Disability Provisions of Federal and District of Columbia Employee Retirement Systems Need Reform

FPCD-78-48: Published: Jul 10, 1978. Publicly Released: Jul 10, 1978.

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Previous reports have discussed shortcomings in the disability provisions of federal and District of Columbia (D.C) retirement programs. Action on recommendations made in prior reports is still needed.

The number of retirees receiving civil service disability annuities more than doubled from 1970 to 1977. The Civil Service Commission's (CSC) interpretation of entitlement to disability retirement is based on an employee's ability to perform specific functions, and employees are not obligated to accept reassignment. Within the civil service retirement system, earlier and more generous retirement benefits are authorized for federal law enforcement and firefighter personnel. The costs of providing early retirement benefits under the special retirement policy are over 50 percent greater than they would be for regular optional retirement. Seven retirement systems cover most federal personnel and there is wide variation in the disability provisions of these systems. The D.C. police and firemen's retirement system permits members to retire on disability for service-connected disability or after 5 years for other disabilities. Optional retirement benefits under this system are among the best in the country, but most of the personnel have retired under the system's aggravation clause.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should: (1) enact legislation that will encourage retention of potentially productive employees under the civil service system; (2) revise this system's definition of economic recovery to preclude disability retirees from retaining annuities if they are earning more than the current pay for their former jobs; (3) study and legislate a resolution to the issue of using federal tax returns to verify reported income; (4) reevaluate the need to continue the special retirement policy, and if it is needed, reevaluate eligibility criteria; (5) establish an overall federal retirement policy; and (6) enact legislation making new federal personnel in positions now covered by D.C. systems subject to civil service systems, revising eligibility criteria and benefits for disability retirements under the D.C. police and firemen's retirement system, and precluding retirees from benefiting from cost-of-living increases that occured while they were employed. CSC should encourage job reassignment, discontinue its policy of advising employees to use extended sick leave before filing for disability retirement, require more information on annuitants' current job duties, develop means to verify reported income, and analyze the adequacy of annuities for those severely disabled.


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