Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Embracing Progress toward Better Conditions

Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is indeed based upon a progressive paradigm.  It not only recognizes that an individual may be disabled from a particular kind of job; but, moreover, it allows and encourages the Federal or Postal employee to plan for the future, and to seek a way of starting a new vocation in a different field, without penalizing the former Federal or Postal employee by taking away the Federal disability annuity.

There are maximum limits to the paradigm — such as the ceiling of earning up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays. But to be able to earn up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays, while at the same time retaining the ability to continue to receive the disability annuity, is far different than the paradigm presented under SSDI or OWCP.

Further, because there is a recognition that one’s medical disability is narrowly construed to one’s Federal or Postal position, or any similar job, the restrictions placed upon the “type” of job a Federal or Postal annuitant may seek, is fairly liberally defined.  Yes, both types of positions should not require the identical physical demands if such demands impact the same anatomical basis upon which one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits were approved for; but, even in such circumstances, one has the right to argue that the extent of repetitive work, if qualitatively differentiated, may allow for a similar position in the private sector.

Compare that to OWCP, where one cannot work at any other job while receiving temporary total disability benefits from the Department of Labor.  Ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement allows for the Federal or Postal employee to plan for the future; and that, in and of itself, is worth its weight in gold.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OWCP & OPM Future Reviews

There are horror stories:  of people on “disability” who are watched and video-taped, and after having 500 hours of taping, it is edited to show that, within a 2-minute period, it is revealed that you can indeed perform physical feats which your medical disability should restrict.

As an attorney who receives daily inquiries concerning Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, people relate such fears to me.  However, I am quick to remind such callers on two (2) matters:  First, such stories relate almost exclusively to Federal OWCP cases, which have nothing to do with Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, and Second, the people I represent have legitimate medical conditions which impact and prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

There is also an additional Third element in the issue, Federal Disability Retirement annuitants are allowed, under the law, to go out and get another job, and to work and make up to 80% of what his or her former position currently pays.

Now, obviously, any such job should be essentially different, in many ways, from the former job.  But the point is that the medical disability under FERS or CSRS is intimately wedded to a particular job, and the inability to perform the essential elements of that particular job.  That is where the difference lies between Federal Disability Retirement rules under FERS & CSRS and OWCP cases — the former allows one to continue to remain productive in the workplace; the other does not.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire