Disability Retirement under FERS: Adopting an Adaptive Plan

Most of us barely have one; and when we do, we quickly forget about it and move on, satisfied that —by the mere declaration of having one — we need not implement it or follow it rigorously beyond the mere possession of it.

The old Soviet Union (do we remember what the abbreviation, “U.S.S.R.” stood for?) had 5 and 10 year plans, and when the stated goals were not met, they simply cooked the books and declared that they were well ahead of the declared plans, and so the satellite nations under the rubric of the “Union of Soviet Socialist Republics” nodded its approval and genuflected to the Soviet Central Planning Committee (for, you couldn’t have a plan unless there were multiple committees to make those plans) and were grateful for the plans even though their populace were starving, despite the declared success of all of that planning.

Battlefield officers rely upon them; although, in recent years, because war is no longer fought by armies planning an attack upon other armies, the need for adopting an adaptive plan has become a survival necessity.  Life itself rarely follows a plan; most of the time, one’s day is consumed by just trying to survive.

When a medical condition hits us, of course, then all of the planning in the world — from a retrospective and myopic viewpoint — didn’t amount to much.  What is the plan, then, for a Federal or Postal employee who can no longer perform his or her job because of the medical conditions that prevent one from doing so?

The Federal Disability Retirement “plan” is to allow for a Federal or Postal employee to file for OPM Medical Retirement benefits under FERS, so that the Federal employee can medically retire, focus upon one’s health and still, hopefully, enter the workforce in the near or mid-future and continue to contribute, all the while receiving a disability retirement annuity.  Now, that sounds like adopting an adaptive plan where interruption of a life plan allows for some grace beyond lack of planning.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

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

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Joy of the Mundane, Though We Knew It Not

The very concepts of “joy” and “mundane”, placed within the same breath, the same sentence, creates what is tantamount to an anomaly, a self-contradiction, an oxymoron, or at the very least a questionable positing of an invalid proposition.

For we tend to consider joy in terms of momentary elation, an extended period of satisfaction, or a sense of quietude wrapped in layers of giggling quivers.  Conversely, the mundane evokes boredom, monotony, a time devoid of elevated emotional responses; a time of negation, where the chasm between desire and duty floats apart from one another like drifting icebergs in the cold North Atlantic seas.

Until a medical condition intervenes.  Until the chronicity of a progressively deteriorating and debilitating disease or injury eats away at our body, mind and/or soul.

In a crisis, the monotony of the mundane becomes preferable; and in a protracted life of chronic ailments, that momentary period of quietude when life was merely the ordinary and the boredom of everyday existence prevailed upon a life questioned as to value, purpose, character and the eternal “why?”; it is then that one comes to realize the ultimate Zen character of enlightenment, and recognizes the living distinction between joy and the mundane.

For the Federal and Postal worker who suffers daily, Federal Disability Retirement is a viable alternative to the daily divide which has grown disproportionately magnified, between joy and the mundane.

Federal Disability Retirement benefits are part of one’s bundle of employment benefits.  It is a benefit filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, for those under either FERS or CSRS, and allows for early medical retirement, while tending to one’s health conditions.

We all once knew the joy of the mundane; but such knowledge quickly gets erased when a medical condition creates a crisis.  Federal Disability Retirement allows the Federal and Postal employee to relive that joy — of the mundane, the monotonous, of the everyday existence of the ordinary which we all seek and desire.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Gov. and USPS Disability Retirement: Adversity and Change

Somehow, the collective and proverbial “we” came to expect that life was easy; that comfort, good health and career advancement was part of the human deal; and that adversity was a circumstance which only people in other nations faced, and from which we would help to show the way out.

But adversity and change have always been an essential element of life; the moment expectations pushed the ‘delete’ button and erased those concepts from commonplace consent, we lost the will to hungrily pursue our dreams through achievement, hard work and purposeful drive.  At the same time, a nation which harbors a self-image of greatness will necessarily create an intelligent paradigm which fosters the collective will of those who are less fortunate, to achieve goals and maintain dreams in the midst of adversity.

That is precisely what Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, contemplates, for the Federal and Postal employee.  For, under the generous administrative annuity provided, Federal and Postal workers who cannot be fully productive, and who face adversity in all aspects of one’s life — of career stoppage, finances, and workplace animosity — can become eligible for a system of compensation into which one may continue to contribute by seeking a different, second vocation in the private sector.  Or, for those who are too disabled to work, it is tied into the Social Security system, such that SSDI is combined with FERS disability retirement benefits.

It is a progressive paradigm which allows for the collective “we” to pursue the common goals which we have all maintained — of productivity and purposefulness, wedded to compassion and caring.  That, in the end, is how the “I” become a “we” in a society which values civil intercourse.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Long-term Plan

Federal Disability Retirement is best anticipated and implemented within the larger context of a long term plan.  For, with the reduction of immediate income, replaced by an annuity which is fixed, but with a future potential to earn additional earned income in another (or even similar) vocation, it is best seen not just for the present circumstances, but as a base from which to build a greater future.

Future considerations may need to be entertained.  For example, how aggressively should Social Security Disability (SSDI) be pursued? If the Federal or Postal employee attempting to become eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits will not be immediately seeking to work at another, private-sector job, and there is a good chance for qualifying for SSDI, then you may want to consider seriously attempting to qualify for SSDI.

For most people, the FERS requirement of filing for SSDI is a mere formality. For those who intend upon using the immediacy of the annuity for a recuperative period in order to attend to medical needs, then perhaps a minimal effort in applying for SSDI would be appropriate.

With the recent case of Stephenson v. OPM now firmly in the “win” column, any issue about future recalculation once a Federal or Postal employee loses his or her entitlement to SSDI benefits, has now been resolved, and the Federal or Postal annuitant need not worry about the issue.  Of course, there is a wide chasm between what “the law” says, and how quickly OPM will do what they are now mandated to do.  But in the end, OPM will have to recalculate and reinstate any amounts which were offset, once a Federal or Postal employee loses his or her SSDI benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Cumulative Emergency

Most emergencies need not have been; either through preventative maintenance or attending to it through troubleshooting at regular intervals; or by cautiously identifying overt signs of oncoming problems, the vast majorities of apparent emergencies turn into the status of such urgent needs because of neglect or deliberate avoidance.  

That is not to say, however, that once an event reaches a heightened status of requiring an urgent response, that it should not be treated with the appropriate manner of alarm; rather, it is merely a recognition that most emergencies need not have become so.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the best course of action is to attempt to avoid having the entire administrative process become an emergency need.  

In order to practice containment, one must recognize the medical condition, the potential impact of the medical condition; the time when the medical condition begins to impact one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; a carefully prepared plan to initiating the needed conversation with one’s treating doctor; financial planning to weather the long and arduous bureaucratic morass; and an expectation that one’s own agency will not be supportive, for the most part, throughout the process.

Such recognition of some of the bare essentials which comprise the entirety of the Federal Disability Retirement process is easier said than accomplished.  

Life rarely occurs and presents itself in neatly folded stacks of laundered clothing; instead, the more apt analogy is the pile of dirty clothes brought home in a black garbage bag by one’s college son or daughter, with the door opening, a smile on the face, and declaring, “Here, will you take care of this for me”?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Durational Attitude, Or: “If Only I Had…”

There are periodic offers for an “early out”; or the ability upon reaching certain trigger points of leaving the Federal Government; or receiving OWCP benefits, which is certainly a higher rate of immediate return (assuming qualification and eligibility has been established); or even a settlement for a separation with some severance pay, a lump sum to settle a lawsuit, etc.

On the other hand, one of the advantages of a Federal Disability Retirement benefit, of course, is that the number of years which one remains on Federal Disability Retirement counts toward the total number of years of service, such that at age 62, when the Disability Retirement benefit is recalculated as regular retirement, those years on Disability Retirement are calculated into the benefit. Thus, for those who live to be a ripe old age, those differences in percentage points will continue to reap the benefits.

It is the long-term viewpoint which should always be considered; for, in later years, the durational perspective, if not taken, may well result in the rueful reminiscence of a forlorn, regretful attitude.  One may make statements of vacuity, such as, “I don’t live with regrets”; but the annuity and one’s bank account may tell a different story.

Planning for the future in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, entails, involves, and encapsulates more than just the “now” and the “present”; it is the immediacy of the future which one should always plan for.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire