Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Frameworks

To be successful in any endeavor, one must identify the relevant issues, sift through and discard the peripheral contents, and maintain a thematic thread throughout in order to keep the focus upon the essence of the project. Anyone who has attended a meeting which lacks a subject-matter focus, and where a free-for-all is allowed, without a circumscribed set of agendas, can attest to the importance of setting priorities and understanding the difference between points of significance and irrelevant detractions.

Frames are important, and sometimes as much as the painting itself.  For, art is merely a slice of the greater exposure to life, and it is the frame which distinguishes that parcel of perspective and allows the viewer to participate in a moment of time and a pause for reflection.  For the Federal or Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to provide a “roadmap” to OPM, and thus circumscribe the framework of the relevant attachments, medical and legal issues to be evaluated, and the pathway to resolutions preemptively proposed.

Thus, the three tiers of an effective framework should include: (1) A clear and concise Statement of Disability (here, one must be careful because of the legal consequences of failing to include and fully describe the medical conditions), (2) A reference to the relevancy of the attached documents which support the statement, and (3) the pertinent legal foundations which are satisfied by the first two tiers.

He who frames the picture has the power to direct the viewer’s perspective; for, it is the frame which enhances the content of the artistry, and directs the appreciation to an irrelevant empty sky in a schematically unimportant corner of the painting, or to the central theme where the brilliance of bursting colors explode forth in magnificent reflections of a masterpiece’s slice of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Anxiety

Anxiety is a special form of a psychiatric disability — one which must be approached with thoughtful care in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  While often accompanied by Major Depression, and sometimes panic attacks, Generalized Anxiety Disorder will often have corollary discussions in medical treatment and office notes of references to employment issues involving workplace harassment, discrimination, hostile work environments, etc.  Such references to workplace issues can lead to the Office of Personnel Management denying a Federal Disability Retirement application based upon “Situational Disability” — a medical disability which is self-contained within a particular workplace situation, but which may not necessarily extend to a different office environment with the same job requirements.  

To make moot a claim of situational disability, one would have to show that the medical condition — Anxiety — pervades all aspects of one’s life, and is not just circumscribed by the particular harassing environment of a specific workplace, or a Supervisor, or a hostile workplace, etc.  The more one focuses upon the workplace as the instigating causal force behind one’s anxiety, the more it will compound the problem of being deemed a “situational disability” in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  Ultimately, it is irrelevant what “causes” the anxiety; the important thing is that a person suffers from a medical disability, and the primary focus should be upon treatment of that condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Speaking with the Doctor

Communication is the key to a successful outcome:  such a trite truism is certainly applicable in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS.  The primary focus when a Federal or Postal employee has a medical condition which is impacting his or her ability to perform all of the essential elements of his or her job, is to take care of the medical condition — i.e., to have the necessary treatments, to undergo the proper prescriptive treatment modalities, including surgery, medication regimens, pain management treatments, psychotherapeutic intervention, etc.

Beyond such treatment modalities, however, there may come a point in the life of a Federal or Postal employee when it is becoming apparent that the medical condition is simply “incompatible” with the useful and efficient retention in the Federal or Postal Service.  Such a determination is best made by the Federal or Postal employee, if possible, as opposed to having the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service suddenly and unceremoniously make such a determination — in the form of a proposed removal based upon one’s failure to maintain a regular work schedule; or because of taking “excessive leave“; or putting a Federal or Postal employee upon a Performance Improvement Plan.  Such a determination may best be made by the Federal or Postal employee by communicating one’s concerns to the treating doctor, and asking some incisive questions.  Another trite truism:  The only stupid question is the one not asked.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Health

As we begin preparing for the upcoming Thanksgiving Holidays, then into Christmas & New Year’s, it is well to pause and consider those things which we often take for granted, but which form the foundation of a productive life and career.  Health is indeed one of those “things” which are taken for granted.  It is somewhat like automobile insurance:  one never thinks about it, until one gets into an accident.

For Federal and Postal employees who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, health often becomes an issue with greater and increasing focal emphasis, precisely because the corresponding ratio between “effort expended” and “result obtained” becomes out of balance, where the chronicity of pain, discomfort, and inability to physically or cognitively engage in certain duties or activities, becomes pronounced the more one attempts greater efforts.  

What to do?  Preparatory work in setting the foundation for a successful future formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application begins with a good doctor-patient relationship.  It is often a good idea to begin to confide in one’s treating doctor, for that is the basis of a future formulation in considering a Federal Disability Retirement application under 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

OPM Disability Retirement: The Freedom of Retirement

In this tough economy, many people are rightly concerned that, upon an approval for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, that it will be difficult to “make up” the income with another job, even though a person under Federal Disability Retirement can earn up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal position currently pays.  Yes, it can be tough; yes, the economy is a concern; but recessions ultimately come to an end, and while a job to make up the severe pay-cut may be long in coming, self-employment, to begin a start-up business, or to work part-time is often an excellent opportunity.  Unlike having the larger percentage of pay under OWCP-DOL benefits, a disability retirement annuity under FERS or CSRS is indeed a greater pay-cut.  But salary is not everything; the freedom of retirement, the ability to determine one’s future, and not be under the constant and close scrutiny of Worker’s Comp, accounts for much.  Where some see a severe pay-cut, others see as an opportunity to begin a second career.  And the price of freedom from those onerous fiefdoms of federal agencies is often better health, and greater enjoyment of one’s freedom and retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire