By Reg Jones
Q. I have been an 1811 status (federal agent) federal employee for 16 years. I have been on leave without pay and receiving workers’ compensation for the past year due to an on-the-job injury.
I have received little if any guidance from my agency’s HR, as the representatives admit they have little or no experience with workers’ comp.
What should I do to maintain the best possible benefits for me and my family if this becomes a long-term/permanent situation and I am not able to return to work? And if I can return to work, how would the time on workers’ comp affect my retirement benefits etc.?
What survivor benefits will my spouse have if I die while on workers’ comp?
Q. I was injured in September 2010 and was out of work until I retired on disability in March 2011. I exhausted my annual and sick leave, since my initial workers’ compensation claim was denied.
After numerous appeals, my workers’ compensation claim was approved in October 2011. I began receiving interim retirement payments in September 2011 but have yet to receive payment from OPM for annual and sick leave I would have accumulated during that period. I have contacted DFAS and OPM, along with filing two congressionals regarding this issue, but no resolution.
Shouldn’t I be paid for the time I would have been on workers’ compensation? Shouldn’t OPM pay the lump sum after receiving notification that my workers’ compensation claim was approved? I have contacted OPM, and it seems to lack adequate professionals to decipher this mess.
Q. I am trying to figure my calculations under FERS disability retirement and Social Security. I am receiving Medicare under Social Security Administration without monetary benefits because of workers’ compensation. Would you please calculate a high-3 of $54,000; and Social Security entitlement of $1,700 monthly on a 60% and a 40%. What would be the separate amounts received from both? Also, do I have to fill out both forms, SF 3112 and a SF 3107 for immediate retirement? I am requesting approval of disability retirement.
A. I can’t do your homework for you. What I can do is give you the formulas you’ll need to get the answers you want. For the first 12 months, you’d receive 60 percent of your high-3 minus 100 percent of any Social Security benefit disability benefit. For all remaining years and until age 62, you’d receive 40 percent of your high-3 minus 60 percent of your Social Security disability benefit.
You’ll need to fill out a Standard Form 3112, Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement, and, at the same time, file for Social Security disability benefits. If you don’t, the Office of Personnel Management won’t review your application for disability retirement.
February 22nd, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. In February 2014, my FERS and Social Security disability retirements will convert to regular retirements. Will my Social Security retirement be reduced by any offsets?
A. According to the Social Security Administration, “If you receive workers’ compensation or other public disability benefits and Social Security disability benefits, the total amount of these benefits cannot exceed 80 percent of your average current earnings before you became disabled.” You’ll have to do the math to find out if this limitation will affect you.
I am a 58-year-old Postal Service employee with 34 years of service who was sent home during the National Reassessment Process. I was thinking about retiring but choosing workers’ compensation over my civil service retirement. I would like to know if I would be eligible to receive the incentive if I did this. I would also like to know if I would be able to elect the spousal annuity if I retired OWCP.
A. No, you wouldn’t. No one who has a disability such that he or she is or would be eligible for disability retirement can receive a Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment.
January 15th, 2013 | Uncategorized
Q. I’m a postal worker under FERS. I started in 1988. I’ve been on workers’ compensation for the last four years. Now they are starting separation procedures.
I guess that’s code for termination, but am I eligible for retirement disability? And if so, do I have to take the retirement disability, or can I continue to collect workers’ compensation.
And if they separate me from the post office, does that mean that my workers’ compensation stops.
A. You’ll have to apply for disability retirement, which your agency is required to help you do. If you are approved for it and you continue to qualify for workers’ compensation, you’ll have to choose between the two benefits. As a rule, workers’ compensation is a better choice financially.
November 19th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I have been on Department of Labor/Office of Workers’ Compensation Program for approximately 15 years due to an on-the-job injury. It does not look like I will ever return to work. What are my options? And where can I find answers about my situation?
A. If you don’t recover from your disability, your OWCP payments will continue for the rest of your life. If you also applied for disability retirement when you applied for OWCP benefits, you could, of course, drop those benefits and become a disability retiree. However, before you did that, you’d want to be sure that wouldn’t experience a drop in income. For more information about the relationship between disability retirement and OWCP benefits, go to www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C102.pdf.
October 15th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I am a Postal Service employee under FERS. I’m 65 years and three months old. I’ll have 26 service years by Nov. 8. I work four hours a day because of a job-related injury. The other four hours are paid by the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs. Will my work status allow me to qualify for the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority this year? If so, can I apply for disability retirement instead of the regular retirement and still get the $15,000 incentive? What happens with my accumulated sick leave? Can it be credited as added service if I submit Form 2574 to human resources by Dec. 3? Or is it possible to submit my Form 2574 by Dec. 3, defer my disability retirement until January 2014 and still qualify for the special incentive?
A. No employee who has a disability such that he would be eligible for disability retirement can receive a Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment. Therefore, the rest of your questions are moot.
September 5th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I have had five surgeries due to work-related injuries. I have four workers’ comp case numbers. I also have a permanent disability on my shoulder and will be receiving a permanent disability on my left forearm and wrist. I recently put in for medical retirement and am awaiting a decision. My workers’ comp doctor has mentioned several times that I should be on workers’ comp after five surgeries, but I don’t know how I am supposed to apply for that, and no one seems to want to answer those questions. Does putting in for the medical disability make me eligible for the workers’ comp disability, which pays more?
A. If you want to apply for workers’ compensation, you’ll need to fill out a copy of Form CA-1, available from your personnel office or downloadable at www.dol.gov/owcp/dfec/regs/complianceforms.htm. Having put in for disability retirement is irrelevant. If you qualify for workers’ comp and disability retirement, you’ll have to choose the benefit you prefer.
August 17th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I am part of CSRS. I was hired into federal service in 1979. In 1982, I was injured on the job and on workers’ compensation for seven years. A few recent retirees have told me they were notified by the Office of Personnel Management of outstanding indebtedness going back over 25 years due to nonpayment of retirement money. When I retire, will I be required to pay OPM for those seven years of retirement money I did not pay into the system while I was on workers’ comp? Or is my retirement annuity based on what I paid into the system?
A. According to OPM, “An employee who is in a leave-without-pay (LWOP) status while in receipt of FECA benefits will receive full credit for the LWOP period in the computation of annuity and for high-3 average salary purposes. LWOP while in receipt of FECA benefits is not subject to the limitation of 6 months credit in each calendar year, as is other LWOP.” See www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C0102.pdf.
July 16th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. Does a person who is currently working and under workers’ compensation have to use all of his annual leave and/or sick leave before he can use leave without pay for their workers’ comp appointments?
A. No. However, the granting of LWOP is entirely at the supervisor’s discretion.
July 13th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I have been on workers’ compensation since December 2010. I had back surgery in May 2011 and had another this spring. I am going to fill out the Office of Personnel Management paperwork for medical disability retirement and want to suspend that benefit and remain on workers’ comp because it’s more advantageous. Once I convert to OPM retirement, will the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs still be responsible for my medical needs and medication, or do all OWCP benefits stop? I have nine years of federal service and do have Federal Employees Health Benefits, but I’m not sure how much more of OWCP I can deal with.
A. Once you have converted to FERS disability, OWCP’s responsibility for your medical and medication needs ends.
June 29th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I was affected by base realignment and closure in 1995. My agency moved from Kettering, Ohio, to Columbus, more than 90 miles each way. Married with a child in school, I was not able to relocate. Incidentally, I was also on workers’ compensation at the time. I resigned due to work offered outside my commuting area but received workers’ comp for the next 13 years. In March 2009, I gained employment at another government agency (we moved to another state). The new agency doesn’t want to give me my full tenure toward retirement. It was always my belief that if an individual is receiving workers’ comp, he is still considered an employee who is treated as if he has never left his agency. I originally joined the federal government in December 1975. If my seniority continued, I would now have 37 years. But the agency I work for has recomputed my seniority to be October 1988. Am I entitled to my 1975 seniority date?
A. No, you aren’t. The period of time between when you resigned from the government and when you returned to work can’t be included when determining your years of creditable service.
June 27th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I have been receiving my husband’s annuity but got hurt at work and now receive workers’ compensation. Because of this, my survivor annuity has been canceled. Is this correct?
A. Yes, you have to make a choice. If you elect workers’ compensation and it is later canceled, you can once again receive your survivor annuity.
June 26th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I am a federal employee with 15 years of active service. For the past 11 years, I have been receiving workers’ compensation due to an on-the-job injury. I am eligible for regular retirement under FERS. Do the years on workers’ comp count as creditable service years with regard to computation for my retirement benefits? After I retire, under FERS, will workers’ comp still pay for my Federal Employees Health Benefits insurance premiums?
A. Your years on workers compensation won’t be considered creditable service. The Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs won’t pay for your FEHB coverage after you stop receiving workers’ comp.
June 11th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I am 62 and have been with the Postal Service for 26 years. I am hoping to retire this summer. I have a job-related permanent disability and have qualified for workers’ compensation. I have not yet started receiving compensation, but my payout figure on workers’ comp is significantly higher than my FERS pension and is also significantly higher than my Social Security pension, which will also begin this year. Are there any “offsets” to either my FERS pension or Social Security pension if I take the workers’ comp payment? Am I correct in understanding that I am entitled to all three figures, and is it true that workers’ compensation is nontaxable?
A. Yes, there are offsets. First. you must choose between a FERS annuity and workers’ compensation. You can’t receive both. Second, although you may be eligible for a Social Security benefit, when combined with your workers’ compensation, the total of the two can’t exceed 80 percent of the average current salary of the position you occupied before you became disabled. Workers’ comp benefits are fully nontaxable as long as you remain unemployed.
June 5th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I am a 20+year Postal Service employee. I had an on-the-job injury and have been on leave without pay and receiving workers’ compensation for two years. Recently, I was separated from the Postal Service due to being on the Office of Workers’ Compensation Program rolls for more than a year. My last pay stub shows I have 190 hours of annual leave. Should I be paid for this now that I’ve been separated?
A. Yes, you are entitled to a lump-sum payment from your former agency.
June 4th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. My mother and I are both Postal Service FERS employees. My mother is planning to retire in two years at age 67 with 15+ years of service. She has had some injuries and illness over the past few years, including an on-the-job injury that her supervisor intentionally mishandled to keep her from receiving workers’ compensation, which have depleted her sick leave and any annual leave reserve. She has very little reserve to handle any more such occurrences without using leave without pay. She is under the impression that she cannot retire with FERS or benefits if she uses any LWOP within two years of the retirement date. Is that true?
A. There is no such rule. Even if the Postal Service had placed some restrictions on the use of LWOP, it would have no effect on her eligibility to retire and receive any benefits she has earned. Still, she needs to understand that any time she has exhausted her sick or annual leave and wants to take LWOP, she’ll need to get supervisory approval.
May 25th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. Does time spent on workers’ compensation count as creditable service when a FERS disability is recalculated at age 62 when one never returns to work?
A. No, it isn’t.
May 18th, 2012 | Uncategorized
Q. I am on workers’ compensation, and I am interested in starting my disability retirement benefits. I talked with a lady at the Office of Personnel Management, and she informed me that I could go back to work someday and still collect disability retirement benefits, but my gross salary could not be more than 80 percent of my Postal Service salary. If I were to sell a house and make a profit, is that considered gross salary, like a job would be?
A. No, it isn’t. The 80 percent limit applies only to earnings from wages and self-employment, not other sources of income.