Some federal employees find themselves in situations where they have a choice between Federal Employees Compensation Act (injury/illness compensation) and disability retirement. If you are, or become, one of them, there are important differences to consider.
To be eligible for compensation benefits, an employee must be disabled for regular work due to a work-related injury. OPM will consider disability retirement applications whether the injury is work-related or not.
Generally, compensation benefits and federal disability retirement benefits are not payable for the same period; therefore, you or your survivors must choose between the two.
Disability retirement benefits are suspended while you are receiving compensation benefits but can be activated should the compensation benefit stop or drop below the amount of the annuity benefit. The exception is if you are entitled to a “schedule award” (for loss of a bodily member or function), which may be paid at the same time disability benefits are paid.
Retirement benefits are payable under certain circumstances where compensation benefits are not payable. For instance, retirement benefits may be payable to a former spouse if a court order awarded them, but compensation benefits are not payable to a former spouse. In addition, if a widow or widower remarries before age 55 and that marriage ends, the retirement benefit may be reinstated (provided the survivor has not received a refund of your retirement contributions). In contrast, the compensation benefit may not be reinstated. Also, if you become disabled because of a job-related illness or injury, but die of unrelated causes, your survivors would not be eligible for compensation benefits, but may be eligible for CSRS survivor benefits.
If you are single and have no dependent children or former spouse eligible for benefits, there would be no monthly survivor annuity benefit payable. In this case, a lump-sum of your retirement contributions would be paid to your survivors under the order of precedence described above.