Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Medical & Legal Issues

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, sometimes there is an inevitable intersection between the Medical Issues involving the patient and doctor, and the Legal Issue embracing the Client-Lawyer-Doctor.  

Often, in terms of filing for FMLA protection, or taking too much sick leave, being placed on leave-restriction by the Agency, etc., or in the very question as to whether it will reflect negatively upon a Federal Disability Retirement application if one continues to work without taking any sick leave — these “mixed questions” will intersect between the medical and legal arenas.  

The conceptual distinction and bifurcation of the two issues is important to maintain.  First and foremost, one’s medical condition should always be considered as the primacy of concern.  Obtaining the proper medical care and taking care of one’s health and medical needs should be absolute and inviolate.  The secondary question of how it will reflect upon a Federal Disability Retirement application, inasmuch as it is a “paper presentation” to the Office of Personnel Management, should be an afterthought.  For, after all, the whole purpose of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is to take care of the primary consideration — that of one’s health and medical needs.  If one takes care of “first things first”, then the “second” things will naturally fall into place.  

Now, having said that, how an Agency attempts to characterize a Federal or Postal employee’s attempt to attend to one’s medical conditions can of course sometimes impact a Federal Disability Retirement application, and should be responded to aggressively and in a timely manner.  But the substance of any such response, if it is based upon the medical condition, will always “correct” any such agency mis-statement.  

Integrity in a situation always prevails, and that is the whole purpose of having Federal Disability Retirement benefits and the laws which govern such benefits, in order for the Federal or Postal employee to attend to one’s medical conditions first, and then to “move on” in life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Interaction with OWCP/DOL

I receive calls periodically as to whether it is of greater advantage to remain on Worker’s Comp (Department of Labor, Office of Workers Compensation Program — “OWCP”) as opposed to going out on OPM Disability Retirement.  My answer remains the same:  OWCP is not a retirement system; OPM disability retirement is indeed that — it is a retirement, where one is separated from Federal Service, and you go out and do what you want to with your life.  Every decision has consequences; every act which we engage in has inherent residual effects, and we have to balance such effects and consequences.  Thus, while OWCP benefits pay a higher rate (75% tax free with a dependent; 66 2/3% tax free without a dependent), there are restrictions:  You must comply with any and all requests (or demands) of the Department of Labor; you cannot go out and get another job, or start another career — because you are deemed “disabled” and are being paid for it.  On the other hand, OPM disability retirement pays less (for FERS, 60% the first year, 40% every year thereafter), but you have the freedom of retirement — you may go out and start another career, and make up to 80% of what your former position currently pays, without losing your disability annuity.  These — and many other factors — are some things to consider when weighing the differences between OPM disability retirement, and receiving OWCP/DOL benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Viewing the Office of Personnel Management

Agencies are “like” people; they are “organic” organizations (a redundancy?), and as a corporate-like entity, they respond and react as people do:  cerebrally, emotionally, reactively, angrily, etc.  If one views an agency in this way — treating the entity as one would a person — then you will often get the same or similar results as when dealing with your brother, a spouse, or a neighbor.  And, indeed, as a logical approach, this only makes sense, because agencies and organizations are made up of people. 

Thus, when filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, it is often important to think of “incentives” in approaching the Office of Personnel Management, to make every effort to have a carrot/stick approach in filing a disability retirement application.  The “stick” part of it, of course, is the law — the threat of making sure that OPM knows that you will be willing to go the full course — to the Merit Systems Protection Board, to the Full Board Appeal, to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.  If OPM denies your case and they get it reversed at the appellate level, it makes them “look bad”.  That is the stick to hold over them — the force of the law.  The carrot part of it is to streamline it and make it as easy as possible by obtaining a clear and concise medical report.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire