Retirement & Financial Planning Report

While no one likes to think about the prospect of becoming disabled, it is important to understand disability coverage under the civil service retirement programs as well as under the Social Security program—especially of interest to those under the FERS system but also of interest to many under CSRS.

The civil service and Social Security disability programs are integrated to an extent. This means that those who become disabled may not get full benefits under more than one system and that they must be very careful to protect their rights under each. In fact, employees under FERS and CSRS-Offset (a form of CSRS that includes Social Security, unlike standard CSRS) must apply to Social Security when they apply for federal retirement disability in order to assure that the benefits are coordinated.

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Briefly, employees who become disabled during the course of their federal career may be entitled to a disability annuity. Under CSRS/CSRS-Offset, they must have completed at least five years of federal civilian service; under FERS, only 18 months. Also, while employed in a position covered by either CSRS/CSRS-Offset or FERS, they must have become disabled for “useful and efficient service” in both their current position and any other vacant position at the same grade or pay level for which qualified.

“Useful and efficient service” means: either acceptable performance of the critical or essential elements of the position or the ability to perform at that level; and ability to maintain satisfactory conduct and attendance.

Looked at the other way, service that is not “useful or efficient” is a level of performance or attendance which, if it were to continue, would warrant denial of a within-grade increase, demotion or other remedial action.

Under Social Security, the rules are far more complicated. The Social Security office will review it to see if you meet the basic requirements for disability benefits. They look at whether you have worked long enough and recently enough, your age, and, if you are applying for benefits as a family member, your relationship to the worker. And you must be virtually unable to work at all.

Travel is the most common dream for retirement, followed by spending more time with family and friends and pursuing hobbies, a survey has found, while the most common fears involve outliving savings and declining health.

The hopes were cited much more often than the fears in a survey of some 10,000 workers by the TransAmerica Center for Retirement Studies, in which respondents could select any of a list that applied to them. For example, while 65 percent dream of travel, 42 percent worry about outliving their investments.

On the dreams side, spending more time with family friends and pursuing hobbies were cited by 59 and 51 percent, while on the bottom end 5 percent said they don’t have any retirement dreams. Between them were dreams such as volunteer work, caring for family or starting one’s own business.

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Close behind outliving savings on the fears side were declining health and the prospects that Social Security benefits will be reduced by the time they retire, while 10 percent said they had no retirement fears. In between were fears related to the top two, such as not being able to meet financial needs and cognitive decline.

Reflecting concerns about finances, “Almost half of workers (49 percent) expect to retire after age 65 or do not plan to retire. Nearly three in 10 expect to retire before age 65 (29 percent) and another 23 percent expect to retire at age 65,” it said. The pandemic changed the retirement plans of about a third, it added, with those planning to delay retirement outnumbering those planning to advance it by more than two to one.

Also, “More than half or workers (57 percent) plan to work in retirement, either on a full-time (20 percent) or part-time (37 percent) basis. Twenty-seven percent do not plan to work in retirement and 17 percent are “not sure.”

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