Ask The Experts: Retirement

By Reg Jones

Disability retirement

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Q. I am a retired FERS employee — 59 years old, with 25 years of federal service. I retired two years ago under VERA VSIP. My employer (Defense Department) was reducing the workforce due to budget cuts and abolished my job.

I paid into Social Security for 42 years. I have some health issues and am considering applying for Social Security disability. My question is: Will Social Security disability retirement affect my FERS annuity? Read the rest of this entry »

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FERS and Social Security disability overpayments

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Q. I receive a FERS annuity. If I receive Social Security disability, I understand I lose 60 percent of that pay until I’m 62. Will FERS go back however many months and make me pay back the difference for those months of retroactive pay from Social Security? In other words, if I collect six months of retroactive pay from Social Security do I owe FERS 60 percent of my annuity that I received for those six months?

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Special retirement supplement extension

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Q. I retired from the Postal Service on July 1, 2011, under FERS and am receiving a FERS annuity supplement of $746 per month. I also was awarded Social Security disability in April 2011, with payments starting in November 2011. Can I still receive an annuity supplement when I am 62?

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Social Security disability requirements

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Q. As a requirement for approval for federal disability retirement, I have filed for Social Security and was denied.

However, I was approved in February 2012 for disability under FERS.

Even after approval, am I still required to continuously apply for Social Security until I get approved even if I’m not totally disabled?

A. No.

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Disability retirement

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Q. I am a FERS employee with serious medical issues. If I apply for a disability retirement, I will be required to submit an application for immediate retirement. According to the instructions on this application, most annuities begin the first day of the month after separation. How does this work if my request needs to be approved by Social Security? If it were denied by Social Security, then what would happen to my annuity?

A. Because you are a FERS employee, if you apply for disability retirement, you must also apply for a Social Security disability benefit. Your receipt of a FERS disability annuity isn’t contingent on your receiving a Social Security disability benefit. If you are approved for the disability annuity and not the disability benefit, you’ll continue to receive the disability annuity.

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Social Security and Medicare

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Q. I am retired and on Social Security disability. I am 63 and now receiving regular pension since 62. I am covered by FERS BC/BS. I was under the impression that my coverage continued till age 65 when I retired in 2000. I will have to wait till 66 to retire under the new Social Security rules for retiring. Will the health coverage continue till age 66, or will it stop at 65, leaving me with no insurance since I can’t get Medicare till age 66 now? And how does one keep the coverage later?

A. First, a correction. The eligibility age for Medicare is still 65. Only the age at which someone becomes eligible for a Social Security benefit has changed.

Now on to your basic question. As long as you continue to have premiums deducted from your annuity, you will be able to continue your Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage for the rest of your life.

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Social Security Disability award and injury award

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Q. In March 2012, I received a one-time OWCP award for a 1996 on-the-job traumatic injury suffered with the post office. I had put in for this award more than once many years earlier and had been permanently stationary for years before resigning from the post office in April 2011. At 58, I am retired from the post office with 15 years. I am also a Navy veteran of 15 years, time I failed to buy back before retiring from the post office.

Beside the one-time OWCP award, I have not received any other OWCP benefits since leaving the post office. In January 2012, I applied for Social Security disability. In July, I received a Social Security disability award with monthly benefits and retroactive pay to October 2011. Will my one-time OWCP award be deducted from my Social Security disability award?

A. No.

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Health insurance following 6c disability retirement

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Q. I am a federal law enforcement officer with four years of service in a 6c covered position. I was injured in the line of duty and my agency is unable to accommodate me in another position, so I am being medically retired. What are the health insurance options for me and my family after my disability retirement?

A. Assuming that you are enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program, as a FERS disability retiree you will be able to continue that coverage. Note: When you apply for FERS disability retirement, you must simultaneously apply for Social Security disability benefits. If you don’t, OPM won’t process your case.

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Disability retirement and early retirement

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Q. I am a FERS employee and have a serious medical condition and was considering filing for disability retirement. I have not done so because of the uncertainty surrounding whether OPM would actually grant the application and, more importantly, because I have tried to maintain my employment as long as possible. My agency is not offering early retirement. Can a person dual-file an early-out application and a disability application? If so what are the pros and cons?

A. Yes, but you can apply for early retirement only if your agency has been approved to offer it and the offer applies to your position. On the other hand, you can apply for disability retirement at any time. If you do, you must also apply for Social Security disability benefits. If you don’t OPM won’t process your application.

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Social Security Disability Insurance

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Q. I am on Social Security Disability Insurance because of cancer and diabetes. I need to find some kind of part-time work to make ends meet. I know there are income limits for SSDI,  but I was wondering if there are any other problems associated with working while on SSDI, at least as far as the Social Security Administration is concerned.

A: For an answer to your question, go to http://ssa.gov/pubs/10029.html#part11.

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Social Security disability

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Q: I am currently a retired CSRS offset employee who is on Social Security disability. My question is when you turn 62, does your disability payment change to regular social security or does it change at 66? I have been told conflicting information.

A: As long as you continue to be disabled, you’ll continue to receive a Social Security disability benefit. However, because you were covered by a retirement system where you didn’t pay Social Security taxes — CSRS — when you reach age 62, the windfall elimination provision will reduce the amount of your Social Security disability benefit if you have fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security.

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USPS and disability retirement

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Q: My husband has been working for the U.S. Postal Service for 26 years. He is 53 years old. He is entitled to Federal Employees Retirement System benefits at age 56, but he wants to retire now due to health issues. Can he do that?

A: The only way he could retire before reaching his minimum retirement age would be if he was approved for disability retirement. To find out if he is eligible, he’d have to file for disability retirement and, at the same time, file for Social Security disability benefits. His personnel office can help him do that.

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Subject to windfall provision

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Q: I received a federal disability pension in 1991. I retrained and was able to work until 2004 when the same condition worsened. I applied for Social Security disability compensation and eceived it in 2008. I just received a notice that the federal civil service disability pension is considered a windfall. A calculation will be made with the windfall rule to reduce my Social Security disability. Is this discrimination against the disabled? Is there a way that I can fight or protest this situation?

A: Apparently, you are subject to the windfall elimination provision, which applies to the Social Security benefit of anyone receiving an annuity, in whole or part, from a retirement system in which he didn’t pay Social Security taxes and has fewer than 30 years of substantial earnings under Social Security. For more information about the WEP, go to http://ssa.gov/pubs/10045.html.

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Social Security disability benefits

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Q: I read somewhere that if you had enough quarters of Social Security, like 28 or 30, you could qualify for your Social Security pay based on that and I would get both my Federal Employees Retirement System and Social Security disability retirement money, without there being an offset. Is that correct?

A: The criteria for receiving a Social Security disability benefits are much higher than those for a FERS disability benefit. To receive such a benefit with fewer than 40 credits, you would have had to be covered under Social Security from the time you turned age 22. Under no circumstance would you receive both benefits without an offset. The FERS law is clear. If you are receiving a FERS disability benefit, during the first year you will receive 60 percent of your High-3, minus 100 percent of any Social Security disability benefit. After the first 12 months, you’ll receive 40 percent of your High-3 minus 60 percent of and Social Security disability benefit. At age 62, your annuity would be recomputed as if you had actually worked to that age.

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FERS annuity and Social Security disability

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Q I retired voluntarily from Federal Employees Retirement System on July 31, 2009, for health reasons with plans to change to FERS disability later. I was told by the Office of Personnel Management that there would be no benefit for me to file for FERS disability since I retired voluntarily. I applied for Social Security disability and was approved on April 23, 2010, with benefits beginning in December 2009 (I was found to be disabled on June 10, 2009). Do I still have to return the supplement from August 2009 to November 2009? Also, can I receive Social Security disability without filing for FERS disability? If there is no benefit to changing FERS to disability, I would like to have just Social Security disability and my regular FERS annuity.

A: Because you were already eligible for an immediate unreduced annuity and were eligible for the special retirement supplement, your retirement benefit would have been equal to or greater than what you would have received if you had retired on disability. Now that you’ve been approved for Social Security disability benefits, you will be able to receive them and your FERS annuity.

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Social Security and FERS disability retirement

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Q: I’m confused about the following issue. I have medical conditions for which I am applying for disability under the Federal Employees Retirement System. I’ve already applied under SSI and was denied because I am still working. Will my children receive any money if I am awarded disability under FERS?  I’ve been told that if I were awarded dissability under SSI they would all receive checks. I do not understand this. Do I have to apply for FERS? Or can I skip FERS and just apply for disability under SSI? Also, since my application is currently under review under FERS by the Office of Personnel Management, if I am approved, can I go back and apply for disability under SSI? It just seems like the smarter thing to do would be to apply for SSI so that my children willl get checks also, since I’ve never made over $40,000 a year. It just seems like SSI would keep me from being put out on the street and my kids would be taken care of , as opposed to me just getting one check that won’t cover all of the bills.

A: You have filed for FERS disability retirement, which is the correct thing to do. You have also filed for Social Security disability benefits, which, as an employee covered by FERS and Social Security, you were required to do. Since the criteria for FERS and Social Security are different, you could be approved for the first but not the second. To be eligible for FERS disability retirement, you must be sufficiently disabled to be unable to perform the duties of your current position or one for which you are qualified at the same grade or pay level. To qualify for a Social Security disability benefit, you must be so severely impaired that you cannot perform any substantial gainful activity. Since you were still employed, your application for Social Security disability benefits was turned down. Were you to be eligible for disability retirement under FERS and did so, you could reapply for a Social Security benefit. Although additional Social Security benefits are payable to the unmarried dependent children of someone who has been approved for disability benefits, no additional benefits are payable to someone who retires on disability.

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Social Security and disability

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Q: Can you apply for Social Security disability after you have retired under the Federal Employees Retirement System from the Postal Service, or should you have applied for disability under Social Security before your retired? Also, does Social Security request your medical information from your doctors, or do you have to get this information to them yourself?

A: If you are applying for disability retirement under FERS, you have to apply for Social Security disability benefits. If you don’t, the Office of Personnel Management won’t process your application. If you are retiring on a nondisability annuity, you may apply for Social Security disability benefits at any time. The provision of medical documentation is always the responsibility of the individual who is applying for a disability annuity or benefits.

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