OPM Disability Retirement: Intersection of the Applicant’s Statement and the Medical Documentation

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS with the Office of Personnel Management, one should not expect to compensate for the lack of medical conclusions in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A).  

By this is meant the following:  While the Applicant’s Statement of Disability should certainly be an “extension” of the medical documentation submitted, in terms of describing the identified medical conditions, the subjective delineation of pain, symptomatologies experienced, the extent and severity of the subjective experience which only the individual who suffers from the medical condition can properly describe; nevertheless, it should be just that — an extension — and not a means in which to compensate for the obvious (or sometimes not so obvious) lack of findings in the medical reports.

Pain and other subjective experiences are by definition personal to the Federal or Postal employee who “owns” the medical condition, and indeed, the case laws decided by the Merit Systems Protection Board (and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals) clearly declare the relevance and proper weight in considering the subjective statements of the Federal or Postal applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

That being said, the medical documentation, including the office/doctor’s notes, etc., along with the medical narrative report which has been submitted as part of the Federal Disability Retirement application, should stand alone with sufficiency and unequivocal confirmation of the medical condition suffered, the symptoms noted, and the nexus created between one’s medical condition and the type of positional duties one is required to perform.  

The Applicant’s Statement, on the other hand, should be an expansion from the point of reference of the medical report, and describe the experiential impact of the medical condition upon one’s job, upon one’s personal life, etc.  Together, they represent two sides of a single coin — but the coin does have two sides, and one side cannot “make up” for any lack revealed on the other side.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Intersection with Other Benefits

Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management is an independent benefit from an independent agency.  However, there may be some intersecting features which are important to understand, prior to beginning the process.  

A disability annuity, whether under FERS or CSRS, has an “off-set” feature with certain other federal annuities, by statutory mandate and direction, but not with certain others.  For instance, there is a coordinating offset with Social Security Disability (under FERS), and an election must be made between OWCP Temporary Total Disability payments and Federal Disability Retirement benefits (except for scheduled awards).  On the other hand, there is no offset between a Federal Disability Retirement annuity and VA disability payments.  

In making a decision as to whether to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, each Federal and Postal employee should be fully informed as to the offsets with other Federal benefits and payments, as well as whether there are limits and restrictions as to the amount of other “earned income” a person may be allowed to make.  

The importance of finding out which benefits are fully or partially offset is important in making a final decision as to whether it is financially feasible to proceed in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Of course, in the end, it is usually a medical decision which is paramount — out of necessity, and not out of choice– as opposed to a financial one.  However, it is nevertheless important to know what is on the other side of the cave, before one enters it to begin with.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: OWCP, SSD, NRP, Etc.

Nothing works in a vacuum.  Issues surround medical disabilities, the Federal and Postal workforce, Social Security Disability benefits, and Federal Disability Retirement benefits, as well as temporary total disability benefits received from the Department of Labor, Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs — they all intersect in one way or another, and the intersection of all of the issues create a maze of confusion which is often difficult for the Federal or Postal worker to successfully maneuver through the multiple landmines, dead-ends and potential traps. 

Such intersecting difficulties also arise in what the Postal Service has initiated in the last few years — the “National Reassessment Program” — a euphemism for a massive attempt to get rid of anyone and anyone who is not fully productive.  Under this program, the Postal Service is essentially getting rid of all light-duty assignments; and, of course, such a program intersects with Federal Worker’s Comp, because many light-duty or “modified duty” employees are under the umbrella of OWCP-offered work assignments and modified positions and duties.  People are sent home with the reason given that there is no longer any “light duty” jobs; they are then instructed or forced into filing for OWCP benefits; whether Worker’s Comp will actually pay for temporary total disability is a big question mark. 

Ultimately, I believe that the answer will be found in filing for OPM Federal Disability Retirement benefits. The NRP (National Reassessment Program) is simply a macrocosmic approach of a large agency (the U.S. Postal Service), mirroring a microcosmic approach (the approach of most agencies towards individual Federal or Postal employees who have a medical condition which prevents him or her from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job) in dealing with “less than fully productive” Federal or Postal employees.  Then, of course, there is the intersecting issue of filing for Social Security Disability benefits, which you have to do anyway, under FERS — but whether one actually gets it, is another issue.  All of these issues intersect; rarely are these issues isolated; the consequential impact of all of these issues need to be viewed in a macro manner.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire