Disability vs. regular retirement

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Q. I have a physical problem that may be classified as a disability. I’m 57 with 37 years of federal service, mostly with the U.S. Postal Service except for four years military. Are there any advantages in USPS disability for me, as I have passed my MRA?

A. If you were approved for disability retirement, your annuity would be calculated as follows:
For the first 12 months, 60 percent of your high-3, minus 100 percent of any Social Security disability benefit.

After the first 12 months, 40 percent of your high-3, minus 60 percent of any Social Security disability benefit.

At age 62, you disability benefit would be converted to a regular retirement benefit, increased by any COLAs payable since your retired on disability.

You regular retirement would be based on the following formula:

.01 X your high-3 X your years and full months of service

You didn’t mention if you had made a deposit to get credit for your active duty service. if you did, you’d use 37 as your years of service. If you didn’t, you’d use 33.

When you do the arithmetic, you’ll find out which option is best for you.

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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.

37 Comments

  1. Elaine Lumsden on

    Anyone who meets the age and service requirement for voluntary retirement and applies for disability retirement will have their annuity calculated using the earned annuity calculation. Please see BAL-14-104: https://www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/benefits-administration-letters/2014/14-104.pdf What this means is your retirement will be based on 37% x high-3 however and if you apply under the disability option (even though the retirement is calculated using the earned formula) no FERS Retiree Annuity Supplement will be paid. If you apply under the Voluntary Retirement option, even though you might be considered disabled, the supplement would be part of your retirement. The 37% is assuming you make your military service deposit.

      • So it would be better if you are already eligible for regular retirement (MRA w/30+ years service in this case) to just apply for regular retirement/FERS Supplemental Income and then apply separately for Social Security Disability Retirement after you retire than try to obtain a disability retirement?

        • Elaine Lumsden on

          You should contact your HRO and have them provide you with estimates for both retirement options to see which is better for you. You also need to check into the laws of your state with respect to retirement to see if there are tax advantages for one retirement versus the other.

          • When you reach age 62, your FERS disability benefit will be recomputed as if you had worked to age 62. Therefore, you actual service will be added to the time you spent on disability. The total time will be multiplied by 1.1 percent That figure will then be multiplied by your high-3 salary on the day you were found disabled. That dollar figure will be increased by any cost-of-living increases paid to FERS retirees since you retired on disability. Your Social Security benefit will continue and it, too, will be increased by any COLAs.

  2. Anita Eickhoff on

    I just turned 57 (Mar’2019) and have been receiving a FERS Disability Retirement since 2003 (I was Excepted Civil Service). I was medically retired from the Military(20years) and thereby had to be medically retired from my Civil Service position. I bought back my 6 years of Active Duty time and had an additional 12 years of Excepted Civil Service time. I spoke with OPM and they said the MRA does not apply to my conversion. When I reach age 62, my retirement will convert to a regular retirement and will be a combination of my Civil Service retirement and my qualified 20 year Military Retirement. Is this true or will I receive two separate retirements? Additionally, when doing my taxes, it asks what my MRA is – Do I answer 56 or 62?

    • OPM is right. At age 62 your disability retirement will be converted to a regular retirement. That annuity will be based on your excepted civil service time and your 6 years of active duty service. You will also be entitled to your reserve retired pay, which will come to you in a separate check. As for you MRA, minimum retirement ages are set in law and range between 55 and 57, depending on your year of birth. If your MRA is 56, it’s because you were born between 1953 and 1964.

  3. I have reached minimum retirement age, I only have 16 years time with the usps, I have applied for disability, what is my computation under fers disability?

    • To qualify for that benefit, OPM would have to determine that you are unable to perform useful and efficient service in your current position because of disease or injury or any other available position at the same grade and pay for which you are qualified.

      If approved for disability retirement, for the first 12 months you would receive 60 percent of your high-3, minus 100 percent of any Social Security disability benefit to which you are entitled. After the first 12 months, you’d receive 40 percent of your high-3, minus 60 percent of any Social Security benefit to which you are entitled. At age 62, your disability benefit would be converted to a regular retirement benefit. Essentially, you’d receive the annuity you would have received if you’d worked to age 62. Note: You must apply for a Social Security disability benefit at the same time you fill your applications with OPM.

      • Linda M Braden on

        Mr. Scott Barnes situation is similar to mine, and I also was provided Social Security Disability Benefits – after I acquire an Attorney and paid $6000 to help me acquire my SSID – currently I’m repaying a lump sum of $50,000 / $735 monthly dollars back to Social Security. The SSID was deposited into my checking account without any notification – my SSID letter was forwarded to a wrong location. So, I thought I was entitled to these funds as a reimbursement for my disability and I found myself liable to repay the $50,000 dollars. What happened in my case that caused my Double Dipping?

  4. I retired July 2019 under fers with 38 years, which 8 was military. I am 57 years old. I applied for and was approved for social security disability on February 2020. How will my postal pension and fers supplement be affected.

    • Since you were approved for a Social Security disability benefit after you retired, it won’t have any affect on your FERS annuity or your special retirement supplement.

        • I am a survivor of my husbands substantial disability. We just became aware we can convert this to a pension now that we’re in our 70’s, & my wife will become the beneficiary until her demise. No kids. Would this be accurate?

          • Before I can answer your questions I need to know two things. Was your husband a federal employee before becoming disabled? Is he receiving CSRS disability retirement payments or workers’ compensation?

        • If you are a disability retiree, the 100 percent reduction only occurs during the first 12 months. After that and until age 62, you’d receive a portion of the Social Security benefit, which would supplement the amount you received in your reduced disability benefit.

    • Since you are at least age 60, you can be found recovered from your disability only by specifically requesting a review of your own eligibility. You can begin that process by sending a letter to:

      U.S. OPM
      Retirement Operations Center
      P.O. Box 45
      Boyers, PA 16017-0045

  5. steven adell on

    i have been approved for OWCP and disabilty retirement , i am 50 years old with 30 years postal service ,
    i have elected to stay on OWCP for remainder of 8 hr day there is no work available for me which is around 6 hrs a day as all i can do is case mail , and the mail volume has dropped. form ca7 & ca7a
    can i now elect to retire on disabilty retirement as my injury is a partial perminate injury ?
    or
    does it pay to stay on OWCP until i reach 57 and regular retire with 36 years service plus the ss supplement
    or
    retire disabilty now and have it recalculated at 62 which then would be 40 years service if service is credited
    since i retired diabilty ?

  6. Floyd valentine on

    I retired July 2019 with 38 years postal service. I was approved for ssdi in March 2020 and put in to change my postal retirement to disability. Are there advantages of turning my postal retirement into disability retirement? Or should I cancel my request?

    • No, there aren’t. Because you were covered by CSRS, there wouldn’t be any difference in the benefit you’d receive.

        • If you were approved for disability retirement, your annuity would be calculated as follows:
          For the first 12 months, 60 percent of your high-3, minus 100 percent of any Social Security disability benefit.
          After the first 12 months, 40 percent of your high-3, minus 60 percent of any Social Security disability benefit.
          At age 62, you disability benefit would be converted to a regular retirement benefit, increased by any COLAs payable since your retired on disability.
          You regular retirement would be based on the following formula:
          .01 X your high-3 X your years and full months of service
          You didn’t mention if you had made a deposit to get credit for your active duty service. if you did, you’d use 37 as your years of service. If you didn’t, you’d use 33.
          When you do the arithmetic, you’ll find out which option is best for you.

  7. I am 46 years old with 26 years of service and have acquired a permanent disability on the job and am being pressured hard to look into federal disability retirement as the work environment is getting more hostile towards my disability every week. I am trying to do the math on whether or not I can afford to take FDR and cannot find any answers on how much exactly it would cost me out of pocket per month to keep my federal employee medical benefits. I know that OWCP has to cover my work related injuries for life, but I also have a young family that needs the medical coverage. I know Ill take 60% of high three the first year and 40% every year after until age 62 which others have told me works out to about 26K a year and much less after taxes and even less after paying my share of fed medical benefits. An SSDI attorney also stated that claims for people under age 50 are pretty much dead in the water unless you are completely paralyzed. I really wish congress would take stronger action to protect injured feds from systematic harassment and intimidation on the job.

    • Unless you retired from the Postal Service, when you retire you would pay exactly the same amount for your health benefits coverage as you did when you were an employee. The premiums of Postal Service employees are subsidized but that subsidy ends when they retire.

  8. I am 56 years old with 36+ years in the Postal Service and was hurt the last part of Feb. My forearm, rotator cuff and lower back was involved. Since then I have had to jump hurdles to get OWCP to approve one thing after another. Although I am getting through the bureaucracy I am worried about my time on LWOP for my injury. Is that time calculated for years of service or is it lost for retirement.

    • If the time on LWOP is six months or less, it’s treated as if you were still on the active roll. If it exceeds six months, any time beyond that is lost. However, you may not have a problem. It depends on the date OWCP sets, not the date on which they approve your claim. That could be as early as the day on which the injury occurred or the day on which you went on LWOP.

  9. I have a disability that I attended work as a teacher regardless. I also have enough years to retire. My illness is getting worse and won’t be able to continue past a few years. I have a disability policy beyond PERS disability. If I have to leave my job because of my health, can I collect my PERS as well as my disability payments through my disability policy?

    • If PERS means Public Employee Personnel System, I can’t help you. I’m only able to answer questions from federal employees covered by CSRS or FERS.

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