Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: When Should the Agency Be Informed?

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the question is often asked whether and when an Agency should be informed of the impending Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Such a question & answer is almost always a discretionary one, and there is not a “right” answer — only one which can result from the tailored responses of specific and individual circumstances.  For, on the one hand, the Agency will often already suspect that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and therefore the automatic loss of the applicant/employee, is an inevitable future certainty, and therefore such notification is merely a formality.  

The Agency is often anxious to have the backlog of work created by the employee’s non-attendance or sporadic attendance resulting from the chronic medical conditions, to be abated at some point, and therefore hiring a replacement is something which the Agency wants accomplished as soon as possible — and one might argue that informing the Agency is the “right thing” to do.  

But in representing a Federal or Postal employee in a Federal Disability Retirement case, the “right thing” always is looking after the best interests of the client, and informing the agency prior to filing is not always in the best interests of the client.  For, on the other hand, informing the Agency too soon will often result in unintended consequences — of reactions and initiated actions upon being informed of the very intention of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

While unfortunate and even perhaps “retaliatory” in nature, Agencies often act/react only upon official notification of an intention.  In other words, the proverbial “elephant in the room” is only noticed when the elephant actually stomps its feet (or is it “hooves”?).  Whether and when is a discretionary decision by the Federal or Postal employee.  

Ultimately, of course, when the Federal Disability Retirement application is filed through the Agency for further processing before being forwarded to the Office of Personnel Management, the Agency will be fully informed.  But as to “pre-informing” the Agency — that all depends upon the individual circumstances of the Federal or Postal employee, taking into account first and foremost the best interests of the client when represented by an OPM Disability Retirement attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: What If…

In inquiring about Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, the potential applicant who is inquiring about the entire process will often engage in the never-ending, perpetual game of, “What if…”  

The answer to each such question, of course, must always be prefaced with, “Even if…” but each such question and answer can continue ad infinitum until either the questioner comes to exhaust the repertoire of his or her “What if” questions, or the answer to the last what-if question is answered with, “Even if the world ends”.  

This last answer means that it does not matter what comes after the preface; the answer remains the same.  For instance:  What if Social Security approves your case prior to OPM making a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement case — and the medical officer, EAP counselor, Postal or Federal Fitness for Duty physician, or the flight surgeon, or X, Y and Z disqualifies you from your job, and you get separated from service for your medical inability to perform your job…doesn’t that automatically qualify you for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?  No — you must still prove your case by a preponderance of the evidence, and proceed as if none of the previously-cited advantages have been obtained.  

Will all of those advantages help in your case?  Yes.  Will they be determinative?  No.  

While persuasive, such administrative decisions by the agency will not be determinative.  But that doesn’t seem logical — what if, in addition to all of the previous advantages, the Agency comes out and concedes that they cannot accommodate you?  Answer:  Even if the Agency concedes that, you must still prove your case medically, by a preponderance of the evidence.  The Federal or Postal worker:  But What if…   At this point, the answer must be:  Even if the world ends, such administrative agency actions are merely persuasive to OPM, but not determinative.  But why?  

Ah…the “why” question is also a never-ending, perpetual one, and must be saved for another blog.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire