What Do You Do When “What-Ifs” Happen?

Apr 9, 2018


One of the major “what-ifs” in life is that an unexpected and unanticipated health problem could derail your future retirement plans. Unfortunately, this has happened to many federal employees who, due to an illness or injury, are no longer able to perform their federal job duties, but also are not eligible to retire. For some, recovery is possible and the missed time from work can be covered by sick leave or another benefit.

The government doesn’t offer short-term disability specifically but does offer a wide range of leave options. These include annual and sick leave, advanced annual or sick leave, FMLA, leave without pay, alternate work schedules, credit hours under flex work schedules, compensatory time off and telework. Agencies may also have a voluntary leave bank program.

It’s important to remain on the payroll if possible so that, upon recovery, you can return to normal duties and continue to plan for retirement. If you die before retirement, certain family members would be entitled to receive survivors benefits, including a surviving spouse, an eligible former spouse, and dependent children. Beneficiary designations or the federal standard order of precedence determines any lump sum benefits that may be payable.

If the time away from work is going to last longer than a year and/or you won’t be able to return to work, disability retirement becomes an option.

Where Do I Start?

If you are considering federal disability retirement, you may want to receive pre-retirement counseling by your agency retirement specialist. This should include an estimate for both disability retirement and voluntary retirement, if eligible for both. You should also receive information for applying for Social Security Disability and withdrawal and tax information regarding Thrift Savings Plans, including In-Service Financial Hardship Withdrawals.

You must meet all the following conditions to qualify for disability retirement under FERS:

  • Must have completed at least 18 months of federal civilian service creditable under FERS. The service requirement under CSRS is 5 years.
  • Must, while employed in a position under FERS, have become disabled, because of disease or injury, for useful and efficient service in your current position. This means the fully successful performance of essential elements of your position, or the ability to perform at that level, and have satisfactorily conduct and attendance.
  • The disability must be expected to last at least one year.
  • Your agency must certify it is unable to accommodate your medical condition in your present position and it has considered you for any vacant position in the same agency at the same pay grade or level, within the same commuting area for which you are qualified for reassignment.
  • You must apply before your separation from service or within one year.
  • You must apply for Social Security Disability.

We’ve helped thousands of federal employees apply for, and receive, federal disability retirement benefits. It would be an honor to help you as well. Call us at 877-226-2723 or fill out this INQUIRY form to schedule your FREE consultation.

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