful and efficient service” in both your current position and any other vacant position at the same grade and pay for which you are qualified. As a result, you could continue working while your case is reviewed. If you were approved for disability retirement, that benefit would continue to age 62 when your annuity would be converted to a regular retirement and you’d be entitled to a Social Security benefit based on all your Social Security-covered employment.
The rules are much stricter for SSDI. To qualify, you must not only be unable to perform any gainful employment but you cannot be working. You have to be off the employment rolls for your case to be processed.