Federal Employee Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Procedural Hurdles

Bureaucratic complexities have become a part of everyday life.  When societies become entrenched in administrative procedures, where the process itself is paramount over the substantive goals intended to achieve, and the proper filing of standard forms cannot be ignored lest the conformity of all is undermined by the exception of the singular; then, it is declared that progress has been made, the height of civilization has been achieved, and the pinnacle of human inventiveness has been reached.

Whether one agrees with the satire of bureaucratic conundrums or not, the reality is that the inherent complexities of government must be contended with, and attempting to subvert or otherwise evade the necessity of completing standardized procedural methodologies is an act of futility bordering on rebellion.

For injured/ill Federal employees and Postal Workers who must consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, or even CSRS Offset, the importance of overcoming procedural hurdles cannot be overstated.  SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C & SF 3112D must be completed for all Federal and Postal employees filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset; and for FERS Federal and Postal Workers, one must also complete SF 3107 (as opposed to SF 2801 for CSRS & CSRS Offset Federal and Postal employees).

And, while there are ways to provide additional addendum information beyond that which can fit within the neat spaces provided on the standard forms themselves, nevertheless, it is necessary to follow the rules and abide by the bureaucracy of conformity.  Yes, administrative hurdles are a headache and a difficulty to overcome; but, no, you cannot ignore them, as the reality of administrative and bureaucratic headaches is a constancy we must live with in a society deemed to be the pinnacle of human achievement and progress.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Problems with the OWCP Paradigm

The problem with basing one’s future stability upon an “OWCP Paradigm”, or “model”, are multiple in nature.  To begin with, you cannot work at another job while receiving OWCP temporary total disability payments.  Thus, while you may be an injured worker, and unable to perform the essential elements of your Federal or Postal job, you may nevertheless be able to be productive in some other capacity, and may be capable of starting a business or working in some other field.  This is true if you are on OPM Disability retirement:  You can go out and get another job, and make up to 80% of what your former position currently pays, and continue to receive your disability annuity.  This is a good deal, in my view, because it provides an incentive to go out and become productive, and to plan for the future. 

Furthermore, OWCP/Department of Labor is notorious for cutting off benefits at the first sign that you are anything less than fully cooperative with their dictates.  OWCP may send you to a “second opinion” doctor who finds that you are “completely recovered”, thereby endangering your Worker’s Comp benefits.  Or, in order to save money, they may dictate to you that you must work as a Wal-Mart greeter, and pay you the difference between a menial job (not of your choice) and what they are paying you.  If you refuse, OWCP may simply ascribe what they believe you can earn, and pay you the difference — or not pay you anything.  While OWCP has procedures for appealing decisions, it is a long and arduous road to take.

These are only some of the problems associated with basing one’s future upon a Worker’s Compensation paradigm.  That is not to say that one should not file for and accept OWCP payments — it definitely pays more, and for a temporary period of payments in order for an injured Federal or Postal employee to remain financially solvent in order to recover from one’s work-related injuries, it is a good program.  As a paradigm for planning for one’s future, however, there is much to be desire.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The OWCP Paradigm

One may choose OWCP benefits because, financially, it pays more (75% non-taxed for an individual with dependents; 66 2/3% for a single individual) than a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  It is a pragmatic paradigm to rely upon for the immediate time-frame; however, it is not a practical paradigm for the future.  Obviously, one should obtain an approval from the Office of Personnel Management for one’s disability retirement, concurrently with receiving OWCP temporary total disability payments.  However, upon an approval from OPM, you need to elect between the two — because you cannot be paid by both concurrently.  Many people (rightly) choose to remain on OWCP and keep the OPM Disability Retirement annuity in “limbo or annuity purgatory” — again, because OWCP pays more.

However, as a paradigm for the future, it should not be relied upon forever.  This, because OWCP is not a retirement system.  Instead, it is a system of allowing for payment during a time of occupational disease or injury, for a person to be able to recover from such an injury.  While on OWCP benefits, however, you cannot work at another job (unlike under FERS & CSRS disability retirement); in fact, if you engage in too many physical activities similar to those which you might do at work, you may find that you will be criminally charged for “fraud”.  This has happened to many people, and it should frighten anyone who is on OWCP.  In such cases, you will often find that you have been videotaped over hundreds of hours — but the “edited” version upon which OWCP investigators charge you with, will be a video clip of about 5 minutes.  Next:  Why OWCP is not a good paradigm for one’s future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire