Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Interruption or Interlude

Life is full of interruptions which push the pause button upon our grand designs for linear progression; how we view such events, whether as something bothersome, or as a respite and opportunity, a platform for the next stage of life, will determine the extent of character-building foundations needed to forge forward.  Taking care of aging parents is now considered a bother, and not a privilege; mentoring a young person just beginning in a chosen career is seen as a predatory challenge, as opposed to a chance to mold for the future; and revealing a fissure in the otherwise impenetrable public face of constancy is a chance to take advantage of the weakness of the opponent.

How one views a particular event; whether it is seen in the best light possible and anticipated for lessons to be learned; or instead, as a crisis point of quashing all hope for the future, never to be spoken about because of the devastation wrought, reflects both upon the present state of one’s character, as well as the potential for the future. Things are merely bothersome to us, now. Perhaps it is the result of a leisure society, where things once earned are now expected as givens; or, of greater probability, that the antiseptic isolation of our society engenders a certain aura of incomprehensible turmoil.

For Federal and Postal Workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, Federal Disability Retirement should be considered as a viable option. Filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (and available to all eligible Federal and Postal employees who meet the minimum criteria of years of Federal service), it should be considered precisely for two (or more) reasons. First, it allows for a foundational annuity in order for one to move forward with one’s life. Second, it allows for the Federal and Postal employee to embark on a second vocation, and make up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal job currently pays, on top of the base annuity.

As such, there is a built-in mechanism which recognizes that the event of a medical condition is not merely an interruption, but an interlude for the second and subsequent stages of a person’s life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Universe of the Possible (Part II of II)

When avenues are closed off, the human psyche tends to shut down; and when grounds manifest fertile regeneration and bountiful splendor, the endless state of the possible opens like the gaping eyes of a child in excitable wonderment.  That is why internet companies attempt to artificially recreate atmospheres of creativity and prior glory days of unbounded imaginations.  But whether simulating a couch plopped in one’s basement or garage, and making it appear as if the environment is similar to those past dawns of tinkering with one’s imagination in the unheated, primitive conditions of one’s youth, is questionable.

For the Federal and Postal employee who is faced initially with a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to continue in the vocation and career choice of one’s following, the limitations which the present condition places upon one’s future often seems daunting.

But there are options available.

Federal Disability Retirement allows for those options to open up; for, once the Federal or Postal employee obtains an approval for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, that (now former) Federal or Postal employee may go out into the private sector and earn up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays, on top of the Federal Disability annuity. Many start their own businesses; others perform consultative work or work part time, thereby controlling the stresses and the extent of activity able to be tolerated within the restrictions of one’s medical conditions.

The avenue of the possible can only reopen once you recognize the reality of the probable; and in order to tap into the fertile imaginations of a brighter future, the roadblocks once observed must be moved in order to travel down the path of viable alternative routes.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Moving beyond the Stagnant Waters of OWCP

“Is it possible…” is an impossible question to answer.  For, the conceptual distinction between that which is possible, as opposed to probable, is one which reveals the chasm between the world of fantasy and one of reality.  The world of the “possible” is unconstrained and unbounded; the world of probable occurrences may be fenced in by statistical constructs, actual circumstances, and real-world experiences.

While it is possible to stay on OWCP for a long duration, it is also probable that OWCP will cut off one’s benefits at some future, undetermined and unexpected time.  Thus, for the Federal or Postal employee who is on, has been on, or even is contemplating filing for, OWCP/FECA benefits because of a work-related injury, the benefit itself is attractive enough to remain on the rolls of OWCP until such time as (A) the Federal or Postal employee can return back to work, (B) the Federal or Postal Worker is deemed recovered, and the OWCP benefits are cut off, or (C) the Federal or Postal Worker decides to “move on” in life.

The first two choices are essentially out of the arena of “control” of the Federal or Postal employee, for one cannot determine or expedite the recovery period of a medical condition, and further, only the doctor (or its surrogate, the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs) can determine whether or not the Federal or Postal work is now recovered.  As for the last choice, however, it is the Federal or Postal worker who can make the determination — especially if one has already gotten an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

OWCP is not a retirement system; one cannot work at another job while on OWCP; one must sit and do what the OWCP case worker tells you to do.  It is only with Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, that one can actually engage in another, alternative vocation or career, and begin to move on in life, and become released from the stagnant waters of a constraining medical condition — or that of OWCP.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The 80% Rule

When a Federal or Postal employee files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and obtains an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, under FERS he or she will receive 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of pay, then 40% every year thereafter until age 62, at which point the disability annuity is recalculated based upon the total number of years of Federal Service, including those years that the disability retirement annuitant has been on Federal Disability Retirement.  Thereafter, the now “former” Federal or Postal employee has the capability to work at another, private-sector job, and earn up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal job currently pays, on top of the disability annuity that one is receiving.

While some may wonder whether this is a “fair” benefit, especially in these trying economic times, it might be wiser to consider whether or not it is prudent to consider the economic incentives inherent in such a system.  For, by allowing for the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement annuitant to go out and attempt to earn income in another, different kind of job, it allows for continuing productivity, payment of taxes and FICA back into the “system”, as opposed to limiting the individual to merely receiving a government benefit. As all of “economics” is ultimately based upon incentives to the working population in order to encourage a system of the highest extent of productivity, this system creates an economic incentive to those who are merely disabled from performing a certain kind of job.  They can continue to remain productive — just in a different kind of job from the one in which he or she is disabled.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Right Questions

Often, a person who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS doesn’t know the “right question” to ask in order to make a proper decision.  Because a medical condition often leaves a person with daily and profound fatigue  (both physical and cognitive), it is enough just to get through the day, come home and attempt to recuperate and regain enough strength to try and make it back to work the next day.  Then, of course, there are the financial worries — whether or not the disability annuity will be enough to support a family; whether a person will be able to supplement his or her income with a part-time job in this tough economy; or whether Social Security Disability benefits can be approved and, even with the offset, allow for enough income for some semblence of financial security. 

All of these questions — or concerns — are clearly legitimate ones, and provide a good foundation for determining the viability for filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  But there are others, also:  What will happen if you don’t file for disability retirement benefits?  Will you be placed on a PIP?  Will you receive an unsatisfactory performance rating?  Will you last until retirement age?  If you last until retirement age, will you have the health necessary to enjoy your retirement?  Is it time to start a small business venture in this tough economy, and if so, when the economy begins to recover, will your small business grow with a growing economy?  Will your supervisor support your extended absences or over-use of sick leave for much longer?  Is the work that is getting backed up placing more pressure on you, such that it is exacerbating your medical condition further?  Think through the questions seriously.  It may be time to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement in a Tough Economy

Healthy individuals may wonder why, in such a tough economy, an individual would consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS.  This is an economy which has been shrinking and shedding employees.  Yet, for the Federal or Postal employee whose health and increasingly debilitating medical conditions directly impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, the choice is actually not all that convoluted. 

Where a Federal or Postal employee can no longer perform the job; where sick leave and annual leave have been exhausted to go to doctors’ appointments, or just to stay home to recover enough to make it into the office for another day; or for those who are on LWOP for greater than the time working; in such circumstances, the stark reality is that a disability annuity is better than what the future may offer otherwise.  Removal for unsatisfactory performance; being placed on a PIP; being told that there is no more work at the Postal Service; being counseled for performance issues; these are all indicators of the proper choice to make.

Yes, it is a tougher economy; but when the economy begins to rebound, the first people that private employers turn to hire are those who are essentially independent contractors; and, especially with the looming overhaul of private health insurance, a former government worker who carries his or her own health insurance is, and can be, an attractive worker to a private employer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Initial Step Is the Most Difficult

I find that the initial step in filing for Federal Disability Retirement is the most difficult step for people to take.  It is often a psychological block.  I have spoken on this issue in the past.  For a Federal or Postal worker, especially in these constrained economic times where the job market outside of the Federal Sector appears restrictive, at best, the pressure of one’s medical conditions and the impact upon one’s job, results in an anxiousness when it comes to filing for federal disability retirement under FERS or CSRS.  Certainly, it is a significant pay cut.  Certainly, it is a worry that — although one may be able to make up to 80% of what one’s (former) Federal salary currently pays — it may be that the private sector may not offer the opportunities to make up the difference in the pay cut.  Yet, the choices are often stark and untenable; for, at some point, it becomes clear that one’s medical conditions prevents one from performing the essential elements of the job. 

As such, the only and best choice is to move forward:  in fact, even in this economy, creativity will be rewarded.  Private companies actually find independent contractors who carry his or her own health insurance a plus; part-time work is offered more readily in a bad economy precisely because it allows for companies to obtain necessary work and skills without having to pay the “extra” benefits.  The initial step is the most difficult; after stepping beyond the difficulty, Federal and Postal workers who obtain disability retirement benefits find that there is a different and better future — even in this economy.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire