FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: OWCP Dilemma

Benefits received through FECA (Federal Employees’ Compensation Act), administered through the Department of Labor and otherwise known under the acronym of OWCP, provide for temporary total disability compensation during the time that a Federal or Postal employee is injured and is unable to go back to one’s former job.

It pays well.  The problem, often, however, is that it pays well enough just to maintain a person to prevent him or her from drowning.  This dilemma is highlighted by the fact that a Federal or Postal employee who is receiving OWCP benefits (scheduled awards excepted) is unable to work at a job (with some exceptions regarding a person who had already been employed at a second job when injured at his primary vocation) or receive additional earned income.

Federal Disability Retirement benefits, on the other hand, whether under FERS or CSRS, allows for earned income up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.

While the Federal or Postal worker is allowed to concurrently file for, and get approved, both Federal OWCP benefits as well as FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement benefits, if both are approved, you must choose between one or the other approved benefit, and allow the unchosen one to remain inactive.

While FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement benefits, filed and obtained through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, pays less than OWCP benefits, it is the added advantage of being able to work at another vocation which makes it more attractive.

It is like the difference between a shipwrecked victim who can hang onto a small floating device as opposed to a raft with oars; while the former allows for survival, it is the latter which will ultimately take one to the destination of final fruition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Verification Process

The process for verifying information is a procedural matter which is applied with a systematic methodology.  Verification is essentially a comparative analysis — comparing what is said in one sector of information, with claims made in another.  Consistency of information and claims is therefore what is crucial.  This general overview is applicable in nearly all areas — of law, of marketing, of scholarly endeavors, etc.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to maintain a consistency of claims and assertions.  Thus, there should be a logical and sequential order in the approach of putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application.  What is so surprising is how many Federal and Postal employees filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits will prepare and submit an Applicant’s Statement of Disability independent of a written medical report from one’s treating doctor.  

Assumptions and presumptions should be avoided at all costs (yes, and the cost of assuming or presuming can be high, indeed, with the consequence of a denial from OPM).  Of course, consistency and verification of information is applicable not only in the preparation of a Federal Disability Retirement application — the same methodology of verification should be applied as to claims by those who represent Federal and Postal employees.  

There is a lot of information “out there”, but whether and to what extent such information is accurate, useable, or even relevant, is a question to be asked and answered by the Federal or Postal employee preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Sources and Information

George Orwell’s classic work, 1984, depicts a society in which the gradual, systematic reduction of words, and therefore the availability of the use of words, is deliberately restricted and expunged from the universe of vocabulary.  Such reduction is performed through the issuance of the official dictionary, which comprises the totality of acceptability of language in his fictionalized society.

As words and the compendium of words comprise conceptual thought; as conceptual thought form to create ideas in a universe of human consciousness; and as rebellion is acted upon through the prefatory coordination of thought, so the stamping out of rebellious-driven words is the first step towards total control of man.

Orwell’s approach is interesting, but not the only way in which to control the populace.  The inverse approach is also as effective, if not more so: inundation of information can also paralyze a population from effective action.  In the real society of our age, the vast expanse of information has become the problem, not the lack thereof.

In preparing, formulating, and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to distinguish between information which is third or fourth hand (as in, “I was told that…” or, “A friend of mine said…”), and information which is accurate and of a reliable nature.  Further, each case is different and unique, and stories about what X did, or the fact that Y was told that a Federal or Postal Worker got Z, should ultimately be discounted.

Vast information in and of itself is worthless unless it is guided by truth, objectivity, and relevance.  Be aware of the unfettered information “out there”, for the source of information is just as important as the accuracy of such information.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the Federal and Postal employee must always be cautious of the source of any and all information.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Disparate Information in a Disability Retirement Application

The difference between success and an almost-successful endeavor is normally not based upon the information available, but rather, the effective use of the available information.  Just as most “secrets” are neither hidden nor unknown, but rather depend upon who knows it, how it is used, and when it is acquired; similarly, the availability of information disseminated throughout our lives — via the internet, through publications, through media outlets, etc. — is generally not the basis for success.  Disparate information compiled in a bulk bound conglomeration is normally not an effective way of presenting something.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to go beyond mere compiling of information and data in presenting one’s case to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Remember that Federal Disability Retirement is not an entitlement; rather, it is a benefit which is available upon proving one’s case.  Proof of a case depends upon multiple factors: indeed, the Office of Personnel Management will often state the following in denying a Federal Disability Retirement application:  “The mere fact that you have a medical condition does not mean that you are eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.”

The existence of a medical condition is a necessary requirement; facts supporting one’s case can be persuasive; the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement and the eligibility criteria should be cited; the nexus between one’s Federal and Postal position and the medical condition should be established; then, beyond each of the disparate informational islands, a coordination of the information is necessary. For that, an approach which involves a paradigm of how one should win a case is important.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Shifting Paradigms

Inquiries concerning Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether a Federal or Postal worker is eligible, the eligibility criteria which is applied; the process itself; questions concerning the lengthiness of the process; leave issues; agency actions pending or already initiated; these are all legitimate questions which should be asked and answered.  

In approaching Federal Disability Retirement issues, however, and inquiring about the potential benefits and resolution of issues, often the Federal or Postal employee begins with a paradigm of understanding, and it is often difficult for the inquiring Federal or Postal employee to “shift off” of the original paradigm in order to understand the paradigm which forms the basis of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Whether it is because the information previously gathered is about the Office of Worker’s Compensation, Department of Labor benefits; or whether it is the confusion of having to file, at some point in the process, for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits; or, as more often than not, the underlying reason is based upon mis-information gathered and received from other sources which are inherently unreliable, it often takes several different answers to the same question before a paradigm shift occurs.  

The best way to approach Federal Disability Retirement questions is to first engage in some initial research.  Get on various websites which discuss the issues.  Read some of the reader’s comments and input.  Compare the information with other information from multiple sources.  Then, begin to formulate and construct a “paradigm” of facts, and make the telephone call to the source which provides the most reliable information.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: OWCP Acceptance & Federal Disability Retirement

Case acceptance by the Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (DOL/OWCP) makes it easier for the Agency to make a determination on issues of accommodation, which is one of the elements which must be established in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  

On the one hand, when a Federal employee has been deemed to be “permanent and stationary”, the issue as to whether or not the Agency can reassign the Federal employee, or accommodate him such that the employee can continue to perform all of the essential elements of his or her job, can be easily established, in conjunction with and through the cooperation of a case manager from OWCP.  But even a modified job does not preclude an employee from filing for, and being eligible for, Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, precisely because such a modified or “light duty” job is not a permanent position, but rather an ad hoc set of duties as described in the prevailing case of Bracey v. OPM.

On the other hand, when a Federal or Postal employee has been accepted by OWCP and placed on “temporary total disability” — even if the “temporary” nature of such compensation continues on and on for many years — then it makes it easy for the Agency to simply forget about the employee and not even search to see if accommodating the individual is even possible.  

Thus, being placed on OWCP often makes it a simple administrative matter for the Agency.  No accommodations need to be searched for, and the Agency can move on, leaving the Federal or Postal employee in perpetual limbo.  

Concomitantly, however, for the Federal or Postal employee, the fact that one’s medical condition has been accepted by OWCP/DOL can be used as one element to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, to show that being on OWCP has some evidentiary weight that (A) the Agency is unable to accommodate the Federal or Postal worker, and (B) that there is persuasive evidence that another Federal Agency has determined that the Federal or Postal employee is disabled, and (C) that receiving temporary total disability is an indicator that one is unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  

Nevertheless, beyond the proof of acceptance by OWCP, the Federal or Postal employee must still affirmatively prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the medical evidence proves that one is unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job. Being on OWCP may have some minimal persuasive impact; it is still up to the Federal or Postal employee who is preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application that he or she is eligible for the benefit.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Problem with OWCP

Agencies which have employees who cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job will often encourage him or her to file for Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Program benefits (DOL/OWCP), if the injury or medical condition occurred as a result of an on-the-job incident, or can be shown to have an occupational cause.

That is fine, so far as it goes.  For, OWCP is set up with the intent of addressing those medical conditions and issues which are work-related.  However, when agencies begin to use OWCP as the dumping ground for workers they don’t believe are fully productive, it becomes a problem because OWCP is not intended for long-term compensation, but merely a venue in order to compensate a Federal or Postal employee for a temporary time in order for the worker to recuperate from his or her medical condition or injury, then to return to full duty.  It is not meant to be a retirement system.

Further, it only compensates for those injuries which are causally related to the workplace.  As a dumping ground, it makes it easier for the Federal agency or Postal Service to deny the ability to accommodate the Federal or Postal Worker, or to reassign the individual, and instead to provide the proper forms to file for Workers’ Compensation benefits.  This doesn’t mean, however, that OWCP will accept the claim, either as an original claim or as a recurrence.  OWCP is not a retirement system.  

On the other hand, OPM Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is meant to compensate Federal or Postal employees who have a long-term medical condition.  If the agency cannot accommodate the disabled Federal or Postal Worker, that is an option to be considered.  If you are “unwanted” — and the agency shows every inclination of that — it may be time to consider the option of Federal Disability Retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire