| Read Time: 4 minutes | Federal Disability

How Federal Disability Works in 2021

One of the biggest perks of being a federal employee is having access to the government’s comprehensive benefits package. Currently, most federal employees receive benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Although there are resources explaining FERS and how it works, they aren’t always as helpful as they could be. We frequently get questions from federal employees asking how to balance their medical and financial needs, and many times these employees have never heard of benefits such as disability retirement. If you are wondering how does federal disability work, read on (or reach out!). In this blog post, we hope to demystify federal disability to help you best understand your options. What Is FERS? FERS stands for Federal Employees Retirement System. This program is the modern disability program offered by the federal government. If you started your service earlier than 1987, your disability benefits will come from the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) instead. Most of these provisions for disability retirement are substantially the same under CSRS, so if you are a CSRS employee you can qualify for disability retirement as well.  When Am I Eligible for FERS Disability? Eligibility starts with your length of creditable service with the government. For employees covered under FERS, you must have at least 18 months of creditable federal civilian service to qualify. Note that federal employees covered under CSRS need five years of service to qualify. In addition,  Your disability must prevent you from “useful and efficient service” in your current position (in other words, you have a deficiency in your performance, attendance, and/or conduct); The expected length of the disability must be one year or greater; Your agency must be unable to accommodate your disability, either in your position or through reassignment; You must apply for disability before your separation from service or within one year after; and You must submit an application for Social Security benefits. Whether your disability prevents you from useful and efficient service isn’t always obvious. For that reason, many federal employees seek advice from a federal disability lawyer. Does FERS Include Short-Term Disability? No, FERS does not include short-term disability. FERS does not cover disabilities expected to last less than one year. Other than sick leave, annual leave, and your agency’s leave bank (if available), there are no specific benefits for short-term disability. However in many cases of a short-term disability, the employing agency may be required to provide a reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodations may include leave, job restructuring, telework, ergonomic equipment, or another option which would allow the employee to perform the duties of his or her position.  FERS Disability and Social Security As explained above, eligibility for FERS disability is partially dependent on the employee applying for Social Security benefits. So how does federal disability work when it comes to this requirement? Fortunately, you don’t have to receive approval for Social Security benefits to receive FERS disability; you just have to apply. You can be approved for both SSDI and FERS disability simultaneously. In such a case, you would generally receive your full SSDI benefit while receiving a reduced disability annuity from OPM.  Unfortunately, keeping track of all the eligibility requirements can be difficult, especially if you’ve never worked with federal disability benefits in the past. We’re here to help you understand the process and make it as stress-free as possible. Applying for FERS Disability As with other government benefits programs, applying for FERS disability starts with completing several forms. Generally, you must complete at least SF 3107 and SF 3112. Additionally, you will need to provide documentation that you applied for Social Security disability, and other supporting documents depending on your responses on the SF 3107 and SF 3112 forms. During this first part of the process, your supervisor will also have to provide some information about your agency, position, and accommodations made available to you (if any).  If you are still on agency roles and not separated, or are within 30 days of separation, you must apply through your agency. If you are more than 30 days separated, then you will apply directly to OPM. Once your application is submitted, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will review your eligibility before notifying you of its decision. What to Do If You Are Denied FERS Disability Benefits As a federal employee, you have a robust set of rights when it comes to your employment, including denial of benefits. In a case where OPM disallows your application for FERS disability, you have 30 days to file a reconsideration appeal with OPM. Note that on the reconsideration form, you may elect to submit additional information in support of your application. During this appeal, a reconsideration specialist will give your application a second review. If your reconsideration appeal is denied as well, your next option is an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). An MSPB administrative judge will review OPM’s decision to determine whether you are eligible for FERS disability. If the administrative judge also denies your benefits, you can appeal to the MSPB board. After that, you will have exhausted your administrative remedies, giving you the right to take your case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Losing FERS Disability Benefits Generally, once you’ve been approved for FERS disability you will keep your benefits as long as you remain disabled. However, OPM may require you to get periodic medical exams to continue receiving benefits. Accordingly, if you recover from your disability your benefits will stop. There are two other main reasons why you may lose your federal disability: Your income from wages and self-employment equals at least 80% of your base pay from the position you retired from; or You obtained employment in Federal service at an equivalent position. Additionally, remember that your standard non-disability FERS retirement annuity will start when you reach age at 62. As a result, your disability benefits will stop at that time and you will be switched over to regular retirement through OPM. Need Help with Your Federal Disability?...

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | FERS Disability

FERS Disability Retirement Eligibility (Are You Eligible)

Individuals often remind government workers of the advantages of their positions. But if you were for the federal government, you may at times feel trapped and without rights. This is especially true for workers who have a disability. Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) disability eligibility is complex. Many federal employees are not aware of this program’s existence. Others, while aware, may lack proper guidance and feel hindered from accessing the benefit they are entitled to, and left without options. Attorneys skilled in assisting federal employees can help fight for your rights. Understanding Federal Employees Retirement System Disability Benefits Defining FERS  FERS stands for Federal Employees Retirement System and is a retirement plan. Most new Federal civilian employees hired after 1983 are automatically covered by FERS, whereas prior to this point most employees were covered under CSRS. Federal civilian employees also have a TSP retirement, however individuals must note that FERS and TSP (Thrift Savings Plan) are not the same. TSP is an optional retirement option, separate from your FERS pension. Understanding Federal Employees Retirement System Disability Eligibility  The United States government’s Office of Personnel Management provides a pamphlet regarding FERS disability retirement. However, it can often leave the reader more confused than confident in their understanding. FERS disability retirement eligibility is very complex. It  involves financial and legal information best analyzed by a lawyer for federal employees. The purpose of Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits is to provide income to federal workers who: Have a disability expected to last at least one year; and Are unable to fulfill the responsibilities of their job as a result of the disability. Unfortunately, workers most entitled to FERS eligibility are often overwhelmed and facing many obstacles due to their disabling condition. Tackling Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits may appear impossible. However, FERS disability retirement eligibility, when met, provides important rights. A Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits lawyer knows how to fight for this right. FERS Disability Retirement Eligibility Requirements As stated above, an initial hurdle to obtaining FERS disability benefits includes proving that a disability impacts you to the point where you can’t be expected to adequately perform your duties for at least one year. That is just the start. In addition the worker: Must have paid into Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits for at least 18 months; and Must not have declined a reasonable accommodation, such as a transfer to a job for which they were qualified, if the federal agency employing the person tried to accommodate their disability or move them to another department. Another critical item to note is that the worker must have applied for Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits while still employed or within one year after separation from the job. Financial Impact After Proving FERS Disability Retirement Eligibility If the government approves your Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits, the amount of your benefit will depend on intricate calculations. The amount of benefits is different for each individual. Calculating benefits currently includes an analysis of earnings at various points in the person’s career and an age review. An employee can get an accurate picture of available benefits by requesting a FERS benefits estimate from their agency. The Complexity of FERS Disability Retirement Eligibility The aforementioned is only a brief overview of examinations required regarding eligibility and a successful application for FERS disability benefits. Here some additional stipulations to note. The Injury  When determining disability, there are several medical considerations as well as exceptions. Common injuries that might support a claim for FERS disability benefits include: Back and neck injuries; Hand, shoulder, hip, or knee injuries; Eye injuries; and Amputation. Psychological conditions can also support a claim for disability benefits, though they can sometimes be trickier to document than some physical injuries. Essentially any mental or physical disability that impairs your ability to work may qualify, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety.  Alternate Job Offer Any job offer the government makes to the disabled party should be at the same pay level the person is receiving, or higher. It also must be within the same commuting area. Both of these requirements must be met to invoke the requirement that the party accept the offer, assuming it would actually accommodate the disability.  SSDI  Anyone applying for FERS disability retirement eligibility must also apply for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance ). However, it is not required that SSA approve the SSDI application. Other Work Income If the government provides the worker with FERS disability benefits, they cannot keep their federal job, as they proved an inability to perform the job due to a disability. However, they may be able to work in a private-sector job. There are strict income requirements regarding this option. Importance of Legal Representation for Federal Employees Retirement System Disability Benefits  Disabilities can cause tremendous stress. When a disability impacts one’s ability to work, the stress understandably increases. In some cases, those same workers begin experiencing discrimination, resentment, or retaliation in the workplace. Top-notch Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits attorneys will offer relief and protection. Individuals should never forget that they have the right to: Seek legal advice,  Be free from retaliation, and Utilize legal protections in place. A federal employer may fail to acknowledge one’s disability or inform them of the rules regarding FERS disability retirement eligibility. Other times, the employer may discourage the worker from pursuing benefits. Also, workers may feel overwhelmed with applying for Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits. If you find yourself in this situation, you should speak with a lawyer clients trust who is knowledgeable in Federal Employees Retirement System Disability Benefits. The Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing Attorney Aaron Wersing graduated from the Georgia State University College of Law and received the CALI Excellence for the Future Award. Since that time, he has continued a path of excellence as the founding attorney for the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing. Aaron’s practice includes the evaluation and resolution of a diverse variety of federal employment matters. Aaron is an advocate who knows how to handle any...

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