Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: VA Disability Issues

Many Veterans find themselves pursuing a career in the Federal work force, including the U.S. Postal Service (although, technically, the U.S. Postal Service is a quasi-Federal agency, but still part of the FERS & CSRS retirement systems, and as such, all Postal Workers are eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS).  

Such a career path often results in a medical condition which, while originating in the military or while serving in the military, becomes progressively deteriorating while working for the Federal government or the U.S. Postal Service.  

Often, such a scenario comprises a dual, or parallel occurrence, in that the Veteran’s medical conditions continue to worsen, and in its progressively worsening state, the Veteran is able to apply for a VA Disability rate increase while, concurrently, the impact upon the Veteran’s ability to continue to perform all of the essential elements of his or her job with the Federal Agency or Postal Service continues to grow.  

The parallel events, at some point on a graph, begin to curve inversely, and intersect where (A) the VA disability rating, both in numerical increase and in a factual, debilitating medical reality, deteriorates to a point where (B) the Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  

At that point of intersection, or sometime prior to the clash of the inverse curve, it may be time for the Veteran to consider preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  In such a fact-scenario, the medical evidence from the VA side of things can be used for purposes of evidentiary proof in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Accommodations

While I am often asked about the intersecting connection between the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and Disability Retirement laws under FERS & CSRS, and the issue of accommodations, my short answer is that the two areas of law rarely directly intersect. “Accommodation issues” under disability retirement law rarely present a problem in a practical sense. 

The term itself is rarely applied properly; the best way that I can describe what the term “accommodation” means, in its technical application, is by giving the classic example:  A secretary who suffers from a chronic back condition is unable to perform her secretarial duties because of the high level of distractability from her chronic pain.  The agency purchases an expensive, ergonomic chair, which relieves the chronic pain; she is able to perform the essential elements of her job.  She has thus been “accommodated”. Thus, the definition of “accommodation” is essentially where the Agency does X such that X allows for employee Y to continue to perform the essential elements of Y’s job.  Further, an accommodation cannot be a temporary or modified assignment; in fact, it is not an “assignment” at all — it is something which the Agency does for you such that you can continue to perform your job. 

Thus, as a practical matter, it is rare that an Agency will be able to accommodate an individual. Further, when it comes to psychiatric disabilities, it will be rarer still -especially when the essential elements of one’s job requires the cognitive capabilities which are precisely that which is impacted by the psychiatric medical conditions.  As such, the issue of accommodations is rarely a real issue, and further, people who are attempting to enforce the provisions of the ADA are not those who are truly seeking disability retirement, anyway.  It is the very opposite — they are trying to preserve their jobs, and to force the Agency to provide an “accommodation” under the law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: This Economy & Opportunities

I have written and emphasized this issue before, but it is an issue which must be reiterated, re-emphasized, and re-stated: those who file for and obtain disability retirement do not need to feel like their lives are being retired. This is not an admission or an acknowledgment of an end; rather, it is an opportunity for a beginning. Federal Disability Retirement is merely a time when one sector of one’s life is about to move on into a different sector and phase of one’s life. It is merely a concession that the long and productive career which one has enjoyed, is simply no longer the “best fit”, and it is time to go on and move on into another sector of life. Thus, a disability retirement annuitant has the opportunity, even in this tough economy, to look into multiple other and future opportunities. A disability annuitant has multiple advantages in this economy: excellent health insurance that is carried; an annuity which allows for him/her to work part or full time; the ability to pick and choose the opportunities; and a professional background and resume of a long and excellent career in the Federal sector. Disability retirement is an option and an opportunity; it is not the “end” of a career; rather, it is the beginning of a future opportunity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Future Perspectives

People often act without forecasting prospective issues. In filing for disability retirement, it is important to take into account the emphasis and basis upon which one files for Federal Disability Retirement, because when an approval is given by the Office of Personnel Management, OPM identifies the specific medical disability upon which they granted the approval. As such, it is important for the applicant to base the application upon the medical condition/disability, in the sequence of importance, the most serious to the least serious.  This is important not only for purposes of winning disability retirement cases, but further, with a view to the future:  when the random Medical Questionnaire is sent to a disability retirement annuitant, if the medical condition upon which you were approved for was a minor, “least serious” medical condition, then 5 years or 10 years down the road, it may well have “resolved”, which puts you in danger of losing your disability retirement benefits.  This is why it is important to have a view to the future, and guidance and advice from an attorney is important in securing that future investment.  For, ultimately, obtaining disability retirement benefits which could potentially be the primary source of income for the next decade or two, is an investment for the future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire