If you’re struggling to work in your job day after day, then you may be asking yourself this question all the time.
Disability benefits vary widely and there are a lot of caveats that go into choosing a benefit that’s best for you.
Having a medical condition that is affecting your ability to work is hard enough, but now you are met with seemingly endless choices for your future. There are a number of different disability benefit options, and it can be hard to decide which one is the best fit for your needs. This article will break down a few options and talk about their benefits so you can make the best decision for your future.
If You Can’t Work at All
Social Security Disability Insurance
Social Security Disability Insurance or SSDI provides a monthly payment to disabled individuals who are not able to make over a certain earning amount due to their disability. This monthly payment is based on your lifetime average earnings before you became disabled.
The Social Security Administration, however, has a strict definition of disability that can be difficult to qualify for SSDI. If you cannot perform Substantial Gainful Activity, your condition is considered severe or is listed on their list of disabling conditions, and if you cannot perform any type of work including any previous work, then you may qualify for this benefit.
If your earnings exceed a certain amount, as determined by the SSA called Substantial Gainful Activity, then you are not eligible for SSDI benefits. The substantial gainful activity limit for 2022 is $1,350 a month or $2,260 if you are blind. This means that if you are making less than this amount per month, you may qualify for SSDI.
Apply for SSDI benefits on the SSA website.
If You Served in the Military
If you are a military Veteran with a service-connected injury, you may qualify for VA Disability.
VA Disability compensation offers a monthly tax-free payment to Veterans who got sick or were injured while serving in the military and to Veterans whose service made an existing condition worse.
VA Disability payments are based on your disability rating and whether or not you have a spouse, child(ren), or dependent parent(s). The more your disability is affecting your life and the more people who are dependent upon you, the more you will receive from VA Disability.
You can collect VA disability and SSDI at the same time.
Apply for VA Disability on the VA website.
If You Were Hurt on the Job
OWCP Wage Loss Payments
If you were injured on the job, you may be eligible for OWCP Wage Loss Payments.
OWCP workers’ compensation wage loss payments are based off your average weekly wage and are usually around 2/3 of your weekly salary or ¾ if you have dependents.
The length of your payments can vary based off the severity of your injury. If you become totally disabled, you will be able to receive OWCP payments until you reach social security retirement age.
OWCP Scheduled Award
An OWCP Schedule Award is a payment for the permanent impairment of an extremity as the result of a work-related injury.
Eligible applicants can sometimes elect to have it paid over a period of time or in a lump sum payment, but you can only receive this once your OWCP wage loss payments end.
OWCP Medical Payments
OWCP Medical Payments is a benefit that pays for medical services pertaining to your accepted Federal Workers’ Compensation claim and diagnoses.
You can receive SSDI and OWCP wage loss compensation at the same time, but there is an offset: OWCP is the primary benefit and will pay out as noted above. SSDI is the secondary benefit and will only pay a small portion of their benefit, to get you up to 80% of your normal work income.
It’s important to note that if you are a veteran who was injured on the job, any workers’ compensation benefits you receive may be offset by any VA benefits.
If You Can’t Fully Perform Your Job
Federal Disability Retirement
If you are a FERS federal employee with at least 18 months of creditable service and a disability that is preventing you from performing all of the essential functions of your job, you may qualify for Federal Disability Retirement.
While on this benefit, you will be able to receive a monthly annuity, maintain your health and life insurance, gain creditable years of service, and work in the private sector, all without returning to work.
Your Federal Disability Retirement payments will be based on your high 3 average and creditable years of service. You will continue receiving your Federal Disability Retirement payments until age 62 when your Federal Disability Retirement will automatically transfer into your regular FERS retirement.
Interactions and offsets can exist between all of these benefits, and it is important to know how this will affect your benefits. But receiving other disability benefits could potentially help your Federal Disability Retirement case. A determination of disability by the SSA is not binding on OPM and the MSPB when considering whether a FERS employee is eligible for disability retirement, but these agencies must consider the award along with any other evidence of disability. See Yoshimoto v. Office of Personnel Management, 108 LRP 33351 , 109 MSPR 86 (MSPB 2008), citing Trevan v. Office of Personnel Management, 95 FMSR 7036, 69 F.3d 520 (Fed. Cir. 1995).
It is important to have an experienced legal team on your side when applying for Federal Disability Retirement, to ensure the best possible chance of approval.
Leah Bachmeyer-Kille is the Associate Attorney at Harris Federal Law Firm. She graduated from the University of Kentucky College of Law in 2013 and has been working full time at Harris Federal since. She is passionate about improving the lives of federal employees. Contact Leah at (877) 226-2723 or schedule a free consultation online.