OPM Disability Retirement: Daylight Savings and First Light of Dawn

No matter our technological prowess, the attempt to distance ourselves from biological determinism fails at its most basic elements:  by most accounts, the simple change of moving the clock forward (or backward, when once Fall comes again) completely disrupts our connection to nature and the environment which we strive so hard to detach ourselves from.

We like to think that the artificial world which we have created, of imposing structures destroying and subjugating the natural elements, with allowance for a few trees spotting the proverbial jungle of our antiseptic existence, separates us and distinguishes our kind from other species.  But somehow the simple and artificial act of changing the appearance of time interrupts our biological rhythm for days and weeks, only to repeat the cycle again in the Fall.

Similarly, despite our reliance upon light bulbs and artificial illuminating devices, there is something strikingly different about the first light of dawn, with that shimmering brightness breaking open the chasm of darkness.  Lights created of man have certainly advanced civilization; but the sunlight of dawn is an irreplaceable phenomena of pure enjoyment.  That is why we have such metaphors as, “light at the end of the tunnel” which, by the way, is normally meant natural sunlight, and not a lamp post illuminating the street.

The first light of dawn is akin to hope for the future, and for Federal and Postal employees who suffer from medical conditions, such that the medical conditions impact one’s future by preventing one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, often the only metaphorical light at the end of one’s traveled tunnel is to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Such an action allows the Federal and Postal employee to attain a foundational element of financial security, but more importantly, to have the interlude to attend to one’s medical conditions.

Medical conditions, like daylight savings, clearly interrupt the natural and biological rhythm of Man; but like the first light of dawn, it is up to us to find a path back to the natural order of things.

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

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: A Thoughtful Paradigm

Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a well-thought out paradigm of benefits for two primary reasons:  (1)  First, because it allows for a base annuity for those productive workers who are no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, and allows the Federal or Postal Worker who is disabled to have a period of time in which to recuperate and tend to the medical needs in order to regain his or her strength, energy, abilities, etc. — physical, emotional, cognitive or otherwise; and (2) Second, because it allows for the Federal or Postal Worker to become a productive member of society in a different, “other” job.  

While many may be concerned that, in this regressive economy, the prospect of obtaining another job may be severely limited, such an approach is short-sighted.  The economy will rebound; opportunities will arise as various economic sectors adjust to changing circumstances; and during the entire process, the Federal or Postal Worker who is on Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management will be able to receive a base annuity in order to recuperate from the medical condition.  

All said, the alternative prior to the Federal Disability Retirement benefit becoming law was bleak and short-sighted:  to terminate the unproductive Federal or Postal employee, and let him or her go out to deal with loss of job, loss of income, loss of medical insurance — on top of the medical condition which forced the Federal or Postal Worker out in the first place.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The 80% Rule

I recently wrote an article on FedSmith.com concerning the legal process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and a reader posted a comment implying and suggesting a lack of understanding about a benefit which would allow for payment of 40% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years, and in addition, to allow for that annuitant to make up to 80% of what the former federal position currently pays.

I beg to differ. The purpose of allowing an annuitant to potentially go out and earn additional compensation in the private sector are multi-fold: it allows for an individual to remain productive; he or she continues to contribute in the workforce and, as a consequence, pays taxes, FICA, etc.; the amount of 40% (after the first year) is an incentive to go out and do something else. Further, Federal Disability Retirement benefits are part of a compensation package offered to a Federal or Postal employee — it is part of the total employment package, and there is certainly nothing wrong with taking advantage of that employment benefit if and when the need arises. The truth is that most people don’t get anywhere near the 80% mark, but hover closer to the 40 – 50% mark, and together with the disability annuity, are able to make a decent living. All in all, the 80% rule is a smart and thoughtful incentive for those who are disabled.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Freedom of Retirement

In this tough economy, many people are rightly concerned that, upon an approval for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, that it will be difficult to “make up” the income with another job, even though a person under Federal Disability Retirement can earn up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal position currently pays.  Yes, it can be tough; yes, the economy is a concern; but recessions ultimately come to an end, and while a job to make up the severe pay-cut may be long in coming, self-employment, to begin a start-up business, or to work part-time is often an excellent opportunity.  Unlike having the larger percentage of pay under OWCP-DOL benefits, a disability retirement annuity under FERS or CSRS is indeed a greater pay-cut.  But salary is not everything; the freedom of retirement, the ability to determine one’s future, and not be under the constant and close scrutiny of Worker’s Comp, accounts for much.  Where some see a severe pay-cut, others see as an opportunity to begin a second career.  And the price of freedom from those onerous fiefdoms of federal agencies is often better health, and greater enjoyment of one’s freedom and retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire