FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The Little Engine that Couldn’t

It is an educational tool utilized to impart upon children the value of hard work and unfettered optimism, but one wonders, At what point should the harsh realities of the world be included?  How, sometimes there are situations where the obstacles are so great and the conspiratorial caverns so deep that the graph of upward mobility is but a mere mirage in life’s cycle of certitude. The balance between the benefit of maintaining optimism in the face of adversity, and tempering unrealistic expectations, is a scale of justice which is delicately configured throughout life.

While the tale of the Little Engine that Could represents the cultural and societal impetus for encouraging work, fair play, persistence and a positive attitude, some of life’s obstacles serve to cut short the capacity and ability to achieve stated first goals.  Medical conditions tend to do that.  Whether primarily physical or secondarily psychiatric, or inversely impacted, a progressively debilitating medical condition saps the self-confidence of the individual, and eats away at the abilities of the patient.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal Service workers, when a medical condition begins to prevent the Federal or Postal worker from performing all of the essential elements of the positional duties of the Federal or Postal employee, consideration must be given to one’s future, and that future planning should include filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Eligibility for OPM Disability Retirement benefits encompasses all Federal and Postal employees, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, so long as the Federal or Postal employee has met the minimum eligibility requirements: 18 months of Federal Service for those under FERS, and 5 years for those under CSRS (which is essentially assumed that anyone under CSRS already has at least 5 years of Federal Service).

Further, if the Federal or Postal employee is still on the rolls of the agency or the U.S. Postal Service, or has not been separated for more than 31 days, then the Federal Disability Retirement application must be routed first through one’s Human Resource Office of one’s Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service (for the latter, the central processing point for all Federal Disability Retirement applications for Postal Workers is located in Greensboro, N.C.), then to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA.

Implicit in this requirement, of course, is that there is a “Statute of Limitations” as to filing a Federal Disability Retirement application.  All Federal Disability Retirement applications must be filed within 1 year from the date of separation from Federal Service.  Thus, if a Federal or Postal employee is terminated, or has resigned, and a Federal Disability Retirement application is filed, the (now former) Federal or Postal employee must file within 1 year of the date of separation — but if separated for less than 31 days, then through one’s former agency or U.S. Postal Service, and if over 31 days, then directly to Boyers, PA, which is the “intake” processing office for OPM for all Federal Disability Retirement applications.

Whether the Federal or Postal employee ever read or heard tell of the tale of the Little Engine that Could, the time for filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits is when that proverbial engine gives out, and when life’s harsh realities turns the story of optimism and hope into a pragmatic approach in order to secure one’s future; for, sometimes, life accords engines which need fine-tuning, and medical conditions represent just that sort of mechanical need, for the Little Engine that once Could which turned into the Little Engine that Couldn’t.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

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