Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Projecting Forward

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS (while the statutory references and case-laws applying to each retirement system may be different, the basic substantive laws governing each are essentially identical), it is important always to project forward, to prepare for the eventuality, and to consider the options so that events don’t take control, as opposed to the Federal or Postal Worker (to the extent possible) maintaining control of the present and future events as they unfold, with the multiple and varied contingencies which can reasonably be predicted.  

For instance, upon an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management, the rate of annuity compensation begins at 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of service.  That first year, then, should be looked upon as a “transition” period for the Federal or Postal worker — with the full knowledge that in the following and subsequent years, the annuity will drop down to (and remain until age 62, when the disability retirement annuity becomes recalculated and converted administratively into a regular retirement, based upon the total number of years of Federal service, including the time on Federal Disability Retirement) to 40% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of pay.  

That being said, viewing the first year of annuity payments as a “transition” year means that one should be projecting forward as to what one will do in the following and subsequent years.  What kind of work will one do?  How will you make up the difference and reduction in annuity payments?  What preparations are or will be made for the reduction?  Will supplemental income be needed?  Will it be part-time or full-time?  What is the maximum allowable earned income which one can receive?  These are all transition questions which are important in planning for the projected future, forward.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Planning Ahead for a Better Future

Ultimately, when the time comes for a Federal or Postal employee to begin to think about preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is both the beginning of a long administrative process, as well as the endpoint of a long period of reflection (hopefully), preparation (a necessity), and enduring of a medical condition (which has eventually transitioned into a state of chronic medical condition or a progressively deteriorating condition, but in any event one which has lasted or will last a minimum of 12 months, which is the legal requirement under FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement).

Thus, the point of the decision is a critical juncture in a Federal or Postal worker’s life, precisely because it marks both the end of a productive career, as well as a beginning of a process.  However, just to think in terms of the two points of the process — the end of a career and the beginning of a long administrative process — would be to fail to look beyond the obtaining of Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

For, the truth of the matter is that there is “life beyond” obtaining a Federal Disability Retirement annuity, and indeed, there is an incentive for a former Federal or Postal worker who is receiving a Federal Disability Retirement annuity to become productive in another capacity, in the private sector.  The next stage of life is often the more critical period of one’s life.  Reflection on that “next stage” is something worthwhile to think about.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Preparing for the Future

The problem of a “good worker” is that they rarely prepare for a future in which he or she is not as productive as in the present time.  Good workers don’t think in terms of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and instead plow ahead despite the medical condition(s) , the pain, discomfort, or other signs of impending future consequences.

Federal and Postal employees work hard on a daily basis; many continue to work through their medical conditions, despite signs that they should heed, and despite warnings and protestations from their treating doctors.  Yet, preparation and groundwork for a potential Federal Disability Retirement applicant is often helpful.

Some simple tips:  Don’t try and mask or hide the symptoms of a medical disability or condition from your doctor.  It is important for the doctor to annotate such complaints or symptoms which have manifested themselves, first for purposes of treatment, and secondarily for purposes of establishing a history of the condition.

Further, don’t think that hard work in and of itself will engender irreversible loyalty from your Agency.  If a future time comes when you need the support of your Agency in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, don’t expect the Agency to suddenly show an undying sense of loyalty for all of those years of work and sacrifice; more likely, an Agency will show an acute sense of selective amnesia.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Future Reviews

I have had a number of inquiries concerning events which may or may not occur post-approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application, including a Medical Questionnaire or the extent to which Federal authorities may inspect or otherwise monitor a Federal Disability Retirement annuitant.  

First, let me state the obvious:  one should never engage in fraud.  That being said, remember that the benefit of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity under FERS or CSRS overtly encourages that one should remain productive and engaged in the workforce.  Disability Retirement under FERS & CSRS is designed to compensate an individual because of a specific disability from a specific type of job.  It pays less than other forms of compensation (i.e., Worker’s Comp) precisely because it encourages you to go out and find another job in another field, one which may be part-time (and therefore would qualify you because you could not perform a similar job on a full-time basis), or one which may utilize a different set of physical requirements; or one which may be “less intense” than your former Federal or Postal work.  

Sensational stories about Federal or Postal workers who have been arrested because of video-taped evidence of engaging in high-impact sports and recreational activities, or of individuals seen performing physical exertions beyond their “stated medical limitations“, almost always involve OWCP/Worker’s Comp violations.  Under OWCP rules, an individual is receiving “temporary total disability” benefits — and the emphasis must be focused upon the middle word — “Total” — as opposed to a FERS or CSRS Federal Disability Retirement annuitant, who is receiving a retirement benefit based upon his or her medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, and is encouraged and allowed to go out and get another job making up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal Job paid.  There is a vast difference between the two.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire