Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: FERS & SSDI Offset

This information has been concurrently posted on the “forum” concerning FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement, because it is a pending issue which may impact many (former) Federal and Postal employees who are receiving both FERS Disability Retirement benefits as well as SSDI, and impacted by the offset between the two.  

Under FERS, you must file for Social Security Disability benefits.  However, everyone should be aware of two basic (potential) problems:  (1)  There is a much lower “cap” under SSDI as to what one can earn in income and (2) There is an offset between FERS Disability annuity and SSDI (100% the first year, 60% every year thereafter).  Further, as SSDI has a higher and more restrictive standard of proof (generally, one of “total disability” as opposed to being disabled from being able to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job), most Federal and Postal employees will not qualify for SSDI, and so it is not an issue.  

However, every Federal and Postal employee should be aware of the following:  If a Federal or Postal employee becomes qualified for both SSDI and FERS Disability retirement, and receives the joint annuities from both sources, and if at a later time he/she exceeds the income cap as set by SSDI and loses the SSDI benefit, one would presume/assume that since the source of the offset is lost, that OPM would reinstate the full FERS Disability annuity amount.  Not so.  There is a legal distinction being made by OPM between being “eligible” and being “entitled”, and the fact that one is no longer “eligible” does not mean that one is not “entitled”, and therefore no reinstatement of the full annuity is made.  

A couple of cases are presently be appealed to the 3-Judge panel at the MSPB, and a decision is forthcoming any day.  If favorable, good for everyone.  If not, then an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will be entertained.

Knowing what the law says is the key to proper preparation in any event, and regardless of what the outcome of the case will/may be, knowing the law will allow for all recipients of a FERS Disability Retirement annuity to adequately prepare and to act accordingly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

2 Responses

  1. My husband is retired under FERS due to a disability, he was 57 years old at the time, he had over 20 years of Federal service. He also applied for SSDI and was approved. He never seen 100% of his pension and then he was cut down to 60% and now to 40%. Does not seem fair to me as well as to others in the same boat!! He will turn 60 on August 29, 2011 I wonder what will happen next? He get 117.00 per month in FERS not a whole hell of a lot now isn’t it, he is currrently repaying two different amounts back to FERS due to SSDI over payments, both payments come out at the same time for about another seven years. So what happens each year when it is Open season or when health plan fees keep going up and he depletes his 117.00 in retirement benefits? Seems like he got the entire short end of the stick all the ay around.

  2. The people believe because we collect a disability retirement it is a lottery of some sort. They fail to recognize we are still living every day with a disability. Top that off with paying back fees like said to Social security, rising fees of health costs, and forced to be in two health plans or loose our Federal plan. Which might I add Medicare becomes primary and dictates which procedures you can and cannot get done, and your secondary insurance follows suit. I find it very difficult to fathom because I have a disability which did not preclude me from being able to do my job as a Federal Worker, now would subject me to loosing my retirement disability if they suddenly were able to resolve some of those issues or on a whim decide I was no longer disabled under SSDI. Yet I am still left with my disabling condition which does not allow me to perform my duty in the Federal Service. What would they plan to do with me I wonder? I don’t make enough to live month to month so I usually cut things out like TV, and driving, and medication, forget new clothing or Christmas. I kid you not . I tell everyone I see what a horrible place it is to be. To think we were once a valued employee until we were injured!

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