FERS Disability Retirement Attorney: The Social Security factor

For Federal and Postal employees under FERS, who now comprise the majority of the workforce in the Federal government, the issue of when to file for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) while concurrently filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is often a recurring question.

On SF 3112A, at the very bottom of the standard form, there are two boxes to check with respect to whether (A) Social Security disability benefits have been applied for, and (B) whether the receipt has been attached and included with one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

Since most FERS Disability Retirement applicants are still on the agency’s rolls as either active employees, on Sick Leave, Annual Leave or Leave without Pay, the filing for Social Security disability benefits becomes an anomaly, a puzzle and a conundrum, precisely because of the following: Ultimately, the reason why Social Security disability benefits must be applied for, is to see whether or not a coordinating “offset” between FERS Disability Retirement benefits and Social Security disability benefits will be appropriately imposed (a 100% offset in the first year of concurrent receipt of benefits where the annuity rate for the FERS Disability Retirement annuitant is set at 60% of the average of one’s highest-3 consecutive years of service; then, every year thereafter, a 60% offset during each year of concurrent receipt of Federal Disability Retirement benefits at the Federal Disability Retirement annuity rate of 40% of the average of one’s highest-3 consecutive years of service); but presumably such an analysis leading to an offset would occur if an approval by the Social Security Administration is based upon information concerning the severity and extent of the medical condition and disability, and not because a denial of Social Security disability benefits is based upon one’s status of employment.

But here is the “rub”:  Human Resource Offices often will demand and insist that Social Security disability benefits must be filed for, before the Federal Disability Retirement application can be forwarded to OPM.  Nothing could be further from the truth; but then, as gods, dictators and other power-wielding fiefdoms comprise the vast expanse of authoritative sources in the universe, it is often a good idea to go with the flow, file (with minimal effort expended), obtain a receipt which shows that one has filed, and be asked at a later date to duplicate the effort, if needed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

The Social Security Factor on the FERS Disability Retirement Claim

For the FERS employee, whether as a Federal, non-Postal employee, or as a Postal worker, who intends to file for Federal Disability Retirements benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the administrative process of filing for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) is a bureaucratic involvement and, by some accounts from Human Resource Offices of various Federal agencies, there is the view that the Federal Retirement application cannot be process by OPM unless and until SSDI is also filed.  This is not true.

While SSDI must be filed, and a receipt of such filing shown to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the purpose of such filing from the standpoint of OPM is not to compare or evaluate the enhanced eligibility status of a FERS disability retirement applicant by seeing whether or not the Social Security Administration will approve or disapprove one’s claim (that would be too logical, inasmuch as there is a higher legal standard of essentially “total disability” under SSDI, and so an approval by Social Security Disability standards should then automatically invite approval by OPM) — although, under Trevan v. OPM, there is certainly a basis to invite such a legal analysis.

No; the only reason why OPM wants to see a receipt of an SSDI filing, is merely for purposes of cross-checking whether or not a monetary offset should be applied if both SSDI and FERS Disability Retirement annuities are concurrently paid.  And, even then, it is often the case that the 100% offset in the concurrent receipt of payments from an OPM Disability annuity and SSDI in the first year, and the subsequent years of 60% offset of payments, will not be applied, and OPM will come back years later demanding the refund of the overpayments resulting from the failure of OPM applying the offset.

Most Federal employees and Postal workers who file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits will continue to either work to a limited extent, or at least remain on the rolls of their Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service during the long waiting time during the process of filing for Federal Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and, as such, there will be an automatic denial from the Social Security Administration because of income considerations for the year in question, etc.

The simplest solution to Human Resource Offices demanding and insisting that SSDI must be filed for before an OPM Disability Retirement application is processed and forwarded to Boyers, PA, is to file online, get a receipt, and be done with it. Then, if OPM requests that the applicant file again at a later date to determine if a denial from SSDI was truly based upon one’s disability (or lack thereof), or because of income considerations, then that can be done with greater effort after one has received a Medical Disability approval from OPM.

This is a world of bureaucracies, and the rules, however lacking of a rational foundation, needs to be adhered to and complied with.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire