At some point in the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS (CSRS is exempted from this particular aspect), the Federal or Postal employee must file for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. FERS employees are under the Social Security System, and the reason behind the requirement of filing is to see whether or not the Federal or Postal employee will concurrently be eligible for Social Security Disability benefits.
Most Federal and Postal employees are not eligible for Social Security Disability benefits, because the higher standard of “total disability” does not apply to the Federal or Postal employee who is filing under FERS, which has a lower standard of being unable to, because of a medical condition, perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.
The requirement to file for SSDI under FERS is one which must be satisfied at or prior to the time of an approval by the Office of Personnel Management. It is not, as many Human Resources Departments of various agencies will erroneously inform you, a precondition to filing for FERS Disability Retirement benefits. The only requirement which must be satisfied is that, at or prior to the time of an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application issued by the Office of Personnel Management, a receipt showing that one has filed for SSDI benefits must be presented to OPM before OPM will process the approved Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS. This is to ensure that, prior to payments being issued, it has been determined that no offsets with SSDI will be necessary.
Again, at or time of the approval of a Federal Disability Retirement claim, is the requirement of presenting a receipt showing that a Federal or Postal employee has filed for Social Security Disability benefits. It is NOT a precondition of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the Office of Personnel Management. It does NOT have to be done sequentially — and this is where Agencies misinform Federal and Postal employees. One does not have to file for, let alone get approved for, Social Security Disability benefits prior to filing for FERS disability retirement. I don’t know how much clearer I can state this fact.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire