OPM Disability Retirement: The Pre-planned Life

Planning is part of our culture; from birth, to plan for old age; from the first entrance into a career, to consider the options for retirement funding; from the days of schooling, to determine the course of one’s career; and multiple intermediate pre-planning considerations, often mundane in nature, such as what to eat for dinner, how many children to have, where to live, etc.  Whether animals plan for the day, and to what extent, may be debated; what cannot be disputed is the extent and complexity in comparison to the pre-planning engaged in by Man.

But life rarely follows along the neat and uninterrupted course of a plan determined days, months or years prior; instead, the hiccups of life are what make for interesting interludes of unexpected turns and twists.  The proverbial nest egg may not have developed as quickly; one’s expectations of career goals may not have blossomed; a child may have come unplanned; or a lost puppy may have appeared at one’s doorstep.

Medical conditions are somewhat like those interruptions of interludes; they may not be as pleasant as some other hiccups, but they are realities which people have to deal with.

For Federal and Postal employees who find themselves in a situation where medical conditions prevent them from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, it is important to undertake two preliminary steps:  An assessment of the medical condition and whether it is likely to resolve within a year or less; if not, to investigate and become informed about Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

One of the elements which must be shown is that one’s medical condition will last a minimum of 12 months.  This can normally be easily accomplished by a doctor who can provide a prognosis fairly early on in the process.

And perhaps a third step:  A recognition that lives rarely travel along a pre-planned route, no matter what you were taught to believe, and more than that, that the value of one’s life should not be reflected by veering into the unknown.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Pre and Post

Issues revolving around the initial application stage, during the application stage, and after the approval, are often of equal importance.  This is because the approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS will ensure the financial and economic survival and viability of the Federal or Postal employee.  Thus, in the pre-approval stage of the process, it is often good to engage in some future planning:  How hard will I fight for Social Security Disability?  Will I be getting a part-time job to supplement my income?  Where will I live?  During the process of obtaining disability retirement, there is the long wait, and the ability to remain financially afloat while receiving little or no financial support.  Post-approval, there are issues of the potential for receiving a Medical Questionnaire from the Office of Personnel Management.  Whether the current doctor will continue to be supportive, or will I move and need to find another doctor?  Because getting Federal disability retirement benefits is a life-long process, it is important to get sound legal advice from a competent attorney throughout the process — pre, during, and post process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: OPM's Methodology

When the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approves a federal disability retirement application, a separate page from the approval letter will often be attached, which states the medical basis upon which the disability retirement application was approved. The separate page will often state something to the effect of: “You submitted an application for disability retirement based upon medical conditions, A, B, C & D; however, your application was approved for medical condition B only.”

The concern here, of course, is that if you are later selected to answer an OPM Medical Questionnaire asking you to re-establish your medical disability for continuation of your disability annuity some years later, that you make certain that you answer such a Medical Questionnaire based upon that very medical condition upon which you were approved. This is obviously important. Some have questioned whether or not you can appeal the approval letter based upon the fact that you believe OPM should have approved you based upon a different medical condition. In my view, this is not an appealable issue, and if you question OPM as to whether they should have considered you disabled based upon another medical condition, you may be in greater danger by OPM reversing themselves based upon a re-review of your case. It is best to leave “well enough alone”. Accept the approval letter based upon the identified medical condition, and inform your treating doctor that you may need his input in the future — to address that very medical condition for which you were approved.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire