Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Circle of Questions and Answers

The tragedies befall frequently enough to make some correlative conclusions; of the athlete who fell short of the finish line; of the one who wanted to just make it one last time, only to become severely injured prior to completing the task; and others who become debilitated within the last 50 yards, or within the parameters of being “within reach” of the end.  This is likened to the Federal or Postal employee who has only a couple of years before full retirement.

Inasmuch as Federal Disability Retirement takes on average 8 – 10 months to obtain (from the start of the process of gathering the medical reports, records, etc., until a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management), the question often becomes whether it is worthwhile filing for Federal Disability Retirement when one has come so close to the finish line.

Each case must be assessed and evaluated with the particular facts peculiar and unique to it; but questions of intelligent assessment should be applied, in order to reach an algorithm of rational conclusions:  When I reach the end (or, “if I…”), will my health be preserved enough such that I can enjoy retirement?  Is the reason why I am contemplating Federal Disability Retirement now, because I have in fact already reached the crucial flashpoint where I am no longer able to continue performing the essential elements of my job?  Is there a possibility that I will not in fact be able to endure the remaining X-number of years left before I reach full retirement?

Questions prompt answers; answers, even if preliminary and tentative, begin the process of further questioning; and so the circle of questions and answers begin to guide and resolve the issues which trouble the soul.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Attempting to Time Submissions

Timing is more of an art form than a science; it is the coalescence of knowledge, experience and an instinctive sense of when the most effective moment of fruition will occur, rather than an empirical analysis of sequential propositional logic.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, many Federal and Postal employees attempt to “time” the submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application, for various purposes and reasons, some rationally sound, others rather dubiously proposed.  Whether it is because of a set goal of a date certain; or of funds reserved in order to survive a specified period of time; or of a belief that certain months have a higher probability for a successful outcome; all such attempts are neither based upon certitude, nor upon a sound methodological basis.

The best timing for any Federal Disability Retirement application submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (first, through one’s agency if one is still an employee or not yet separated from Federal Service for over thirty one (31) days) is the one which files it properly, in a timely manner, in as complete a format as possible, and which satisfies the legal criteria as set by statute, regulation and case-law.

Now, there may be some truth to the idea that submitting an application just before Christmas, or during the week of the 4th of July, may not be the most intelligent thing to do, as such a packet may sit in the agency mail room while most of the Federal or Postal employees (or both) are off doing other things.

Aside from such exceptions, attempting to “time” a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, should be a secondary matter; the primary focus is to prepare a case well, in substantive form, and let the winds of time determine the course of future events.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Timing Is Always Critical

Timing has to do with the appropriateness of an action within the proper context, before a chosen audience, in accordance with customs and the historical pretext which forms that coalescence of circumstances.  Much of one’s actions are simply to rush in order to complete the task.  But the completion of a task, if ignored in the context of audience, timing, and event, may well result in mere completion, without any resulting effectiveness.

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee must attempt to optimize every opening, every available opportunity, to take advantage of the proper timing in preparing a case, formulating the case, and filing it — at each stage of the administrative process.

Sometimes, timing of course must incur the chaos of rushing — as in meeting the 1-year Statute of Limitations in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Other times, however, such as responding to a Request for Reconsideration, or to a Medical Questionnaire, requires an appropriate consideration of “when” to file the medical information, the updated medical report, etc.  Further, in the context of today’s reality, where the Office of Personnel Management is presently behind in its review of Federal Disability Retirement applications, there is the question of when “best” the time is to submit additional & updated documentation, whether it is a received approval from SSDI or other persuasive documentation.

Experience alone will often determine knowledge of timing; that is why old men nod with knowing smiles at youth, where time is wasted upon unnecessarily expended energy and enthusiasm.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: How Long Before…

When a Federal or Postal employee begins to contemplate — or initiate — the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the questions which begin to accompany the process are multiple, complex, non-sequential, and often wedded to legitimate concerns surrounding the actions and reactions of one’s Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.

The facts and circumstances of each Federal Disability Retirement case are unique and person-specific.  However, Federal Agencies and the U.S. Postal Service are entities which are fairly predictable, if only because they are comprised by an aggregate of human beings whose natures are fairly set in their ways.

How long before an Agency begins its process of separating me?  How long will they let me stay on LWOP?  How long before they send me home?  How long before…

Often, the length of time in which an Agency responds or fails to respond, depends upon who has been apprised of the issue.  It is interesting how an Agency will be silent on a matter, and allow things to continue for an extended period of time — then, one day, the “right” person takes notice of the fact that a Federal employee has been on LWOP for 5 months, and that there is a pending Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management.  Suddenly, it is an emergency — an urgency which cannot wait any longer, and a Letter of Proposed Removal is issued that same day.

It is the same with being on Worker’s Comp — How long will they let me stay on OWCP before they try to move me off?  It often depends upon “who” has your OWCP file, as opposed to the legitimacy of one’s chronic medical condition.

In both instances (the issue of the Federal Agency and the one concerning OWCP), it is best to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management sooner, rather than later, if only to have a “back-up system” in place in the event that either the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service begins to react, or that OWCP decides that you have been on their compensation payroll for too long.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Further Clarifications

In order to prepare, formulate, file and qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS, one must have a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  There are, of course, additional minimum eligibility requirements — such as the fact that one must have been a Federal employee for at least 18 months under FERS (and 5 years under CSRS — which is a moot point, obviously, because anyone who finds him/herself under CSRS already has the minimum 5 years), and further, that the medical condition must last for at least 12 months. 

The 12-month/1 year requirement often poses a puzzlement to Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Often the question is asked whether a Federal or Postal employee must have been “out of work” for at least 1 year; or, just as often, the question of the 12 month length or duration of the medical condition will often be confused with the requirement that a Federal or Postal employee must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within 1 year of being “separated” from Federal Service.  Thus, the confusion often becomes coagulated to be interpreted as:  I must be separated from service and suffer from my medical condition for a year.  WRONG. 

Normally, a doctor can provide a “prognosis” when it comes to a medical condition — where the doctor “predicts”, within reasonable medical certainty, that a medical condition will last for a minimum of 12 months, 2-3 years, permanently, etc.  That is all that is required in order to meet the 12-month requirement.  One does not have to suffer for a year, or even for many months, in order to begin the process of preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Right Timing

Timing the preparation and submission, and ultimate separation/retirement from Federal Service in getting Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is rarely a method of precision; it is closer to art than it is to science.  That is because there is the “human” element involved — of when does the medical condition reach its critical point where one cannot withstand the daily and chronic pain; is the doctor ready to support the Federal Disability Retirement application; is the Agency sympathetic or suspicious; can the reduced finances be worked out for a livable standard of living; will the future allow for all of the elements to coalesce? 

There are many, many such human elements which must come into play.  All too often, however, the “right time” for contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is simply determined by external circumstances, such as reaching a critical point in one’s medical condition such that there is simply no other choice left, as opposed to being able to rationally and calmly make an affirmative decision for one’s future.  Whatever may be the particular and peculiar circumstances of a given Federal or Postal employee, the time to consider preparing a Federal disability retirement application must be a decision made by each individual, based upon that individual’s unique circumstances.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Indicators

If your weekends are spent for the purpose of recuperating just so that you can have the energy, strength, mental acuity, and sustained focus and attention to go back to work on Monday, then it is an indicator that you may need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS; if, after each day of work, you are so profoundly fatigued that you end up spending each evening just resting, unable to have any significant recreational enjoyment or time for relaxation, time with family, etc., then it is an indicator that you may need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS; if you must take sick leave, LWOP or annual leave every few days, or after a week of work, because you need the time off to recuperate, then that is a further indicator.  Ultimately, each individual must make his or her decision as to the timing and whether one has reached a critical point where filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is necessary.  Different reasons for different people; different factors at different times of one’s life. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire