CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Agency, FMLA and LWOP

Because filing for Federal Disability Retirement is a process which may take 6 – 8 months, and sometimes longer, there is always the question of what the Agency will do during this time.  Of course, a Federal or Postal employee will often continue to work for as long as possible, and for as many days during each enduring week as possible, in order to survive economically during the process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  The medical condition itself, however, will often dictate the feasibility of attempting to continue to work. 

During this period, a Federal or Postal employee may have limited options — especially when Sick Leave and Annual Leave have been exhausted.  Protection by filing under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will accord temporary protection and a buffer against a demanding agency.  A further request to be placed on LWOP beyond the 12 weeks which FMLA will allow for, will often be granted at the discretion of the Agency. 

If an agency places one in AWOL status, such an action by the Agency should be countered with documentation from one’s doctor which justifies the continued absence of the Federal or Postal employee.  Unfortunately, there is often no clear answer to the question, “What if my agency fails to cooperate while I am filing for Federal Disability Retirement?”  There are only responsive steps to take in order to protect the ultimate goal — that of obtaining an approval from the Office of Personnel Management.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Best Indicator

When is the right time to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS?  Because the process can be a rather lengthy one (6- 8 months minimum from the beginning of the process of gathering the necessary medical documentation, etc., to receipt of an approval letter from the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C.), the question of when to begin the preparation, formulation, and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application may depend upon several factors.  Obviously, a frank discussion with one’s treating doctor is a good starting point.  

As for indicators, only the Federal or Postal employee who is suffering from the particular medical condition can know — either explicitly because of something that happened in the workplace or because of a medical emergency, or implicitly/intuitively.  As for the latter, if a Federal or Postal employee is exhausting his or her Sick Leave and Annual Leave, and is taking LWOP; has filed for FMLA; has been placed on a PIP; or, as is more often the case, is using the evenings and weekends as mere “recovery times” in order to drag one’s self to work, only to continue and perpetuate the vicious cycle of work, deteriorating condition, exhaustion, sleep, work, deteriorating condition … ad nauseum and ad infinitum (or so it would appear), then such an unacceptable condition of existence may be an indicator that it is time to consider formulating, preparing, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Repetitive Reminder

Remember that a FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement application must be filed within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service.  For some odd reason, there is still some prevailing misconception that the 1-year Statute of Limitations begins from either (a) the date of the onset of an injury, (b) from the date one goes out on LWOP, Sick Leave, or some other administrative leave, or (c) from the date that one is no longer able to perform the essential elements of one’s job — or (d) some combination of the three previous dates.

Whether from confusion, misinformation from the Agency, misinterpretation of what information is “out there” or some combination of all three, the Statute of Limitations in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is one (1) year from the date that a Federal or Postal employee is separated from his or her agency, or from the Postal Service.  Inasmuch as a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRs will often taken 6 – 8 months (minimum) to get a decision from the First Stage of the process, it is a good idea to get started earlier, rather than later.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Waiting

It is summertime.  The Office of Personnel Management continues to remain backlogged. The waiting time for approvals continues to be “longer than usual”, but the “usual” in this case seems to be a minimum of 90 – 120 days from the time it is assigned, and it is almost as long for any decision on a Reconsideration decision.  While a periodic call may be made to the Office of Personnel Management, calls of an incessant nature are normally not helpful in obtaining a favorable decision.  Yes, lives are on hold until the Office of Personnel Management makes a decision on a case; yes, the time frame seems arbitrary.  Each case is important; it is better that a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS is properly reviewed; and always remember that it is more beneficial for an approval to emerge from a long wait at the Initial Stage of the process, than for a denial to be issued — which will only mean that one will have to wait through another full stage of the process.  It is this time period — the wait for the decision by the Office of Personnel Management — that is the greatest time of anxiety. And the fact that it is summertime, where temperatures are exceeding 100 degrees in Washington, D.C., doesn’t help matters.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: All Things Equal

Of course, in life, all things are NOT equal. Some cases get approved within a couple of weeks; others, seemingly for months sit on an OPM Representative’s desk, with not even a glance or a reason for the extensive delay. As night approaches, and this area gleams with the white of snow, a virtual dreamland of snow piled feet upon feet; whether Washington, D.C. will even open this week, or enter the week with the “liberal leave” policy; and, yes, of course there is tele-commuting, but the effectiveness of that is also based upon people ultimately coming in for files, additional information, etc. This week, all things are not equal; Washington, D.C. is frozen in time, in weather, and in a beauty of sheer whiteness; in the quietude of nightfall, only the dreams of children and the shrills and shrieks of sleds and snowballs matter; for those who have Federal Disability Retirement applications waiting to be approved by the Office of Personnel Management, patience must still remain a virtue to be sought after.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Time to File

A question often asked is, when is it the right time to file for Disability Retirement? Must you wait until one has been disabled for over a year? Do you have to file for Social Security first, before filing for OPM Disability Retirement? Should the Agency be notified at the beginning of the process, or some time later down the road? What is the best time to approach my doctor about getting his or her support for disability retirement? These are all “timing” questions — each important in its own right, as are all such timing questions.

Since the processing from start to finish, to obtain disability retirement benefits, may take 6 – 8, sometimes 10 months, it must be timed financially — is there enough sick leave, annual leave; should donated leave be requested? Once LWOP is taken, should one remain on LWOP throughout the entire process? As to whether one must wait for a year of being “disabled” before one can file — the answer is “no”. So long as the doctor believes that the medical disability will last for at least a year (within reasonable medical probability), one has the proper medical basis to file for disability retirement. As to filing for Social Security, the Office of Personnel Management actually only needs to see the receipt, showing that one has filed for SSD, at the time of approval of the disability retirement application. And how about notifying the Agency?

This is a question which should be decided after discussion of several factors, with one’s attorney, who may provide for proper legal advice, the potential consequences of informing the Agency, etc. Ultimately, timing questions are a matter of particular importance — particular to the situation and circumstances of each individual case. With that in mind, it is often a good idea to have the counsel of an experienced attorney in the area of Federal Disability Retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Reminder: Statue of Limitations on Filing for FERS & CSRS Federal Disability Retirement

At various times, in various forums, I have noted some confusion on the issue of when an individual can/must file for disability retirement, so I want to clarify some of the issues.

Confusion #1: Do you have to wait 1 year in order to file for Federal dislability retirement? The answer is “No” — the “1-year requirement” is merely that your medical condition is expected to last for at least a year. Thus, if you have a medical condition that impacts your ability to perform the essential elements of your job, your doctor will certainly be able to tell you whether he/she thinks it will last for at least a year. Thus, don’t make the mistake of thinking that you actually have to wait for a year with your medical condition before you can file for federal disability retirement; it merely means that your condition is expected to last at least 1 year, and doctors can normally provide a prognosis of the expected amount of time.

Confusion #2: You have 1 year from the time of your injury to file for disability retirement. The answer: “No” — you have 1 year from the date you are separated from Federal Service to file for disability retirement. If you do not file prior to the expiration of that 1 year statute of limitations, you lose your right forever. Some confuse the 1-year requirement with thinking that it is within 1 year of being on Leave Without Pay, or 1 year from being away from the job, etc. The 1-year requirement is 1 year from the day you have been separated from Federal Service.

Finally, remember that disability retirement can take anywhere from 6 months to a year to obtain, because of the bureaucratic maze which one must go through in the process of filing; thus, it is often a good idea to file sooner, rather than later. Once you realize that you are no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of your Federal job, and once you have the support of your doctor, it is time to file.

Hope this clears up any confusions

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

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