Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Life after Disability Retirement

The focus upon the “now”, of course, can not be avoided; for the “now” constitutes the present circumstances, the period of preparing, formulating or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; where the medical condition impacts and prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; where the severity, chronicity and extent of the persistent pain, the overwhelming psychiatric infringement upon one’s ability to focus, concentrate, etc.; or where the ability to have the sustained stamina and daily energy has been depleted to such an experiential phenomena that the very “now” is all that one can focus upon.

There is, however, indeed a life after Federal Disability Retirement, and as much of the administrative process of obtaining the benefit is a long and arduous waiting period, it is beneficial to consider what will happen, what one will do, can do, etc., once an approval is obtained from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Remember, in being approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, one can go out and earn up to 80% of what one’s former salary pays currently.

Further, this is not OWCP — where, if one is receiving temporary total disability compensation, you cannot work at all (there are some minor exceptions under FECA/OWCP rules, such as if you were working at another part-time position of a different nature prior to the accepted date of injury, you may be allowed to continue to work that “other” job, etc.).  Nor is this SSDI, where there is a severe cap on the limit of what one may earn (although, if one is getting FERS Disability Retirement concurrently with SSDI, then there is an offset between the two).

The period of waiting can be a fertile time of preparation for life after an approval.  Or, such future plans can be placed on temporary hold for purposes of using the time for recuperative rest.  In any event, the “now” is merely a passing time of fleeting moments, as a cherry blossom withering in the early morning dew as the sun begins to rise.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Ecstasy of Approval

Winning, of course, cures all ills; it is the pinnacle of a goal-oriented aim of any endeavor — to prevail, to obtain the intended effect, to accomplish the very goal which one has set out to do, etc.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the goal is to obtain an approval from OPM.

An approval, however, has many consequences, and often in very short order — separation from Federal service; a sudden cut in pay (if one has continued to work during the administrative process; of course, the opposite may be true if one has been on LWOP or has already been separated from Federal Service); a drastic change in daily routine, etc.

Thus, part of the process during the patient time of waiting (I will restate the syllogistic quip which I have repeatedly invoked:  Patience is a virtue; Federal and Postal employees who file for Federal Disability Retirement must be the most patient of individuals; ergo, Federal and Postal employees are the most virtuous of people) is for the Federal and Postal employee (or ex-employee, as the case may be) to prepare for the eventuality of the achieved goal, both physically (perhaps a move is contemplated because of the reduced circumstances?) and psychologically (the sudden alteration in work, economic changes, etc.).  The ecstatic response of Federal and Postal employees in being informed of an approval from the Office of Personnel Management is indeed gratifying; but it is the days, weeks and months that follow, which tests the preparatory mindset of the Federal or Postal Employee.

In psychology, there is that special Gestalt experience; but it is often the period that follows which constitutes the more important phase of psychological awakening.  Similarly, while the “win” in a Federal Disability Retirement application is indeed the intended goal, one must always remember that there is an afterlife to live, and how one prepares for that, is all the more important.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: 80% Rule

Around this time of year, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sends out their Disability Earnings Survey to all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement Annuitants, to determine what earned income was obtained by the Federal or Postal Annuitant.  It is a simple form and should be completed and returned, and will not impact one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit so long as one has remained under the 80% cap.

Now, as to determining how the Office of Personnel Management determines what is the “true” 80% cap, is another matter.  There have been wide discrepancies between OPM’s determination and the Federal or Postal annuitant’s assertion as to what the “current pay” of a former position is, or should be.  That is entirely a different area of law which the undersigned writer does not become involved in.

However, the wisest thing to do, unless one desires to become engaged in a continuing, protracted battle with the Office of Personnel Management, is to calculate the amount as conservatively as possible, and to take the lower amount and remain well under 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.  While this is sometimes difficult, remember that the benefits of retaining one’s Federal Disability Retirement annuity — of continuing Health Insurance Benefits, to name one — makes it worthwhile.  For, ultimately, one is potentially making 120% of what one was making before (80% of what one’s former position currently pays, plus the 40% of annuity).

Stay close to making 100%, if possible, and that will avoid future headaches.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: During the Lengthy Process

During the “waiting time” of the lengthy process in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to begin the secondary process of preparing for the next “phase” of one’s life.  

Many Federal and Postal workers unfortunately view the waiting period — that period when one’s Federal Disability Retirement application has been filed, and is waiting for a determination by a Case worker at the Office of Personnel Management — as a time where everything is on “hold” because the lack of a determinative decision results in a paralysis of an ability to plan for the future.  However, submission to such paralysis would be a mistake, and a misuse of the most valuable resource which one has:  time.  For, ultimately, one must make future plans based upon an assumption that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will be approved.  

This assumption is based upon the factual underpinnings of the filing of the Federal Disability Retirement application itself:  it was filed with the support of a doctor; the Federal or Postal worker is unable to continue in his or her job; the medical condition is expected to last a minimum of 12 months.  If all three of these basic criteria are met, then one must proceed with the assumption that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will ultimately be approved.  

Based upon the foregoing, the time of waiting should be spent — not in anxious despair and despondency because of the wait — but rather, in preparing for the future.  To allow for those things which one has no control over to control one’s life would be a foolish endeavor.  OPM will ultimately make a decision, and whether at the First Stage of the Process, the Reconsideration Stage, or before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board, one should be preparing for the next phase of one’s life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire