Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Recesses and Misguided Perspectives

Plato’s recognition of how perceptual fallacies occur became an incentive for his philosophical quest to unravel the essence of a thing, in contrast to the accidental qualities which may present themselves in their visual appearance. But misjudgments concerning what a thing “is” can occur not just because of visual disturbances; they can also result from subconscious misconceptions working in the far recesses of the mind, through isolation and fear.

Such an addition to the general philosophical inquiry would not progress until many centuries later, with the advent of Freud, Jung, psychology, and the recognition of the complexity of the human condition.  Indeed, the turmoil of human beings, especially in their interaction with relational issues, compounded in the workplace, the stresses of finance and the inability to make self-preserving decisions, often results from isolation and lack of proper guidance.  Guidance is part of the key to a release from worry, anxiety and effective decision-making.

For Federal or Postal employees who suffer from a compendium of complex medical conditions, including physical pain, psychiatric devastation from Major Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD; from profound exhaustion and fatigue; the medical condition itself may prevent one from tapping into the far recesses of one’s psyche in order to come to a proper decision on matters of great importance.

Federal Disability Retirement is an option which allows for the Federal or Postal employee to reach a point of restorative quietude away from the requirements of employment burdens, in order to seek the medical help necessary.  It does not require a standard of “total disability”, but merely one of proving that the Federal or Postal employee can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  It must be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and thus is not a determination made by one’s own agency.

Isolation, fear, and the dangers of misguided perspectives which arise from the dark recesses of one’s mind — they must be counteracted by having a clarity of purpose, direction, and goals which provide for a brighter tomorrow.  If the rise of psychology does not accomplish this, then what good does it portend?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Wait-time Extended

The time which takes from the assignment of a case number in Boyers, PA, to a decision rendered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., has been extended.

Recent articles regarding this issue have been slow to reveal the underpinnings of this growing problem, but the coalescence of multiple factors is making for a mini “perfect storm” of sorts, including:  Budget cuts which have forced disallowance of overtime and further hiring of additional workers; slow response to a progressively impending problem in the past couple of years; the threat of furloughs which restricts options available for OPM to respond; internal moving of offices within the same building at OPM.

Service is the essence of the function of government; when the essential function of government begins to disintegrate, it becomes a reflection on a growing, greater problem.  For Federal and Postal workers who have worked tirelessly towards their day of retirement, and for those Federal and Postal Workers who have been hit with a medical condition such that Federal Disability Retirement benefits is an option which must be relied upon, any extension of time in processing the application for disability retirement is an added burden which places great financial and emotional pressure upon an already-dire circumstance.

Fair or not, the reality of an administrative nightmare is steadily growing.

The good news is that there is such an option as Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and one which is a progressive paradigm for a society which understands that medical conditions may impact the Federal or Postal Worker, but that such medical conditions need not mean that a person is totally disabled — merely that there is an inconsistency between one’s position and one’s medical condition.

The bad news is that the wait-time to obtain such benefits has been somewhat extended.  The solution?  Only that filing sooner than later will place one in the proverbial line of the bureaucratic turmoil, only to slowly march forward towards the desired end.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Doctors and the Peculiarities of Treatment

Efficacy of treatment is the goal for a doctor; and upon information that such efficacy has failed to render improvement or incremental signs of progress, many doctors lose interest, or become suspicious.

Social Security Disability, of course, requires a higher standard of proof — one of essentially “total disability”, where one is no longer able to engage in “substantially gainful activity” — and, as such, is an implicit admission of medical failure.

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement, however, is merely an acknowledgement that there are certain medical conditions which, limited in their scope and impact, prevent a person from performing one or more of the essential elements of a particular kind of job.  Such a person who goes out on Federal Disability Retirement benefits can still remain productive in the work-world, by pursuing another, different kind of vocation.

As such, from a medical point of view, conveying the distinction between the two is like the difference between identifying a hill as opposed to a mountain:  both may have some elevation, but the extent and scope between the two goes well beyond a linguistic peculiarity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Price One Pays

One hears the familiar refrain:  trying to “game” the system; taking handouts; being on the government’s dole; and multiple similar allegations and assumptions.  Perhaps there are some who receive benefits which may be considered welfare-type compensation; and, maybe there are those who attempt to obtain something for nothing — or very little.  But one must be firm in making the conceptual distinction between those “others” and Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

First, the Federal and Postal employee works — and works hard and long hours.  Second, Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit which is part of the total compensation package for the Federal or Postal employee.  Third, Federal Disability Retirement pays a pittance in comparison with the compensatory standard of living which the Federal or Postal employee has been used to, and no sane person would take a voluntary reduction of one’s livelihood merely to get on the “dole”.  Fourth, many — if not most — of those who receive Federal Disability Retirement benefits pay back into the system, by getting a part-time or full-time job in another vocation, thereby paying taxes, FICA, etc.  And Fifth, it is the Federal Disability Retirement annuitant who is the one who pays the price — by having endured the repetitive work to such an extent that he or she has become debilitated; or withstood the abusive mental and physical requirements of one’s position which ultimately necessitated the drastic reduction in pay and forced to take a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.

It is the one who must pay the price — the Federal and Postal employee — who should be complaining; those who stand on the sidelines merely utter words.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: 80% Rule

Around this time of year, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sends out their Disability Earnings Survey to all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement Annuitants, to determine what earned income was obtained by the Federal or Postal Annuitant.  It is a simple form and should be completed and returned, and will not impact one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit so long as one has remained under the 80% cap.

Now, as to determining how the Office of Personnel Management determines what is the “true” 80% cap, is another matter.  There have been wide discrepancies between OPM’s determination and the Federal or Postal annuitant’s assertion as to what the “current pay” of a former position is, or should be.  That is entirely a different area of law which the undersigned writer does not become involved in.

However, the wisest thing to do, unless one desires to become engaged in a continuing, protracted battle with the Office of Personnel Management, is to calculate the amount as conservatively as possible, and to take the lower amount and remain well under 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.  While this is sometimes difficult, remember that the benefits of retaining one’s Federal Disability Retirement annuity — of continuing Health Insurance Benefits, to name one — makes it worthwhile.  For, ultimately, one is potentially making 120% of what one was making before (80% of what one’s former position currently pays, plus the 40% of annuity).

Stay close to making 100%, if possible, and that will avoid future headaches.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Preparation — like a Black Friday Event

Black Friday” is a term which represents the concept of frenzied action, of waiting for the gates of hell to release the mass exodus of rationality, unleashed for the treadmill of buying, “saving” money by spending it, and furthering the cause of economic activity for the short term by exponentially expanding the debt-ceiling and widening the correlative concepts of debt, credit, and money-supply.

It is an apt metaphor for the way in which life is generally lived; and, further, it is an allegory for how Federal and Postal workers who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirements benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, must conduct their day to day lives while working with a serious and impending medical condition.  For, despite the clear and counterintuitive nature of continuing to work with a medical condition which feeds upon itself by progressively worsening and becoming more and more debilitating, exacerbated by the very work which is engaged in; and despite the obvious sense that Federal Disability Retirement benefits will provide the necessary relief in order for the Federal or Postal employee to reach a level of functionality such that the progressiveness of the medical decline will be stunted; nevertheless, it is the nature of man to work, and continue to work, at a job which is destructive to one’s health, because that is what the masses of activity-driven society (similar to the shoppers out and about on Black Friday) requires and mandates.

Federal Disability Retirement from the Office of Personnel Management is a benefit which is accorded to all Federal and Postal employees, as part of the entirety of one’s compensation package, which allows for an annuity based upon one’s average of the highest-3 consecutive years of service, a time of recuperation, and the potential to still participate in the economy of this country by being allowed to make up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal salary presently pays.  It is a thought which should be grasped, and paused for — just prior to those gates of frenzied action being opened.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Qualifying Medical Condition

The question is often asked, “Does my medical condition qualify for Federal Disability Retirement?”, or some variation of that question.  

Such a question, of course, in order to “make sense” in the context of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, must be reformulated, precisely because the manner in which it is posed produces multiple sub-questions.  For, ultimately, the laws and regulations governing Federal Disability Retirement do not provide for a calculus of a mathematical correspondence, where medical condition X is considered a “qualifying” one, whereas medical condition Y fails to meet such a qualification criteria.  

The sub-questions which are immediately necessitated by the originating question, involve multiple factors:  Does the medical condition you suffer from impact your ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of your job?  In what way?  Can you describe how the medical condition impacts your ability to perform your job?  Are you being medically treated for your medical condition?  Will the doctor support you in your quest and application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?

Take, for instance, the following “extreme” hypothetical, used for purposes of expanding upon the previous conceptual paradigm:  Question:  Does my aching right thumb qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?  Answer:  Normally not.  Sub-question:  If my job requires the constant and repetitive use of my right thumb, and such use is an essential element of my job, can my aching right thumb qualify me for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS?  Answer:  In all likelihood, yes.  

Often, it is the right question asked, and not the answer to the original question, which is the important starting point of the process in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: No Need for an Apology

Federal Disability Retirement benefits exist for Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS or CSRS, for two primary purposes:  (A)  to allow a Federal or Postal employee who has a medical condition which prevents him or her from performing all of the essential elements of his or her job, to receive an annuity because of one’s service to the Federal Sector, based upon minimum qualification criteria (18 months of Federal Service under FERS; 5 years under CSRS) and (B) to encourage that Federal or Postal employee to continue to contribute in the private sector, but working at some other job, and begin a “second” career, if possible.

It is not an entitlement; it is a benefit which is progressive in the sense that it recognizes a compassionate need to compensate in return for the many years that the Federal or Postal employee has contributed to the work force, as well as recognizing the intelligent paradigm of encouraging continuing contribution in a different career path.  Most Federal and Postal employees do not “want” to file for, or become eligible to receive, Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS.

It is not a “choice”.  Rather, most Federal and Postal employees, after many, many years of service, have come to a point of recognition in both the extent, severity and chronicity of their medical conditions, as well as the progressively deteriorating impact upon his or her ability to perform all of the essential elements of the job, that continuing in the same daily struggle with life is inconsistent with retention and continuation in the Federal Service.

It is a benefit which is part of the total compensation package that one signed onto when one became a Federal or Postal employee.  No apologies are needed to file for the medical benefit; it is merely the consummation of a contract, agreed to and signed for at the beginning of one’s career.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Inherent Complexities

It is often asked why filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is more complex, and therefor often more difficult to obtain, than (for example) Social Security Disability, or even Federal Worker’s Comp.  The simple answer is that one cannot compare apples and oranges (to quote an oft-used metaphor), but the greater inherent complexity of answering such a question involves more space than can be allotted here.

Social Security Disability, of course, has a higher standard of eligibility.  In abbreviated explanation, this means that one must essentially be “totally disabled” in order to qualify for Social Security Disability, as opposed to the “lower” legal standard of being “unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job”.  Thus, Social Security Disability cuts a wider swathe, and is generally considered to require a more onerous standard, and the resulting benefit reflects that — by allowing for restrictive ability to earn outside income, etc.  

 Worker’s Comp (OWCP, FECA/Department of Labor) is also complex in its own way, precisely because it requires a showing of occupational connection, or that the injury or medical condition was “on the job” or somehow caused by the job, the workplace, etc.  Then, its reliance upon percentage of disability, and the fact that it is not a retirement system, but a temporary mode of compensation in attempting to return the Federal or Postal Worker back to work, further contains multiple complex issues.  

Often, when a law attempts to particularize a benefit — as in Federal Disability Retirement — by focusing narrowly upon an issue (e.g., being unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s particular kind of job, or any similar job), such a narrow focus creates an inherent complexity all on its own. Complexity of an issue requires a careful and studied approach; to conquer an issue, it is important to expend a great amount of time reflecting upon and scrutinizing the issue. It is only upon understanding an issue thoroughly that the complexity begins to unravel; and only then can one begin to proceed to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire