Can You Qualify for Federal Disability Retirement with Past or Off-Duty Injuries?

by | Jan 8, 2024

A federal employee with an injury

Are you a federal employee wondering if you’re disqualified from Federal Disability Retirement because your injury or illness first occurred a long time ago, or occurred outside of work? Dive deeper into the details of this question, and get clarity on whether or not you’re eligible to receive the financial security and peace of mind Federal Disability Retirement offers.

Does the Time and Location of my Injury Matter for Federal Disability Retirement?

Many federal employees worry that they’re not eligible for Federal Disability Retirement because the injury or illness impacting their work either:

  1. First occurred a long time ago or prior to their federal employment but has worsened over time
  2. Happened in a non-work-related incident

Rest assured, neither of these scenarios disqualify you from applying for Federal Disability Retirement.

Consider the case of John, a mail carrier who’s worked for USPS for 7 years. He fell on an icy sidewalk 5 years ago while walking his dog. Due to the fall, he’s suffered from chronic back pain, but has continued to work, afraid of losing his job and his financial security. However, this year his back injury worsened, and he can no longer walk his routes.

John is not disqualified for Federal Disability Retirement because his injury occurred 5 years ago in an incident unrelated to work. Even if the injury had occurred 10 years ago, before he was employed with USPS, John would remain eligible since his injury worsened during his employment.

It’s important to note that if you have been separated from service, you have a strict 1-year deadline to apply for the FDR benefit.

What If My Injury or Illness Is Work-Related?

If your injury or illness is work-related, you may be eligible to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits in addition to Federal Disability Retirement.

If you are receiving OWCP Workers’ Compensation Wage Loss payments (compensation for temporarily lost wages due to work-related injuries or illnesses), you can still apply for Federal Disability Retirement. However, you won’t be able to receive both benefits at the same time if you are approved for both. You have two options:

  1. Switch to Federal Disability Retirement
  2. Put Federal Disability Retirement on hold until you are no longer receiving Workers’ Compensation Wage Loss

Many federal employees who are approved for both benefits will put their Federal Disability Retirement benefit on hold until the OWCP wage loss payments are stopped. In general, this provides them with more income in the short-term, while also establishing a safety net for when they are inevitably kicked off OWCP wage loss.

You can, however, receive Federal Disability Retirement annuity and an OWCP Schedule Award (compensation for a permanent impairment of a specific body part) at the same time.

Understanding the interaction between Workers’ Compensation and Federal Disability Retirement is crucial for making a decision that best maximizes your benefits.

What Are the Advantages of Federal Disability Retirement?

In order to tap into the benefits offered by Federal Disability Retirement, you must meet the basic eligibility requirements:

  1. Minimum 18 months of creditable civilian service
  2. Career FERS employee
  3. Injury or illness that impairs your ability to perform at least one essential job duty

If you meet the eligibility requirements, you may qualify for this early retirement benefit, which offers several unique benefits:

  1. Receive a monthly disability annuity payment
  2. Maintain your health and life insurance
  3. Gain additional years of creditable service on top of your current service
  4. Work in the private sector and earn up to 80% of your old position’s current salary

If you’re unsure if you’re eligible for Federal Disability Retirement, or have specific questions about your injury or illness, contact our experienced legal team today to schedule a free consultation. We’re here to help you secure the financial future you deserve.

Message us & find out if you qualify today!

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