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How is FERS (Federal Employees Retirement System) Related to Social Security Disability Benefits?

FERS is an acronym for the Federal Employees Retirement System. The system became an effective part of the benefits given to federal employees in 1987. There are three components of the FERS benefits program including the FERS basic benefit, the Social Security benefit and the thrift savings plan benefit. When an individual who has worked for the federal government becomes disabled and needs disability benefits to make ends meet, they often wonder how the FERS benefits are related to Social Security Disability benefits. The following information will help you understand how Social Security Disability benefits play a role in the FERS program.

Do You Meet the Requirements?

First, before you can even determine what (if any) affect FERS will have on your disability benefits you must be sure you are eligible for FERS benefits. Unless you have completed at least 18 months of federal civilian service, became disabled while you were employed and meet the SSDI disability requirements you will not be able to qualify for benefits under this program.

FERS and SSDI

It is important to note that once you begin receiving Social Security Disability benefits, your FERS disability annuity will be affected. During the first 12 months of your disability you will receive 60 percent of the amount of your 3-year-average high salary. Once you begin receiving disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA), the amount of your FERS disability payment will be reduced by the amount you receive from the SSDI. So, for example, if your 3-year-high average monthly salary was $4,000 per month your FERS payment would be $2,400 per month. If you receive $1,100 per month in SSDI payments, you would only receive $1,300 per month from the FERS program due to the amount you are collecting from the SSA. This would still total $2,400 per month. You would just be getting a portion of that $2,400 from FERS and a portion from SSDI.

After the first 12 months of your disability you will receive 40 percent of your 3-year-average high salary minus 60 percent of whatever you receive in SSDI benefits. So, if your 3-year-high average was $4,000 per month you would then begin receiving $1,600 per month for your FERS annuity. You would still be receiving $1,100 per month from SSDI, however, only 60 percent of that would be deducted from your FERS payment. As a result, your FERS payment would be $1,600 per month minus $660 (60 percent of $1,000) so your actual FERS payment would be $940 per month so you would be receiving a total of $2,040 per month ($940 from FERS and $1,000 from SSDI).

Many people think that they can either qualify for only Social Security Disability or FERS disability. That is not the case. You can receive both FERS and SSDI benefits, but the amount of SSDI you receive from the SSA will usually have an impact on how much your FERS annuity is.

Comments

I am 55 years old. I will turn 56 in Dec 2015. At which time I will have 33 years and 5 months of Federal Civilian Service. I am a FERS Army Employee. I applied for Social Security Disability Income. If approved at $2000, how will this affect my FERS annuity should I choose to retire at the MRA of 56 with 33 years and 5 months of civilian service? At this age my FERS annuity is estimated at 1900 a month. Should I consider applying for federal disability retirement when the ABC counselor mentioned that OPM will review and disapprove my disability retirement package because I will return 56 this year and am eligible for voluntary retirement.

Hi Shae, You should contact the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 to discuss this, but from what I understand, your disability benefits will be adjusted to compensate for your total benefits. If you are expected to earn $1900 a month from FERS, and you are approved for $2000 for social security, your SSD payment will be reduced to $100, making your total $2000.

How does this affect a military Reserve Technician? I was told by OPM that we were in a special category and neither our FERS annuity or SSDI would be affected. Now they've hit for up of 9 years of overpayments.

I'm a military reserve technician receiving disability under Fers since Oct 1,1999. I was also awarded SSDI on Nov 1,2006. I notified OPM numerous times about me receiving SSDI to see if my annuity needed to be adjusted. I was that I was in a special category and my annuity would not be affected. 9 years later OPM wants to reduce my annuity from $1613.00 to $769.00 a month minus $240.00 applied towards overpayments in the amount of $79,000.00. Something is definitely wrong.

Hi Robert,
I am sorry to hear about this! I unfortunately do not know why they would reduce your benefits after telling you that they should be fine. You definitely need to call the SSA at (800) 772-1213 to get to the bottom of this.