“My husband (61) has had a reoccurrence of cancer and is a federal employee with about 7 years of part time service. He is and will be unable to return to work. In his current situation, it is imperative that we maintain FEHB for both of us.

He recently applied for FMLA and we were told he has only 6 months of leave without pay available. That allows us to pay for and maintain FEHB for both of us. We have been told he should first apply for SSDI (he is eligible), then apply for FERS disability. We were also told that if he chooses a spousal annuity for his pension (not the TSP spousal annuity) we would both be able to keep our current FEHB. When his disability changes to retirement at 62, we were told we would continue to be eligible for the same FEHB. I have seen mention of “if you are eligible for an immediate annuity” in relation to the ability to keep/not keep health benefits. I’m not sure how to interpret that. We are getting a lot of different information and can’t afford to make any mistakes.”

Reg’s Response

Because he is a FERS employee, he must apply for SSDI and disability retirement, otherwise OPM will not process his claim. Assuming that he is approved for disability retirement, he will be able to continue his current FEHB coverage, which also includes you. The same is true when his disability retirement is converted to a regular retirement at age 62. Neither of these things is dependent on his being approved for SSDI.

Got a question for the Federal Times expert? Send inquiries to: fedexperts@federaltimes.com.

Reg Jones, a charter member of the senior executive service, 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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