What is the difference between permanent disability and disability retirement benefits?
Disability retirement benefits is a phrase used in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) and the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS). (FERS was created in 1987 to replace CSRS, although there are still some retirees getting benefits through the CSRS system.) These federal disability retirement benefits are available to those who are unable to work for one year or more. A federal employee does not have to be totally disabled to receive disability retirement benefits; however, they must be unable to continue in their current federal employment and the agency that they work for must be unable to accommodate the employee’s disability.
A permanent disability is a mental or physical illness or a condition that affects a major life function over the long term. It is a term used in the workers' compensation field to describe any lasting impairment that remains after a worker has treated and allowed time to recover (reached maximum medical improvement). A permanent disability could be as severe as the loss of an eye or as moderate as a broken leg that healed leaving the inability to walk on grossly uneven surfaces. Learn more about workers' comp and permanent disability.
The Social Security disability field does not usually use the term "permanently disabled." To qualify for Social Security disability through the SSDI or SSI program, your impairment must last one year or more (or be expected to last that long). There are some conditions that Social Security doesn't expect to be permanent but which qualify for disability benefits nonetheless. For instance, a person who receives a lung transplant is able to receive benefits for three years but is then expected to recover and not need benefits.
When Social Security expects an impairment to improve, the recipient receives an award letter with the notation "medical improvement expected (MIE)." When Social Security expects an impairment to be permanent, the recipient receives an award letter with the notation "medical improvement not expected (MINE)." If your case is labeled MIE, you may receive a continuing disability review within six to eighteen months, but if your case is labeled MINE, you won't likely be scheduled for a continuing disability review for seven years. Learn more about the definition of disability for Social Security disability or SSI purposes.