Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Shrines of Our Own Making

For some inexplicable reason, we construct shrines which are deemed sacred, without ever evaluating whether or not the sanctity of the structure deserves our unwavering devotion and commitment.  Shame, embarrassment and the cognitive infrastructure of self-worth often remain the singular obstacles in preventing the Federal or Postal employee from filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

It is the mental constructs of our own making — the shrines of sacred sanctimony — which obstruct the linear progression from a life of constant turmoil to one of relative peace.  And so we are admonished that having a medical condition is somehow shameful; that taking off too much time from work to attend to one’s health somehow devalues the inherent worth of a person.  And we come to believe such folly despite the source of such value-driven thoughts, and make shrines and sacred temples of societal determinations despite the harm to one’s existence.

Life without health is less than a full existence; the self-harm and self-immolation one engages in by continuing on a course of destructive behavior, in ignoring the deterioration of one’s health, is in itself a form of sacrilege; the deconstruction of those very temples we find ourselves trapped within, is often the first step towards recovering one’s health.

Federal Disability Retirement is an option which all Federal and Postal employees who are suffering from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job — should be looked into.  But the first step in the entire process is to revisit the shrines of our own making, and to determine which sacred cow is blocking the entranceway to a life of fulfillment, as opposed to mere existence of being.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Historical Problem

Ultimately, before the Federal or Postal Worker considers filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a number of factors need to be considered, including (but not limited to) the following:  Can I last until regular retirement?  Will continuation in the job result in further deterioration of my health?  Will my absenteeism or subpar performance result in adverse actions being initiated, including imposition of leave restrictions, a PIP, further disciplinary measures such as a suspension, or ultimately a removal?  Is waiting going to make things any better?  Do I have a doctor who will support my Federal Disability Retirement application sufficiently?

The history of most applicants who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, is replete with unanswered questions and issues ignored or unaddressed.  But when the convergence of a medical condition with a Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service comes to fruition, the clash and collision between appearance and performance will often force the questions to be answered.

Waiting for things to occur will normally not solve the historical problem; being proactive, directly confronting undesirable questions, and taking the necessary steps to secure one’s future — these are the foundational steps necessary for a successful Federal Disability Retirement application, and the key to age-old questions which harken back to the problem of history, so that history may not repeat itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Pilot

It is actually a misnomer to connect the terms “automatic” and “pilot” , precisely because the former term completely and unilaterally undermines the latter.  Think about it:  the entire concept of the term “pilot” denotes and encompasses the ability of an individual to control the destiny, direction and distance of that which he is maneuvering; once it is turned over to an engineering phenomenon which performs the activity with data already inputted by others, such control is lost, and the fullness of what it means to pilot a vehicle becomes meaningless.

It is, ultimately, a question of who controls the destiny.

For Federal and Postal employees contemplating preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question is often one of being pulled and controlled by one’s circumstances, or becoming the pilot of one’s destiny and proceeding to dictate the terms and timing of one’s future.

Agencies by nature like to have control; whether it is in hiring, promoting, separating or engaging in adverse actions, agencies enjoy being the determining entity in all aspects of a Federal or Postal employee’s life.  One can wait for an agency to make a determination on one’s career or future; and, to that extent, they become the “automatic pilot” of one’s destiny.

It is up to the Federal or Postal employee to make a decision as to whether or not one should erase the former term, leaving one with the unmistakable role of being the pilot who determines one’s own destiny.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: How Long Before…

When a Federal or Postal employee begins to contemplate — or initiate — the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the questions which begin to accompany the process are multiple, complex, non-sequential, and often wedded to legitimate concerns surrounding the actions and reactions of one’s Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.

The facts and circumstances of each Federal Disability Retirement case are unique and person-specific.  However, Federal Agencies and the U.S. Postal Service are entities which are fairly predictable, if only because they are comprised by an aggregate of human beings whose natures are fairly set in their ways.

How long before an Agency begins its process of separating me?  How long will they let me stay on LWOP?  How long before they send me home?  How long before…

Often, the length of time in which an Agency responds or fails to respond, depends upon who has been apprised of the issue.  It is interesting how an Agency will be silent on a matter, and allow things to continue for an extended period of time — then, one day, the “right” person takes notice of the fact that a Federal employee has been on LWOP for 5 months, and that there is a pending Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management.  Suddenly, it is an emergency — an urgency which cannot wait any longer, and a Letter of Proposed Removal is issued that same day.

It is the same with being on Worker’s Comp — How long will they let me stay on OWCP before they try to move me off?  It often depends upon “who” has your OWCP file, as opposed to the legitimacy of one’s chronic medical condition.

In both instances (the issue of the Federal Agency and the one concerning OWCP), it is best to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management sooner, rather than later, if only to have a “back-up system” in place in the event that either the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service begins to react, or that OWCP decides that you have been on their compensation payroll for too long.

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

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Projecting Forward

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS (while the statutory references and case-laws applying to each retirement system may be different, the basic substantive laws governing each are essentially identical), it is important always to project forward, to prepare for the eventuality, and to consider the options so that events don’t take control, as opposed to the Federal or Postal Worker (to the extent possible) maintaining control of the present and future events as they unfold, with the multiple and varied contingencies which can reasonably be predicted.  

For instance, upon an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management, the rate of annuity compensation begins at 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of service.  That first year, then, should be looked upon as a “transition” period for the Federal or Postal worker — with the full knowledge that in the following and subsequent years, the annuity will drop down to (and remain until age 62, when the disability retirement annuity becomes recalculated and converted administratively into a regular retirement, based upon the total number of years of Federal service, including the time on Federal Disability Retirement) to 40% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of pay.  

That being said, viewing the first year of annuity payments as a “transition” year means that one should be projecting forward as to what one will do in the following and subsequent years.  What kind of work will one do?  How will you make up the difference and reduction in annuity payments?  What preparations are or will be made for the reduction?  Will supplemental income be needed?  Will it be part-time or full-time?  What is the maximum allowable earned income which one can receive?  These are all transition questions which are important in planning for the projected future, forward.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Planning Ahead for a Better Future

Ultimately, when the time comes for a Federal or Postal employee to begin to think about preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is both the beginning of a long administrative process, as well as the endpoint of a long period of reflection (hopefully), preparation (a necessity), and enduring of a medical condition (which has eventually transitioned into a state of chronic medical condition or a progressively deteriorating condition, but in any event one which has lasted or will last a minimum of 12 months, which is the legal requirement under FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement).

Thus, the point of the decision is a critical juncture in a Federal or Postal worker’s life, precisely because it marks both the end of a productive career, as well as a beginning of a process.  However, just to think in terms of the two points of the process — the end of a career and the beginning of a long administrative process — would be to fail to look beyond the obtaining of Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

For, the truth of the matter is that there is “life beyond” obtaining a Federal Disability Retirement annuity, and indeed, there is an incentive for a former Federal or Postal worker who is receiving a Federal Disability Retirement annuity to become productive in another capacity, in the private sector.  The next stage of life is often the more critical period of one’s life.  Reflection on that “next stage” is something worthwhile to think about.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire