Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Unplanned Event

One always likes to think of the present state of affairs as one resulting from the systematic planning put in place years ago — as in the proverbial “comfortable retirement” that was set in motion through wise investments and retrospective prognostications which were presumably based upon sage advice.

But life rarely works that way.

Yes, the analogy of the treadmill, or of taking one step forward and two steps back, all apply.  There is a famous line in a British rendition of “Emma”, in which the father mumbles beautifully, “Life is like going from one bowl of gruel to another”.

Those who come to a point of contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, often find themselves in a similar situation.  One works tirelessly, thinking that such hard work will reward itself by growing one’s nest egg, where savings develop over time; where within-step-increases come because of meritorious behavior; and where loyalty to, and from, one’s agency is strengthened and established because of the time, effort, and hard work one has, and will, put in.

But then the unplanned event surfaces.

In the beginning, one can fool one’s self and say that it is merely temporary, that it will all go away, and that one needs only to survive for the next coming day.  But the unplanned event can be just as effectively destructive as the planned one, and the results just as final.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is best to see the neutrality of one’s circumstances — for, it matters not whether one “planned” for a medical condition; rather, the point is that, once accepted as a fact, it is the extent and effort of planning after the revelation of an unplanned event, which will make all the difference in one’s life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Impact of the Economy

In making a decision impacting Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, multiple factors must be deliberated upon.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement is a serious step.

One of the pragmatic advantages involves the factor that, in addition to receiving a Federal Disability Retirement annuity, the Federal or Postal Worker may make earned income up to 80% of what one’s former Federal position currently pays.  This is an important consideration to take into account, given the fact that FERS Disability Retirement pays 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of service for the first year, then 40% every year thereafter.

In a seemingly entrenched recession with an anemic recovery, the Federal or Postal worker may pause in considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits. However, it is important to recognize the necessity of the present, while keeping an eye to the future in making such a decision.

Normally, it is the medical condition itself which dictates the necessity of filing for Federal Disability Retirement.  This is not an “optional” circumstance, where one may consider filing or not filing.  The only “option” (if there is one) involves whether one can continue to drudge through the pain, anxiety, panic attacks, or other medical episodes, for a few months longer, and therefore delay the initiation of the process.  But this only delays the inevitable.

Thus, the first order of business must always be to take the time to attend to one’s health and medical condition.

The economy will always be “what it is”, and will trudge along and recover. When that moment comes, the Federal or Postal employee who has already filed for, and obtained, Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS will have the time to carefully select his or her second career path, because of the financial security of Federal Disability Retirement benefits already received.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Working while Waiting

Because of economic necessity, it is often advisable for Federal and Postal employees who are filing or have filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS to continue to work, to the extent possible, without damaging one’s health.  

Often, agencies will “accommodate” a Federal or Postal employee during the waiting process — utilizing the term “accommodation” in a loose sense of the word, and not in compliance with what the law requires in terms of the concept of “accommodation” for purposes of Federal Disability Retirement.  Thus, in the loose sense of the term, an Agency may temporarily accommodate a Federal or Postal employee with light duty work, suspension of one or more of the critical elements of one’s position (such as traveling, lifting certain heavy things, standing for extended periods of time, etc.), and that would be helpful to allow for the income to the Federal or Postal employee during the long administrative process.  

However, one should also be aware that, upon an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management, any back pay will be awarded only to the last day of pay — whether it is for a full week’s wages or for a dollar.  

Thus, since back pay for the first year will be at a rate of 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years, it is wise to calculate and see whether the amount of work one is performing falls below the 60% mark.  If it does, then it might be prudent to go out on LWOP.  On the other hand, it may well be that economic necessity will dictate one’s decision and force the issue, and that would be fine — so long as one makes a decision on matters impacting Federal Disability Retirement benefits based upon full knowledge and comprehension of all of the relevant facts.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Back Pay

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to focus upon the first of the three — preparing.  Preparation often involves thought, reflection, and contemplation.  Formulation requires action; and filing and the time thereafter requires patience.  

In preparing, one must address the issue of how best to survive the lengthy process — does one have sufficient accrued sick leave?  Can one survive without pay and take LWOP during the (potentially) 8 – 10 month process?  Will one be allowed to continue to work, even in a light-duty capacity?  If the latter, then it should be kept in mind that when a Federal Disability Retirement application is approved, such an approval will provide for back pay all the way back to the last time a Federal or Postal employee was paid by the agency — whether it is a dollar, a hundred dollars, or a full paycheck.  

Thus, while acceptance and receipt of donated leave is often desirable, the time of having taken LWOP for any period of time will be negated with the last day of pay.  For example, if a Federal or Postal employee takes several months of LWOP, then accepts a pittance of donated leave, that time of LWOP is lost — for, again, back pay is paid only to the “last day of pay”.  Considerations to be reflected upon when preparing to formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Time to Make the Decision (Part 1)

Waiting until the last possible moment to start the process to file for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS may be commendable from the Agency’s viewpoint — but is it smart?  If you are a Federal or Postal employee with multiple years of service, and you believe that because you gave your life, your blood, your sweat, tears, and even your firstborn, that therefore you will receive what I often term as “bilateral loyalty” (i.e., an expectation of receipt of loyalty from your agency for having given your undying loyalty to them throughout the years), you might want to reconsider.

If you are exhausting all of your sick leave, using your annual leave, dipping into your TSP in order to “hope” that you will recover from your continuing medical condition, then come to a point where you need to file for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, then come to realize that you must survive for 6 – 8 months, or even longer, and pay an attorney, pay for medical reports, and _______ (here, you may fill in the space yourself), then you may need to re-think the entirety of the process, the time it takes, etc.  Most people know, very early on, whether or not he or she has a medical condition which will last for a minimum of 12 months.  The time to start planning for the future is now.  As a famous football coach once quipped, “The future is now.”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire