Question of the Week: What is the Difference Between FERS Disability Retirement and Workers’ Compensation?
A: This question is a popular one. People are often confused about the difference between Workers’ Compensation and OPM FERS Disability Retirement and with good reason. These programs are not the same and while there are similarities, understanding the differences between the two may help you determine which program is right for you.
First, let’s look at some similarities.
Both programs are administered by the federal government and pay you benefits in the event you are disabled, from disease or injury, and can no longer perform your job duties efficiently. That’s about where the similarities end.
OWCP Workers’ Compensation
This program is run by the Department of Labor and it pays federal workers for a disabling disease or injury caused exclusively by your job or happened on your job. This is designed to be a temporary fix and benefit. The goal of OWCP is to return you to work as quickly as possible.
They have four main types of benefits that you could qualify for; wage loss, medical, schedule awards, and continuation of pay (COP).
- Wage loss—Compensation payments for time lost because of doctor appointments, therapies, and/or reduced hours due to medical restrictions. The pay rate is 66 percent of your salary or 75 percent if there are dependents.
- COP—If you suffer a traumatic injury, your regular pay will continue for up to 45 days after the date of the injury.
- Medical—Treatments for your approved injury are covered by OWCP and continue for the lifetime of the injury.
- Schedule Awards—If your approved disability causes a lifetime impairment, you may qualify for a SA.
You cannot receive wage loss benefits along with a schedule award, OPM FERS disability retirement, or if you work in the private sector.
OPM FERS Disability Retirement
This program is administered by the Office of Personnel Management and pay federal workers for a disabling disease or injury regardless of how it was caused. When it was caused doesn’t matter either. The requirement here is that the injury or disease must be keeping you from performing the essential duties of your job.
It is designed to be an annuity that allows you to get to the age of 62. Unlike OWCP Workers’ Compensation, the amount of time you receive OPM FERS disability retirement payments count towards your years of creditable service. This is important because when your annuity is recalculated at age 62, those years receiving disability retirement still count as years of service in the federal government.
You are also allowed to work in the private sector while receiving payments from OPM. However, if you exceed the 80 percent earnings cap, OPM will suspend your payments.
It is possible to be approved for both OWCP Workers’ compensation and OPM FERS disability retirement, however, you cannot receive both benefits at the same time. (That is, you cannot receive the OWCP wage loss benefit and OPM disability retirement payments at the same time. You can receive OWCP medical and schedule awards payments while receiving OPM benefits.) It’s important to be aware of any offsets that could affect your Federal Disability Retirement.
You can choose which one you’d like to receive. Generally, OWCP pays more, but remember, it’s only designed to be a temporary benefit.
If you think you may qualify for one, or both, of these benefits please call us at 877-226-2723, or fill out this INQUIRY form.