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

 

OPM Disability Retirement: History, Causal Connection, Exacerbation & Pre-existing Conditions

In OWCP/Department of Labor cases, there are important elements to prove in order to obtain FECA benefits — i.e., the history of the event (the “how” it happened); causality (the where and when it happened, in order to establish workplace connection); whether the injury involved an exacerbation of a prior injury; and whether any prior injury entailed a pre-existing condition.  

Any or all of the previously-listed elements can have an impact in a Department of Labor, Federal Worker’s Compensation Claim.  

In a Federal Disability Retirement claim through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, however, none of the elements identified heretofore have a direct relevance upon a Federal or Postal employee’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

There can be, however, some indirect issues.  Thus:  History of one’s medical condition is normally only collaterally relevant; causality is rarely of any significance, precisely because there is no requirement that the medical condition was caused by or in connection with one’s work — except to the extent that one must show that one became unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job while a Federal or Postal employee; exacerbation may have some relative importance, if only because if one has been able to perform the essential elements of one’s job while suffering from a medical condition, you might be required to show why you cannot do the job “now” as opposed to those years of having performed the job previously.  And, finally, the pre-existence of a medical condition — pre-existing one’s Federal employment — would only become an issue if one were to be able to perform the job, and there comes a point when the medical condition worsens; but that is merely a matter of showing the deteriorating impact of one’s medical condition.  

Ultimately, the point is that FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement is conceptually and practically different from OWCP cases, and the potential Disability Retirement applicant should not confuse the two.  To do so would be to defeat the capacity and ability to wisely choose.  

Alternatives exist if, and only if, one is aware of the choices to be made.  Wisdom comes about when one becomes aware of differences between two or more choices.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for U.S. Federal Government Employees: Context, Sequence & Connections

Often, a potential applicant for Federal Disability Retirement will insist that the origin of the medical condition or injury is important to annotate, for one reason or another.  Unlike OWCP issues, origin and causation is usually of little or no significance in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS.  Thus, for OWCP Disability, it may be of importance to show that X injury was caused by occupational hazard Y; or that, while on the job on a certain date, the applicant slipped and fell, etc.  In proving OWCP Disability, such “incident-specific” facts are important in establishing causation, in order to determine eligibility and entitlement to OWCP Disability benefits.

For purposes of OPM Disability, however, the Federal or Postal worker who is seeking Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, does not have to establish such incident-specific facts.  Rather, the focus shifts upon the medical condition, the symptoms, and the impact upon those medical medical conditions and symptoms upon one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, within the last year.  While it may be that some factual context is significant by way of showing a sequence of events from the past, in order to show how the medical condition worsened over time, OPM normally does not care about such historical facts.  While the history of X is interesting, what occurs in the recent-to-present timeframe is what interests OPM.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire