Navigating USPS medical retirement, or Federal Disability Retirement, can be overwhelming and confusing. However, with the right legal guidance and resources, it can be a path toward financial security and peace of mind. Read on to learn more about the benefit, if you’re eligible, and common misconceptions that prevent qualified applicants from starting on this life-changing path.
What is Federal Disability Retirement?
As a postal worker exploring retirement options due to an injury or illness, you might have come across the term “USPS medical retirement.” It’s important to understand that this refers to Federal Disability Retirement, a specific benefit designed for federal employees. This benefit enables you to retire earlier than the usual retirement age if you have a medical condition or injury that limits your ability to perform one or more of the essential functions of your job.
The appeal of Federal Disability Retirement lies in its valuable benefits, which include:
- A monthly disability annuity payment
- The option to maintain your health and life insurance
- Additional years of creditable service on top of your current service
- The ability to work in the private sector and earn up to 80% of your old position’s current salary
Federal Disability Retirement is commonly referred to as a “bridge to 62” because it’s meant to supplement your income and give you a safety net to rely on while waiting to reach your full retirement age at 62. In addition, it provides the stability you need to focus on your recovery and spend time with loved ones.
For those exploring this type of medical retirement, understanding its eligibility requirements is crucial.
Am I Eligible?
To be eligible for Federal Disability Retirement, you must meet the following three basic requirements:
- You must have 18 months of creditable civilian service.
- You must be a FERS career employee.
- You must have an injury or illness that impairs your ability to perform one essential job duty.
In addition to eligibility requirements, you must also meet additional qualification requirements. It’s worth mentioning that it can be difficult to assess and meet these qualifications without legal help. However, the complex application process is well worth the financial stability it can provide if approved for this benefit.
Myth vs. Fact: The Truth About Federal Disability Retirement
Many USPS employees hesitate to apply for Federal Disability Retirement because of myths that are common amongst USPS employees. Let’s separate fact from fiction.
Myth 1: You have to be totally disabled to qualify.
Truth: Total disability is not necessary. You just have to prove that you have an occupational disability, meaning you’re unable to perform your job, not any job.
Myth 2: Your disability has to be work-related.
Truth: Your disability doesn’t have to be caused by work. It just has to have worsened during your time of employment.
Myth 3: You will lose your Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) coverage when you’re approved for Federal Disability Retirement.
Truth: You can continue your FEHB coverage in retirement. If you’ve been separated from your federal agency and currently don’t have FEHB coverage, it can be reinstated retroactively once approved for Federal Disability Retirement. It’s important to note that as a postal worker your FEHB monthly premium will change from 45% to 50% when the OPM takes over the insurance.
Myth 4: You can’t get another job if you’re approved for Federal Disability Retirement.
Truth: If you’re able to work, you can work in the private sector and stay on disability retirement. Your new earnings just can’t exceed 80% of your old position’s current salary.
Myth 5: USPS medical retirement is different than Federal Disability Retirement.
Truth: They are the exact same thing. USPS medical retirement is simply a common mix up when speaking about disability retirement.
Myth 6: The qualifying disability can only be physical.
Truth: Your qualifying disability doesn’t only have to be physical. Both physical disabilities and mental conditions can qualify as a valid medical condition required as a qualification.
How to Maximize Your Chances for Approval
If you’re eligible for Federal Disability Retirement, it can be a challenging process to navigate alone because of the administrative and legal complexities involved. Detailed requirements include:
- Extensive and careful documentation, not only from you but also from your medical providers and agency.
- Completeness and accuracy on every form. Small mistakes can lead to a denied application.
- Comprehensive supporting documentation, like agency assessments and supervisor statements.
- Supportive medical documentation like a physical limitations questionnaire, psychological exam, and restrictions assessment
- Familiarity with the Federal Disability Retirement process and what the OPM is looking for on an application, which agencies sometimes lack.
- The correct amount of communication with the OPM. Over-communicating about the status of your application could slow down or harm your application’s approval chances.
At Harris Federal, we understand the burden you may feel navigating Federal Disability Retirement. When your financial future is at stake, it’s helpful to have a team of experienced professionals carry the burden for you and guide you through the entire process. We’ve helped more than 10,000 happy clients walk through Federal Disability Retirement at a 99% success rate. If you’re an injured or ill USPS employee, contact us today for a free consultation to see if you qualify for this benefit. We’re ready to help you start your path toward a more secure financial future.