Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Periodic Clarifications

Periodically, despite multiple prior blogs addressing certain issues, it becomes clear that confusions continue to abound, and a clarification is in order.

In many ways, such necessity for periodic clarifications only emphasizes the inherent complexities in Federal Disability Retirement law, despite the foundational simplicity of what needs to be proven.

Indeed, while the substantive law requires the primary basis of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, the nexus between one’s official positional duties, and the medical conditions which prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; nevertheless, there are numerous procedural issues and hurdles which must concurrently be met in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Thus, for instance:  the Federal or Postal employee must file an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service — not 1 year from the date of being placed on LWOP, or from the “date of injury”, etc.

Further, SSDI must be filed by FERS employees, but of course Social Security will not even consider a filing for purposes of evaluating eligibility until a person has stopped working — nevertheless, for FERS Disability Retirement purposes, all that is necessary is a receipt showing that one has filed for Social Security Disability benefits.

And one more:  never wait for one’s agency to act in a Disability Retirement case; such waiting merely constitutes an act of futility, and one which almost always results with an adverse effect upon the Federal or Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: OWCP & the Deception of Temptation

It has happened many times before; is continuing to occur today; and will continue to entice unwary Federal and Postal employees throughout the country, throughout the year, and coalesce into a tragedy of errors — without any comedic value involved.

For Federal and Postal employees who become comfortably ensconced in the higher rate of compensation received from the Office of Worker’s Compensation Program, administered through the Department of Labor, under the Federal Employees Compensation Act, the notification (or not) of one’s separation from the agency’s rolls may come at a time when the Federal or Postal employee is distracted with more important issues at hand: personal matters; medical complications; perhaps just trying to get through each day within the traumatic universe of chronic pain or severe depression.

From the Agency’s viewpoint, the notification of separation from Federal Service, or termination of employment from the U.S. Postal Service, is merely another administrative detail to close out a personnel file — a mere name to be deleted, with future expectations of a replacement for a particular position.

From the Federal or Postal employee’s standpoint, it represents one’s life, career, end of a vocation which one worked so hard for — and, quite possibly, the foregoing of an important benefit if the Federal or Postal employee is unaware, or not made clearly aware, that the Federal or Postal employee only has one year from the date of separation from service, whether you are on OWCP rolls or not, to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Compensation from OWCP can be tempting and lull one into a false sense of security.  But the day may come when the Department of Labor terminates such payments; at that point, if the 12-month period has passed, you have no option to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The deceptive temptation of OWCP may have some irreversible consequences.  Be aware of them.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Deception of Being on OWCP

“But I am on OWCP,” the caller insists.  “But that wasn’t the question.  The question is, are you still on the rolls of the agency?”  “But OWCP has been paying me for the last 2 years and…”

The deceptiveness of being on OWCP and receiving payment from Worker’s Comp results in a feeling of security and lulls one into a sense of comfort.  But receiving OWCP/FECA benefits does not mean that one cannot be separated from Federal Service.  Indeed, many people continue to remain on OWCP rolls, receive the non-taxable benefit, and believe that, because they are on OWCP, this somehow means that they have not be separated from Federal Service.  Beware.  Be aware.  While on OWCP, if the agency moves to separate you, that means that you have one (1) year from the date of separation to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Being “on” the rolls of OWCP does not stop, prevent, or otherwise interfere with the agency’s determination or right to separate the Federal or Postal employee in order to fill that position.  Then, of course, once a person is separated, and over a year passes, one can no longer file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, if over a year passes by, because under the law (what is called the “Statute of Limitations“), a Federal or Postal employee must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Internet Information

Previous articles and blogs have written quite extensively about the distinction and conceptual differentiation between information and knowledge, and the fact that exponential quantification of the former (information) does not necessarily result in a qualitative increase in the latter (knowledge).  

A similar argument can be made for the “reputation” of an individual.  It has been pointed out on many occasions to this writer that various readers have read many “positive” things on various websites which discuss Federal and Postal Disability Retirement issues.  While such complimentary statements are certainly better and more welcomed than negative ones, nevertheless, one must recognize the age-old principle that where good things may be stated, the very opposite can also occur.  

Reputation is built over time; not everyone can be pleased for all of time; and information which is hastily posted on the internet may or may not be the full story, leaving aside whether or not it is based upon facts or knowledge.  

The plethora of blog writers, websites which merely promote one’s self and reputation — all must be evaluated and analyzed within a greater context of a span of time.  Many writers seem to think that quantity is the key to success — that by repetitively reiterating “key words and terms”, that the internet traffic will increase, and since most people don’t take the time to read, evaluate and discern in a careful manner, such an approach provides for moderate success, if “success” means reaching the greatest number of people.  But preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS must necessarily contain the element of care, meticulous preparation, and thoughtful formulation for the future.  

When an attorney is considered for representation, the choice should be made based upon multiple factors:  knowledge, experience, reputation and accessibility being some of the chief elements to be considered.  Quantity of information is good; quality of information is better; and in the greater context of all such information concerning Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, careful consideration of all of the relevant factors must be taken.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Last Minute Filing

Too often, I receive calls from Federal and Postal employees (or rather, formerly thereof) who have waited until the very last conceivable moment to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.  Yes, I realize that time erodes away slowly, almost imperceptibly, and all of a sudden it is an emergency.  Can a case be put together within a couple of weeks?  Yes.  Is it best to wait until the very last minute?  No.  Remember that all Federal and Postal employees only have up until one (1) year from being separated from Federal Service, to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  But life happens; time slips away; what was once 6 months is now only 30 days, or perhaps 2 weeks. 

I may have told this story before, but here goes:  On the desk of a civil clerk in a local County Courthouse, is a sign which reads:  “The fact that you procrastinated does not make your filing my emergency”.  That is essentially true; however, whenever I get calls by panicked individuals who have failed to use the 1-year Statute of Limitations wisely, in most cases, I have been able to properly put the case together, and file it on an emergency basis.  In such circumstances, adaptation is the key:  some things need to be filed later, but the essential forms to meet the deadline must be immediately filed.  There are very few true emergencies in life, and most cases can meet the deadline — no matter how much the Federal or Postal Employee has procrastinated.  However, it is better not to wait until tomorrow, that which can be done today. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Standard Forms Do Not Mean “Standard Responses”

The problem with “Standard Forms” is that they often appear to solicit “standard responses”, and in a Federal Disability Retirement case under the Federal Employees Retirement Systems (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), nothing could be further from the truth.  Indeed, it is often because a Federal or Postal employee/applicant who confronts and begins to fill out SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, the very “blocked” appearance of the form, and the constricting questions themselves, makes it appear as if a “standard response” is required.  Don’t be fooled.

By way of example, take a “special animal” — that of a Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Controller who must take a disqualifying medication, loses his or her medical certification from the Flight Surgeon, and thinks that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a “slam dunk”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Or, a Customs & Border Patrol Agent who goes out on stress leave, or suffers from chronic back pain.  Are there “standard responses” in filling out an Applicant’s Statement of Disability?  There are certain standard “elements” which should be considered in responding to the questions, but don’t be constricted by an appearance of “standard responses” to a “standard form”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire