Federal Disability Retirement: Vows and Contracts

People take vows for various reasons: vows of silence, as a satisfaction of a prerequisite for initiation into a religious order; vows of marriage, for the union intended for a lifetime of commitment and self-sacrifice; vows of revenge, for a personal vendetta in retribution for actions suffered against one’s self or on behalf of another; and similar vows of unremitting focus until the satisfaction of such enduring commitment is accomplished.  Similarly, contracts are entered into each day, across the globe, between individuals, corporate entities and groups formed specifically for business and personal reasons.

Is there a difference between a “vow” and a “contract“?  On a superficial level, the former is viewed as a “higher order” semblance of the latter.  In a deeper sense, that is not only true, but all the more so — or, in erudite form, a fortiori.  For, to vow is to give of one’s self in totality of being; it is a gift of one’s self, often without any expectation of a similar receiving.

In contract law, of course, it is precisely the comparative analysis of a “consideration” provided and received, which determines the viability and sustainability of the agreement itself.  Far too often, Federal and Postal employees see their commitment to an agency or the U.S. Postal Service as a “vow” in employment, as opposed to a contract freely entered into, and just as freely abrogated when the need arises. This is seen when a Federal or Postal employee suffers from a medical condition and must consider the need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS.

The Federal or Postal employee treats the job as one of a “vow”, as if the significance of clinging on to the position is of greater importance than the detriment manifested to one’s health.  Federal Disability Retirement benefits, offered to all Federal and Postal employees under FERS or CSRS, is merely a contractual annuity accorded based upon the status of the individual as a Federal or Postal employee, and further proven by a preponderance of the evidence.  No vows have been exchanged — neither of the silent type, implicit, nor explicit, and certainly not of an unequivocal or unremitting nature.

Contractual terms are meant to be asserted; and one of the provisions of the “contract” for all Federal and Postal employees, is that when the Federal or Postal employee suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job, then eligibility for Federal Disability benefits may be invoked.

To accept a contractual provision is never to take advantage of anything, unfairly or otherwise; rather, it is merely a satisfaction of terms. To do otherwise, and to confuse X as Y, as in mistaking a contract for a vow, is merely to bathe in a puddle of muddle-headed thinking.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Termination

Termination for the Federal or Postal employee should generate an administrative personnel action reflected in an SF 50 or PS Form 50, showing the date of the action, the nature of the issuance and the reason for the administrative process which is initiated and culminated.  Without it, technically no such action occurred.  However, there are cases where such a form has not been produced.

Further, such a personnel initiation is rarely issued in a vacuum; for a Federal employee to be terminated, there are certain procedural hurdles which are normally provided — an issuance first of a proposed termination, and the basis for such a personnel action, and one to which the addressee has a right to respond to within a specified period of days or weeks.  Thereafter, consideration must be given by the Agency in the response, whether verbal, written or both, given by the Federal or Postal employee.

Subsequently, when a termination is effectuated, an SF 50 or a PS Form 50 will be generated.  From that date of termination, the Federal or Postal employee has up to one year to file for disability benefits.

If such filing occurs after 31 days of the official termination date, then the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must be submitted directly to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA.

If prior to 31 days, it can be processed through one’s former agency — although, such a filing should be carefully monitored, as one’s former agency may not process it with any urgency, and in the event that it is not forwarded to OPM within the other 11 months and some-odd days left, there will be a question as to whether it was timely filed at all.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Disjunctive between Words and Actions

In symbolic logic, there is the disjunctive which allows for a choice between two elements, and one must exhaustively pursue the symbolic “tree” in order to arrive at a logical conclusion.  At each fork in the road, there remains a choice; the pursuit of each road leads to the answer one searches for.

Similarly, in life, one is often confronted with such metaphorical “forks in the road“, and the choice which one embraces will determine whether the path taken leads to — if not a logically sound outcome — a reasonable judgment.

Throughout the career of the Federal or Postal employee, a sense of “loyalty” is stressed; that if one works hard, one will be rewarded; if the agency succeeds in its accomplishments, the individual worker who contributed will be acknowledged, praised, etc.  But the true test of sincerity is actions, not more words.

When the time comes when a Federal or Postal employee is overwhelmed by a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, then that is precisely the time to “cash in” on that loyalty which the agency had previously and so honorably declared to be of penultimate importance.

Don’t count on it.

If one’s agency indeed confirms the sincerity of its words, then that is an exponential benefit to the process of one’s life and career.  But short of that, one has reached a true “fork-in-the-road”, tripartite in character, and the choice is often one of walking away, being constantly harassed, or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Federal Disability benefits were always part and parcel of a Federal or Postal employee’s total compensation package.  It was part of the reason why you “signed on” as a Federal or Postal worker.

When the appropriate time comes — when a medical condition prevents you from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job — then it is time to go down that path, and pursue the tree of logic, and look out for one’s own best interest — and not merely be blinded by the words of an agency which somehow declares a state of amnesia when it comes to such vainglorious words like honor, loyalty, and the mission of the agency.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Medical Disability Retirement and Agency Promises

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is often easy to confuse the varying roles of the individual and agency entities which are involved in the process.

First and foremost, the Agency for which the individual works, has certain administrative obligations which must be met — of completing certain forms, such as the Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) and the Agency Efforts for Reassignment and Accommodation (SF 3112D).  The Office of Personnel Management, on the other hand, is the ultimate arbiter and deciding entity determining the viability of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, as to meeting the legal criteria for eligibility for the benefit.

The agency cannot make promises to the Federal employee, or the Postal employee (if the case happens to be the U.S. Postal Service), as to “getting” the individual Federal employee or Postal employee, a Federal Disability Retirement.

There can certainly be actions taken by the agency, or the representative of the agency, which may help to “enhance” the chances of an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement.  However, enhancing the chances of an approval is quite different from promising to “give” or to “get” a Federal or Postal employee a Federal Disability Retirement from the Office of Personnel Management.  Only the latter entity can accomplish that.

As for any promises by the agency that “he said X” or “he promised Y” — get it in writing.  It may only be worth the paper it is written on, but at least by asking, you can determine the truth or falsity of such a promise.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: When the Agency Promises…

The Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service for whom the Federal or Postal employee works, cannot “promise” the granting of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  Such promises are presumptuous and ultimately vacuous, precisely because it is on the independent agency — the Office of Personnel Management — which is the sole agency and arbiter for determining the viability, sufficiency and legal adequacy of all Federal Disability Retirement applications under either FERS or CSRS.

While agencies can be somewhat “helpful” in the processing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is important that if there is an ongoing collateral litigation (e.g., EEOC action; a pending parallel lawsuit; a grievance procedure invoked, etc.), that any settlement or discussion of settlement not state, infer or otherwise imply that the agency can provide the applicant with a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  

Instead, the agency should complete certain forms consistent with the terms of any settlement; and, further, a separation from Federal Service based upon one’s medical inability to perform one’s job can invoke the Bruner Presumption, which can certainly be a plus in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  But recognizing the independence of OPM, and staying away from any appearance of “collusion” through promises that an Agency can somehow “promise” the Federal or Postal employee an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, is important to maintain.  

Agencies cannot promise a Federal Disability Retirement approval, and any such promise in a collateral source is only worth the cost of the paper it is printed upon — or, in most cases, even less.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Promises

Federal and Postal workers who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS must understand that it is the Office of Personnel Management which is the agency that makes the decisions concerning approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Whether the Postal Service, or any number of agencies “promise” to support a Federal Disability Retirement application, such promises are of limited value to the extent that they are not the governing arbiter — it is the bureaucracy known by its acronym, “OPM” which makes the decision.

While certain forms must be completed by the Agency or the Postal Service; and while certain decisions concerning the SF 3112D, or the basis of a removal action, may aid a Federal or Postal worker in OPM’s decision-making process, remember that any promise made by a Federal Agency or the Postal Service claiming to “get you” an OPM Disability Retirement is one without force or effect.

The Office of Personnel Management is an independent agency which reviews, evaluates, and scrutinizes each application for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement under either FERS or CSRS — they are the final “arbiter” of the matter, in conjunction with any appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board in the event of a denial at the Initial Stage of the Application, and a second denial at the Reconsideration Stage of the application process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire