OPM Disability Retirement: Privacy, Social Media and Detracting Information

In the modern age of social media, where information on what previously was considered “private” details of personal and family life is widely disseminated, freely provided, and affirmatively shared, such publicly declared information can be accessed by private, public, and government entities.  

A Federal or Postal worker who is preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, should take care that publicly disseminated information does not contradict the assertions and statements made on an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  While the Office of Personnel Management does not systematically engage in researching information on an applicant displayed in the social media forum; nevertheless, it is certainly “fair game” to obtain such information.  

The problem with social media information posted and freely provided by individuals, including Federal and Postal Workers, is that there may be absolutely no connection between the reality and accuracy of the information posted, and the truth of the individual revealing and posting such information.  

Anonymity, having a different identity — acting like a different person from the true “you” is an easy thing to do on the internet.  But if a wide disparity becomes evident between what one asserts in one arena from what is stated in an official government form under penalty of perjury, there may come a day when one is asked to explain the discrepancy.  

Just a thought, for those Federal and Postal employees who are preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Determining to File

Sometimes, in coming to a decision to prepare, formulate and file a Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management, either under FERS or CSRS, the determination to file is made based upon external forces, circumstances and issues either beyond one’s control or, if they were once within reasonable constraints, have become unleashed.  

Thus, when a PIP is imposed upon the employee, or an injured Federal or disabled Postal employee is presented with a Proposal to Removal based upon unacceptable attendance, excessive use of LWOP, etc., then such external circumstances have essentially “forced” one to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

It matters not whether the Federal or Postal employee has a “legitimate” medical condition; the legitimacy of the medical condition is precisely what has resulted in the Agency action, and whether such external circumstance may be deemed “unfair”, “unreasonable”, “lacking of compassion”, or any other negative theology of human action one may ascribe — the time has come to prepare, formulate and file a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

In the best of all worlds, a deliberative process of preparing one’s finances, considering all of the options, rationally constructing the foundational steps to gather all of the information necessary before determining that it is time to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits — all of these should come into play.  

But we rarely live in the best of worlds; this is an imperfect world full of imperfect individuals; and, as such, the determination to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS may well come to fruition based upon external, unreasonable, and uncontrollable circumstances.  As the old dictum goes:  That’s life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: FERS & SSDI Offset

This information has been concurrently posted on the “forum” concerning FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement, because it is a pending issue which may impact many (former) Federal and Postal employees who are receiving both FERS Disability Retirement benefits as well as SSDI, and impacted by the offset between the two.  

Under FERS, you must file for Social Security Disability benefits.  However, everyone should be aware of two basic (potential) problems:  (1)  There is a much lower “cap” under SSDI as to what one can earn in income and (2) There is an offset between FERS Disability annuity and SSDI (100% the first year, 60% every year thereafter).  Further, as SSDI has a higher and more restrictive standard of proof (generally, one of “total disability” as opposed to being disabled from being able to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job), most Federal and Postal employees will not qualify for SSDI, and so it is not an issue.  

However, every Federal and Postal employee should be aware of the following:  If a Federal or Postal employee becomes qualified for both SSDI and FERS Disability retirement, and receives the joint annuities from both sources, and if at a later time he/she exceeds the income cap as set by SSDI and loses the SSDI benefit, one would presume/assume that since the source of the offset is lost, that OPM would reinstate the full FERS Disability annuity amount.  Not so.  There is a legal distinction being made by OPM between being “eligible” and being “entitled”, and the fact that one is no longer “eligible” does not mean that one is not “entitled”, and therefore no reinstatement of the full annuity is made.  

A couple of cases are presently be appealed to the 3-Judge panel at the MSPB, and a decision is forthcoming any day.  If favorable, good for everyone.  If not, then an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will be entertained.

