Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Timing Is Always Critical

Timing has to do with the appropriateness of an action within the proper context, before a chosen audience, in accordance with customs and the historical pretext which forms that coalescence of circumstances.  Much of one’s actions are simply to rush in order to complete the task.  But the completion of a task, if ignored in the context of audience, timing, and event, may well result in mere completion, without any resulting effectiveness.

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee must attempt to optimize every opening, every available opportunity, to take advantage of the proper timing in preparing a case, formulating the case, and filing it — at each stage of the administrative process.

Sometimes, timing of course must incur the chaos of rushing — as in meeting the 1-year Statute of Limitations in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Other times, however, such as responding to a Request for Reconsideration, or to a Medical Questionnaire, requires an appropriate consideration of “when” to file the medical information, the updated medical report, etc.  Further, in the context of today’s reality, where the Office of Personnel Management is presently behind in its review of Federal Disability Retirement applications, there is the question of when “best” the time is to submit additional & updated documentation, whether it is a received approval from SSDI or other persuasive documentation.

Experience alone will often determine knowledge of timing; that is why old men nod with knowing smiles at youth, where time is wasted upon unnecessarily expended energy and enthusiasm.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Deadlines

One of the frustrating aspects of the entire administrative process entitled, “Federal Disability Retirement” — of the whole of the engagement in preparing, formulating and filing, and then of waiting for an answer from the Office of Personnel Management — is the issue of “deadlines” imposed by the regulations, statutes and rules.  For one thing, it seems to be a unilateral imposition:  a one way street required by the Office of Personnel Management, with no requirement of deadlines of responsive timelines for the Agency, the Office of Personnel Management, or the Federal Government in general.

Thus, the 1-year statute of limitations for filing; the 30-days within which to file a Request for Reconsideration; the 30-days within which to file an appeal from a denial of a Reconsideration Request to the Merit Systems Protection Board; the time to file an appeal to the Full Board for a Petition for Review; the time requirement to file an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals — all of these are statutory impositions and restrictions upon the Federal or Postal employee.  

Yet, where is the timeline imposed upon the Agency, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the MSPB, the Federal Courts, or the Federal Government in general?  It seems that the requirement of waiting and being patient is all upon the individual Federal or Postal employee, without any obligatory ancillary or concomitant requirement placed upon the agency — specifically, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in providing a responsive decision to a Federal Disability Retirement Application, whether under FERS or CSRS.  

While all of this is true, and it may well be “unfair” in a general sense, it is merely a fact of life which must be lived with.  As the famous author, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., famously stated in referring to the multiple absurdities of life, “So it goes…”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: OWCP Disability

Periodically, a telephone call will begin with the statement that the Federal or Postal worker has been on “Disability” for the past _____ years.  The first question that must be asked is, “Are you speaking about OPM Disability Retirement?”  If the answer is one of confusion or lack of clarity, then a further query must be made, trying to establish whether or not the Federal or Postal worker is speaking about receiving payments from the Department of Labor, Office of Worker’s Compensation.

As it turns out, most people who refer to being on “Disability” often mean that they are receiving Worker’s Compensation.  Once this is established, then it becomes important to know whether or not the Federal or Postal Worker has been separated from Federal Service; and if so, when was he or she separated (because if it has been over 1 year, then it is too late to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management).  

Receiving “disability” is often confusing to the Federal or Postal employee.  A revealing fact is when the individual states that the “Agency put me on disability”.  This normally means that the person is on OWCP.  Or, if you are receiving 75% of one’s pay.  Remember that there is a distinction and a difference between OWCP and OPM Disability Retirement.  The former pays well, but may not last forever.  Indeed, if the latter is not applied for within the time-frame allowed, you will be barred from ever applying for it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Reminder on the 1-Year Statute

Just a reminder, which is given because of continuing and repetitive questions about the 1-year statute of limitations.  Remember that those who wish to file for Federal or Postal Disability retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS must do so either (A) while a Federal or Postal employee (18 months minimum under FERS; 5 years minimum under CSRS), or (B) within 1 year of being separated from Federal Service.  By “separated” it means actually being terminated from the Federal Agency, whether by resignation or by Agency action.

The 1-year statute of limitations does not begin to toll except when you are separated from Federal Service.  Thus, being on LWOP does not begin to toll the statute; being injured or on OWCP does not begin to toll the statute.  By “toll the statute”, what is meant is that the right to file for OPM Disability Retirement benefits for FERS or CSRS employees does not begin to “count down” unless and until you are actually separated from Federal Service.  This is meant as a continuing clarification of the issue, written because of the questions which have been asked of me over the past month or so.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The 1-Year Rule

Periodically, I remind everyone of the various “1-year” rules which govern Federal Disability Retirement issues under FERS & CSRS.  Since there are multiple applications of the 1-year rule, there is often a confusion which is still prevalent and ongoing.  Thus, here are some clarifications:  You must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS either while in the employment of a Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, or within 1-year of being separated from Federal Service

There are a couple of exceptions to this 1-year rule:  If you are found to be incompetent, you may be able to get a waiver from the Office of Personnel Management, but this is extremely rare and difficult to obtain.  Another exception, however, is found in the U.S. Court of Appeals case of Johnston v. OPM, where the Court found that if a person was removed for apparent medical reasons, but was never notified by the Agency, then the 1-year rule may be waived (this often happens to Federal and Postal employees who have been on OWCP for many years, and are forgotten and never informed of an initiation of an SF 50 separating him or her from Federal or Postal Service). 

The 1-year rule should not be confused with:  One’s medical condition needs to last for a minimum of 1 year (but this does not mean that you need to wait a year before filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; rather, it merely means that your doctor expects that your medical condition will last for a minimum of 12 months).  I hope that this clarfies any confusions, and further, that it serves as a reminder to anyone who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Again — Reminder as to the Statute of Limitations

I have many, many people who are on all sides of the spectrum concerning the time-line of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS — people who call me 2, 3, 5, sometimes 10 years after being separated from service, saying they were never informed about the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Obviously, such former Federal employees cannot now (except in extremely peculiar and rare circumstances) file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, under either FERS or CSRS. 

Then, there are those who are still “on the rolls” — those who have never been separated (normally because of the negligence or neglect of the Agency) from Federal Service, who call to ask whether they can file for Federal Disability Retirement now.  The answer is most often, Yes, and furthermore, once the disability retirement is approved, the annuitant can receive back-pay all the way back to the last date of pay.  Then, there are those who call me in a state of panic, saying that it has been almost a year after the injury; is it too late to file?  No, it is not too late, so long as it has not been over one year from the time of separation from service.  Thus, here is a reminder (again):  A Federal or Postal employee has up until one (1) year to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the time of being separated from Federal Service — meaning, when you have been terminated from being a Federal or Postal employee, and are off of the “rolls” of the agency.  I don’t know how to make this any clearer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire