Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Intersection with VERA

Questions always abound when Federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service offer incentivized programs under the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) propounded by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  In accepting a VERA, the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition must take into account whether the VERA should take the place of a Federal Disability Retirement application, or whether it will merely be the first step in the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement.

Often, because Federal Disability Retirement takes many months in order to secure and procure, Federal and Postal employees considering such an option will elect to accept a VERA in order to have some income during the time of filing for, and waiting upon, a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Questions which the potential Federal or Postal VERA annuitant should ask themselves include: What impact does a Federal Disability Retirement application have upon a VERA? Is there an offset between Social Security and the VERA annuity, as opposed to the offset which occurs under Federal Disability Retirement, and if so, which provides greater financial sense? Are there provisions where, if the Federal or Postal employee accepts a VERA, one must repay any lump sum incentive which is offered, if one subsequently files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and gets it approved?

While it often makes sense to accept a VERA, then to subsequently file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service as a result of the VERA, one should nevertheless do so with full knowledge and information.

As a final point, in addition to obtaining all information and basing one’s decision upon full knowledge, the fact that the years which one is on Federal Disability Retirement counts toward the total number of years of one’s Federal Service, should always be factored in — especially if one lives to be a ripe old age, where one’s retirement nest egg will be an important future consideration.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: What to Do

Whether or not one should hire an OPM Disability Attorney at the initial stage of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, or whether to wait for a denial; such a question must be answered by each Federal or Postal employee, based upon the strength of a case, based upon the financial resources of the individual and the family, and based upon the ability of the potential applicant to organize, compile, streamline, delineate, communicate, descriptively convey, and methodologically argue the strength of a case.  Much of being able to successfully compile the multiple facets of a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application depends upon the discretionary ability to make judgments about which aspects to emphasize and magnify; which aspects to de-emphasize; and (often) most importantly, which issues to “leave alone”. 

Whatever it is that one does in preparing a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement Application under FERS or CSRS, the “What to Do” list must always include what NOT to do.  Whatever it is that one does, one should do nothing that is going to negatively impact one’s application or case.  And, above all, remember that the person who “assumes” that the Federal Disability Retirement application will be approved at the first stage, and prepares such a packet, is often the person who regrets having said “this or that”, or wishes that “x, y or z” had not been included.  This is especially true when it gets denied the first time, and then the second time, and it is now being reviewed by an Administrative Judge.  On the other hand, I have found that there are few, if any, issues which are not ultimately “correctable” or able to be “explained away”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire