If you are currently on the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) disability retirement, you probably have a mix of relief and concern.
You might be relieved because of the assistance that payments provide for your life. But you might be concerned because you are unsure how long your retirement will last.
In general, many employees on FERS disability retirement can expect their retirement to last until age 62. However, there is no simple answer to the question of how long it will last.
It depends on your age, health, situation, and disciplinary history. We’ll cover some of the basics here so that you have a general idea of what to expect.
How Long Will My FERS Disability Retirement Last?
At that point, your retirement will convert automatically from disability to typical federal retirement. That said, you are subject to occasional “check-ups” while on FERS disability.
What Factors Can Affect Whether I Continue to Receive FERS Disability Retirement?
Age is the biggest factor when it comes to your benefits. As we mentioned before, when you turn 62, you will no longer receive disability retirement.
Another factor that comes into play is your health. While many federal employees have disabling conditions that are also permanent, other employees can recover over time.
If you recover sufficiently from your condition, you may lose out on your benefits after undoing a periodic review.
A third variable that affects your retirement is your current earnings. According to federal law, you can receive retirement benefits only if you have a physical or mental condition that prevents you from achieving your “earning capacity.”
However, if you subsequently receive wages (either from another employer or from self-employment) that equates to more than 80% of the pay you received as a federal employee, you will be deemed as having achieved your earning capacity. That means your benefits will stop.
Finally, your participation in other benefit programs can affect your benefits.
For instance, if you decide to receive benefits from the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP), then you can no longer continue to collect retirement payments.
Understanding Periodic Reviews by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM)
After you begin your FERS disability retirement, you can expect to receive periodic reviews from OPM. For some, these reviews will come once or twice a year.
Other employees on benefits may receive reviews more or less often. In any event, these reviews are critical for your continued benefits.
During these reviews, OPM will send the retiree a short form to fill out. The form will inquire about the former employee’s current work activities.
It will also request updated medical records for OPM to review. Having the right attorney on your side during this process can make all the difference for your disability retirement.
For many retirees with permanent conditions, their updated medical records will support a finding that will allow them to remain on benefits.
But depending on your medical status and the answers to the OPM review form, the agency may decide that you are healthy enough to work and terminate future payments.
This kind of sudden monetary change can turn your life upside down.
The Consequences of Losing FERS Disability Retirement
Losing your FERS benefits has many consequences. As any FERS retiree can tell you, one of the major benefits of FERS disability retirement is the free health and life insurance coverage that comes with it.
You may also lose your health and life insurance if you lose your retirement benefits.
Other Benefits of Remaining on FERS Disability Retirement
It’s also worth mentioning that while you are on FERS disability retirement, you will still accrue creditable service years.
This will benefit you when your federal retirement kicks in at age 62. The calculation for your federal retirement is one percent of your highest salary over a three-year period multiplied by your years of creditable service.
For instance, if your highest average salary over a three-year period was $100,000 and you have only 10 years of service, your retirement will be $10,000.
But if you served 18 years in the government, your annual retirement benefit would equal $18,000. This means that it should be your top priority to maintain your disability retirement as long as you have a disabling medical condition.
What Should I Do If I Lose My Disability Retirement?
Not all is lost if OPM has decided that you have recovered from your condition and withdrawn your benefits.
If your disability recurs and you do not earn more than 80% of your former salary, you may be able to have your benefits reinstated.
Want to Learn More About Protecting Your FERS Disability Retirement?
Losing your benefits can be absolutely devastating. Therefore, if you are worried that OPM may decide to terminate your disability retirement, you need to consult a federal employment attorney right away.
The Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing is dedicated to helping you exercise your legal rights.