OPM Disability Retirement under FERS: Factors to consider

The universe of thoughtful decision-making shrinks exponentially and in direct correlation with the pertinent and relevant information gathered, and it is too often the case that factors not considered are the very ones which lead to a non-decision or, more importantly, to a wrong conclusion.

What factors should be considered when a Federal or Postal employee is going to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset?

Certainly, age can be a factor — for, if OPM engages in a recalculation of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity at age 62, and you are fast approaching that age, the factor of “how long it takes” to get an OPM Disability Retirement approved (about a year, give or take a few months on either side of the equation); whether you get any backpay once it is approved (back to the last day your Agency or the Postal Service has paid you anything); and whether the time you are on Federal Disability Retirement counts towards your total number of years accrued until the recalculation age at 62 (it does) — should all be factors to consider.

Further, even if you are still relatively young, should those same factors be considered?  The short answer is an unequivocal “yes” — and probably many others, besides, including: Do I intend on working at another job in the private sector while on Federal Disability Retirement?  Do I have Service-Connected disabilities that can play a factor [sic] in the factors to be considered?

The universe of factors to consider in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, are innumerable; and then, there are likely factors that you have not even considered, but which may be prompted by consulting with an attorney who has already considered multiple factors besides, and who may be able to guide you in this complex process called “OPM Disability Retirement”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The Little Engine that Couldn’t

It is an educational tool utilized to impart upon children the value of hard work and unfettered optimism, but one wonders, At what point should the harsh realities of the world be included?  How, sometimes there are situations where the obstacles are so great and the conspiratorial caverns so deep that the graph of upward mobility is but a mere mirage in life’s cycle of certitude. The balance between the benefit of maintaining optimism in the face of adversity, and tempering unrealistic expectations, is a scale of justice which is delicately configured throughout life.

While the tale of the Little Engine that Could represents the cultural and societal impetus for encouraging work, fair play, persistence and a positive attitude, some of life’s obstacles serve to cut short the capacity and ability to achieve stated first goals.  Medical conditions tend to do that.  Whether primarily physical or secondarily psychiatric, or inversely impacted, a progressively debilitating medical condition saps the self-confidence of the individual, and eats away at the abilities of the patient.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal Service workers, when a medical condition begins to prevent the Federal or Postal worker from performing all of the essential elements of the positional duties of the Federal or Postal employee, consideration must be given to one’s future, and that future planning should include filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Eligibility for OPM Disability Retirement benefits encompasses all Federal and Postal employees, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, so long as the Federal or Postal employee has met the minimum eligibility requirements: 18 months of Federal Service for those under FERS, and 5 years for those under CSRS (which is essentially assumed that anyone under CSRS already has at least 5 years of Federal Service).

Further, if the Federal or Postal employee is still on the rolls of the agency or the U.S. Postal Service, or has not been separated for more than 31 days, then the Federal Disability Retirement application must be routed first through one’s Human Resource Office of one’s Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service (for the latter, the central processing point for all Federal Disability Retirement applications for Postal Workers is located in Greensboro, N.C.), then to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA.

Implicit in this requirement, of course, is that there is a “Statute of Limitations” as to filing a Federal Disability Retirement application.  All Federal Disability Retirement applications must be filed within 1 year from the date of separation from Federal Service.  Thus, if a Federal or Postal employee is terminated, or has resigned, and a Federal Disability Retirement application is filed, the (now former) Federal or Postal employee must file within 1 year of the date of separation — but if separated for less than 31 days, then through one’s former agency or U.S. Postal Service, and if over 31 days, then directly to Boyers, PA, which is the “intake” processing office for OPM for all Federal Disability Retirement applications.

Whether the Federal or Postal employee ever read or heard tell of the tale of the Little Engine that Could, the time for filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits is when that proverbial engine gives out, and when life’s harsh realities turns the story of optimism and hope into a pragmatic approach in order to secure one’s future; for, sometimes, life accords engines which need fine-tuning, and medical conditions represent just that sort of mechanical need, for the Little Engine that once Could which turned into the Little Engine that Couldn’t.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Medical Retirement: The False Option of Extremes

-The choices we make are contingent upon the knowledge we possess; thus, if we choose between a tripartite offering of x, y & z, when (as perhaps illustrated by Venn Diagrams within a rectangular border representing the “universal” set of possibilities) actual and available options may extend beyond the known quantities available, then we have made our decision based upon an ignorance of alternatives.

Offerings are generally made based upon self-centered care; in negotiating with an adversary, it is normally the option of extremes which are granted:  Either X, or Y, but not both, and if neither X nor Y, then consequence-T.  No mention is made concerning the availability of sub-options Xx, or Yy, to the remaining result of T1, 2 or 3.  Furthermore, when the concealment or unrevealed alternatives fail to be presented, it is often the case that only the extreme of options are conveyed, which makes the entire set of non-universal choices false in their very definition.  This can be exponentially quantified when a medical condition is introduced into the equation, precisely because mental acuity and sound judgment become influenced by desperation of circumstances.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties in the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, the false option of extremes can very likely be attributable to fear, lack of knowledge, combined with loss of confidence in the fair distribution of justice and good sense.

It is indeed troubling that so many Federal and Postal workers know nothing about Federal Disability Retirement, or its availability after having worked just 18 months in the Federal sector (under FERS), or 5 years under CSRS.  The confusion can sometimes arise in the availability of Social Security Disability, which is distinct and separate from Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The two are distinct and different in multiple ways:  the criteria to qualify; the nature of the benefit; the rules concerning employment after approval of either, etc.  Yes, if under FERS both SSDI and FERS Disability Retirement are granted, there is an “offset” tantamount to a coordination of benefits between the two, but for those who do not seek outside employment, the combination of both (despite the offset) will normally net the (former) Federal or Postal employee more in terms of a monthly annuity.

Whatever the reasons, the age-old adage (attributable to Sir Francis Bacon) that knowledge is power, and lack of it injustice and contempt (the addendum clause is merely added by this author) by those who possess but offer mere false alternatives, is but a pervasive truism abounding despite the Internet, Google and other information-searching technologies of modernity.

In the end, the false options of extremes should be countered by a deliberative intent and real curiosity to know — know that the “other side” is never truly looking out for your best interest; that in making spur-of-the-moment decisions, to take a further moment to investigate and reflect may be fruitful, and in the end, to recognize that for the Federal or Postal employee suffering from a medical condition, working on at the expense of one’s health, or resigning, are not the only two options available, but preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is also within the subset of universal alternatives available to the Federal or Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement from Federal Employment: Intestinal Fortitude

It is a word past its prime; one which was prevalent and pervasive in use during this author’s childhood, and represented a more refined way of saying, “guts” or “courage”.  It is one which brought forth a seeming awe and sense of credibility to the person who uttered the words, and once stated, it spread like wildfire amongst the pseudo-intellectuals and wanna-be William-F-Buckley-Jrs of the world.

Of course, no one could effortlessly drop a line of Latin like he could, and just as the death of an icon can fade the philosophical context of a given epoch, so words can lose their efficacy from generational transfer to the next; yet, the substance and essence of the meaning of the word remains like the vestige of wisdom displayed in a singular utterance from the toothless mouth of one’s grandfather, where the wide-eyed child looked from a vantage point well below, peering upwards with awe and disconsolate foreboding against the shadows of a crackling fireplace exuding warmth and tenderness amidst the melodious voice of loving care.  Use of words can be distinguished from the power of persuasion such usage can engender.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who need to consider the next step in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, there are often three (3) primary issues to be kept in mind.

First, there is a vast difference with a real distinction, between having a medical condition, and proving that one’s medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties.  The former concerns medical care and a doctor’s expertise, exclusively; the latter remains the territory of the attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law.

Second, the affirmative step in making progress towards filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM must be of the Federal or Postal employee’s own choosing.  No amount of persuasion, harassment or good old-fashioned pestering can move the mountain, and it often takes a crisis of realization until such an important decision is finally made.

And, third, whether of guts, courage, forward-thinking or intestinal fortitude, that step to be taken can be a life-altering advancement into an unknown future; but in the end, when a medical condition arises, the necessity of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM becomes a positive affirmation that the future for the Federal or Postal employee can be secured through an annuity which represents something beyond mere wasted effort for all of those years of service to the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, and whether by intestinal fortitude or something else, such dedication to service is a mark of honor well-deserved.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: McKenna’s Pass

It was an old mining town, once boasting of a bustling main street, filled with commotion, commerce and conversation, where expectations of future success and advancement were brimming with hope and activity.  People said that it would always be the bellwether of the country; as McKenna’s Pass went, so goes the nation.

The origin of its name was somewhat in dispute.  Old Timers who harkened of past days of glory tried to inject their hoarse voices over the din of youth to get their two cents in, that the origination of the town’s name came from when the days of ore traders would pass through to cities of greater significance, and McKenna just happened to pause for a few days longer than most, and thus the designation.

Others of a more youthful persuasion attributed the misnomer and thought it concealed the darker side of the town’s council, where “Past” was grammatically mispronounced in their minds despite the prominent sign at the north entryway of the town; but then, who among those who live in a place ever notice the signs coming in?  Growth, future prospects and the promise of unceasing expectations would outpace even the greatest of cities.  “They’ll see,” was always the reply when doubts surfaced; always, there was a glint of mischief pervading, as if the “insiders” knew something beyond what the rest of the nation didn’t.

Somewhere along the line, something happened.  No one knows what, or how, or even when.  The first sign was the grocery store that closed; the owner’s wife suddenly died, and it was like the oxygen was sucked out of a vibrant life, and without warning an implosion left a devastation beyond repair.  Then, graffiti appeared; people never suspected the kids from their own neighborhoods, as the pride of McKenna’s Pass was beyond such acts of hooliganism.  Other towns and cities may have been ashamed of their residents and nefarious neighbors who engaged in untold acts in the dead of night; this town never had to look away, or so the thought was.  Then a gas explosion ripped through the Southwestern end of Main Street; rumors began to surface; the Town Council’s senior member resigned with charges of kickbacks.

Change was in the air; inevitably, future expectations once anticipated by youthful folly was butting heads with the reality of present circumstances.  People could smell the aroma of death or, if not such a dramatic and sudden cessation, certainly decay around the edges.

Medical conditions and changes in one’s future plans have a tendency to do just that.  For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who find that one’s invincible plans of latter years of youthful enthusiasm are now requiring the tinkering of repair and replacement, the view towards change can be merely a picture window needing an alteration of interior design.  Medical conditions can prompt the necessity for change; and while change is often difficult to accept and undertake, one cannot fight against those forces beyond one’s control.

When the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker begins to experience an inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties in the Federal Sector or the U.S. Postal Service, it may be time to consider preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

For, as the townspeople in McKenna’s Pass may have thought that the future would always be one of growth, advancement and greater achievement, the reality is that contraction often follows expansion, and the certitude that life never remains static is a truth where youth’s folly ignores the wisdom of ages, as the empty buildings and hollow passageways echoing of silent plans left unfulfilled reverberate through the once-promising days of a town we knew as “McKenna’s Pass”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire