Hi everyone, Scott Kolligian, Ohio disability lawyer here to help guide our public employees in OPERS, STRS, and SERS, through an issue that we hear about often – should I continue to work while I apply for a disability benefit?
I hope to give you a handful of different factors to weigh to determine the right move for you.
Let’s start with the basics… first of all, OPERS, STRS, and SERS are different from Social Security disability. You can continue working, even on a full-time basis, while you apply for a disability benefit.
So, what are some of our client’s most important considerations when determining whether to continue working or not?
Here are a few:
1) Are you healthy enough to continue working? This requires a discussion with your doctor. No matter how much you may need (or want) to continue working and receiving your regular income, you may end up doing much more damage to yourself and to those who rely on you.
2) What does your doctor say about you continuing to work? Medical records don’t always say what you are experiencing. That makes sense because records are intended to help medical professionals stabilize, treat, or cure your condition. They are not written to “win” a disability claim. So you might want to access your medical records before reducing your hours or quitting work to apply for disability.
3) Do you have vacation, sick leave, or personal days that you can use? Maybe you can spread them out so that you only work four days per week, so you have a mid-week break. Or maybe you have access to a shared pool of time where you can borrow from your coworkers. If you can access paid leave, either intermittently or for a longer period, some of your financial worries may be reduced.
4) How long can you financially survive without your regular wages? A typical claim will take between 90-120 days for a decision after the application is fully submitted. From a financial standpoint, can you make it that long?
5) When will your benefits begin? The disability regulations typically say that your first disability check will be paid on, whichever is later: your last pay date or the month you apply. If you drop to part-time work while applying, you aren’t going to get a big lump sum back payment once your case is decided.
6) How does the state factor your work activity? To be found disabled, you probably know that you have to prove that you are unable to perform the work that you are doing or last did in OPERS, STRS, or SERS. If you are currently doing it on a full-time basis, will the state use that information to deny your case?
Cases can be won even while you are working full time and applying for disability. But careful discussions with your attorney will put you in the most advantageous position to win your claim.
And don’t forget this: being terminated or leaving your job willingly is not the end of the world. You are considering disability for a reason. Even though you want to continue working, it’s time to think about your health and your loved ones who rely on you.
If you have a question about anything I mentioned, give our office a call or visit our website to so you can stop worrying about work and start focusing on your health.