Knowing what the law says is the key to proper preparation in any event, and regardless of what the outcome of the case will/may be, knowing the law will allow for all recipients of a FERS Disability Retirement annuity to adequately prepare and to act accordingly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: OPM over OWCP

I still get many emails and phone calls about the onerous, “over-the-top” behavior, and the bullying tactics of OWCP/DOL temporary total disability payments & requirements — everything from constant, incessant and unending, harassing letters, to requiring further evaluations from second and third opinion doctors (or so-called doctors), to constantly requiring one’s treating doctor to justify the continuing disability status, thereby endangering the continuation of the doctor-patient relationship.  And who can criticize or blame the doctor for wanting to drop a patient for the amount of hours he/she has to put into, for “non-medical” issues, and for the time expended which the doctor will never be paid for? 

Yes, Worker’s Comp pays more.  Yes, it is non-taxable.  Yes, there are monetary reasons for staying on OWCP.  But the truth is, money doesn’t buy peace of mind or a life of lesser stress.  OWCP is meant to be a temporary means of providing income — it is not designed for the long term, and indeed, the Office of Worker’s Compensation makes that abundantly clear by their actions.  OPM Disability retirement under FERS or CSRS pays much less, but it allows for independence and a semblence of freedom, not even to mention a life of some dignity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Agency Supervisors & Their Responsibility

Agency Supervisors possess powers which can be easily misused. As such, the Supervisor who must fill out a Supervisor’s Statement — Standard Form 3112B — for the disability retirement applicant, must do so with care, integrity, and a sense of reasoned perspective and fairness. “But I’m only telling the truth of what I believe,” is often the justification of a Supervisor who deliberately inserts damaging, self-serving and derogatory remarks on the Supervisor’s Statement. But such “truth” goes beyond the proper role of a Supervisor. Indeed, it is often helpful to discuss the content of intended remarks and statements with the Federal or Postal employee first. Such consultation provides a true and balanced opportunity — a field of fairness and a reasoned perspective — to ensure that a Supervisor is indeed being fair, balanced, and neutral, and not allowing for any personal “feelings” of acrimony or animosity to dilute and pollute a fair appraisal of an employee’s performance, conduct, and impact upon the Agency’s purpose, mission, and goals intended and accomplished. For, ultimately, a Supervisor’s Statement is not about what a Supervisor’s “belief” is; it is not about whether the Supervisor likes or dislikes a Federal or Postal employee; rather, it is supposed to be a balanced, objective perspective delineating the impact of a Federal or Postal employee’s performance or conduct, relative to his or her medical condition and the ability of that employee to perform the essential elements of a job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability: The Disabled Federal and Postal Worker

As with most attorneys, I try to maintain an appearance of detached professionalism. It is my job to provide sound legal advice; to guide the client/disability retirement applicant with logical argumentation, rational perspective, and legal foundations as to the strength or weakness of a case, and to guide my client over obstacles, around legal landmines, and through the briars and thickets of “the law”. I try to remain aloof from the inherent emotionalism which arises from the human story of my clients, because not to do so would be to defeat the essence of why a client hires me: to maintain and retain an objective perspective, in order to provide the best legal advice possible. However, to maintain that wall of professionalism is not always possible.

The human story of the Federal and Postal employee is indeed one of encompassing a juggernaut of loyalty, professionalism, dedication, hard work, and the driving force behind and undergirding the economic might of the United States. Yes, of course the United States is built upon the economic principles of the free market system of the private sector; but the services which the government provides are not accomplished by some faceless or nameless entity; each such service — from the letter carrier through “rain, sleet or snow”, to the Special Agents who investigate and put criminals behind bars; from the border patrol agents who guard our security, to the IT Specialist who safeguards our internet viability — is provided by a competent and dedicated worker. That is why I am often humbled by my clients; because, truth be known, the disability retirement applicants who come to me have come to a point with his or her medical condition, where there is no other choice. It is never a question of dedication or hard work; the Federal and Postal Worker has already proven his or her dedication and hard work through the decades of service provided, prior to coming to me.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire