The following is a question submitted by a Federal Times reader about retirement and other issues facing the federal workforce. It is answered by Reg Jones, a charter member of the senior executive service and a Federal Times columnist since 1995.

Question: I called today OPM and they said you can receive both disability retirement and Social Security benefits and that you can receive both at the same time and that the one offsets the other. But she clearly said you can get both and I read it a few times. It don’t make sense if you only can get one. Why apply for it then? I’m already getting SSDI. So is it true that I only can get one? If that’s right what do I get from my job based on regular retirement? I’m so confused. Can you explain to me why am I being told to apply for retirement disability if you can’t get both? What’s the point then?

Reg’s Response: Employees who have fewer years of service are better off applying for Social Security and disability retirement because the formula used to compute their disability retirement benefit produces a much larger annuity that they’d get if they applied for regular retirement. This is essential if they are turned down for Social Security disability benefits. When you look at the formulas used, you’ll see why.

Regular retirement:

1 percent X high-3 X years of service

Disability retirement:

For the first 12 months - 60 percent of high-3 minus 100 percent of Social Security disability benefit, if any

After the first 12 months - 40 percent of high-3 minus 60 percent of Social Security disability benefit, if any.

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Reg Jones is the resident expert on retirement and the federal government at Federal Times. From 1979 until 1995, he served as an assistant director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management handling recruiting and examining, white and blue collar pay, retirement, insurance and other issues. Opinions expressed are his own.

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