Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: When It Is the Right Time

Most people know; and still others, know that the “right” time has already passed, and is long overdue.  Doctors have already shaken their heads in disbelief, disgust or with regretful expressions of facial futility; family members have begun to whisper behind backs; friends have stopped asking to include you for events which may require physical exertion or extensive conversations which require focus, concentration or cognitive stamina.

Federal and Postal employees all across the United States, and overseas where Civilian workers are stationed, put in long and dedicated hours to accomplish the mission of agencies.  The general public at large has been allowed to critically eye the Federal or Postal worker because they are being paid through high taxes, etc.  But Federal Disability Retirement is not a “handout”; it is merely an employment benefit which allows for disabled workers to go out and remain productive in the private sector, by being allowed to make up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays — and thereby continue to pay back into the system through paying of taxes, and essentially keeping it a “self-paying” system.  

No amount of shame or embarrassment should accompany the decision to file for Federal Disability benefits.  It is simply an acknowledgement which has already been realized by friends, family, and often one’s own treating doctor:  the right time has come because you have already “fought the good fight“, and it is time to move on to the next phase of life, and allow for the recuperative period of life take its course.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Subsequent Actions

Obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management is a “process” as opposed to an entitlement, and this distinction has been variously explained and expanded upon in previous blogs and articles.  

But the term “process” also needs to be applied in two different ways — it is a process applied as an administrative issue involving the Office of Personnel Management, but moreover, it should remain so for the individual Federal or Postal worker who has worked so hard to obtain the Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  By this, is meant that, just because the Federal or Postal worker has secured an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, does not (and should not) mean that the “process” ends for the Federal or Postal employee.  

Obtaining the Federal Disability Retirement annuity is one part of the process; once secured, some simple steps should be set in place, such that the Federal Disability Retirement benefit is “secured” and “protected” for the future.  

Thus, the continuation of the process should minimally and necessarily include:  Keeping in contact with one’s treating doctor or doctors; making sure that any outside employment adheres to the 80% rule for earned income; maintaining an ability to justify the conceptual distinction between any job acquired after one’s Federal Service and the job previously performed; being prepared to respond to OPM’s Medical Questionnaire in the event that one is selected to do so; and other preemptive measures.  

Surprises and emergencies occur when one fails to adequately plan for the future; future planning should be a daily maintenance project, taking only 5 minutes of one’s daily process (if that); and, after all, Poor Richard’s Almanac of 1732 was right in declaring, “A stitch in time saves nine”.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Basic Elements

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important for the Federal and Postal worker who is contemplating filing for such benefits to keep in mind certain basic elements before engaging in the entire process:  

First, it is a long and arduous process, involving multiple stages (potentially) and requiring a great amount of patience.  

Second, the Federal or Postal employee should mentally expunge from one’s mind any view that Federal Disability Retirement is an entitlement — it is not.  The conceptual distinction between an “entitlement” and a “benefit” should be clear from the outset.  The former requires one to simply satisfy certain requirements in order to obtain the benefit; the latter requires that one prove all of the legal criteria, and submit evidence showing that one is eligible by a preponderance of the evidence.  The former requires nothing more than meeting certain basic requirements, which are normally automatic (age, for example); the latter mandates that one prove one’s eligibility.  

Third, there is almost never a “slam dunk” case, where one merely gathers the most recent medical records and reports, fills out the forms, and sends in the application.  Yes, there are certain limited cases, perhaps — i.e., of a Letter Carrier or a Special Agent who becomes bedridden — but these are rare and unique cases, and even then, it is still possible that the Office of Personnel Management will find a reason to deny such a case.  

Fourth, one must always prepare a case both for success at the First Stage of the Process, while at the same time laying the foundation for subsequent stages of the process.  

And Fifth, one should attempt to avoid inconsistencies, both internal and external, in the application, as OPM always targets inconsistencies as the basis for a denial, and likes to extrapolate and use such issues to base their denials.  

These are just some basic elements to keep in mind in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire