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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

Hi Cilla,
Yes, the amount of FERS you receive will be reduced depending on your SSDI benefits, not the other way around.

A twist to your scenario. A fed can no longer work and as such they retire from the govt after working 30 years and under 62 years of age. They do not apply for a FERS disability retirement. They do apply for SSDI as they can no longer work. Will there be a reduction to the retired persons FERS benefit? What about the social security offset portion of their FERS retirement?

Thank you!

Hi Scott,
Yes, if that person applied for SSDI, started receiving it, and then applied for their FERS benefits, those FERS benefits may be reduced.

Scott was asking if a FERS Annuitant non disability annuitant, after retiring decides to later apply for SSDI will that affect his regular FERS annuity.

Hi Steve,
If Scott is over 62, then SSDI benefits may not be available as the SSA does not offer SSDI benefits for those who are eligible to receive SSA retirement benefits.

You are eligible to apply for disability as long as you are insured and the onset of the disability began prior to the age of 64 years and 7 months. Disability is not awarded to any person if they are set to receive Medicare within the five month waiting period. Please consult SSA directly with these life altering questions. It can make the difference in the total benefit received short and long term.

Hi there,
Thank you for sharing! It's true, it's always best to contact the SSA to ensure you're getting the most out of your benefits.

I am retiring at 57 with over 30 years of service because of ongoing health problems and will receive my FERS benefits. I am in the process of getting my fourth surgery on my neck due to degenerative disc disease. If I apply for SSDI and got it, how would that affect my FERS annuity?

Hi Peter,
It would reduce the amount of your FERS benefit by the amount of the SSDI benefit.

I worked for feds civilian, for 11 years, my job was eliminated. I had OWCP for awhile, maybe a year, then back to full time. After severance pay, then unemployment, 2 years Later I had to get SSD. Now I'm 62, wanting to apply for the Fers annuity. Will my Fers annuity be reduced?

Hi Vic,
Yes, it may be reduced if you are receiving SSDI benefits.

My sister was approved for SSI in Oct. 2015 but denied disability retirement from the Post Office. She is 56 and has worked for 25 years. She has a terminal illness. Can she collect SSI and collect on her Fers early retirement. She has no spouse.

Hi Ren,
I'm sorry to hear about that! Yes, if your sister meets the financial eligibility requirements, she may be able to receive SSI benefits and her FERS early retirement if her FERS does not make her ineligible for SSI based on her income and resources.

If I'm approved for SS benefits, and they deduct that monthly amount from my monthly OPM retirement amount, like in your example, I'm gaining absolutely nothing financial-wise! Why bother even going through all the headaches of dealing with SS? I may as well just let them deny my SS claim and go on my way! Am I missing something on why I need both benefits????

Hi Bruce,
It's true, Social Security Disability benefits may not be the best option for everyone.

I'm getting FERS Disability. I was able to find a job making under the 80%. But now my health situation has worsened and I'm completely unable to work. I didn't think I was allowed to work and draw SSDI.
I get $1558.00 before deductions. I'm on my 4th year of FERS disability.
I filed for SSDI a month and half ago. I was told that SSDI was automatic since OPM has already determined my condition valid. So, a couple questions:
1.Is SSDI automatic due to the OPM determination?
2. The amount on my SS statement if disabled is $3500 a month. How does the 60%-40% work?
3. How long does SSDI take to process?
Any help would be appreciated!

Hi Chris,
1. It may be automatic, however it may be a good idea to confirm that with the SSA.
2. Your FERS amount will be lowered by an amount that would make the both of them combined 3500 a month.
3. It takes five months from the time of approval to start receiving monthly benefits.

I am only 51 and have been drawing SSDI about $2,000 and $800 monthly from FERS . I am currently under review from Social Security and if they determine I no longer qualify for SS benefits will my FERS income get raised?

hi Cindy,
If you are still otherwise eligible for your FERS benefit, then it may be raised.