Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Historical Problem

Ultimately, before the Federal or Postal Worker considers filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a number of factors need to be considered, including (but not limited to) the following:  Can I last until regular retirement?  Will continuation in the job result in further deterioration of my health?  Will my absenteeism or subpar performance result in adverse actions being initiated, including imposition of leave restrictions, a PIP, further disciplinary measures such as a suspension, or ultimately a removal?  Is waiting going to make things any better?  Do I have a doctor who will support my Federal Disability Retirement application sufficiently?

The history of most applicants who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, is replete with unanswered questions and issues ignored or unaddressed.  But when the convergence of a medical condition with a Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service comes to fruition, the clash and collision between appearance and performance will often force the questions to be answered.

Waiting for things to occur will normally not solve the historical problem; being proactive, directly confronting undesirable questions, and taking the necessary steps to secure one’s future — these are the foundational steps necessary for a successful Federal Disability Retirement application, and the key to age-old questions which harken back to the problem of history, so that history may not repeat itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Preempting Anticipated Problems

The obvious and self-evident problems of many can be characterized as failing to know what the questions are; for, if the question is unknown, how can one provide an answer?

Thus, in entering into the surreal universe of Federal Disability Retirement benefits, which can be both a procedural, administrative nightmare, as well as a substantive morass of conflicting and confusing legal framework, the novice who first encounters the Standard Forms (SF 3107, with Schedules A, B & C for the FERS employee; SF 2801 with Schedules A, B & C for the CSRS employee; and SF 3112 series for both the FERS and CSRS employee) may well have a perspective that, inasmuch as the questions asked are fairly easy to comprehend, the answers themselves would naturally, likewise, be easy to append.

But as much of law and the success of legal reasoning involves the preempting of anticipated problems (e.g., that is precisely what Estates & Trusts attempts to do — to anticipate any objections of those who are heirs or potential beneficiaries of an estate), so the lack of knowledge of the wide body and historical evolution of how X came to be through the legal evolution and expansion of Y, results in the grave disadvantage of the Federal or Postal Worker who stumbles upon the compendium of the Federal Disability Retirement process.  And, of course, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management loves nothing more than to look upon the unknowing Federal or Postal applicant, with hungry eyes, ready to pounce upon such lack of knowledge.

Preempting a problem requires the anticipation of the question; and knowing the question is the first step to coming up with an answer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The 31-day Rule

Once a Federal Disability Retirement application has been prepared and formulated, the next step in the equation is to determine the proper destination for filing.

For all Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS or CSRS, if one is still on the rolls of the agency, whether on Sick Leave, Annual Leave, receiving donated leave, or on LWOP, if separation from service has not occurred, then the Disability Retirement packet must go through either the local or district Human Resources Office of the Agency for further processing.  The Office of Personnel Management will not accept a Federal Disability Retirement application directly from the applicant, if the Federal or Postal worker filing for such benefits has not yet been separated from Federal Service.

For Postal employees, a further caveat concerning “separation” should be taken into account:  Often, the U.S. Postal Service will continue to retain workers on the rolls, even after proposing to remove them, and often even after issuing a decision letter on a removal.  A good indicator as to whether a Postal Worker is still on the rolls of the U.S. Postal Service is if the individual is still receiving “0” balance pay stubs.  This likely means that the person is still officially “on the rolls” of the U.S. Postal Service.

Further, while many Federal (non-postal) workers continue to have the benefit of a local Human Resources Office, or an assigned district H.R. Office, for the U.S. Postal Service employee, all Federal Disability Retirement applications must be processed through the H.R. Shared Services Center in Greensboro, N.C.

If a person has been separated from Federal Service for more than thirty one (31) days, then the former Federal or Postal Worker must file his or her Federal Disability Retirement application directly with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Thus, the first priority is to prepare and formulate a Federal Disability Retirement application; next, to ensure compliance with the 1-year statute of limitations; and finally, to file it via the proper channels.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Where to Begin

One is often asked the question, “Where do I begin”?  It is the question of pervasive immediacy, combining both exasperation at a process too complicated to comprehend and requiring a sense of urgency because of the importance attached to the successful outcome, precisely because it may well determine one’s future financial security, and the present ability to continue to attend to one’s medical conditions.  Such a question, however, often needs to be reordered in order to prepare a case properly, in retrospective fashion.

Thus, to reorganize the priority of questions:  Where do I want to end up? (With an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management)  Who approves a Federal Disability Retirement application?  (Not one’s agency, but the Office of Personnel Management and, as such, be careful of promises made and statements asserted by one’s own agency)  How does one obtain an approval from OPM (By satisfying the legal criteria as applied by OPM)  What does one need to do to obtain such an approval?  (Two-part answer:  File the proper forms; complete the forms effectively)  When should I begin the process?  (Since filing for, and obtaining, Federal Disability Retirement benefits can be a long, arduous process, it is wise to file as soon as one has the support of one’s doctor)  Where does the application need to be filed?  (If one is still with one’s agency, then it must be filed through one’s agency; if one has been separated from the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service for more than 31 days, then it must be filed directly with the Office of Personnel Management).

The question of “why”, of course, need not be asked or answered, because it is a self-evident one.  It is the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “how” which require one’s attention.  For, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal and Postal employee already knows the “why” of filing.  The medical condition itself provides that answer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Further Clarifications

In order to prepare, formulate, file and qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS, one must have a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  There are, of course, additional minimum eligibility requirements — such as the fact that one must have been a Federal employee for at least 18 months under FERS (and 5 years under CSRS — which is a moot point, obviously, because anyone who finds him/herself under CSRS already has the minimum 5 years), and further, that the medical condition must last for at least 12 months. 

The 12-month/1 year requirement often poses a puzzlement to Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Often the question is asked whether a Federal or Postal employee must have been “out of work” for at least 1 year; or, just as often, the question of the 12 month length or duration of the medical condition will often be confused with the requirement that a Federal or Postal employee must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within 1 year of being “separated” from Federal Service.  Thus, the confusion often becomes coagulated to be interpreted as:  I must be separated from service and suffer from my medical condition for a year.  WRONG. 

Normally, a doctor can provide a “prognosis” when it comes to a medical condition — where the doctor “predicts”, within reasonable medical certainty, that a medical condition will last for a minimum of 12 months, 2-3 years, permanently, etc.  That is all that is required in order to meet the 12-month requirement.  One does not have to suffer for a year, or even for many months, in order to begin the process of preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal OPM Disability Retirement and “the Decision”

The decision to finally go forward and start the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is often a hard one.  One needs to consider multiple factors, and the process of deciding to move forward in and of itself can be a complicated one.  Such factors as the medical condition itself and how progressively deteriorating it is; whether and for how long you can “mask” the medical condition; how perceptive your supervisor is; whether your supervisor and coworkers will continue to provide cover for you, and overlook some of the growing deficiencies; whether, even if you cannot do one or more of the essential elements of your job, whether the amount and type of work you are doing are significant enough for you to continue; whether you have a good rapport and relationship with your doctor; whether your doctor will be supportive and understanding; whether your agency will suddenly and without notice place you on a PIP or file a Notice of Proposed Removal; and a host of many other reasons and factors need to be considered.  For many of these questions, an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law under FERS & CSRS can be of help.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Service Disability Retirement: Right Questions (Part 2)

Beyond asking questions of one’s self (financial; employment; future; whether one will last until regular retirement, etc.), it is also important to take a two-step process in preparing for a disability retirement application:  First, to do your own, independent research (in this day and age, internet research is the obvious first step), and Second, to contact an attorney.  By the time you contact an attorney concerning disability retirement issues, you should already have an idea as to what your intentions are. 

Hopefully, the attorney you contact will be experienced and knowledgeable concerning all aspects of Federal Disability Retirement laws under FERS & CSRS.  There are many attorneys “out there”; some attorneys do work in Social Security, Federal Worker’s Comp, etc.  Other attorneys perform work in various Federal labor matters; and still others perform work in State and private disability insurance issues.  Remember, Federal Disability Retirement is a specific, specialized field of law; it is best to retain an attorney who specializes and focuses upon your specific area of concern.  Finally, in speaking with an attorney, you should come to a point of becoming “comfortable” with that attorney:  and “comfort” comes only as a result of competent and confident advice — advice that is consistent with the facts you have gather from your prior research on the matter.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire