Applying for benefits

For federal employees who were injured in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, as well as the family members of employees who were killed, knowing what benefits you are entitled to can be a challenge. Here is some information that hopefully will be of help.

Survivors of federal civilian employees killed in the line of duty may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits administered by the Labor Department's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs (OWCP); payments under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS); Federal Em.ployees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) proceeds; Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) account proceeds; Social Security survivors' benefits administered by the Social Security Administration; lump sum final salary payments; a death gratuity payment; and public safety officers' benefits.

Federal civilian employees injured in the line of duty may be entitled to workers' compensation benefits administered by OWCP; disability payments under CSRS or FERS; FEGLI proceeds; and Social Security disability benefits.

Benefits that may be payable when a federal civilian employee is killed or injured, but not while in the line of duty, include survivor or disability payments under CSRS or FERS; FEGLI proceeds; Social Security survivor or disability benefits; TSP account proceeds; and lump sum final salary payments.

A survivor of a federal civilian employee killed in the World Trade Center or Pentagon may qualify for a recurring CSRS or FERS monthly survivor annuity. However, in most cases, workers' compensation benefits and federal retirement benefits cannot be paid for the same period of time. This means that the survivor must choose between the two benefits. In most cases, the primary bene.fits are paid by the Labor Department.

A survivor of a federal civilian employee killed on one of the hijacked airplanes may qualify for workers' compensation benefits if the employee was traveling in a duty status. If the employee was not in a duty status at the time of death, workers' compensation would generally not be paid, and the survivor may qualify for only a recurring CSRS or FERS monthly survivor annuity.

If a survivor chooses bene.fits from the Labor Department, a lump sum payment of the employee's retirement contributions under CSRS or FERS may be paid. If the survivor chooses workers' compensation benefits over the FERS basic employee death benefit and/or survivor benefits, the employee's retirement contributions in the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund, plus interest, are payable.

The employee's retirement contributions are paid to the first person eligible based on an order of precedence starting with the beneficiary designated in writing by the deceased. A beneficiary form must have been signed, witnessed and received at the employee's agency prior to his or her death. For more information, visit www.opm.gov.

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at miltzall@qis.net.

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