OPM Disability Retirement: The Power of Approval

Whether the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service can have a significant impact upon a Federal Disability Retirement application is a question often asked; then, of course, there are always suspicions that certain individuals and entities may try to undermine or otherwise sabotage, out of pure animus and acrimonious low-down-ness (not a legal or technical term, by any stretch of the imagination), by going through “back-door” channels and attempting to influence or otherwise paint a portrait of perverse circumstances.

At best, agencies, individuals and entities of the Federal kind can remain neutral and harmless; at worst, they can allege unspecified and unidentifiable, nefarious circumstances of associated behaviors or conduct issues otherwise unrelated but left to the unimaginative creativity of an OPM administrative specialist.  But then, since those would all be illegal and unofficial acts of retribution and retaliation, they would never be validated nor publicly acknowledged, anyway, and so only the suspicions would remain, without verifiable evidence of ascertained capability to influence or otherwise persuade a negative determination to be reached by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

To their credit, OPM asserts complete and total independence, and refuses to allow for any influence but for the legal criteria in evaluating a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the individual is under FER, CSRS or CSRS Offset, and whether the Federal Disability Retirement application comes from the U.S. Postal Service or from one of hundreds of Federal agencies and departments across the country.

Neither a Federal agency nor the U.S. Postal Service can promise or otherwise grant a Federal Disability Retirement application to a Federal or Postal worker; only the U.S. Office of Personnel Management can do that.  Empty promises aside, whether by implication, inference or alleged influence, OPM is the only entity which can approve a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Yes, agencies can be more helpful than not (though that is rare); agencies can somewhat harm (though a Federal OPM Disability Retirement application is ultimately based upon the medical evidence gathered); and yes, agencies more often than not attempt to undermine rather than assist (despite thousands of Human Resource Specialists across the country claiming otherwise); despite all of this, it comes down to a single entity — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and no other agency — which grants or denies an approval for a Federal Disability Retirement application.  As such, beware of promises made; be cautious of settlements reached; and be dubious of claims of egomaniacal exponents of hyperbolic vituperations; they normally amount to the value of the verbal paper they are written upon.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Pathway out of an Untenable Situation

The sensation of drowning is one which horrifies most individuals; everyone has experienced an event involving being submerged in a body of water, and feeling helpless and without control of surrounding circumstances.  It is precisely that sensation of loss of control — where one’s legs cannot locate a foundation upon which to escape; where the steadiness of firm ground is not there to provide the necessary support; and where the body of water continues to overwhelm, surround, and ultimately overtake; the horror of drowning is thus the proverbial metaphor for trials which one faces in life.

For the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from a sudden onset of a medical condition, or from one which has shown to be a chronic condition which slowly, progressively, and intractably deteriorates one’s physical and/or cognitive functions, the phenomena of drowning as an analogy for one’s experiential encounter with life’s difficulties will not be a stranger.

In such circumstances, one is told to “remain calm”, to engage in physical maneuvers in order to keep afloat, etc. — but to panic is the death knell in such situations.  Such advice is easily stated in the calm of one’s life; when one is in the midst of such circumstances, such sage advice is abandoned for the immediacy of reactionary decisions.  However, if an available option is presented to allow for a solution to an exigent circumstance, it would be a natural next step to accept the “other” proverbial, metaphorically oft-used word-picture:  the life flotation device.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit offered for all Federal and Postal employees for the purpose of providing a base annuity for those Federal and Postal employees who suffer 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 there to provide that foundation for the Federal or Postal employee who is experiencing that drowning sensation within the Federal sector.

Consider it a life-saving flotation device — one which may provide the fertility of the earth in an environment filled with overwhelming circumstances of life’s unexpected encounters — not involving merely the metaphor of water, but all of the sharks which surround us, as well.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Continuing Care

A medical condition never has a simple solution; depending upon the nature, extent and severity of the condition, it must be “managed” and attended to throughout one’s life.  Similarly, while “filing” for one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit is an “event” which may constitute a series of actions which results in the “approval” of a Federal benefit, the benefit itself must be “managed” and cared for throughout a process of continuing retentive procedures.

One cannot assume that once the benefit of OPM/Federal Disability Retirement is obtained — given the hard fight which one must engage in — that the process is thereby over.  That is the reason why the foundational building-blocks which form the underlying administrative process — of the decision of which initial medical conditions to include in one’s Statement of Disability; which medical evidentiary documentation to include; how one should linguistically characterize the impact of the medical condition upon one’s job, tasks, positional duties, etc. — is of great importance in establishing the pattern of management for the future.

For, as other issues, both economic and medical, may potentially intrude upon one’s Federal Disability Retirement annuity (i.e., whether one has earned income above or below the 80% rule; whether one has been restored medically such that OPM could argue for termination of one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit, etc.), it is important to maintain a stance of managing one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit throughout one’s life, until one reaches the bifurcation point at age 62 where it becomes “converted” to regular retirement.

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

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: And Beyond…

Can you remember a time of health?  A time in the past when you were pain-free, able to have the cognitive acuity to focus, concentrate, and attend to the details of a task?  A time past is a reminder of the potentiality of a time-future.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the central point of the administrative process should always be kept in mind:  to reach a point in life where one can have a recuperative period of rest, restorative time, and multiple days beyond pain and ill health.  But just as the “gestalt” moment in a psychological awakening is not the end of the story, but merely a slice of life in a greater context of historicity, so the various events of the administrative process in preparing, formulating, filing, and finally obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM is not the end of the narrative for the Federal or Postal employee seeking to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

There is life beyond; as such, obtaining an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application is merely the beginning of the next step, and not the “end” of anything.  An approval from OPM is a goal worth achieving; but such a goal is merely an intermediate step in a greater cause:  of attaining a state of health, somewhat like the “former” self of yesteryears; of planning for a brighter future in a second vocation; and to be able to enjoy one’s family, friends, and the circle of those closest and most important:  those who have been loyal, even when loyalty revealed a disappointment in those whom you depended upon, and thought you could depend upon.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Returning to the Boredom of Health

Everyone desires to attain a path of certainties, where life has a rhythm of regularity, predictability and consistency.  We often complain of a life of boredom, but there is a distinction to be made between “being bored” and having what some would consider a “boring existence”.

One need only encounter a life-threatening emergency, or a crisis impacting self, family members or friends — or a serious medical condition.  Then, one yearns for those “boring” days of yore, when living a daily existence of merely being pain-free, when one could bend, reach, turn, twist, pick up a cup of coffee — without a thought of invasive and excruciating pain; of a time when focusing upon a task did not require one’s utmost energy and stamina; where the intrusion of nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks did not paralyze one’s totality of being.  Living a boring life for those encountering the “excitement” of a medical condition, as opposed to “being bored”, found a consistency of a rhythm of certainty.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is the goal of the Federal or Postal employee to enter into a period of a recuperative universe, in order to get back to the days of a boring existence.  Boredom is not necessarily a negative thing; indeed, when one is beset with a medical condition which prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s job, the very notion that one’s prior existence of health was somehow less than exciting, is a puzzle to those who have lost their health.

Federal Disability Retirement is a chance to attain the boring life of yore; preparing properly the application for submission; formulating it effectively; and filing it to attain the goal of returning to that former self, is a consideration worth making.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The 80% Rule and Other Considerations

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is always the future which one must plan for — the short-term future of obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management; the intermediate future of adjusting to the monetary reduction; the longer-term future of planning for another career, to supplement the income from one’s Federal Disability Retirement annuity.

As to the last factor, the “80%” rule must always be adhered to — that while FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement allows for a person to work in the private sector and make up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays, the greater question often involves:  Doing what?  Federal and Postal workers who have worked in the Federal Sector have done so to perfect all of the skills and knowledge for a particular career path.  As such, as with most individuals, to become “disabled” from being able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job is devastating not only financially, but moreover, the impact is upon one’s “life work” in so many other ways — upon one’s identity, which is bundled up so intimately in one’s career and work.

Can an injured or partially disabled Federal Employee who has been approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS go out and obtain a State, County or City job, or one in the private sector, which is similar to one’s former Federal job?  The general answer is “yes” — so long as one adheres to the 80% rule, and so long as the “essential elements” which you could not do, are not required in the new job.  The trick is to differentiate and justify the distinction, and such differentiation and justification can involve both medical and legal issues which should be addressed prior to acceptance of the new non-Federal job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire