Stephenson v. Office of Pers. Mgmt., No. 12-3074 (Fed. Cir. 2013)Annotate this Case
Stephenson began receiving a Federal Employees Retirement System disability retirement, annuity and applied for SSA disability benefits, as required of applicants for FERS disability retirement. SSA determined that he was entitled to receive monthly SSA disability benefits; the Office of Personnel Management reduced his FERS annuity, 5 U.S.C. 8452(a)(2)(A); 42 U.S.C. 423. The Social Security Act allows a “trial work period,” without loss of benefits. Stephenson completed a nine-month trial work period and demonstrated ability to work. SSA notified Stephenson that he was not entitled to payments beginning September 2009, but that he could get a 36-month extended period of eligibility after the trial work period. Stephenson requested that OPM terminate the offset in his FERS annuity. OPM denied the request finding that he retained eligibility for Social Security benefits and that the offset did not depend on actual receipt of benefits. An administrative judge and the Merit Systems Protection Board denied appeals, acknowledging section 8452’s use of the word “entitled,” not “eligible,” but finding Stephenson remained “entitled” to SSA benefits during the 36-month period. The Federal Circuit reversed; because Stephenson performed substantial gainful activity during that period, he was not “entitled” to benefits under section 223 of the Social Security Act.