The majority of our clients initially come to us to pursue federal workers compensation benefits. They have suffered from a work-related injury, are occupationally disabled and need the benefits package to simply make ends meet. Federal workers compensation generally includes the coverage of medical expenses along with monthly payments known as Total Temporary Disability.
Note the word temporary.
A problem with federal workers compensation is that it is only a matter of time before the benefits come to an end. Anti-fraud efforts allow the government to investigate workers compensation claimants and note any discrepancies that indicate the employee can return to work. The Office of Workers Compensation Programs (OWCP) can require you see a second-opinion doctor within its network; a doctor whose opinion has more legal pull than your treating physician.
A harsh reality is that the OWCP can terminate your workers compensation payments at any time, and it is in its best interest to do so.
As Cal Ferguson, a Harris Federal case evaluation specialist likes to explain it, “Workers compensation is as if someone blindfolds you, drops you off at a pier, and tells you to walk straight until you fall into the water. You have no idea how far the pier spans. It could go for miles or it could drop-off within a couple of yards. Inevitably, though, you will end up treading water.”
This is why federal disability retirement is an important benefit to consider.
Think of it as a life jacket in Cal’s analogy.
Federal disability retirement is included in every career federal employee’s pension program, and allows them to retire early if they are unable to continue their federal job due to a medical condition. Applicants approved for federal disability retirement receive 60 percent of their High-3 Salary for the first year of eligibility, and 40 percent until they turn 62 years old. Throughout this time, approved applicants continue to accrue years of service, receive health and life insurance coverage at the normal retirement rates, and are also allowed to work in the private sector and earn up to 80 percent of the salary they received while working for the federal government.
In short, federal disability retirement can be a HUGE benefit for disabled federal employees.
“But I’ll make less money than I do with federal workers compensation.”
This is a point we frequently hear from our clients who receive federal workers compensation benefits.
Yes it is true that federal disability retirement payments are less than what one receives with federal workers compensation, however, it serves as an important safety net for when the OWCP terminates an employee’s workers compensation payments.
“It is always unfortunate when we speak to a potential client who has been fully dependent on OWCP wage loss benefits and their claim is suddenly gone,” says Bo Harris, a Chartered Federal Employee Benefits Consultant, “Federal employees need to understand that OWCP wage loss is not a permanent solution and it is the stated objective from OWCP to return you to work.”
Consider the “what if’s”. What if, for instance, you return to work, but because of your disability/injury, are unable to complete the tasks required? You could ultimately be laid off. If this happens, the date of separation from your federal agency marks the beginning of a one-year countdown to file for federal disability retirement. In the meantime, you likely won’t receive any source of income to help finance basic living expenses, let alone attorney fees to help boost the likelihood that your claim is approved.
This is why disabled federal employees should apply for federal disability retirement benefits even if they are already receiving workers compensation payments.
” You need to consider both the short-term and long-term strategies,” says Harris, “Let us help you get your federal disability retirement claim approved and in place if you are on OWCP wage loss so it will be there the day your OWCP stops. This will give you a safety net so you will not have to go months without income when your OWCP payments suddenly end.”
It can take up to a year for an federal disability retirement claim to be approved, and once it is confirmed, there is no deadline for applicants to begin receiving its benefits.
A federal workers compensation claimant could file for federal disability retirement, and put it on hold until their workers compensation payments are terminated. In this case, the federal disability retirement payments would provide financial assistance until they begin receiving the rest of their pension at age 62.
It is common-knowledge that long-term planning is critical when preparing for retirement; however, so many people unfortunately fail to consider the potential drawbacks along the way. At Harris Federal, we want our clients to be fully prepared for the “what if’s” of the future.
You never know when you may have to tread water, and we want our clients to be equipped with a life vest.
If you think you may qualify for federal disability retirement, and would like to speak with one of our attorneys, fill out our INQUIRY FORM for a free consultation.