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To be clear, OPM Disability Retirement and Office of Worker’s Compensation (OWCP) benefits cannot be received for the same period. The only exception to this rule is that a Scheduled Award may be paid in addition to FERS annuities.

If you are approved for both OPM Disability Retirement and OWCP benefits, you will need to make an election (which is not irrevocable). If you elect OPM, you are still entitled to have medical expenses paid by OWCP for treatment of the accepted conditions, however most individuals who are eligible for both benefits will choose OWCP, since the benefits are generally higher. OPM will suspend payment of annuities during this time, and if compensation by OWCP ends, OPM will reinstate the annuity if the individual remains entitled.

This highlights another important point: Many federal employees who have been separated from their job have a mistaken sense of security when they are accepted for OWCP benefits. Too often, we have seen such individuals at a loss when, for whatever reason, their OWCP benefits unexpectedly end. We generally advise eligible OWCP beneficiaries to apply as well to OPM so that they have a security blanket in such an eventuality. Remember you only get one year to apply for OPM Disability after your separation from your federal agency. Whether you resign or are fired. Even if you have OWCP you should apply for OPM because OWCP is likely to kick you off there roles one day and without OPM Disability in the background you will be left with no benefits and no job!

If you are receiving OWCP benefits and are not sure whether you should apply as well for OPM Disability Retirement, contact Pines Federal for an honest assessment. Call 800-801-0598 or email office@pinesfederal.com.

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Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative.

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