OPM Disability Retirement: The Meaning of Separation from Service

The 1-year rule, or more properly, the Statute of Limitations, continues to be confused at various levels.  The beginning point in understanding the rule must always be to first clarify what constitutes the trigger-point; for, if one does not know what represents the first day of the year, how can one calculate the remaining 364 days?

First, in negative form:  Being on LWOP, Sick Leave, or any time of leave, does not constitute a separation from service.  Indeed, logically, if one reflects upon it for a moment, the very fact that one is on some type of leave would imply that one is on leave “from” an agency, thereby inferring that no separation from service has yet occurred.  Thus, separation from Federal Service is an event which occurs when a Federal or Postal employee affirmatively resigns; is issued a termination or separation letter; or is issued a personnel action on an SF Form 50 or PS Form 50, showing that Federal or Postal employment has been terminated.

For Postal employees, if you continue to receive a “0”-balance pay stub, it likely means that you have not yet been separated.

Obviously, for Federal Disability Retirement purposes, whether under FERS or CSRS, knowing whether or not you are separated from Federal Service is important, because the Office of Personnel Management will not make a determination on the substantive basis of a Federal Disability Retirement application if it has been filed in an untimely manner (i.e., after a year has passed from the date of separation).

Then, of course, there is also the “other” 1-year rule, of showing that one’s medical condition will last for a minimum of 12 months.  But let us not get ahead of ourselves and confuse and conflate the two.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Proper Balance

The Office of Personnel Management has sent out a number of denials in recent weeks, and the undersigned attorney has had multiple opportunities to review many of the cases which have been submitted at the Initial Stage of the process, by Federal and Postal workers who are or were unrepresented by an attorney.  

The spectrum of the quality of the applications vary; some have obviously engaged in some research, and attempted to put together a Federal Disability Retirement application by following some guidelines which have been put forth.  But in most cases, there is still the problem of an “imbalance” — of not reaching the correct median between the subjective and the objective; of an inability to stay away from the workplace issues, of harassment, of complaints about the Agency, etc.  

Remember that this is first and foremost a medical disability retirement application, and the operative term which should always be focused upon and emphasized is the “medical” aspect of the formulation.  While there is ultimately no formulaic Federal Disability Retirement packet (precisely because the particular medical condition which is unique to each individual resists any such attempt to package a Federal Disability Retirement application in a generic sort of way), nevertheless, there are certain key points which should be addressed and emphasized, while other “non-key points” should be avoided.  

Put in a different way, in proving that a medical condition prevents a Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, one must include multiple “essential elements” in meeting the burden of proof.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire