Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Working with the Medical Condition

As the 2012 – 2013 Pro-football season comes to an end, with the approach of final playoff games and the Superbowl, the controversy and issues concerning the game itself — of injuries to players; of concussions and allowing for types of plays which have a high percentage of probability for injuries; of RGIII of the Washington Redskins being allowed to play despite clearly being injured; and of the culture of football which idolizes players who can endure pain — these will continue to be debated and discussed, and peripheral corrections and adjustments to the game itself appear to be an inevitability.

The counter to much of this debate has been twofold:  first, that those who play the game do so knowingly, and therefore cannot complain about the potential risks and hazards of the game itself, and second, that because the players are well-compensated, they therefore do not have a right to object to the inherent dangers of the game.  

For the Federal or Postal worker who has been working for many years in his or her job, and who is suffering from a medical condition, the entire controversy surrounding football players may be a distant and foreign concept.  For the Federal or Postal employee, enduring the medical condition in order to continue to work and to make a viable living is merely a daily necessity.  

There comes a point, however, where the medical condition can no longer be tolerated, and where filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits becomes an option which must be considered.  Football is a well-compensated game; life in other sectors, like Federal and Postal workers who have worked diligently to pursue a career, engulfs a lifetime of commitment.  

Working through pain is nothing new for the Federal or Postal worker.  That occurs daily, all across the U.S.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, watching football on television is merely a pastime, and such controversies seem like a distraction to those who know, firsthand, what it means to endure a medical condition on a daily basis.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Agency, FMLA and LWOP

Because filing for Federal Disability Retirement is a process which may take 6 – 8 months, and sometimes longer, there is always the question of what the Agency will do during this time.  Of course, a Federal or Postal employee will often continue to work for as long as possible, and for as many days during each enduring week as possible, in order to survive economically during the process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  The medical condition itself, however, will often dictate the feasibility of attempting to continue to work. 

During this period, a Federal or Postal employee may have limited options — especially when Sick Leave and Annual Leave have been exhausted.  Protection by filing under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will accord temporary protection and a buffer against a demanding agency.  A further request to be placed on LWOP beyond the 12 weeks which FMLA will allow for, will often be granted at the discretion of the Agency. 

If an agency places one in AWOL status, such an action by the Agency should be countered with documentation from one’s doctor which justifies the continued absence of the Federal or Postal employee.  Unfortunately, there is often no clear answer to the question, “What if my agency fails to cooperate while I am filing for Federal Disability Retirement?”  There are only responsive steps to take in order to protect the ultimate goal — that of obtaining an approval from the Office of Personnel Management.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Reminder (Continuing…)

So, how does one determine whether or not it is prudent to go out on LWOP completely, while awaiting for the decision on one’s application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS?  Obviously, the initial criteria to be applied is whether or not you can afford to go out on LWOP.  Economic necessity (aside from considerations of one’s health and medical ability/inability to go to work during the long, drawn-out process) becomes a primary consideration.  If economic necessity dictates continuation of work, then the next question is, would your Agency consider allowing you to work 3 – 4 days a week, and allowing for 1 or 2 days to be taken off with LWOP?  This might be a prudent approach, since any back-pay for the first year, once your Federal Disability Retirement application is approved and payments start, will be paid at 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years.  Thus, mathematically, it would make sense:  a minimum of 3 days of work quantifies to 60% or more, and so you would not be losing anything.  However, if your weekly average falls below the 60%, then you might want to consider going out on LWOP completely (again, only if your personal finances will allow for such).

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Reminder

If a Federal or Postal Employee files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, remember that:  (A)  You are not required to stop working, as most people for economic necessity continue to work, and (B)  If you stop working, and you are not using your Sick Leave or Annual Leave, but are out on LWOP, remember that once you obtain an approval for your Federal Disability Retirement, that back-pay will be paid all the way back to your “last day of pay”, and not to the last day you “worked”. 

In other words, if you are out on LWOP for three months (as a hypothetical), and on the day before you are approved for your OPM Disability Retirement, you receive a paycheck from your Agency for 1 hour of SL or AL, then you have lost all of the potential “back pay” of the three months on LWOP, because the “last day of pay” was the day just before your Federal Disability Retirement was approved.  Be careful that this does not happen.  While donated leave is often accepted because of economic necessity, you will likely regret accepting such payment once your Federal Disability Retirement application is approved.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire