Federal Disability Retirement Pros and Cons

Federal employees and Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, where the seriousness of the medical condition begins to impact the ability and capacity to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, must take a pragmatic, blunt assessment of one’s future — taking into account all of the factors necessary in order to make a proper decision.

For, in the end, the choices are starkly limited: Stay at one’s job (often not even a real choice, given that the medical condition and its impact upon one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job has forced the question itself to be asked); resign and walk away with nothing, with a deferred retirement at age 65 (again, not a realistic choice, and one which should not be considered, but in the universe of options, it is the non-choice of choices); file for Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (this is, obviously, the most viable of the three alternatives).

One can weigh the pros and cons of filing or not filing: the daunting administrative and bureaucratic process which must be faced; the potential for reduced income; the loss of camaraderie enjoyed for these many years; the cutting short of projects and mission essentials labored upon for so long; and a multitude of similar changes. But in the end, all pros and cons must face in the same direction, and point to the inevitable game-changer: one’s medical condition, and the impact which it has upon one’s ability, inability, capacity, or lack thereof, in performing all of the essential elements of one’s job.

At the North Pole, all directions point south; for the injured Federal employee or the Postal worker with a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, the compass pointing to the need to file for Federal Medical Retirement is the direction mandated by circumstances, and not necessarily by whether the pros win out over the cons.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: OWCP Dilemma

Benefits received through FECA (Federal Employees’ Compensation Act), administered through the Department of Labor and otherwise known under the acronym of OWCP, provide for temporary total disability compensation during the time that a Federal or Postal employee is injured and is unable to go back to one’s former job.

It pays well.  The problem, often, however, is that it pays well enough just to maintain a person to prevent him or her from drowning.  This dilemma is highlighted by the fact that a Federal or Postal employee who is receiving OWCP benefits (scheduled awards excepted) is unable to work at a job (with some exceptions regarding a person who had already been employed at a second job when injured at his primary vocation) or receive additional earned income.

Federal Disability Retirement benefits, on the other hand, whether under FERS or CSRS, allows for earned income up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.

While the Federal or Postal worker is allowed to concurrently file for, and get approved, both Federal OWCP benefits as well as FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement benefits, if both are approved, you must choose between one or the other approved benefit, and allow the unchosen one to remain inactive.

While FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement benefits, filed and obtained through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, pays less than OWCP benefits, it is the added advantage of being able to work at another vocation which makes it more attractive.

It is like the difference between a shipwrecked victim who can hang onto a small floating device as opposed to a raft with oars; while the former allows for survival, it is the latter which will ultimately take one to the destination of final fruition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Deception of Being on OWCP

“But I am on OWCP,” the caller insists.  “But that wasn’t the question.  The question is, are you still on the rolls of the agency?”  “But OWCP has been paying me for the last 2 years and…”

The deceptiveness of being on OWCP and receiving payment from Worker’s Comp results in a feeling of security and lulls one into a sense of comfort.  But receiving OWCP/FECA benefits does not mean that one cannot be separated from Federal Service.  Indeed, many people continue to remain on OWCP rolls, receive the non-taxable benefit, and believe that, because they are on OWCP, this somehow means that they have not be separated from Federal Service.  Beware.  Be aware.  While on OWCP, if the agency moves to separate you, that means that you have one (1) year from the date of separation to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Being “on” the rolls of OWCP does not stop, prevent, or otherwise interfere with the agency’s determination or right to separate the Federal or Postal employee in order to fill that position.  Then, of course, once a person is separated, and over a year passes, one can no longer file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, if over a year passes by, because under the law (what is called the “Statute of Limitations“), a Federal or Postal employee must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: A Thoughtful Paradigm

Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a well-thought out paradigm of benefits for two primary reasons:  (1)  First, because it allows for a base annuity for those productive workers who are no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, and allows the Federal or Postal Worker who is disabled to have a period of time in which to recuperate and tend to the medical needs in order to regain his or her strength, energy, abilities, etc. — physical, emotional, cognitive or otherwise; and (2) Second, because it allows for the Federal or Postal Worker to become a productive member of society in a different, “other” job.  

While many may be concerned that, in this regressive economy, the prospect of obtaining another job may be severely limited, such an approach is short-sighted.  The economy will rebound; opportunities will arise as various economic sectors adjust to changing circumstances; and during the entire process, the Federal or Postal Worker who is on Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management will be able to receive a base annuity in order to recuperate from the medical condition.  

All said, the alternative prior to the Federal Disability Retirement benefit becoming law was bleak and short-sighted:  to terminate the unproductive Federal or Postal employee, and let him or her go out to deal with loss of job, loss of income, loss of medical insurance — on top of the medical condition which forced the Federal or Postal Worker out in the first place.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: OPM Disability & OWCP Disability (Continuing…)

A person who is on OWCP Disability payments — 3/4 of one’s gross pay if married or with dependents, or 2/3 of one’s gross pay if single without dependents – may well find the comfort of such payments and the security of such income to be relatively “safe”.  The old adage that one does not read the fine print during times of smooth sailing, and only begins to worry about issues when things go awry, is something to be kept in mind.  If a Federal or Postal employee is receiving OWCP Disability payments, and as such, one’s financial stability is somewhat assured because of it, that is precisely the time to be considering one’s future.  

OWCP Disability payments have a formal designation — it is called “Temporary Total Disability“.  The focus should be upon the first of the three terms — temporary.  It is not meant to be a permanent feature; OWCP is not a retirement system.  If placed on OWCP for over a year, the Federal Agency or the Postal Service will often separate and remove a Federal or Postal employee from the employment rolls of the Agency.  Once removed, the Federal or Postal employee has only up to one (1) year to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Once that year passes, you cannot file.  Years later, when OWCP & the Department of Labor stop those “Disability payments” for whatever reason, you cannot then start thinking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS. You will be reminded that TTD stands for just that — Temporary Total Disability. It will then be too late.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire