FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Independent Entities

If Federal agencies were created with the proverbial single “stroke of the pen”, all at once, in unison and coordinated intersections of thoughtful complexities, then of course there would be a lack of overlap, duplication and repetition. The essence of efficiency is precisely to limit duplicative efforts. But then, some would perhaps say that it is an inherent self-contradiction to assert that Federal agencies can both be coordinated as well as efficient.

In the disability compensatory systems impacting Federal and Postal workers, there are multiple “pockets” which the Federal and Postal worker can be eligible for, given the right qualifications and by meeting certain threshold criteria. Under FERS, the system of retirement and disability retirement was fairly well-planned (and, again, some would say that such planning was a historical first, in many ways), in that it envisioned a coordination of benefits between the retirement system and Social Security. That is precisely why, in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS, the Federal or Postal employee must also file for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits sometime during the process.

Then, of course, there are a multitude of other programs and agencies, such as VA benefits (for Veterans of the military services) and OWCP/FECA, for “on-the-job” injuries. Each are independent entities, created for specific purposes, goals and targeted personnel.

Over the years, the Courts, and specifically the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, have somewhat “clarified” the interconnecting impact of a decision from one independent agency upon the decision-making process of another, and such decisions should be used in arguing one’s Federal Disability Retirement case.

Benefit coordination, offsets and simultaneous filings aside, how one utilizes the decision of one administrative agency in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an important component in reaching the goal of a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Independence of Each Program

The disparate nature of each Federal program, with little to no intersecting coordination amongst them (with the exception of SSDI and FERS Disability Retirement benefits in the coordination of payments upon approval of each) betrays the unplanned, thoughtless creation of each program, as well as a sense that each agency wants to maintain its feudal control and assertion of independent power.

That perhaps explains, in part, why each program ignores the extent of persuasive authority the approval of another program should logically have, upon an approval and acceptance by the “other” program.  Does it make sense that being granted “unemployability” status under the Department of Veterans Affairs ascription of percentage disability ratings would only have a nominal impact upon a FERS Disability Retirement application?  Or that an SSDI approval would have, at best, a persuasive effect upon a FERS Disability Retirement?

It is somewhat more understandable that a case accepted by OWCP/Department of Labor would have minimal impact upon a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application, precisely because the former is set up as a program of rehabilitation in an effort to return the Federal or Postal employee back to his or her job.

The only true “coordination” of benefits occurs between SSDI and FERS — and that, only if both are approved, and payments are received concurrently; but even then, there are often overpayment problems, lack of the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing, etc.

Thus Coordination and intersection between departments, agencies and various programs rarely occurs.  Agencies tend to want to remain independent.

Such lack of coordination, however, does not mean that the FERS or CSRS Federal or Postal employee should not force a legal argument upon OPM when a significant finding is made by another agency or program.  For, in the end, it may not be the U.S. Office of Personnel Management which listens, but an administrative judge at the MSPB, or a 3-judge panel on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals; in which case, a precedent will have been set, for all to (hopefully) follow.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Appropriate Language Game

In filing an application for OPM Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, there are many questions that are posed for the person who is just being introduced to the concept of potentially filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and many of the sub-topical concepts are often “counter-intuitive”.  This is because most people — including doctors and practicing lawyers — are unfamiliar with the laws, processes, procedures and regulations surrounding and governing Federal Disability Retirement laws under FERS and CSRS, but are instead familiar with the legal arenas of Social Security Disability, Veteran’s Administration disability benefits or Department of Labor, Office of Worker’s Compensation issues

In those “other” areas of legal specialties, there are doctors who simply specialize in making disability determinations — of evaluating a “patient”, determining the extent of the disability, having the Federal or Postal employee undergo a “Functional Capacity Evaluation“, and ascribing a “disability rating” and determining when, or if, the person has reached “Maximum Medical Improvement“.  Each arena of law has what Wittgenstein once coined as a “language game” — a specific set of language usage which applies only within a certain context, and those “other areas” of law are often inconsistent and foreign to the arena of Federal Disability Retirement issues under FERS or CSRS.  Often, when people call me, one of the first things I do is to set about “teaching” the caller the differences, distinctions, and inapplicability of one set of language games upon another set of language games, as well as how the two (or three) relate to each other.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire