OPM Disability Retirement: The Problem of Perhaps

Perhaps it is time to approach the problem from a different perspective; perhaps it is not.  We often engage in games of self-delusions, of allowing words of self-justification to interfere with sequential and linear lines of thinking, in order to bypass the harsh reality of what is often an inevitability.

The allowance of bifurcation of thought — of the logical disjunctive of choices and options to choose from — makes an allowance of pretense to procrastinate in intellectually acceptable ways.  We sound thoughtful and intelligent when we weigh the various alternatives.  And, indeed, it is normally a “good thing” to gather, review and evaluate the options open to us, and to make the proper decision based upon such an analysis.  But at some point in the process, continuing in a morass of intellectualization becomes problematic.

When the choices are limited, clear, and necessary to act upon, to play the “perhaps” game becomes merely a way to delay the inevitable.

For the Federal and Postal employee who must contemplate a drastic change of circumstances by preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, engaging in such mind-games merely prolongs the process.  At some point, action must proceed from thought; and for the Federal and Postal Worker whose medical condition is such that it impacts one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, it is the action which must prevail over the perhapses of our mind.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Respite

Then there is the story of the office worker who was called in to discuss certain matters with the boss, and during the course of the conversation, boasted proudly that he had not taken a vacation in five years, thereby intimating his commitment and dedication to the company.

The boss became silent, shook his head gravely, and promptly fired the man on the spot.  In shock and dismay, the young office worker asked in exasperation why the boss would do such a thing, and the older man replied:  “Two reasons.  First, you need a vacation.  Now you have one.  Second, the company cannot afford to keep someone who fails to understand the needs of a human being.”  And so the irony of the young office worker reveals the self-contradiction of so many circumstances.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, the one truism which stands out is that those who are beset with a progressively deteriorating medical condition, can never take a “vacation” from the condition itself.  Thus, for those who are healthy, we often take for granted our state of existence.

Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, allows for the Federal or Postal Worker to have a period of respite, away from those very work activities which continue to exacerbate and compound the problem of the medical condition itself.

It may be that, in the end, there is little or no choice in the matter.

For, either the work will continue to suffer and the Federal agency or Postal Service will terminate the Federal or Postal worker, or the medical condition itself will dictate the terms of work cessation.  In either event, thought should be given to the future, and to a time of recuperative distancing from an activity which cannot continue forever.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Agency’s Actions

“That which the Federal Agency determines is tantamount to the hand of God — only more powerful.”  Or so it may often seem.  And so the Federal (and Postal) Worker will often wait with trepidation and anxious disturbances, caught in the limbo of a Federal bureaucracy, whether in issuing a leave-restriction letter, a warning, a formal PIP plan, a determination of being fit or unfit for duty, and multiple other actions which will adversely impact upon a Federal worker.

Preemptive actions rarely have any efficacy with a Federal Agency; an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board is often seen as a mere formality for the Board to render a decision in the agency’s favor, especially when it comes to agency actions concerning discipline and work; and an EEO complaint, while a tactic for forestalling ultimate decisions, is a burdensome and lengthy process of litigation.

Federal Disability Retirement is often the most advantageous of avenues to pursue, if only because the standard of proof to meet the eligibility criteria is quite low — not the high standard of Social Security Disability, where one must show a deleterious impact upon the daily living abilities, but the much lower standard of being unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Proactive choices in life are often limited, especially when one is confronted with a seemingly omnipotent entity like a Federal Agency; but Federal Disability Retirement is an existent benefit which allows for the Federal or Postal employee to opt out and reach that rehabilitative period of seclusion, in order to regain one’s health and come back for another day, another fight, another round.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Taking a Trickle of Leave and Back Pay Issues

When a Federal or Postal employee files for, and is approved for, Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the disability retirement annuity which one receives extends back to the “last day of pay” of a Federal or Postal employee.  It matters not what “kind” of pay; the Office of Personnel Management merely receives the date of the Federal or Postal employee’s last day of pay from the Agency, then gives back-pay back to that date which the Agency determines that he or she was last paid.

Thus, if a person was on LWOP for a six-month period while awaiting for a decision from OPM on his or her Federal Disability Retirement application, then decided to use up the last couple of hours of Annual or Sick Leave and receive a nominal amount — in that scenario, the back pay would extend only to the payment received for the Annual or Sick Leave, and the Federal or Postal employee would lose any back-pay for the six-month period of LWOP.

With this in mind, it is important to plan — to either remain on LWOP during the entire period of waiting for a decision from OPM, or if one continues to work or to receive payments for Sick or Annual Leave, to make it worth one’s while (i.e., to continue to receive a payment rate equal to what the rate of pay for back-pay would be, which is 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of salary the first year, then 40% every year thereafter).  Just some thoughts.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Time to Make the Decision (Part 1)

Waiting until the last possible moment to start the process to file for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS may be commendable from the Agency’s viewpoint — but is it smart?  If you are a Federal or Postal employee with multiple years of service, and you believe that because you gave your life, your blood, your sweat, tears, and even your firstborn, that therefore you will receive what I often term as “bilateral loyalty” (i.e., an expectation of receipt of loyalty from your agency for having given your undying loyalty to them throughout the years), you might want to reconsider.

If you are exhausting all of your sick leave, using your annual leave, dipping into your TSP in order to “hope” that you will recover from your continuing medical condition, then come to a point where you need to file for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, then come to realize that you must survive for 6 – 8 months, or even longer, and pay an attorney, pay for medical reports, and _______ (here, you may fill in the space yourself), then you may need to re-think the entirety of the process, the time it takes, etc.  Most people know, very early on, whether or not he or she has a medical condition which will last for a minimum of 12 months.  The time to start planning for the future is now.  As a famous football coach once quipped, “The future is now.”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Additional Issues Concerning Resignation

An federal agency has a legitimate concern with respect to the work that is not being performed while a person is either out on sick leave or on leave without pay as a result of a medical condition.

On the other hand, Federal and Postal employees who have worked for a sufficient amount of time to be eligible for disability retirement benefits (18 months for FERS employees; 5 years for CSRS employees) have a legitimate expectation of bilateral loyalty — meaning that, inasmuch as the employee has been loyal in the performance of his or her job to the Agency, there is a reasonable expectation that the Agency will be loyal during times of medical hardship, and treat the employee with empathy and compassion.

At some point, greater friction begins to build as the time-frame keeps expanding; the Agency wants the employee back at work, or have the position filled. During the “friction” time, the employee has the leverage to have the Agency propose an administrative, non-adversarial removal based upon the medical inability of the employee to perform his or her duties. It is up to the attorney to persuade the Agency that the goal of the employee runs in the same goal-oriented direction as the Agency: the Agency wants the position; the employee wants disability retirement; both have a common end in mind — vacancy of the position so that the work of the Agency can be accomplished. On the other hand, resignation for the employee gives the employee nothing other than separation from the Agency; it gives the Agency everything it desires.

Sincerely,
Robert R. McGill, Esquire