Federal Employee Disability Retirement: An Expectation of Disaster

Most lives are lived with an expectation of unease; if things are going smoothly, we look with suspicion at what will come from around the corner; if calm and quietude prevails, we consider it merely a precursor to a major storm; and if good fortune comes our way, there is a leeriness as to the strings attached.

Perhaps distrust is based upon justifiable historical events; or, as news is merely the compilation of tragic events gathered into a compendium of daily interests, so our skewed perspective of the world merely reinforces what our childhoods entertained.  With a foundation of such natural tendencies to see the world with suspicion, when a medical condition impacts a person, the expectation of crisis is only exponentially magnified.

Suddenly, everyone becomes the enemy, and not just the few who are known to lack heart; and actions which were previously normative, becomes a basis for paranoia.  Chronic pain diminishes tolerance for human folly; depression merely enhances the despair when others engage in actions betraying empathy; and the disaster which was suspected to be just around the corner, closes in on us when pain medications fail to palliatively alleviate.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to prevent one from performing all of the essential elements of one’s job, the bifurcation between the personal and the professional, between play and work, often comes crumbling down upon us, and signs of potential trouble portend to indicate to us that it may be time to “move on”.  That impending sense of doom?  It may be upon us.  That calm before the storm?  The reality of what the agency is contemplating may prove you right. And the potential loss of good fortune?

Agencies are not known for their patience.  For the Federal or Postal employee who is no longer one of the “good old boys” of the network of productive employees because of a medical condition which is beginning to impact one’s ability to maintain a daily work schedule, or perform at the level prior to the onset of a medical condition, consideration should be given to preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Time is often of the essence, and while most expectations of impending disasters are unfounded, the behavior of Federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service can never be relied upon, any more than the weather can be predicted a day in advance.

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