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

 

OPM Disability Retirement: The OWCP Black Hole

Many people rely upon the “generosity” of FECA (OWCP) payments during the period of temporary total disability, and indeed, being tax free and paying 75% of one’s salary (with dependents) or 66 2/3% without, one can easily become reliant upon such benefits. But being on OWCP does not protect the Federal or Postal Worker from being administratively separated from service for extended absences, or for one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, or “unavailability for duty” or other similar basis, to promote the efficiency of the Federal Service.  The agency needs someone to fill the position and do the job.

Normally, at a fairly early stage in one’s period of enduring and suffering from a medical condition or injury, one can assess the nature, extent and severity of the medical condition.  With that in mind, it is a good idea to begin thinking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  The security of OWCP benefits is attractive; however, OWCP is not a retirement address.  FECA will “cut off” the benefits at some point — unless you are somehow lost in the black hole of their payment roster, which happens periodically.  However, there are too many horror stories of a Federal employee who stayed on OWCP, was separated from Federal Service, never filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within 1 year of being separated, and then one day received a fateful phone call…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire