Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Workers’ compensation

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Q. I am on leave without pay and Department of Labor workers’ compensation due to an injury which occurred on duty as a federal agent. I had surgery 16 months ago. I am still having issues that prevent me from returning to work at this time. I am undergoing physical therapy and pain management. Doctors are recommending more surgeries, epidural treatments, PT, etc. Keeping in mind that additional surgeries and epidurals may not be beneficial and come with additional risks, do I have to take the doctors’ recommendations?  Do I have the option to say I have had enough poking and prodding? Can I remain indefinitely on workers’ comp and call it quits? If so, what should I do? I have been told that as far as an agent position, there are no “desk jobs.” Do I have to apply for other benefits?

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FERS disability retirement

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Q. I work part time while on federal service. If approved for FERS disability retirement, I understand I can earn up to 80 percent of what was being earned by federal service. Does this take into account military retirement annuity, present earnings from my part-time job performed from home and the amount of the disability annuity? What is taken into account in determining wages/self-employment to ascertain reaching the 80 percent authorized amount?

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FERS and Social Security disability

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Q. If a federal employee is eligible for retirement under both FERS and Social Security disability, can that employee, once retired, still work and earn up to $1,000 or $1,100 per month (whatever the maximum is), which is what an SSDI recipient may earn without jeopardizing his or her SSDI benefits?

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Military buyback and disability retirement

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Q. I served in the Army from June 1975 to July 1978 (three years). I started working for the Postal Service in June 1985 for a total of 28.5 years. I have applied for disability retirement (FERS). I would like to buy back my military years, thus I requested the RI 20-97 and have sent it out with my DD-214 and am waiting. Can I buy these years now in the middle of this disability retirement process? If so, how would this delay or hurt the process?

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Disability retirement

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Q. A friend of mine left his federal job due to a knee injury. He says he hurt his knee on the job (I believe this is documented). He has been unemployed for about three years and collects Social Security benefits due to the knee injury. He did not know to put in for federal disability retirement. At this point, is there anything he can do to receive something from the government?

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FERS disability

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Q. I have been recently awarded disability as a FERS law enforcement officer. Will my disability be canceled when I hit my minimum retirement age, or will it continue until I am 62 or have recovered, whichever is first?

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FICA and CSRS (partial)

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Q. My SF-50 Block 30 is coded as a C (FICA and CSRS (Partial)). I would like more information about my current retirement status. How would I determine the amount of my deposit into my CSRS before I retire? (When I left government, I took a refund of my CSRS contributions.) If the whole amount is paid back, would I get my retirement with full benefits?

Also, what would happen if I leave the federal government because of medical condition (disability) before I retire? How would that affect my disability amount if the redeposit is not fully paid? Would that put me in partial disability status?

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FERS disability retirement

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Q. I’m a 66-year-old FERS employee. I have 33 years of creditable service and have paid back seven years of military service. I can retire with a disability. I have rheumatoid arthritis and take chemotherapy. Which will earn me more retirement money: retire with a disability or regular retirement?

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Reapplying for disability retirement

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Q. Two years ago, I had applied for disability retirement based on my medical inability to perform the duties of my job. While my application was pending, my agency located another position which fully accommodated my medical condition. I formally withdrew my application as a result of this accommodation. 

My medical condition has progressively worsened over the past two years, and I am now becoming unable to perform the duties of my current position. Is it possible to reapply for disability retirement? If so, does the entire process need to be redone, or can I contact the case worker who was working on my original application with updated medical documentation? Will they look at my prior application if I need to start from scratch, or would I need to resend all of the prior medical documentation that was already sent?

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Applying for disability retirement

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 Q. I work for the Postal Service and am thinking about applying for disability retirement, but I’m not sure they approve it for severe migraine headaches. How do I apply for it?

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Disability retirement

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Q. I am 46 years old and coming up on 23 years of federal law enforcement service. Under our retirement calendar, we must retire at age 57. I could retire voluntarily at 49 with 25 years of service. I am considering a disability retirement due to a recent injury that has left my body, which has had many prior on-the-job injuries, racked with pain, and I can no longer perform my job.

Will the following years that will count into my federal total time in service, once on disability retirement, continue until my 57th or 62nd birthday under normal retirement age limits?  Does this mean that it would add 10 years of credit to my total time in at age 57? Wouldn’t that put my percentage of my high-3 average at or above 50 percent since I believe we are credited at the rate of 1.1 percent per year? Adding in the special Social Security annuity that we start receiving upon retirement from federal law enforcement, is this completely taken out of our monthly payment for the disability retirement during the first year? Or is that Social Security disability that I must apply for as part of the disability retirement process that is taken out for the first year? Are they the same thing or two different Social Security payments?

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Disability retirement and re-employment

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Q. If I take disability retirement or my pension, would I be able to return to work with the Postal Service? I have 30 years as a letter carrier at age 57.

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FERS disability and SRS eligibility

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Q. I am eligible to retire under FERS now that I am 56 years old and have 28 years of service with the Veterans Affairs Department. If I were to retire under FERS disability instead, would I still receive the special retirement supplement that accompanies regular FERS retirement? Also, would my five years of military service be taken into account for FERS disability if I have paid my military deposit into the system?

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Disability retirement, MRA and annuity calculation

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Q. I have been on disability retirement from the Postal Service since October 1988. I am 56 years old (57 in March) and would like to inquire as to my options to retire under MRA. Also, can I receive a ballpark estimate of how much I would get (monthly/yearly) and all other pertinent information? I believe that I read on the Office of Personnel Management’s Web page that it would be 1 percent of my high-3 income while at the post office, but I am not sure how to do this calculation. If this is an option for me to retire now, what would be the necessary steps to get this accomplished?

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Disability retirement and SRS

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Q. I am a federal law enforcement officer. I have an accepted workers’ compensation claim, and it appears that I am no longer physically able to perform the duties of my job. I do not appear to be completely disabled, so I probably can’t get Office of Workers’ Compensation Program disability.

I am four years short of being eligible for the minimum needed for enhanced law enforcement retirement.

If I obtain an Office of Personnel Management disability annuity, am I eligible to obtain the special retirement supplement until age 62?

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FERS and Social Security disability

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Q. I have been hearing impaired all my life. My audiograms (hearing tests) throughout the years have shown a progressive decrease in my hearing. My recent last audiogram showed that my hearing is so bad I automatically meet the qualifications for Social Security Disability Insurance. I have worked in a federal prison for nine years and have feared for my safety for quite a while, but am the sole bread winner of my family and need the money to survive.

As a requirement for FERS disability retirement, I’m supposed to apply for SSDI also. On one hand, I automatically qualify, but on the other hand, since I’m still working, I’ll be turned down? I need both FERS and SSDI benefits to survive financially. I don’t have enough sick and annual leave to stop working and wait it out, to where I won’t be working and be approved for my SSDI. What are my options?

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Converting to regular retirement

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Q. I was a CSRS clerk who got injured off the job. I have 29½ years and am 53 years old. When I turn 55, can I convert to regular retirement? (I am currently on disability retirement.) And can I take an early-out if one is offered?

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Discontinued service retirement and SRS eligibility

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Q. I am a 50-year-old dual-status Air National Guard military technician under FERS. If I decline to enter into the Disability Evaluation System solely for a fitness determination, and am involuntarily separated for Physical Disqualification IAW AFI 36-3209, paragraph 3.14 for enlisted personnel, am I entitled to the special retirement supplement immediately if I retire under a discontinued service retirement with 24 years and four months of service, or will it begin at minimum retirement age (56 years for me)?

If I enter into the DES and the time it takes to go through gets me over 25 years service as a technician, does it make a difference as far as an immediate FERS annuity supplement is concerned?

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Spousal benefits and converting to regular retirement

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Q. In 1994, I received disability retirement from the Postal Service. I was married at that time and elected for no spousal entitlement. My husband signed off on it. I have since divorced and remarried. When they convert me to regular retirement, will my new husband have to sign off on it to not take spousal benefits?

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Failure to pay annual leave promptly

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Q. Federal worker was separated from service Nov. 30 pursuant to Office of Personnel Management disability determination. Worker is completely disabled. The worker’s pay for 2013 exceeds the Social Security limit. Agency fails to pay accrued leave promptly. Leave is paid in 2014. Would Social Security be deducted?

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