OPM Disability Retirement: The Necessity of Filing

Sometimes the question is asked as to whether it is “necessary” to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits if certain advantages, benefits and comfort levels have already been reached.  

Therein lies the problem, of course:  that when one has secured one benefit which one relies upon and has depended upon, the necessity of filing for a collateral source in order to allow for future options, seems (at times) to be a remote necessity.  But the immediacy of a necessity should never be the primary basis for deciding whether or not to do something; forethought, securing the possibilities for future circumstances, perhaps somewhat unforeseen at the moment, should always be factors in making a decision.  

In general, it is best to allow for as many options to remain open in life, and not allow for an option to close merely because the tolling of the Statute of Limitations has passed.  Thus, if a person is on SSDI or OWCP, the question will often be presented as to whether or not filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is necessary.  The unequivocal answer is, “yes”.  

For those on SSDI (already approved), the approval itself from SSDI will have some persuasive authority in getting a FERS Disability Retirement approved.  It will not be determinative, but merely persuasive. Further, while there will be an offset between SSDI and FERS Disability Retirement, there are multiple other factors which should convince a Federal or Postal Worker that filing for FERS Disability Retirement is the intelligent thing to do.  

As for those on OWCP, while one cannot receive both OWCP and FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement benefits concurrently, the Federal or Postal employee can get it approved, and simply leave it in an inactive statute — for, as no one knows what the future holds, it is good to secure multiple benefits for potential future use.  To unnecessarily close out options to the future is never a wise thing to do.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Periodic Clarifications

Clarifications are needed to be periodically made, based upon questions which Federal and Postal employees continue to ask.  There is often a confusion concerning the “one year” issue — whether it concerns the Statute of Limitations in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, or the length of time a medical condition must last. 

A Federal or Postal employee must file a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS within one (1) year of being separated from one’s Agency.  The confusion often arises because a Federal or Postal employee is unsure of whether or not such separation from service has actually occurred.  Especially for Postal employees, where the U.S. Postal service will often continue to keep a Postal employee “on the rolls” despite having been on OWCP for many years, the confusion can be understandable.  However, one indicator is that if a Postal employee is continuing to receive zero-balance pay stubs, then in all likelihood that Postal employee has not yet been separated from service, and the 1-year tolling of the Statute of Limitations has not yet begun. 

Because obtaining an approval from the Office of Personnel Management on a Federal Disability Retirement application can take an extraordinary amount of time, however, it is wise to begin the process sooner, rather than later, whether one has been “officially separated” from service or not.  For Federal employees, an SF 50 (Personnel Action) form would systematically be issued showing that a Federal employee has been separated from Federal Service

As for the 1-year issue concerning the extent of a medical condition, we will address that issue at another time.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Why Up to 1 Year?

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, why should a person be given up to 1 year after separation from Federal Service, to file for the benefits?  The underlying legal rationale can be conflicting, but there are multiple pragmatic reasons why such a statute allowing for a person to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits up to 1 year after separation from service, is “reasonable” and “sound in judgment”. 

Often, Federal and Postal employees get fired before the proper forms or medical documentation can be completed or gathered; proposed terminations and determinations on the proposals can come about quickly; a Federal or Postal employee who is focused upon getting treatment (surgery; psychiatric treatment, etc.) can be left with a sense of being overwhelmed, and incapable of filing for a benefit which requires rational thought, procedural organization, and an ability to be systematic in approaching the entire process; a person may not fully comprehend or appreciate the extent of a medical condition, and may quit, resign, or file for early retirement with a lesser annuity, feeling isolated and beset with a sense of hopelessness in not “having any other choice” but to walk away from the Federal or Postal job he or she loved; suffer from a Reduction-in-Force (RIF), and think that because of the RIF that disability retirement was not an option (it often is); and many other reasons.  Indeed, there is a rational and logical basis for allowing for the 1-year timeframe of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, after the Federal or Postal worker has been removed or separated from Federal Service.  On top of it all, to allow for it is simply “fair”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire