Under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), you can retire when you are 56 years and 2 months old after you have completed at least 30 years of service. If you are a civil servant who has completed at least 30 years of service, you may be able to retire at age 55.
Early retirement may be available in certain situations, but only after 25 years in service – or 20 years in service if you are 50 or older.
Unfortunately, many people face a disabling medical condition before they are of retiring age. If you have completed 18 months of service and become disabled while employed in a position subject to FERS, you may be eligible for federal disability retirement benefits. These benefits apply at any age – as long as you meet certain requirements.
What Is the Federal Employees Retirement System?
FERS is a 3-pronged retirement plan for federal employees that is determined by your age and years of creditable service. It consists of a Basic Benefit Plan, Social Security, and a Thrift Savings Plan, and your Social Security benefits and Thrift Savings can follow you to another job.
Usually, you must be at least 55 to retire, but most retirement plans kick in at age 62. If you are disabled, the age limits for FERS may not apply.
What Are the Requirements for Disability Retirement?
You only become eligible for federal disability retirement if your agency cannot retain you in any productive capacity. If you are struggling with a disabling injury or illness, alert your employer right away and provide them with complete documentation of your medical condition.
From there, your agency will try to accommodate you or reassign you to another department. If this is not possible, you may be eligible for disability benefits. However, you must still meet the other eligibility requirements:
- You have completed at least 18 months of federal civilian service creditable under FERS
- You have become disabled due to disease or injury while serving in your current position
- You expect your disability to last for at least 1 year
- Your agency has considered accommodations and reassignment
- You or your representative must apply before you stop working or within 1 year of the date you stop working
- You must apply for Social Security benefits
Additionally, you must complete all relevant firms, including an Application for Immediate Retirement, Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement, and documentation of your Social Security application.
Your employer can help you with these forms before you stop working or for up to 31 days afterward. Otherwise, you will be responsible for submitting the form within the first year of your disability.
Like other insurance plans, FERS may require you to complete periodic medical exams to confirm your disability and keep your disability benefit. If you recover or find a job that pays you at least 80% of your federal salary, your disability benefits may be terminated, but they can always be reinstated if your condition recurs or you no longer exceed the 80% earning limit.
If you seek disability retirement before you are of retirement age, your benefits may be recalculated when you turn 62.
For more about disability retirement, visit the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s website (opens a link in a new window).
What If My Request for Federal Retirement Benefits Is Denied?
If your request for federal retirement benefits is denied, you have 30 days to request a reconsideration. Often, updating your record can help you get the benefits you need. If this does not work, you can try your case before the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) or escalate your case to federal court.
You should not go beyond a request for reconsideration without having an attorney to help you present your case. The process is complicated, and you need an advocate to guide you through.
With over 25 years of experience in federal employment law, The Law Firm of John P. Mahoney, Esq., Attorneys at Law can help you recover the retirement benefits you need.
To learn more about what our team can do for you, please call us at (202) 759-7780 or contact us online.