OPM Disability Retirement: Continuation of Work

There is often the question of whether, during the process of submitting a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, can/should one continue to work, and will such a status reflect negatively or adversely upon one’s Federal Disability Retirement application?

The question is a logical one, stemming from the seemingly self-contradictory nature of the dual assertion — one which is explicit (the Federal Disability Retirement application itself, where the Federal or Postal employee asserts that he or she can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job), and the other which is implied (by continuing to work, does not one undermine the previous assertion?).

What complicates, confuses and muddles the issue further is the fact that, for FERS employees, the Federal Disability Retirement applicant must also file for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI), and in order to do so, the requirement of being in a non-working status in order to qualify, only further confounds the issue.

But careful analysis will reveal that such apparent contradictions are merely superficial ones.  Hint:  Federal Disability Retirement merely requires a legal standard whereby one cannot perform all of the essential elements of one’s job; continuation in one’s employment capacity does not necessarily mean that one can perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties; rather, it means merely that there are certain elements which cannot be performed.

Further, with respect to the intersecting issue of SSDI, there is a distinction to be made between qualifying and filing.  Life’s contradictions are often merely surface-intersections between technical word-games.  Once the verbiage confusion is resolved, the conflict itself dissolves.

It is sort of like the difference between reading about a man falling off of a cliff, and actually being a tourist at the Grand Canyon and being the subject of a news story the next day.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Working while Waiting

During the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question is sometimes asked as to whether a Federal or Postal employee who is filing, or has filed, can either (a) continue to work in the Federal or Postal job he or she is occupying, or (b) work at another, private-sector job, during the process.

Because Federal Disability Retirement is not a disability annuity based upon “total disability” (unlike Social Security Disability), but in fact encourages Federal and Postal workers to remain productive in the workforce, the fact of continuation of work during the process should not generally have an impact upon a decision rendered by the Office of Personnel Management.

The key, operative word, of course, is “should”.  The Office of Personnel Management will sometimes bring the issue up, and make certain assumptions — as to the similarity between positional duties of one’s Federal/Postal position and the private sector job, or that the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service has “accommodated” the Federal or Postal worker, and therefore that is the reason why continuation in the position has been possible.

Such assumptions obviously need to be addressed, but they are often based upon a presumption founded in error — for, “light duty” or “temporary” duties do not constitute a legally viable “accommodation”, but that is something which OPM has a difficult time understanding.  The fact that the Federal Agency which makes the legal determination on the viability of a Federal Disability Retirement application, has a lack of understanding of “the law” governing the legal criteria, is rather astounding, but true.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Always Stick to the Basics

If one’s thoughts advance too far beyond the practical application of what one is engaged in, often the complexity initiated by the human mind will disproportionately put out of balance the reality of a requirement as opposed to the endless possibilities ventured by the human imagination.  

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, it is often counterproductive to reflect too extensively upon the various standard forms which must be completed.

Yes, the forms are confusing, create unnecessary consternation, and need correlation and cooperative coordination between them in order to produce uniformity and consistency in a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application.  

Yes, it is precisely the inconsistencies, the internal and external contradictions (whether apparent or real, substantive or peripheral) which the Office of Personnel Management focuses upon in justifying a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Nevertheless, it is more often than not the undue focus upon the potential complexities of the standard forms, the rumination upon potential consequences not yet actualized, of questioning, well, what is it that this question is really asking for?  Do they want me to include X, as opposed to Y?  Will it hurt my case if I say B, instead of including C, D & E?  Am I required to include everything, or will it be counted against me if I leave it out?  

Such questions are a natural part of preparing and formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  If such ruminations result in an inability to proceed and advance forward, it might be time to contact someone who specializes in preparing FERS & CSRS Federal Disability Retirement applications.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire