OPM Disability Retirement: The Walking Anomaly

The identity of a person is represented by a composite of memories held, present activities engaged, and future endeavors planned, thus bringing into a complex presence the times of past, present and anticipated future.  It is because of this walking anomaly — of not just an entity living in the present, but of someone who possesses the retentive capacity of memories past, and plans made and being generated for future actions — that the complexity of the human condition can never be fully grasped.

For the individual, therefore, who begins to suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition or disability interferes with the delicate balance of the tripartite composite, the fear of destruction of present circumstances, and diminished ability for future progress, is what complicates matters, in addition to the capacity to remember how things were, which only exacerbates one’s anxiety and angst, in addition to the medical condition itself. It is like being caught eternally in the middle of a three-day weekend: one is saddened by the day already passed; one anticipates an additional day, but the knowledge of the diminishing present makes for realization that the future is merely a bending willow in the winds of change, inevitably able to be swept aside.

For the Federal employee or the Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, it is that recognition of past performances and accolades, of accomplishments and successes, combined with present potentialities yet unfulfilled, which makes for a tragedy of intersecting circumstances.  Filing for Federal Disability benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee or the Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, should not, however, diminish the hope for the future.

Federal Disability Retirement benefits allows for the impacted Federal or Postal worker to receive an annuity, and continue to remain productive and plan for the future. It is the solution for many Federal employees and Postal workers who are too young to retire, and have invested too much to simply “walk away” with nothing to show for the time of Federal service already measured.

In the end, Federal Disability Retirement may not be the best option, but the only viable option available, and for the walking anomaly known as man, OPM Disability benefits may be the methodology to complete that unfulfilled potentiality yet to be achieved.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Catch of the Day

Restaurants announce it; law enforcement offices declare it; con artists make a living by it; and agencies sneeringly pounce upon them. They are the designated focus for the day, often longer, and sometimes until they disappear from the depths of abundance which the season and migration of schools allow.

When one is a Federal or Postal Worker, becoming the “catch of the day” can mean that you are the targeted one; the one whom harassment and daily persecution becomes the norm and routine, and having such a reputation allows for the safe haven of others who exhale a loud sigh of relief for being spared such an ignoble designation. Once the target, agencies never let up. Whether it leads to a PIP, multiple suspensions, letters of reprimand, sick and annual leave restrictions on usage, doesn’t quite seem to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the persecutors.

Yes, there are some countermanding moves: EEO complaints; grievance procedures filed; even lawsuits and resulting awards of significant verdicts, on rare but victorious occasions. But the human toil expended rarely justifies such moments of rare glory; and for the individual who suffers from a medical condition, the juggernaut of the agency’s reserves and reservoir of implements and infinite resources of persecution means that a time of respite is merely temporary.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit which one must consider when the coalescence of a medical condition, agency actions, and the recognition that one is unable to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, comes to a tripartite sequence of combined consonance.

Filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS has the opportunity to receive an annuity, and still go out and begin a new career in the private sector, and make up to 80 percent of what one’s former Federal or Postal position currently pays.  It is a consideration which should always remain a viable option, lest one’s picture remain with a bullseye depiction alongside the declaration that you are the agency’s “catch of the day”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Further Reflections on Accommodations

Because the term “accommodations” is rarely understood in its technical and legal sense, there is often the danger of a Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS to “shoot one’s self in the foot” in the very use of the term — or in checking certain boxes on the application form (specifically, SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability), and further, there is the added danger that the Agency, in completing a Supervisor’s Statement or the SF 3112D, will mis-apply and mis-state the import, significance or relevance of any actions taken in attempting to assist the Federal or Postal employee.

Indeed, in a Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) there are many instances in which the Supervisor completing the form will contradict him/herself when it comes to the issue of accommodations.  Moreover, the applicant him/herself will often mis-state the issue of accommodations on SF 3112A.

The term “accommodations” has a very narrow definition, and must be used and applied to the advantage of the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Additionally, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that the Office of Personnel Management also (whether deliberately or by chance) uses the very misuse (by the Applicant) of the term to its advantage.  In all cases, the term “accommodations” must be used and referred to carefully, technically, and with full insight of all of its consequences in the use or misuse of the word.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Gov. and USPS Disability Retirement: Adversity and Change

Somehow, the collective and proverbial “we” came to expect that life was easy; that comfort, good health and career advancement was part of the human deal; and that adversity was a circumstance which only people in other nations faced, and from which we would help to show the way out.

But adversity and change have always been an essential element of life; the moment expectations pushed the ‘delete’ button and erased those concepts from commonplace consent, we lost the will to hungrily pursue our dreams through achievement, hard work and purposeful drive.  At the same time, a nation which harbors a self-image of greatness will necessarily create an intelligent paradigm which fosters the collective will of those who are less fortunate, to achieve goals and maintain dreams in the midst of adversity.

That is precisely what Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, contemplates, for the Federal and Postal employee.  For, under the generous administrative annuity provided, Federal and Postal workers who cannot be fully productive, and who face adversity in all aspects of one’s life — of career stoppage, finances, and workplace animosity — can become eligible for a system of compensation into which one may continue to contribute by seeking a different, second vocation in the private sector.  Or, for those who are too disabled to work, it is tied into the Social Security system, such that SSDI is combined with FERS disability retirement benefits.

It is a progressive paradigm which allows for the collective “we” to pursue the common goals which we have all maintained — of productivity and purposefulness, wedded to compassion and caring.  That, in the end, is how the “I” become a “we” in a society which values civil intercourse.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Accommodating Agency

During the course of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the issue of “accommodations” must be addressed — if only in completing Standard Form 3112D (otherwise designated as “Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts”).

It may well be that the Federal or Postal employee’s employing agency has been performing an informal “cost-benefits” analysis throughout the years, and that certain attempts at accommodating the Postal worker’s or other Federal employee’s medical conditions have been ongoing.

Thus, such attempts may include temporary suspension or unofficial elimination of certain key elements of one’s position description; allowance for teleworking for all or part of a workweek; disallowing necessary travel for onsite inspections, etc.  These and other attempts by an agency in order to retain the experience and technical expertise of a Federal or Postal employee, are all honorable and reasonable measures by the agency to keep the employee employed.

When the time comes, however, for the Federal or Postal employee to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits because he or she has reached a “point of no return” in terms of the progressively debilitating nature of the medical condition, where all such informal accommodations are no longer helpful in allowing for continuing functionality in the workplace, the Federal or Postal entity may well have always considered such measures to meet the standard of an “accommodation”.  Such a thought process is normally wrong.  But agencies, in completing SF 3112D, will often thoughtlessly attempt to characterize such prior attempts as legally-viable accommodations.

It is up to the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant to point out the error — something which OPM is more than willing to pounce upon unless corrected by the applicant or his/her attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Embracing Progress toward Better Conditions

Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is indeed based upon a progressive paradigm.  It not only recognizes that an individual may be disabled from a particular kind of job; but, moreover, it allows and encourages the Federal or Postal employee to plan for the future, and to seek a way of starting a new vocation in a different field, without penalizing the former Federal or Postal employee by taking away the Federal disability annuity.

There are maximum limits to the paradigm — such as the ceiling of earning up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays. But to be able to earn up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays, while at the same time retaining the ability to continue to receive the disability annuity, is far different than the paradigm presented under SSDI or OWCP.

Further, because there is a recognition that one’s medical disability is narrowly construed to one’s Federal or Postal position, or any similar job, the restrictions placed upon the “type” of job a Federal or Postal annuitant may seek, is fairly liberally defined.  Yes, both types of positions should not require the identical physical demands if such demands impact the same anatomical basis upon which one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits were approved for; but, even in such circumstances, one has the right to argue that the extent of repetitive work, if qualitatively differentiated, may allow for a similar position in the private sector.

Compare that to OWCP, where one cannot work at any other job while receiving temporary total disability benefits from the Department of Labor.  Ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement allows for the Federal or Postal employee to plan for the future; and that, in and of itself, is worth its weight in gold.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Dependent Society — Not

Most people suffer in silence; if not merely because there is a recognition of limited choices, then for a realization that financial and economic independence is a position to be cherished.  Federal and Postal workers are dedicated to their jobs and careers.  With cries of budgetary cutbacks and reduced allowances for overtime, agencies require Federal and Postal workers to put in longer hours, with little financial or other incentives for rewarding longer hours.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is sometimes the question of how the Federal or Postal Worker could continue to have a “successful” (or higher) performance rating, yet claim to be unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  That is actually an easy issue to explain and debunk:  The short answer is that Federal and Postal workers are dedicated to their jobs and careers and suffer silently, and would continue to do so until they drop dead.  But for the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement, the self-destructive dedication of Federal and Postal Workers would result in total incapacitation and debilitation of the Federal and Postal workforce.

Instead, the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement allows for cessation of work from a particular kind of job or career, while at the same time incentivizing the Federal or Postal Worker to go out into the private sector and engage in another vocation, and in essence, “self-pay” back into the system by working productively, paying taxes, etc. It is the most progressive of systems, and unlike other programs and societies of dependency, this particular one involving Federal Disability Retirement is in fact an intelligent approach for the American Worker.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Progressive Paradigm

Ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement is one of the most progressive paradigms designed — for, as a compensatory program, it not only allows for, but encourages, the Federal or Postal worker to become a self-paying entity by working at another job, a new vocation, a different career, etc, after being approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, thereby allocating taxes in order to pay for the annuity itself.

The fact that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management may sometimes and randomly inquire as to the continuing disability status of the (former) Federal or Postal employee, or require an annual check upon the previous year’s income earnings in order to determine if the individual has exceeded the allowable ceiling of 80% of what one’s former position currently pays, is a fairly easy threshold to meet.

Because the focus is upon the particular kind of job which the Federal or Postal employee had previously engaged in, it is natural that any job which the (former) Federal or Postal employee would seek and obtain, would have some qualitative and substantive differences from the Federal or Postal job.

At the same time, however, the skills which the Federal or Postal worker obtained and applied while working for the Federal government, need not be completely abandoned.  There just needs to be a medical justification as to why the individual is able to work in a private-sector job X, as opposed to the Federal job from which he or she medically retired from.

Often, it is a good idea to get the green light from one’s treating doctor, before accepting the private sector job, which would then establish the medical distinctions necessary to justify and answer any future OPM inquiry.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Question of Accommodations

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, certain essential issues must be addressed, including:  the medical condition itself (obviously); the impact of the medical condition upon one’s ability/inability to perform the type of positional duties required in one’s job (also quite obvious); the length of the medical condition itself (it must last for a minimum of 12 months); as well as multiple issues surrounding the question of whether the Agency can “accommodate” a medical condition.

The question of accommodations has been widely discussed by the undersigned author, especially in light of the case of Bracey v. OPM and multiple subsequent cases.  Nevertheless, despite much discussion on the subject, and attempted clarification between the legal, technical usage of the term “accommodation” and the more loosely understood concept of an agency “accommodating” an individual, there is often a surrounding confusion about the conceptual distinctions being made. This is because, perhaps inherently, the technical term of art is not self-evident.

Take, for instance, Question 7a on SF 3112A, where the form asks the question, What accommodations have you requested from your agency?  This question implies that you may have done something “wrong” if you have not specifically requested a certain type of accommodation — meaning, that you must have the knowledge to request of an agency the particular accommodating act of the agency which would allow you to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job.

Yet, this implicitly contradicts the very existence of SF 3112D, Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts — which clearly places the burden of any attempted accommodation upon the agency, where — upon receipt of the disability retirement packet, or the medical evidence at any time — the agency must see if there are any jobs available or any method of accommodating the Federal or Postal employee such that he or she can perform the essential elementsof the job.

Thus, while the question (7a of SF 3112A) may have an underlying tone of a threat (as in, what have you done wrong?), it is in fact a fairly irrelevant question, and should be addressed as such.  Remember, there is a distinction to be made between the question, the answer given, and the relevance of either.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire