FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Catch of the Day

Restaurants announce it; law enforcement offices declare it; con artists make a living by it; and agencies sneeringly pounce upon them. They are the designated focus for the day, often longer, and sometimes until they disappear from the depths of abundance which the season and migration of schools allow.

When one is a Federal or Postal Worker, becoming the “catch of the day” can mean that you are the targeted one; the one whom harassment and daily persecution becomes the norm and routine, and having such a reputation allows for the safe haven of others who exhale a loud sigh of relief for being spared such an ignoble designation. Once the target, agencies never let up. Whether it leads to a PIP, multiple suspensions, letters of reprimand, sick and annual leave restrictions on usage, doesn’t quite seem to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the persecutors.

Yes, there are some countermanding moves: EEO complaints; grievance procedures filed; even lawsuits and resulting awards of significant verdicts, on rare but victorious occasions. But the human toil expended rarely justifies such moments of rare glory; and for the individual who suffers from a medical condition, the juggernaut of the agency’s reserves and reservoir of implements and infinite resources of persecution means that a time of respite is merely temporary.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit which one must consider when the coalescence of a medical condition, agency actions, and the recognition that one is unable to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, comes to a tripartite sequence of combined consonance.

Filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS has the opportunity to receive an annuity, and still go out and begin a new career in the private sector, and make up to 80 percent of what one’s former Federal or Postal position currently pays.  It is a consideration which should always remain a viable option, lest one’s picture remain with a bullseye depiction alongside the declaration that you are the agency’s “catch of the day”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Progressive Paradigm

Ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement is one of the most progressive paradigms designed — for, as a compensatory program, it not only allows for, but encourages, the Federal or Postal worker to become a self-paying entity by working at another job, a new vocation, a different career, etc, after being approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, thereby allocating taxes in order to pay for the annuity itself.

The fact that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management may sometimes and randomly inquire as to the continuing disability status of the (former) Federal or Postal employee, or require an annual check upon the previous year’s income earnings in order to determine if the individual has exceeded the allowable ceiling of 80% of what one’s former position currently pays, is a fairly easy threshold to meet.

Because the focus is upon the particular kind of job which the Federal or Postal employee had previously engaged in, it is natural that any job which the (former) Federal or Postal employee would seek and obtain, would have some qualitative and substantive differences from the Federal or Postal job.

At the same time, however, the skills which the Federal or Postal worker obtained and applied while working for the Federal government, need not be completely abandoned.  There just needs to be a medical justification as to why the individual is able to work in a private-sector job X, as opposed to the Federal job from which he or she medically retired from.

Often, it is a good idea to get the green light from one’s treating doctor, before accepting the private sector job, which would then establish the medical distinctions necessary to justify and answer any future OPM inquiry.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: 80% Rule

Around this time of year, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sends out their Disability Earnings Survey to all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement Annuitants, to determine what earned income was obtained by the Federal or Postal Annuitant.  It is a simple form and should be completed and returned, and will not impact one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit so long as one has remained under the 80% cap.

Now, as to determining how the Office of Personnel Management determines what is the “true” 80% cap, is another matter.  There have been wide discrepancies between OPM’s determination and the Federal or Postal annuitant’s assertion as to what the “current pay” of a former position is, or should be.  That is entirely a different area of law which the undersigned writer does not become involved in.

However, the wisest thing to do, unless one desires to become engaged in a continuing, protracted battle with the Office of Personnel Management, is to calculate the amount as conservatively as possible, and to take the lower amount and remain well under 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.  While this is sometimes difficult, remember that the benefits of retaining one’s Federal Disability Retirement annuity — of continuing Health Insurance Benefits, to name one — makes it worthwhile.  For, ultimately, one is potentially making 120% of what one was making before (80% of what one’s former position currently pays, plus the 40% of annuity).

Stay close to making 100%, if possible, and that will avoid future headaches.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The 80% Rule — Earned Income

As we reach the end of the year, Federal and Postal employees who are receiving Disability Retirement benefits, and who are working in the private sector, should remember the 80% earned income rule.  Be aware that a Federal or Postal employee who is under FERS or CSRS, and who is receiving a Federal Disability Retirement annuity, is allowed to make up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.  

While it is sometimes difficult to ascertain what the current pay scale is (and the Office of Personnel Management is often completely unhelpful, whether deliberately or inadvertently), it is best to always estimate “down”, so that one is never in danger of exceeding the cap.  Further, if the Federal or Postal employee in any given year exceeds the cap, then reinstatement of the Federal Disability Retirement annuity is allowable if in any succeeding year, he or she goes back under the 80% ceiling.  It is important to keep an eye on one’s earned income if one is to continue to maintain a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  Planning is the key to the entire process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The 80% Rule

When a Federal or Postal employee files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and obtains an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, under FERS he or she will receive 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of pay, then 40% every year thereafter until age 62, at which point the disability annuity is recalculated based upon the total number of years of Federal Service, including those years that the disability retirement annuitant has been on Federal Disability Retirement.  Thereafter, the now “former” Federal or Postal employee has the capability to work at another, private-sector job, and earn up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal job currently pays, on top of the disability annuity that one is receiving.

While some may wonder whether this is a “fair” benefit, especially in these trying economic times, it might be wiser to consider whether or not it is prudent to consider the economic incentives inherent in such a system.  For, by allowing for the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement annuitant to go out and attempt to earn income in another, different kind of job, it allows for continuing productivity, payment of taxes and FICA back into the “system”, as opposed to limiting the individual to merely receiving a government benefit. As all of “economics” is ultimately based upon incentives to the working population in order to encourage a system of the highest extent of productivity, this system creates an economic incentive to those who are merely disabled from performing a certain kind of job.  They can continue to remain productive — just in a different kind of job from the one in which he or she is disabled.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The 80% Rule

I recently wrote an article on FedSmith.com concerning the legal process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and a reader posted a comment implying and suggesting a lack of understanding about a benefit which would allow for payment of 40% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years, and in addition, to allow for that annuitant to make up to 80% of what the former federal position currently pays.

I beg to differ. The purpose of allowing an annuitant to potentially go out and earn additional compensation in the private sector are multi-fold: it allows for an individual to remain productive; he or she continues to contribute in the workforce and, as a consequence, pays taxes, FICA, etc.; the amount of 40% (after the first year) is an incentive to go out and do something else. Further, Federal Disability Retirement benefits are part of a compensation package offered to a Federal or Postal employee — it is part of the total employment package, and there is certainly nothing wrong with taking advantage of that employment benefit if and when the need arises. The truth is that most people don’t get anywhere near the 80% mark, but hover closer to the 40 – 50% mark, and together with the disability annuity, are able to make a decent living. All in all, the 80% rule is a smart and thoughtful incentive for those who are disabled.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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