Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Flashpoint

The flashpoint is the temperature at which an organic compound becomes combustible; during the entire time building up to that point, the rising temperature in combination with the chemical reactiveness of the substance was all the while sitting in preparation for the point of ignition; were there options to pursue prior to the point of ignition?  If there had been a change in chemical make-up, then perhaps the point of temperature-to-combination of substance would have altered, where either a higher or lower flashpoint would occur; or, the rise of the temperature, and the rate of acceleration, could have been changed.

Whatever the needed changes in order to avoid the flashpoint, however, one thing is clear:  the options are limited, and any altered states would merely delay the ultimate event of a flashpoint occurrence.

For Federal and Postal Workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts the performance of one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, the flashpoint of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is an inevitability which leaves the Federal or Postal employee similarly limited options.

One can continue in the mode of life which one finds one’s self in: of the daily treadmill of suffering through the workday with pain, profound fatigue and progressively debilitated emotional turmoil.  Or, one can wait for the Agency to initiate an adverse action, such as a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), periodic suspensions or reprimands — or removal.  Or, one can begin to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Limited options do not necessarily constitute a flashpoint of negative consequences; yes, a fire bursting in a home is a tragedy, but then there are controlled fires and even naturally occurring ones in fields of decay which benefit the environment.

It is thus ultimately up to the Federal or Postal employee to determine the point of combustibility, and therefore the timing of the event identified as the flashpoint.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Often, the Option Was Always Open

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question on Standard Form 3112A which asks for the “approximate date” of when a Federal or Postal employee became disabled from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job can sometimes be rather tricky.

For, quite often, it is not the medical condition itself which drives a Federal or Postal employee to file for a Federal Disability Retirement annuity; rather, it may be external circumstances entirely foreign to the medical condition itself (i.e., actions of the Supervisor, the Agency; changes in work schedules; reinstating other assignments and positional requirements, etc.).

In many cases, the fact is that the Federal or Postal worker may have been eligible to apply for, and successfully obtain, a Federal Disability Retirement annuity for several years — it is just that he or she never exercised the option or right to do so, because the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service allowed for light duty, temporary duty assignments, modified duties, etc. — in other words, a loose network of ad hoc duties aggregately termed as an “accommodation”, but clearly not what would constitute a legally-sufficient accommodation under the law and under the Bracey definition.  But the option to exercise the eligibility in a Federal Disability Retirement application may have been there for many years, and so the question on SF 3112A may actually require a response indicating many years and months prior to the completion and dating of the form itself.

The fact that a medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job is the qualifying factor in a Federal Disability Retirement application; when to exercise the option to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement annuity is a separate issue; and as to the latter, the compelling force may well be issues external to a medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire