Q. A friend of ours who is a Federal employee was totally disabled 2 years ago due to a stroke. He has three daughters who are under 21. We are wondering if Medicare can be a secondary insurance provider to cover expenses that his Blue Cross/Blue Shield will not cover (for example his wheelchair and medicines)…and also do his children receive any benefits from his FERS retirement fund similar to the benefits that people who pay into Social Security receive. (He paid into the FERS fund but he never paid into Social Security).

A. Your friend’s Federal employment must have been under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), not under the newer Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). Federal employees covered by the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) are also covered by Social Security. If your friend had been covered by Social Security and his disability was severe enough to meet the Social Security Administration’s disability criteria, he would be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits for himself and his high-school age dependents. CSRS and FERS do not provide dependent benefits prior to the death of the disabled or retired Federal employee.

All Federal employees have contributed payroll taxes for Medicare Hospital Insurance beginning January 1, 1983. If your friend’s disability meets Social Security disability criteria, he will be eligible for Medicare after he has received monthly cash disability benefits for 24 months. His Blue Cross/Blue Shield Federal Employee Health Benefit Plan (FEHBP) would function as a supplement to Medicare, not the other way around.