Although no one likes to think about the prospect of becoming disabled, it is important to understand disability coverage under public service pension programs as well as under the Social Security program, which is particularly interesting. for people under the FERS system, but also interesting for many under CSRS.
Civil service and social security disability programs are integrated to some extent. This means that those who become disabled may not receive full benefits in more than one system and they must be very careful to protect their rights in each of them. In fact, employees on FERS and CSRS-Offset (a form of CSRS that includes Social Security, unlike the CSRS standard) must apply to Social Security when applying for federal retirement disability to ensure that the services are coordinated.
Briefly, employees who become disabled during their federal career may be entitled to a disability pension. As part of the CSRS / CSRS-Offset, they must have completed at least five years of federal civilian service; under IRONS, only 18 months. In addition, when they are employed in a position covered by the CSRS / CSRS-Offset or the FERS, they must have become disabled for “useful and efficient service” both in their current position and in any other vacant position at the same. grade or level of pay for which they are qualified. .
“Useful and efficient service” means: either an acceptable performance of the critical or essential elements of the position, or the ability to function at this level; and the ability to maintain satisfactory conduct and attendance.
Seen from another perspective, a service which is not “useful or efficient” is a level of performance or attendance which, if it were to continue, would justify the refusal of a step increase, demotion or other corrective action.
Under Social Security, the rules are stricter and more complicated. Thus, the fact that you are entitled to OPM benefits does not mean that you will be eligible for Social Security.
To qualify for Social Security disability benefits, you must have a physical or mental impairment that should prevent you from doing important work for at least a year or suffer from an illness that is expected to result in your death.
If you become disabled, you must apply for disability benefits as soon as possible. You can do this by calling or going to any Social Security office and providing the requested information.
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FERS retirement package: FERS 2021 guide and TSP manual