Federal Disability Retirement: Working while Waiting

The question is often asked whether a Federal or Postal employee is able to, allowed to, or can work, while filing for and awaiting a decision upon, a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management.  The subtle distinctions to be made between “able”, “allowed” and “can”, of course, are done purposefully.  

Within the medical restrictions, condition and extent of severity of the medical conditions, most Federal employees are able to continue to provide some level of productivity within his or her position with the Federal government.  

Whether a Federal or Postal employee is allowed to work while having filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a separate question, but for the most part, agencies allow the employee to continue working — sometimes in a light duty capacity (especially where certain essential elements of the job may pose a danger because of the medical restrictions imposed), but often in a temporarily reduced capacity.  Thus, the “allowed” category is essentially up to each individual and independent agency, but for the most part agencies do allow Federal employees to continue to work.  

The latter distinction — whether a Federal or Postal employee “can” work — is a hybrid of the previous two categories.  Most Federal and Postal employees must work, out of economic necessity, and therefore will force themselves to continue to work as long as possible.  

The Federal or Postal employee who can continue to work, will work, and can do so to the extent that the Federal Agency or the Postal Service will allow the employee to perform some, if not most, of the essential elements of one’s job.  It should be a coordinated effort between the Agency and the employee who has shown his or her loyalty these past many years, but unfortunately such coordination breaks down somewhere during the process.  

During the trying times of preparing, formulating, filing, then waiting for a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the time for an Agency to show that the concept of “loyalty” is a bilateral proposition should surface — if only for the time to complete the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Waiting

Waiting for a decision to be rendered by the Office of Personnel Management for a submitted Federal Disability Retirement application, either at the Initial Stage of the Process, or after filing additional medical documentation and legal arguments at the Reconsideration Stage of the process, can be an agonizing time.  It is easy to say, “Patience is the key“, when each day passes without a word.  A call to the Office of Personnel Management will rarely yield any positive results.  Yes, there are some supervisors and contacts which can be helpful in the process, but ultimately too much undue pressure can sometime backfire.  Is there a statutorily mandated time-frame within which OPM must respond and make a decision?  Normally, they will inform you that they try and make a decision within 90 days of whatever the beginning of the time-frame they ascribe, but it can take much longer.  The key to the entire process is to survive the time of waiting, however long that may take.  Survival is best endured if one recognizes at the beginning of the process, that this is one process which can take a long, long time.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Reminder (Continuing…)

So, how does one determine whether or not it is prudent to go out on LWOP completely, while awaiting for the decision on one’s application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS?  Obviously, the initial criteria to be applied is whether or not you can afford to go out on LWOP.  Economic necessity (aside from considerations of one’s health and medical ability/inability to go to work during the long, drawn-out process) becomes a primary consideration.  If economic necessity dictates continuation of work, then the next question is, would your Agency consider allowing you to work 3 – 4 days a week, and allowing for 1 or 2 days to be taken off with LWOP?  This might be a prudent approach, since any back-pay for the first year, once your Federal Disability Retirement application is approved and payments start, will be paid at 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years.  Thus, mathematically, it would make sense:  a minimum of 3 days of work quantifies to 60% or more, and so you would not be losing anything.  However, if your weekly average falls below the 60%, then you might want to consider going out on LWOP completely (again, only if your personal finances will allow for such).

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Mistakes Made

There is obviously an assumption to be made that if a case is denied at the initial stage of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, that a “mistake” must have been made.  The mistake, then, is given an opportunity to be “corrected” at the Second, or Reconsideration Stage, of the Federal Disability Retirement process.  Further, if the mistake is not properly corrected, or corrected to the satisfaction of the Office of Personnel Management, and it is again denied — at the Reconsideration Stage of the process — then there is the cumulative assumption that further mistakes were made in the application.  Just as success distinguishes between winners and losers, the general assumption is that a denial by the Office of Personnel Management means that there was something inherently wrong with the Federal Disability Retirement application at its inception. 

Yet, if this were true at each turn, for every case, then there would never be a case where, at the Third Stage of the process, in filing an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, that the Representative from the Office of Personnel Management would not reverse a denial and grant the disability retirement after listening to the legal arguments made by the attorney for the applicant.  Many times, it is the pointing out of overlooked aspects of a case which makes the difference between an approval or a denial — and not necessarily something that is inherently wrong, or that a “mistake” was made.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire