Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Preserving One’s Rights

Often, loss of vigilance occurs as a result of the relief of attaining something; once gotten, the fight to get it suddenly disappears, and the overwhelming sense of relief is likened to the response of a balloon which deflates upon a pinprick.

But vigilance is the key to ongoing success.  There is never a time to be nonchalant; to attain is merely another step in a process, and that process must be fought for just as diligently as during the time of fighting to reach a goal.

For Federal and Postal workers who are preparing to file, or who are in the process of filing, for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the goal of getting an approval from OPM for a Federal Disability Retirement is merely an intermediate step.  Once attained, the goal is to preserve and to protect.  Fortunately, that is a fairly simple matter — one of maintaining regular contact with one’s doctor; of making sure that one’s doctor will continue to support one’s case in the event that the Federal or Postal annuitant receives a medical questionnaire from OPM.

OPM disability retirement is not like OWCP; because you are allowed to work at other employment and make up to 80% of what your former job currently pays, there is normally nothing wrong with engaging in normal activities which would violate any rules (unlike OWCP cases, where investigators will often videotape individuals to show the engagement of activities contrary to medical restrictions, etc.).  But let not victory lead to lack of continuing vigilance; as that which was won can only be maintained with an attitude similar to keeping to the path which guided one to achieve the goal in the first place.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Continuing Care

A medical condition never has a simple solution; depending upon the nature, extent and severity of the condition, it must be “managed” and attended to throughout one’s life.  Similarly, while “filing” for one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit is an “event” which may constitute a series of actions which results in the “approval” of a Federal benefit, the benefit itself must be “managed” and cared for throughout a process of continuing retentive procedures.

One cannot assume that once the benefit of OPM/Federal Disability Retirement is obtained — given the hard fight which one must engage in — that the process is thereby over.  That is the reason why the foundational building-blocks which form the underlying administrative process — of the decision of which initial medical conditions to include in one’s Statement of Disability; which medical evidentiary documentation to include; how one should linguistically characterize the impact of the medical condition upon one’s job, tasks, positional duties, etc. — is of great importance in establishing the pattern of management for the future.

For, as other issues, both economic and medical, may potentially intrude upon one’s Federal Disability Retirement annuity (i.e., whether one has earned income above or below the 80% rule; whether one has been restored medically such that OPM could argue for termination of one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit, etc.), it is important to maintain a stance of managing one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit throughout one’s life, until one reaches the bifurcation point at age 62 where it becomes “converted” to regular retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Post Disability Retirement Issues

Often, there is a collective sigh of relief once a Federal Disability Retirement application is approved, such that the newly designated and identified Federal Disability Retiree or “annuitant” forgets that, just as it was important to be scrupulously vigilant in attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits, so it is just as essential to remain attentive in maintaining and retaining the benefit itself.

Thus, the Federal Disability Retirement annuitant should presumptively expect to be selected in the future to answer a Medical Questionnaire.  Such presumption of receipt will enable the former Federal or Postal Worker to keep the necessary focus, and thus the benefit.  It will often come every 2 years or so, if at all, and will request an update of the status of the medical condition, the prognosis, and whether the annuitant has recovered sufficiently to return to one’s former job, or any similar job that the Federal Disability Retirement annuitant worked at previously.

It is therefore important to continue to foster, maintain or establish anew the doctor-patient relationship, such that if and when a Medical Questionnaire is received, the entire process does not become an unforeseen emergency.  Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits required a significant investment of one’s energy, time, savings, and attention; vigilance in continuing to retain such a benefit deserves no less.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Listing, Prioritizing and Weaving

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal or Postal employee who is formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability on Standard Form 3112D must describe the medical conditions which will be proven to impact upon one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Submission of the “list” of medical conditions will concretize and place boundaries around the issue to be litigated. Once submitted through the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, then forwarded to Boyers, PA and assigned a CSA Number, the medical conditions described will be the only ones which can be argued.  Further, once a Federal Disability Retirement application is approved, the approval letter will have an attachment which describes and identifies those medical conditions which the Office of Personnel Management found the applicant to be disabled for (is this the feared split infinitive?).

Thus, by way of example, if a Federal or Postal employee filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits based upon medical conditions X, Y and Z, and OPM based its approval only upon medical condition Y, then for any future Medical Questionnaire requesting an updated status on the annuitant’s medical condition, it is only medical condition Y which would be relevant.

As such, in the very preparation of the applicant’s statement of disability, important decisions must be made which will have significant future consequences:  which medical conditions to list; how to prioritize the medical conditions; whether to weave secondary conditions into the applicant’s statement, and to what extent, etc.

While some of the issues will be determined by the medical narrative report(s) prepared by the treating doctors, it is ultimately the responsibility of the Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits — along with his or her attorney — to set the course for future events in a manner which will ensure not only present success, but future security.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire