Federal employees who are disabled due to a work-related incident can apply for federal employee disability through the OPM (Office of Personnel Management) disability retirement program. This is different than federal workers’ compensation benefits.
Federal Workers’ Compensation vs. Federal Employee Disability
Federal workers’ compensation benefits are handled by the OWCP (Office of Workers Compensation Programs). Federal employees are only eligible for these benefits if they have suffered either a work-related illness or injury. Workers compensation covers healthcare bills, pays for time away from work, and other things.
However, OPM is the federal government disability agency that pays benefits for federal employees. Disabled workers who can no longer perform their job can apply for early federal retirement, whether or not it is a work-related disability.
Although these are two separate programs, an injured federal employee may be able to receive benefits for both. This situation occurs when a worker gets hurt on the job and develops a long-term disability that prevents the worker from returning to the same position.
Who Is Eligible for Federal Disability Retirement?
Federal employees have two separate retirement systems: FERS and CSRS. The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERA) is the current program. Federal employees enrolled prior to 1978, may still be in the previous system, the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).
To qualify for federal disability retirement, workers must meet all the government requirements:
The federal employee…
- Must have worked under FERS for a minimum of 18 months to five years under CSRS.
- Must have suffered a disability and can no longer perform his or her current job.
- Must have long-term disability expected to last over a year
- Must have a federal employer without a vacant job opening in the same federal agency that provides the same grade level or pay rate, in the same general geographic area.
- For FERS, must apply for SSDI benefits.
Before a worker can apply for federal disability, it is necessary to first apply with OPM or the federal employer. This needs to happen within a year of ending federal service. The one year’s time is calculated from the day you separate from the job. This does not consider time off under federal workers’ compensation or employee non-paid leave.
While it is possible to file for both federal disability retirement and federal workers’ compensation, you cannot collect on both simultaneously.