The Law of Salvage and Federal Disability Retirement Compensation

The concept is derived from maritime law, where recovery of ship or cargo at sea left to abandonment and forfeiture should be duly compensated of a value commensurate with the worth of the property salvaged.  The ocean is a perilous expanse, fraught with dangers encompassing weather, treacherous beneath-the-surface terrain, and potential piracy; and it is within this context of the magnitude of dangers to be faced, that the equitable principles of maritime law are applied. And isn’t that what one must do in most phases and contexts of life?

The measurement of future potential consequences, compared as against the benefit to be received, the compensation considered, which should determine the value of the services rendered.  Thus is a lifetime annuity measurable, not only in terms of the net amount, but also taking into account the economic stability which it promises, the future security it provides, and the potential for a life allowed.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, or CSRS Offset, must be viewed in this light; for the benefit to be received is almost immeasurable:  Beyond the annuity amount itself, it provides for the capacity of the Federal or Postal worker to be compensated in order to attend to one’s medical condition; the time that one is on Federal Disability Retirement counts towards the total number of years of service, such that when the Federal Disability Retirement annuity is recalculated at age 62, those years one was on Federal Disability Retirement counts towards the total number of years of service; and while one is receiving Federal Disability Retirement, one may work at a private sector job and make up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays; and many, many other benefits and factors to be considered.

Medical conditions tend to create havoc, and leave an appearance of a life left in tatters; but Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit which can bring about a stabilizing force of foundational security; and just like the Law of Salvage in maritime law, consideration in filing for Federal OPM Disability Retirement should be commensurate with the value to be received in salvaging one’s livelihood, career, and future contentment.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

The “Other” Civil Service System

Information concerning Federal Disability Retirement benefits will often refer to the universe of “FERS” employees (acronym for Federal Employees Retirement System, which was enacted by Congress in 1986 and became effective the following year), with little to no information concerning its replacement system, the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

There are, additionally, some hybrid systems, sometimes referred to as CSRS-Offset; but FERS & CSRS constitute the crux of employment systems of retirement for all Federal employees and Postal workers. The reason for the unfairly-weighted balance in favor of FERS employees is that, because the system has been in place for almost 30 years, now, and most CSRS employees have either already retired, died in office, or are otherwise catatonic in the catacombs of bureaucracies, there is a basic assumption in place that any references to FERS employees and the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement, necessarily includes CSRS employees and is indirectly applicable to the surviving few remaining.

References to FERS thus necessarily assumes an inclusion of CSRS employees, and this is true in Federal Disability Retirement applications, and for any FERS or CSRS employees seeking to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The primary differences between the two is merely one of completing standard forms.  Thus, for FERS disability retirement applicants, one must complete the SF 3107 series, as well as the series of SF 3112 forms; and for CSRS employees, the SF 2801 series is completed in place of SF 3107, but both systems must complete the SF 3112 series of forms.

Of course, when FERS was first introduced, enacted and presented to the entirety of the Federal public sector, the numbers of CSRS employees clearly outnumbered the number of FERS employees. Furthermore, when previously-separated CSRS employees (for whatever reasons) re-entered the Federal workforce, many were given the option of re-establishing inclusion and participation in the previously-abandoned system of CSRS. But, over time, and especially in the last decade, the number of FERS Government employees has outpaced CSRS employees, and the last and dying breed of CSRS employees will be like those Civil War veterans of yore, pictured in grainy photographs of faded daguerreotype plates, of antique images of a time past, and passing by today.

The “other” system has now become the new; and as time fades the faces of antiquity, those images of an age long past have replaced the reality of the present; sort of like computer-enhanced graphics which make us all look the age we desire.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Shotgun v. Tailored Approach

In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, there is the “shotgun approach” — of peppering the application with any and all medical conditions which may prevent or otherwise impact one’s ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  The danger of this approach, of course, is that the Office of Personnel Management can (and does) stop at the first medical condition which they deem disables the applicant from performing any of the essential elements of one’s job. If the basis of such a disability retirement approval is a secondary, or somewhat inconsequential medical condition, then there is the danger in the future that, if you receive a Medical Questionnaire requesting an update on your medical condition, that you may have recovered from such a secondary medical condition and deemed to have been fully recovered.  Now, every now and then, in the approval letter issued by the Office of Personnel Management, it will not specify which medical condition was the basis for the approval which was rendered.  However, this is in a minority of approval letters, and is not worthwhile enough to consider taking a chance on such a shotgun approach.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Helpers

Then, of course, there are those Human Resources and OPM personnel who have been, continue to be, and will always be, greater helpers throughout the process in assisting Federal and Postal employees to obtain disability retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.  They are diamonds in a sea of hindrances and obstacles.  And when you come across such an individual, at any stage of the process, one must always express one’s gratitude.  One might argue that they are “just doing their job”, but what such individuals do is clearly beyond the job that they are paid to do.  No only do they assist in the process, but they “humanize” the process; and, especially when a Federal or Postal employee who has a medical disability receives not only assistance in the process, but guidance in providing help to ease and smooth the road to approval, it is indeed a pleasant experience to come across the human touch. A word of thanks to all such Human Resources Personnel.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Agency Loyalty

Many people who call me and tell me their narrative about the Agency, the medical conditions, the growing inability to perform the essential elements of the job, and the resulting need to file for disability retirement, often reveal an undertone of a common element:  after so many years of loyalty, how could the Agency show such callous lack of caring? 

I don’t have an answer to the question of lack of empathy on the part of an Agency; Agencies are made up of individuals; individuals show varying degrees of care, sympathy, and loyalty, but only up to a point:  if such care or empathy will somehow be perceived to harm the “mission of the Agency”, or if walking the proverbial “extra mile” for an individual who needs some temporary support is quite simply seen as “not worth the trouble,” then the individual will simply turn his or her back on the disabled individual.  When the individual turns his or her back on the employee filing for disability retirement, then the Agency turns its back on the person; for, again, Agencies are made up of individuals.  But what about the loyalty that was shown by the employee for all of those prior years?  How about the years of doing overtime, of doing extra work without complaint, etc. — doesn’t that account for some bilateral, reciprocal loyalty?  Unfortunately, it does not amount to much. Loyalty in today’s society is defined as:  What have you done for me today?  For the Federal and Postal Employee who needs to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, expect the worst; expect that your Agency will not be supportive during the 6 – 10 month administrative filing process.  Then, if by chance, a supervisor shows some empathy and support, you will have been pleasantly surprised.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire