The Law of Salvage and Federal Disability Retirement Compensation

The concept is derived from maritime law, where recovery of ship or cargo at sea left to abandonment and forfeiture should be duly compensated of a value commensurate with the worth of the property salvaged.  The ocean is a perilous expanse, fraught with dangers encompassing weather, treacherous beneath-the-surface terrain, and potential piracy; and it is within this context of the magnitude of dangers to be faced, that the equitable principles of maritime law are applied. And isn’t that what one must do in most phases and contexts of life?

The measurement of future potential consequences, compared as against the benefit to be received, the compensation considered, which should determine the value of the services rendered.  Thus is a lifetime annuity measurable, not only in terms of the net amount, but also taking into account the economic stability which it promises, the future security it provides, and the potential for a life allowed.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, or CSRS Offset, must be viewed in this light; for the benefit to be received is almost immeasurable:  Beyond the annuity amount itself, it provides for the capacity of the Federal or Postal worker to be compensated in order to attend to one’s medical condition; the time that one is on Federal Disability Retirement counts towards the total number of years of service, such that when the Federal Disability Retirement annuity is recalculated at age 62, those years one was on Federal Disability Retirement counts towards the total number of years of service; and while one is receiving Federal Disability Retirement, one may work at a private sector job and make up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays; and many, many other benefits and factors to be considered.

Medical conditions tend to create havoc, and leave an appearance of a life left in tatters; but Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit which can bring about a stabilizing force of foundational security; and just like the Law of Salvage in maritime law, consideration in filing for Federal OPM Disability Retirement should be commensurate with the value to be received in salvaging one’s livelihood, career, and future contentment.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Unfolding versus Unraveling

Does one’s life unfold, as expectations become satisfied and met; as plans come to fruition; and as the future one prepared for remains on a steady course of purposeful direction?

Or is it merely an unraveling, where an artificial semblance of having it “all together” was merely a brave front; where behind closed doors the chaos of one’s life was veiled in hidden secrecy; and of the chasm between the public persona presented and the private life grew ever increasingly disconnected and wider with each growing month, year, and decade, such that the mirror reflected one day resembled nothing like the person you once knew?

Rarely does life unfold like a gift neatly packaged for presentation at a special ceremony; but, similarly, neither should it unravel in an instant merely because of an unexpected twist of fate.

Medical conditions, unfortunately, often test the integrity of one’s life.  Because medical conditions pervade all aspects of one’s life — from testing personal loyalties, family and friends, to seeing how far sympathies will extend; to how one’s work, supervisors and coworkers react; whether the future unfolds well or unravels suddenly, is often revealed during such times of crisis management.

For Federal and Postal employees who are under FERS or CSRS, preparing one’s course and direction for the future when confronting a medical condition should involve consideration in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

While the administrative process can be a long and arduous one, securing one’s future will help in the process of unfolding one’s life, and preventing it from unraveling.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Value-Driven Life

Are expectations unrealistically embraced, adopted and concretized at the outset, without thoughts of malleability and alterations subject to changing circumstances? What happens when societal demands, whether explicit or implicit, clash with personal ambitions, to create a dissonance which tears apart the soul of Man?

The psychological chasm between what we believe our parents expect, what we desire, how we view the values as espoused in daily discourse with the world around us, becomes entrenched at an early age, and attaches to our psyche before we even have a chance to test the waters of reality. That is why most people find it difficult to adapt and to respond adequately to ever-changing circumstances.

Yet, the way in which we remain inflexible is a denial of reality; for, life rarely proceeds upon a linear direction without unexpected turns and twists. The love that we thought would be forever, ends in divorce and destruction; the career which we believed was the key to success, turns out to be a mere means to pay the bills; and the puppy that was to grow old with you, ceases to be before its time.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts and prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s job, the idea that life’s alterations must result in reactive responses different from the original course of one’s career, is not a new notion.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is obviously a career-changing, major decision to make. But the very fact that the benefit’s availability for all Federal and Postal employees who have a minimum of 18 months of Federal Service under FERS, or 5 years under CSRS, at least allows for the option to be offered at all.

Options are avenues for responding to life’s reality of twists and turns, in real time, based upon real circumstances. The paradigm set as a child may be nothing more than a dream once enjoyed; but in growing up, those childhood dreams needed to be adjusted in order to accommodate the reality of our daily lives.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Life after Disability Retirement

The focus upon the “now”, of course, can not be avoided; for the “now” constitutes the present circumstances, the period of preparing, formulating or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; where the medical condition impacts and prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; where the severity, chronicity and extent of the persistent pain, the overwhelming psychiatric infringement upon one’s ability to focus, concentrate, etc.; or where the ability to have the sustained stamina and daily energy has been depleted to such an experiential phenomena that the very “now” is all that one can focus upon.

There is, however, indeed a life after Federal Disability Retirement, and as much of the administrative process of obtaining the benefit is a long and arduous waiting period, it is beneficial to consider what will happen, what one will do, can do, etc., once an approval is obtained from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Remember, in being approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, one can go out and earn up to 80% of what one’s former salary pays currently.

Further, this is not OWCP — where, if one is receiving temporary total disability compensation, you cannot work at all (there are some minor exceptions under FECA/OWCP rules, such as if you were working at another part-time position of a different nature prior to the accepted date of injury, you may be allowed to continue to work that “other” job, etc.).  Nor is this SSDI, where there is a severe cap on the limit of what one may earn (although, if one is getting FERS Disability Retirement concurrently with SSDI, then there is an offset between the two).

The period of waiting can be a fertile time of preparation for life after an approval.  Or, such future plans can be placed on temporary hold for purposes of using the time for recuperative rest.  In any event, the “now” is merely a passing time of fleeting moments, as a cherry blossom withering in the early morning dew as the sun begins to rise.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: 80% Rule

Around this time of year, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sends out their Disability Earnings Survey to all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement Annuitants, to determine what earned income was obtained by the Federal or Postal Annuitant.  It is a simple form and should be completed and returned, and will not impact one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit so long as one has remained under the 80% cap.

Now, as to determining how the Office of Personnel Management determines what is the “true” 80% cap, is another matter.  There have been wide discrepancies between OPM’s determination and the Federal or Postal annuitant’s assertion as to what the “current pay” of a former position is, or should be.  That is entirely a different area of law which the undersigned writer does not become involved in.

However, the wisest thing to do, unless one desires to become engaged in a continuing, protracted battle with the Office of Personnel Management, is to calculate the amount as conservatively as possible, and to take the lower amount and remain well under 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.  While this is sometimes difficult, remember that the benefits of retaining one’s Federal Disability Retirement annuity — of continuing Health Insurance Benefits, to name one — makes it worthwhile.  For, ultimately, one is potentially making 120% of what one was making before (80% of what one’s former position currently pays, plus the 40% of annuity).

Stay close to making 100%, if possible, and that will avoid future headaches.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Moving Beyond

Once a decision has been made to begin preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, then the mechanical aspects of gathering and compiling the evidence to make one’s paper presentation to the Office of Personnel Management must begin.

It can be a daunting process.  However, it is overcoming the initial timidity which is the first step.  The compilation of the proper medical narrative reports with the effective wording and nexus between the medical condition and essential elements of one’s job; the creation of a narrative word picture of one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability; any legal arguments to be presented and cited; the remainder of the Standard Forms to be completed by the Agency; the insurance forms — one can easily get lost in the morass of such paperwork.  

Then, there is the “waiting period” — that long and anxiety-stricken time of waiting for the Office of Personnel Management to makes its decision at the Initial Stage, and if denied, at the Reconsideration Stage of the process; and, if denied a second time, an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

It is during the “waiting period” that one must begin to think about the period “beyond” — that time when one becomes a Federal Disability Retiree, where one finally has the proper time to attend to one’s medical conditions, then to rethink in terms of another job, another career, another phase of life.  It is the time to think about “moving beyond” one’s self-perception and paradigm of self-conception of being a “Federal employee”, and instead to think of the re-created self in new and fresh terms.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement & the Economy

I have been asked, via multiple emails, of my opinion concerning the right time to file for disability retirement, given the state of the current economy. I am not an economist; I am an attorney who specializes in obtaining disability retirement benefits for Federal and Postal employees under FERS & CSRS. With that prefatory caution, let me state that I am an optimist, and always see the glass as “half full” as opposed to “half empty”.

First, if a Federal or Postal employee can no longer perform the essential elements of one’s job, then it is probably time to file for disability retirement. Second, while disability retirement does not pay a great amount of money, it is a base annuity which allows one to go out and start a “second career”, and make up to 80% of what a person’s former position presently pays, on top of the disability annuity. Further, because disability retirement allows one to retain one’s health insurance benefits, such an individual can be an attractive candidate to a private employer, because of the lack of need to insure the person in the course of his/her the second career. Third, in a tough economy, part-time employment is often more available, and so it is often a good economy for individuals who have a base annuity to rely upon, and who are looking for supplemental income. In any event, one should always look at disability retirement benefits as an opportunity to preserve one’s deteriorating health, and move on to pursue other avenues of opportunities.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire