Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Termination

Termination for the Federal or Postal employee should generate an administrative personnel action reflected in an SF 50 or PS Form 50, showing the date of the action, the nature of the issuance and the reason for the administrative process which is initiated and culminated.  Without it, technically no such action occurred.  However, there are cases where such a form has not been produced.

Further, such a personnel initiation is rarely issued in a vacuum; for a Federal employee to be terminated, there are certain procedural hurdles which are normally provided — an issuance first of a proposed termination, and the basis for such a personnel action, and one to which the addressee has a right to respond to within a specified period of days or weeks.  Thereafter, consideration must be given by the Agency in the response, whether verbal, written or both, given by the Federal or Postal employee.

Subsequently, when a termination is effectuated, an SF 50 or a PS Form 50 will be generated.  From that date of termination, the Federal or Postal employee has up to one year to file for disability benefits.

If such filing occurs after 31 days of the official termination date, then the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must be submitted directly to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA.

If prior to 31 days, it can be processed through one’s former agency — although, such a filing should be carefully monitored, as one’s former agency may not process it with any urgency, and in the event that it is not forwarded to OPM within the other 11 months and some-odd days left, there will be a question as to whether it was timely filed at all.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Ignorance and Coping

Within the complex world of information technology, modernity has reached a level of overload which few from past generations could have ever imagined. One needs only to peruse a Tom Swift novel to compare how far we have come; and even the old greats like Asimov and Bradbury could not have foreseen, in the height of their intellectual and creative powers, much of the technological gadgetry of the present age.

Then, of course, there is the “human side” of the equation of modern technology — of how individuals cope with such information overload.  Many have theorized that the exponential explosion of Major Depression, anxiety and panic attacks, and the societal impact of increased psychiatric disorders, stems from a response in terms of coping mechanisms; and we counter the response with advanced pharmaceutical admixtures.  The more common means employed to cope with the deluge of constant informational dissemination, is to limit the exposure to the volume of encounters.

Thus, the age-old adage of ignorance being a “blissful state” retains some semblance of truth.  But for those facing issues of legal limitations and filing deadlines, it is best to “be in the know”.

For Federal and Postal Workers intending upon filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the 1-year Statute of Limitations for filing applies from the time of separation from Federal Service.  Being on OWCP does not forestall or extend the 1-year rule. As such, once an SF 50 or a PS Form 50 is issued or, for Postal Workers, when those 0-balance pay stubs stop coming in the mail, it is well to be aware that the clock has begun to tick.

Ignorance can indeed be blissful, and being the gatekeeper of information overload may be a means of coping; but in the end, the inquisitiveness of Tom Swift must always prevail.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Periodic Clarifications

Periodically, despite multiple prior blogs addressing certain issues, it becomes clear that confusions continue to abound, and a clarification is in order.

In many ways, such necessity for periodic clarifications only emphasizes the inherent complexities in Federal Disability Retirement law, despite the foundational simplicity of what needs to be proven.

Indeed, while the substantive law requires the primary basis of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, the nexus between one’s official positional duties, and the medical conditions which prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; nevertheless, there are numerous procedural issues and hurdles which must concurrently be met in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Thus, for instance:  the Federal or Postal employee must file an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service — not 1 year from the date of being placed on LWOP, or from the “date of injury”, etc.

Further, SSDI must be filed by FERS employees, but of course Social Security will not even consider a filing for purposes of evaluating eligibility until a person has stopped working — nevertheless, for FERS Disability Retirement purposes, all that is necessary is a receipt showing that one has filed for Social Security Disability benefits.

And one more:  never wait for one’s agency to act in a Disability Retirement case; such waiting merely constitutes an act of futility, and one which almost always results with an adverse effect upon the Federal or Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: OWCP & the Deception of Temptation

It has happened many times before; is continuing to occur today; and will continue to entice unwary Federal and Postal employees throughout the country, throughout the year, and coalesce into a tragedy of errors — without any comedic value involved.

For Federal and Postal employees who become comfortably ensconced in the higher rate of compensation received from the Office of Worker’s Compensation Program, administered through the Department of Labor, under the Federal Employees Compensation Act, the notification (or not) of one’s separation from the agency’s rolls may come at a time when the Federal or Postal employee is distracted with more important issues at hand: personal matters; medical complications; perhaps just trying to get through each day within the traumatic universe of chronic pain or severe depression.

From the Agency’s viewpoint, the notification of separation from Federal Service, or termination of employment from the U.S. Postal Service, is merely another administrative detail to close out a personnel file — a mere name to be deleted, with future expectations of a replacement for a particular position.

From the Federal or Postal employee’s standpoint, it represents one’s life, career, end of a vocation which one worked so hard for — and, quite possibly, the foregoing of an important benefit if the Federal or Postal employee is unaware, or not made clearly aware, that the Federal or Postal employee only has one year from the date of separation from service, whether you are on OWCP rolls or not, to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Compensation from OWCP can be tempting and lull one into a false sense of security.  But the day may come when the Department of Labor terminates such payments; at that point, if the 12-month period has passed, you have no option to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The deceptive temptation of OWCP may have some irreversible consequences.  Be aware of them.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Deception of Being on OWCP

“But I am on OWCP,” the caller insists.  “But that wasn’t the question.  The question is, are you still on the rolls of the agency?”  “But OWCP has been paying me for the last 2 years and…”

The deceptiveness of being on OWCP and receiving payment from Worker’s Comp results in a feeling of security and lulls one into a sense of comfort.  But receiving OWCP/FECA benefits does not mean that one cannot be separated from Federal Service.  Indeed, many people continue to remain on OWCP rolls, receive the non-taxable benefit, and believe that, because they are on OWCP, this somehow means that they have not be separated from Federal Service.  Beware.  Be aware.  While on OWCP, if the agency moves to separate you, that means that you have one (1) year from the date of separation to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Being “on” the rolls of OWCP does not stop, prevent, or otherwise interfere with the agency’s determination or right to separate the Federal or Postal employee in order to fill that position.  Then, of course, once a person is separated, and over a year passes, one can no longer file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, if over a year passes by, because under the law (what is called the “Statute of Limitations“), a Federal or Postal employee must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Recurring Particular Issues

Issues in life often recur repetitively without rhyme or reason; as a rule of life, it becomes true “all the more” with mistakes in life.  Thus, particular issues in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, seem to resurface regardless (I would enjoy writing “irregardless” just to irritate those who are alert enough to recognize the nonsensical nature of such a term, but I refrain) of the number of times such issues are addressed or corrected.

Three such issues are:  A.  Filing for SSDI.  Yes, it does need to be filed.  No, it does not technically need to be filed in sequence; moreover, while many Human Resources (one agency calls it “Human Capital”, which is viewed as a self-contradiction and an inside joke) offices misinform Federal and Postal workers that you have to wait for a decision of approval before filing for Federal Disability Retirement, the Federal or Postal Worker should refuse to listen to such misguided misinformation.  Technically, the only time OPM needs a receipt showing that one has filed for SSDI is at the time of an OPM approval.  However — yes, just to get it over with, you should just go ahead and file online, and print out a receipt showing that you filed, and attach it with the Federal Disability Retirement application.  B.  Time of filing:  within 1 year of being separated from Federal Service.  No, LWOP or being on sick leave does not begin to toll the 1-year Statute of Limitations.  C.  One’s medical condition must last for a minimum of 12 months.  No, you do not need to wait for 12 months and endure your medical condition.  Most doctors can provide a prognosis of the extent of your medical condition early in the process.

Don’t let the irony of life rule one’s actions.  Mistakes and misinformation abounds, but how one responds is the key to successful living.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Statute of Limitations

In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must file within one (1) year of being “separated from service”.  That is what is often referred to as the “statute of limitations” — a limit placed upon the ability of a Federal or Postal worker to file for a claim, based upon pragmatic policies of making sure that a claim is “recent” enough to allow for evidence which is neither stale nor outdated.

There is sometimes a level of confusion as to what it means to be “separated from service”, and it often appears that such confusion arises from mixing issues with other administrative claims.  Thus, OWCP/FECA has its own sets of rules; Social Security has its own set of rules, etc.  For Federal Disability Retirement applications under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, to be “separated from service” and thus to trigger the 1-year timeframe, means that a Federal or Postal worker is terminated, taken off the rolls, and an SF 50 and PS Form 50 needs to be issued showing that a person has been effectively separated from Federal Service.

For Postal Workers, a good indication that this action has been effectuated is when one stops received the “0”-balance paystubs.  Further, one must remember that, once separated from the Agency, after 31 days or more of such separation, any Federal Disability Retirement application must be filed directly with the Office of Personnel Management.  Filing with the Agency after the 31 day period and waiting for them to process the case, and relying upon them to forward it to OPM may result in a case simply sitting on someone’s desk…until the year has run out.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Further Clarifications

In order to prepare, formulate, file and qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS, one must have a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  There are, of course, additional minimum eligibility requirements — such as the fact that one must have been a Federal employee for at least 18 months under FERS (and 5 years under CSRS — which is a moot point, obviously, because anyone who finds him/herself under CSRS already has the minimum 5 years), and further, that the medical condition must last for at least 12 months. 

The 12-month/1 year requirement often poses a puzzlement to Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Often the question is asked whether a Federal or Postal employee must have been “out of work” for at least 1 year; or, just as often, the question of the 12 month length or duration of the medical condition will often be confused with the requirement that a Federal or Postal employee must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within 1 year of being “separated” from Federal Service.  Thus, the confusion often becomes coagulated to be interpreted as:  I must be separated from service and suffer from my medical condition for a year.  WRONG. 

Normally, a doctor can provide a “prognosis” when it comes to a medical condition — where the doctor “predicts”, within reasonable medical certainty, that a medical condition will last for a minimum of 12 months, 2-3 years, permanently, etc.  That is all that is required in order to meet the 12-month requirement.  One does not have to suffer for a year, or even for many months, in order to begin the process of preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Periodic Clarifications

Clarifications are needed to be periodically made, based upon questions which Federal and Postal employees continue to ask.  There is often a confusion concerning the “one year” issue — whether it concerns the Statute of Limitations in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, or the length of time a medical condition must last. 

A Federal or Postal employee must file a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS within one (1) year of being separated from one’s Agency.  The confusion often arises because a Federal or Postal employee is unsure of whether or not such separation from service has actually occurred.  Especially for Postal employees, where the U.S. Postal service will often continue to keep a Postal employee “on the rolls” despite having been on OWCP for many years, the confusion can be understandable.  However, one indicator is that if a Postal employee is continuing to receive zero-balance pay stubs, then in all likelihood that Postal employee has not yet been separated from service, and the 1-year tolling of the Statute of Limitations has not yet begun. 

Because obtaining an approval from the Office of Personnel Management on a Federal Disability Retirement application can take an extraordinary amount of time, however, it is wise to begin the process sooner, rather than later, whether one has been “officially separated” from service or not.  For Federal employees, an SF 50 (Personnel Action) form would systematically be issued showing that a Federal employee has been separated from Federal Service

As for the 1-year issue concerning the extent of a medical condition, we will address that issue at another time.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire