FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement Law: The Carousels of Summer

The mounts littered throughout the roundabout can be diverse and captivating; in the swirl of the rotating platform, the child in us wants to sit upon every creature, from unicorns to zebras, the traditional horse and the mythological creatures of one’s limitless imagination.

As we grow older, we come to realize that the spinning sensation itself remains static; the difference between climbing into the bosom of one creature as opposed to another, is indistinct and ultimately irrelevant; when one’s childlike imagination and excitement wrought in ignorance of the cruel world becomes extinguished, the fun of being naive and clueless is no longer an option.  Cynicism comes with maturity; the older we get, the less likely are we to allow ourselves to travel into the realm of the unreal.  Life tends to do that to us.

The road of hard knocks is littered with tales of turmoil and turbulence; storms come and go, and while the devastation left behind can be somewhat repaired, the psyche and soul of damaged people can rarely be glued back together, as fragile porcelain leaving behind fissures wide and gaping as the childlike wonderment we once knew.

Federal and Postal employees know the experiences of life:  the internal battles, the power struggles and the herd-like mentality of agencies and departments.  Then, when a medical condition hits, and the Federal or Postal employee is no longer the golden-boy of past cliques, one is cast aside like the child who is left outside of the teams picked in linear sequence, until the silence of being ignored becomes a reality as shame and embarrassment shouts in muted suffering.  Sometimes, the wisest move is to move on.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is the best and only option remaining.  To attempt to stay is like the biblical admonition of “kicking against the goads“; to walk away and do nothing is merely to spite one’s self; and so the Federal or Postal employee who has a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, should always opt for the best remaining alternative.

To prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM is ultimately not an admission of defeat.  Rather, it is to enliven that imagination once grasped, but since forgotten; of the child who discovered that changing from the seat of a dragon on a carousel to the bosom of a resplendent unicorn makes all the difference not in the change itself, but within the comfort of the limitless imagination of one’s mind.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Problem with OWCP

Agencies which have employees who cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job will often encourage him or her to file for Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Program benefits (DOL/OWCP), if the injury or medical condition occurred as a result of an on-the-job incident, or can be shown to have an occupational cause.

That is fine, so far as it goes.  For, OWCP is set up with the intent of addressing those medical conditions and issues which are work-related.  However, when agencies begin to use OWCP as the dumping ground for workers they don’t believe are fully productive, it becomes a problem because OWCP is not intended for long-term compensation, but merely a venue in order to compensate a Federal or Postal employee for a temporary time in order for the worker to recuperate from his or her medical condition or injury, then to return to full duty.  It is not meant to be a retirement system.

Further, it only compensates for those injuries which are causally related to the workplace.  As a dumping ground, it makes it easier for the Federal agency or Postal Service to deny the ability to accommodate the Federal or Postal Worker, or to reassign the individual, and instead to provide the proper forms to file for Workers’ Compensation benefits.  This doesn’t mean, however, that OWCP will accept the claim, either as an original claim or as a recurrence.  OWCP is not a retirement system.  

On the other hand, OPM Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is meant to compensate Federal or Postal employees who have a long-term medical condition.  If the agency cannot accommodate the disabled Federal or Postal Worker, that is an option to be considered.  If you are “unwanted” — and the agency shows every inclination of that — it may be time to consider the option of Federal Disability Retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Continuing Confusions

In Federal Disability Retirement law under FERS & CSRS, the issue concerning accommodations can continue to remain a rather confusing area of law.  This is especially true when an Agency allows for an individual, either in the Postal Service (which is becoming rarer because of the prevailing winds of the National Reassessment Program) or in the non-Postal, Federal sector, to remain in a position and perform much of the lighter duties of the job, and to allow for one or more of the essential duties of the job to be delegated to others, or not be performed at all.  Now, such a situation can continue on for years, and there is nothing inherently wrong with such an arrangement (aside from the fact that the other Federal workers to whom such work is “delegated” may grumble and complain about fairness or, more likely, that some of the work is never completed), especially if the work which the injured individual performs is valuable to the Agency — even in such a “light duty” status.  

What must be kept in mind, however, regarding the relevance and significance to filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, is that throughout the entire time-period of being on such light duty, the Federal or Postal worker could have, at any time, filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and should have been approved.  This is because such temporary “light duty” arrangements never constituted an “accommodation” under the law, and the Federal or Postal worker was eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits regardless of remaining in the “light duty” job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Agencies Rarely Accommodate

For whatever reasons, Federal Agencies rarely accommodate an individual who has a medical condition which impacts one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Whether the Supervisor is too busy to craft a viable accommodation plan, or whether the Agency is simply following the standard thoughtless response of the Federal Sector in general, the truth is that Agencies rarely, if ever, provide a truly viable, legally defined accommodation.  I receive calls every day from Federal and Postal employees who will state that the Agency is currently “accommodating” him/her; upon closer questioning, however, it always turns out that the term “accommodation” is being used in a non-artful, general sense, as in:  The Agency is letting me take LWOP; the agency is letting me take sick leave; the agency is letting me not travel too much; the agency is letting me…  What the agency is doing, whatever it is, is to temporarily keep you around until they decide your services are no longer needed.  That may be just around the corner, or you may be forgotten for some considerable amount of time.  Regardless, don’t be fooled; agencies rarely accommodate, and it is most likely the case that whatever “accommodations” the Federal or Postal employee believes that the Agency is providing, it does not fall under the legal definition of the term.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire