FERS Disability Retirement Attorney: The Social Security Requirement

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

 

1 thought on “FERS Disability Retirement Attorney: The Social Security Requirement”

  1. Dear Mr. McGill,

    I am at a crossroad with OPM, OWCP and SSDI. I hope you can provide some insight to help me make a decision about withdrawing my SSDI application prior to a hearing and decision by the ALJ, and what the potential negative consequences may be as a result, especially with the regards to OPM.

    I was injured at work in July 2011 and have since been receiving OWCP compensation benefits. I was officially separated from federal employment in Jan 2016. I applied for SSDI in August 2016 and FERS Disability Retirement in Oct 2016. The FERS disability was approved in Jan 2018 and the retirement portion was approved earlier this June. I have decided to remain with OWCP and just advised OPM
    of my decision by mailing them the Election form.

    As far as SSDI, a hearing with the ALJ is scheduled for mid August. Although I mailed the official SSA waiver form requesting that I not appear at the hearing, and have the ALJ make a decision based on the medical evidence, a hearing date was scheduled anyway. I have a number of reasons for my decision not to appear. Mainly, my treating physician who supported my FERS disability application and continues to write reports for OWCP does not want to do any paperwork for SSDI. He is adamant about it. He has been a very helpful and good physician. But he is a surgeon and has no time or interest in getting further involved with the various federal systems. I have been seeing him for nearly 7 years in relation to my work injury and would not want to jeopardize the doctor-patient relationship. I also do not have legal representation for SSDI and do not feel personally prepared to present my case without my physician’s support.

    From an OPM perspective, what are the potential problems if I withdraw my SSDI application at this stage? Do I need to keep pursuing SSDI if my FERS DR application has already been approved?

    Thank you in advance for any insight you may be able to provide.

    Michelle

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