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.
An experienced federal disability lawyer can help fight for your rights.
Understanding Federal Employees Retirement System Disability Benefits
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 face 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 disability 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 FERS eligibility and a successful application for FERS disability benefits. Here are some additional stipulations to note.
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
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 accepts the offer, assuming it would actually accommodate the disability.
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 Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC.
Aaron’s practice includes the evaluation and resolution of a diverse variety of federal employment matters.