Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Agency Self-Interest

Self-interest is an interesting characteristic to observe — one which everyone possesses, but only the obtuse deny.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, be aware that the Agency has its own self-interest.

If the stated interest is couched in terms of the Federal or Postal employee’s “best interests”, it is good to be suspicious, or at least modestly cautious in embracing such a claim.  Such wariness in accepting the stated claim of one’s agency is obviously not a warning which most Federal or Postal employees would receive with any surprise; you have been Federal or Postal employees for many years, and those initial years of idealism and youthful enthusiasm have already been stamped out of you (let not the cynicism of this writer dampen the ardor of youth).

If one follows the advice of the Agency blindly, ask yourself the following question:  If you receive a denial at the First Stage of the process, will the agency respond in a helpful manner, or will they say:  It is not our responsibility — it is the Office of Personnel Management which makes the decision?  Is it a common experience that agencies defer responsibility when something goes wrong?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: When the Agency Promises…

The Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service for whom the Federal or Postal employee works, cannot “promise” the granting of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  Such promises are presumptuous and ultimately vacuous, precisely because it is on the independent agency — the Office of Personnel Management — which is the sole agency and arbiter for determining the viability, sufficiency and legal adequacy of all Federal Disability Retirement applications under either FERS or CSRS.

While agencies can be somewhat “helpful” in the processing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is important that if there is an ongoing collateral litigation (e.g., EEOC action; a pending parallel lawsuit; a grievance procedure invoked, etc.), that any settlement or discussion of settlement not state, infer or otherwise imply that the agency can provide the applicant with a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  

Instead, the agency should complete certain forms consistent with the terms of any settlement; and, further, a separation from Federal Service based upon one’s medical inability to perform one’s job can invoke the Bruner Presumption, which can certainly be a plus in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  But recognizing the independence of OPM, and staying away from any appearance of “collusion” through promises that an Agency can somehow “promise” the Federal or Postal employee an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, is important to maintain.  

Agencies cannot promise a Federal Disability Retirement approval, and any such promise in a collateral source is only worth the cost of the paper it is printed upon — or, in most cases, even less.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire