FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Catch of the Day

Restaurants announce it; law enforcement offices declare it; con artists make a living by it; and agencies sneeringly pounce upon them. They are the designated focus for the day, often longer, and sometimes until they disappear from the depths of abundance which the season and migration of schools allow.

When one is a Federal or Postal Worker, becoming the “catch of the day” can mean that you are the targeted one; the one whom harassment and daily persecution becomes the norm and routine, and having such a reputation allows for the safe haven of others who exhale a loud sigh of relief for being spared such an ignoble designation. Once the target, agencies never let up. Whether it leads to a PIP, multiple suspensions, letters of reprimand, sick and annual leave restrictions on usage, doesn’t quite seem to satisfy the insatiable appetite of the persecutors.

Yes, there are some countermanding moves: EEO complaints; grievance procedures filed; even lawsuits and resulting awards of significant verdicts, on rare but victorious occasions. But the human toil expended rarely justifies such moments of rare glory; and for the individual who suffers from a medical condition, the juggernaut of the agency’s reserves and reservoir of implements and infinite resources of persecution means that a time of respite is merely temporary.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit which one must consider when the coalescence of a medical condition, agency actions, and the recognition that one is unable to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, comes to a tripartite sequence of combined consonance.

Filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS has the opportunity to receive an annuity, and still go out and begin a new career in the private sector, and make up to 80 percent of what one’s former Federal or Postal position currently pays.  It is a consideration which should always remain a viable option, lest one’s picture remain with a bullseye depiction alongside the declaration that you are the agency’s “catch of the day”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Difficulty of Accommodation

For Federal and Postal employees filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the issue of accommodation must be addressed at some point, and one often wonders why a Federal agency is either unwilling or unable to accommodate the medical disabilities of a Federal or Postal employee.  

The line between “unwilling” and “unable” is often a complex one, because Agencies must contend with an obligation to attempt to accommodate the medical disability, but remember that such an attempt and obligation is merely one of “reasonable” accommodation.  This means that an implicit cost-benefits analysis is quickly engaged in, where the effort, likely success, extent of any workplace adjustments, whether in the end the essential and core elements of the job functions can be accomplished even with the reasonable accommodations, etc., can successfully be implemented.

An appearance of attempting to accommodate is often all that is indulged, and so the reality is that the Agency seems more unwilling than unable. Further, the simple fact is that, many medical conditions — e.g., those which are psychiatric in nature, are simply medical conditions which are termed “non-accommodatable“.  For, regardless of what workplace adjustments are made, a Federal or Postal worker suffering from Major Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, delusory thought processes, etc., where symptoms upon one’s focus, concentration, ability to have a reasoned perspective, etc., are all impacted, and therefore is inconsistent with any cognitive-intensive work.  As such, the medical condition becomes “inconsistent” with the particular duties of the job, and therefore it is an unreasonable and unattainable goal to consider any accommodations.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Three Pockets

In discussing Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to keep in mind the conceptual distinction between the three “pockets” of compensatory programs or resources (and, not to confuse the issue further, but these three pockets are separate and apart from the 3-legs of the retirement stool envisioned under FERS — the FERS Retirement annuity, Social Security, and TSP).

The three primary pockets of compensatory programs include:  CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement (and its companion hybrid, the CSRS-Offset)  — all of which get recalculated at age 62 to regular retirement; SSDI (Social Security Disability which, under FERS, one must file for automatically as part of the process of submitting for FERS Disability Retirement benefits, but under CSRS, one does not need to); and finally, Department of Labor, Office of Worker’s Compensation Program.

The former two have direct interaction, inasmuch as one who falls under FERS Disability Retirement must also file for SSDI, and if both are accepted, there is an offset of benefits between the two (100% offset the first year of benefits, 60% offset every year thereafter until age 62).  The last of the three pockets, OWCP benefits, as I have stated on many occasions, is not a retirement system, but one may file for such benefits concurrently with filing for FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement benefits (but one must elect between OWCP benefits on the one hand, and FERS or CSRS benefits on the other hand), have both approved, but cannot collect both concurrently.  There is an exception — and that has to do with a “scheduled award”.

While keeping these various benefits conceptually distinct can be rather confusing, it is important to understand the distinctions when contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire