FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Preparation

Observing competence in action often results in the disarming effect that all endeavors are easy and effortless, and that the price to be paid, the admission fee for fame, is merely based upon luck, whom you are associated with, or what school you attended.  And while it may be true that meritocracies are fading into the oblivion and sunset of historical anachronisms, and the new and acceptable approach to societal fairness is to implement the distribution of wealth via Piketty’s proposed paradigm in his compendium work, Capital in the Twenty First-Century; nevertheless, there are some things which one must still prepare for, and formulate a road-map for a successful outcome.

GPS devices tell us what to do, where to turn, how many miles the journey will take; administrative and bureaucratic facets of life still lack any such electronic directional voices.  For Federal and Postal employees who must consider the reality of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, the reality of preparation must be faced and confronted.  Preparation must involve: obtaining effective medical reports (how does one go about doing that?); what are the legal parameters which increase the chances of a First-Stage successful filing (is this based upon the law or some other factors?); what are the procedural steps which must be adhered to (is there a sequence to be followed, or can one approach the process through multiple avenues and tentacles simultaneously?).

The fact that one pays a single admission fee to watch a symphony or ballet does not mean that players perform based upon the singularity of the fee; that would be an absurdity. Preparation constitutes multiple actions behind the curtains, far in advance of the final performance displayed for the seated audience. It is up to the Federal and Postal employee to go backstage before the performance begins, and to unravel the hidden devices, the invisible threads, and the wizard behind the proverbial curtain.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Other 12-month Confusion

The other issue which may involve a 12-month period — aside from the Statute of Limitations, which allows a Federal or Postal employee to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within 1 year of being separated from Federal Service — is the duration of one’s medical condition.

Federal and Postal employees will often confuse the issue, and believe in error that they must suffer through a minimum period of 12 months before they can even begin the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits. This is an error either in the proper interpretation of the law, or through receipt of misguided information from third parties.  The law simply requires that a Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, have a medical condition which will impact him or her for a period of at least 12 months.

Practically speaking this would make sense.  For, since the bureaucratic process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management takes a minimum of 8 – 10 months for the entire process anyway, it would make no sense to have a medical condition which will be “cured” within that time frame, for a Federal or Postal employee to file in the first place.

The minimum requirement of the 12-month period can be easily addressed in the “prognosis” portion of a doctor’s statement.  Most doctors can prognosticate within a couple of months of beginning treatment, concerning the long-term duration of a medical condition; whether it is chronic, lasting, or likely permanent.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, knowledge equals the ability to overcome obstacles, and knowing the law will allow the Federal and Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits to possess the necessary tools to effectively manage his or her life and future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Compounding Medical Condition

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the concern often revolves around the compounding effect of a medical condition, when a Federal or Postal employee continues to persevere in performing duties which clearly exacerbate and exponentially magnify the originating medical condition and the manifesting symptomatologies.

Whether as secondary depressive symptoms, or as increasing anxiety, uncontrollable panic attacks; chest pains; radiculopathy; sedation which occurs from medication or lack of sleep over weeks and weeks, resulting in profound and overwhelming fatigue; the problems of unmitigated and unaccommodated medical conditions become worse, and begin to attain a “hump-back” effect, where the Federal or Postal worker attempts to increase the productivity output by working that much harder, ignoring the originating medical condition yet, concurrently, becoming more and more suspicious that the Supervisor, the coworker, the “others” in the Agency, are recognizing and quietly commenting upon the deteriorating work ethic of the Federal or Postal employee.  

Most medical conditions, precisely because of the inherent nature of the medical condition itself, cannot be accommodated.  What medical conditions need most are the self-evident and obvious, but which society lacks the patience for:  treatment, time for recuperation, and space away from the daily stresses of the multi-tasking workplace.  

Disability Retirement criteria under FERS & CSRS requires that a medical condition last for a minimum of 12 months.  Such a requirement is rarely difficult to meet.  For, in this world of stress-work-productivity-result-orientation, one rarely has time to pause for a medical condition.  Such lack of pause, however, only increases the likelihood of the compounding effect of a once-singular medical condition, which over a short period of time, progressively deteriorates into a “hump-back” of multiple conditions, exacerbated by stress, magnified by an environment which has little or no time for such blips as the sorrow of the human condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Government Employees: The Duration of a Medical Condition

In being eligible for a Federal Disability Retirement annuity from the Office of Personnel Management, one of the basic criteria which must be met for eligibility determination is that a medical condition, its symptomatologies and impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, must last for a minimum of 12 months.  

As a practical matter, the medical condition normally lasts for much longer, and is quite often a chronic, progressively deteriorating condition.  If the medical condition is expected to last for a short period of time, then the Federal or Postal employee must seriously consider whether filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is “worth it”, inasmuch as it often takes 8 – 10 months to obtain an approval from the Office of Personnel Management for the First Stage of the process.  

As such, for most Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, there is an implicit acknowledgement and understanding the the medical condition itself is one of chronicity, debilitating in nature, and often progressively deteriorating.  

The fact that a medical condition must last for a minimum of 12 months, however, does not mean that a Federal or Postal employee should wait for the 12 months to pass before filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  That would, upon reflection, be a cruel absurdity — to have to wait for 12 months, then to file and wait about 10 months before the Office of Personnel Management makes a decision, and all of this, only at the First Stage of the process. No — the legal standard is that the medical condition must be “expected” to last a minimum of 12 months; meaning, thereby, that a doctor can normally make a reasonable prognosis as to the duration, chronicity and future behavior of the medical condition; and this can normally be accomplished soon after the identification of a particular medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Preparations

In a perfect world, each of us would make preparations to confront, engage in, and lay the foundations necessary for dealing in life’s eventualities, whether such events constitute emergencies, circumstances both foreseen and unforeseen; or everyday events which are commonplace but necessary “duties” which have to be undertaken, dealt with, and completed.  For much of what we fail to prepare for, it is often an avoidance issue.  

In thinking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the fact that one must confront and acknowledge the issue is something which most Federal and Postal employees — understandably — do not want to do.  This is because, for anyone filing with the Office of Personnel Management, an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must entail three (3) essential concepts which must be recognized:  First, that one has a medical condition of a severity, such that it has or will last at least twelve months.  Second, that the medical condition is impacting one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  And third — but just as important — that the very process itself, in attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, is a process which contains pitfalls, potential setbacks, and the possibility of disapproval, as well as a long and arduous waiting period. This is because one is dealing with a Federal Agency.  But that we could prepare for this eventuality; it remains, unfortunately, one of life’s challenges, and one which most Federal and Postal employees attempt to avoid, but one which is a benefit worth fighting for.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Confusion About The 1-year Rule

I am receiving too many questions about certain issues, which leads me to believe that a clarification is again in order. First, concerning the Statute of Limitations on filing for Federal disability retirement benefits. A Federal or Postal Employee must file for federal disability retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service. Thus, if you have been on LWOP, or on OWCP, or on sick leave, but you are still receiving “zero-balance” paychecks which show that you have NOT been separated from service yet, then your 1-year statute of limitations has not yet even begun. The 1-year Statute of Limitations begins from the effective date of your separation from Federal Service. Your SF 50 (or, for Postal employees, PS Form 50) would reflect that date of separation.

Second, some of the questions which have been posed to me suggest that there is a misunderstanding as to the substantive requirements of the law, as well. A Federal or Postal worker does NOT have to have been medically unable to perform one’s job for a full year before filing for disability retirement. Rather, the requirement is prospective — that your medical condition must last for at least 1 year. Thus, normally after a few months of treating with your doctor, your doctor should be able to make a reasonable medical determination that your medical condition is going to last for at least a year, and more often than not, for much longer. The distinction which I am attempting to clarify can make a tremendous difference: Federal and Postal workers filing for federal disability retirement do not have to wait a year after learning of his or her medical condition — that would be foolish, especially because the process of obtaining disability retirement can itself often take 6 – 8, sometimes 10 – 12 months. Rather, a Federal or Postal worker can file soon after learning about a medical condition, so long as the treating doctor can provide a reasonable medical opinion that the condition will last for a minimum of 1 year. I hope that this will help clarify any confusion people may have about the “1-year” rule — both as it applies to the ability to file for federal disability retirement benefits, as well as to the issue of how long the medical condition must last.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire