Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Waiting

We wait in lines and on telephones; we wait for the mail and to be served in restaurants and supermarkets; waiting is a necessity, based upon a closely-held belief that the end-product for which we expend such virtues as patience is worthy of the investment of time. There is always a quick calculation which must be engaged before the waiting can begin; of weighing the importance of the service or product to be received, in conjunction with the time it will take to attain the goal of receipt, and in further consideration of the comparative value of other things “to do”.

For the Federal or Postal Worker who is filing for Federal disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal Worker is under FERS or CSRS, the worth of waiting must always be balanced with the proverbial question, “For what?”

Waiting for a Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service to initiate an action which may or may not impact a Federal Disability Retirement application is normally not “worth” it, for such a wait may never produce anything fruitful. Waiting because to do otherwise — to act — will incur efforts of cognitive or physical exhaustion is something which will only delay an inevitable need, and is therefore unwise to engage, is something that must be often countered by sheer force of will.

On the other hand, once a Federal Disability Retirement application is filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the real game of waiting begins, and one which no one has very little and limited control over. For, ultimately, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — the agency which has the authority to approve or deny a Federal Disability Retirement case — has the cards which count, and the requested product of the goal to attain: a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application filed by the Federal or Postal Worker.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: Part-time Work

Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, face a formidable task both in terms of legal hurdles and administrative, bureaucratic glitches — not the least of which is in facing the daily battle with the medical condition itself.

Aside from requesting an accommodation from the agency, then being granted some cosmetic work refinements which probably do not constitute a legally viable (or even practically defensible) responsiveness; or of being offered an alternative part-time position which, if taken, will have dire calculation consequences in determining the average of one’s highest-3 consecutive years of service for annuity computation purposes; or more to the point — remaining in the full-time position but working only part-time and taking LWOP the remainder of the time, such decisions can be pragmatic ones which may be arrived at by the Federal Disability Retirement applicant as merely a choice which cannot be avoided, but one which should be embraced with full knowledge of the consequences.

For example, the problem with working one day a week is that such work constitutes only 20% of pay for the Federal or Postal employee who has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Yet, at the time of an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, OPM will pay back-pay for the first year of annuity, at 60%.  But if one has been working part-time during the entire process, no back-pay will be forthcoming precisely because such back-pay is paid only to the “last day of pay” — which would have been the previous week for that part-timer.

Further, the difference between what was part-time work-paid (20%) and what Federal Disability Retirement back-pay will give (60% for the first year) is one of 40% lost forever.

In practical terms, it may well be that working part-time throughout the Federal Disability Retirement process and the long bureaucratic wait was a necessity which could not be avoided; but it is nevertheless something which should be done with full disclosure and knowledge, so that there are no surprises in the end.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: LWOP & Back Pay

In obtaining a Federal Disability Retirement benefit under FERS or CSRS, once an approval is obtained from the Office of Personnel Management, back pay is supposed to go back to the “last day of pay” that the Federal or Postal employee received from the Agency.  Thus, when a Federal or Postal employee files for FERS Disability Retirement benefits (or the same benefits under CSRS, which is become rarer by the minute), one must plan in order to accrue and obtain the maximum benefits possible.

Should one accept donated leave?  Should one exhaust the large cache of sick leave accrued? Should one go on LWOP part of the time, and take sick leave part of the time?  These are all issues which should be planned for, and if one does not know what the rules, regulations and statutes are governing such issues, one can literally lose out on critical back pay benefits.

For example, since back pay will be paid at the initial year’s 60% rate (60% for the first year in Federal Disability Retirement benefits; 40% every year thereafter), if an individual is receiving donated leave on average, about 15 – 20 hours per week (which constitutes 50% or less), wouldn’t it be wiser to stay on LWOP throughout the process?

On the other hand, pragmatic economic considerations must always temper such decisions.  If a Federal or Postal employee needs the income, even at 50% or less, then such considerations must be taken into account.  Regardless, one should prepare, and go forward with open eyes.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire