OPM Disability Retirement for Civilian Federal Employees: A Path to Consider

Of course, when a person begins his or her career with the Federal Government, the consideration of a Federal Disability Retirement benefit does not enter into the equation of accepting the position.  Most Federal and Postal workers would rather work and be healthy, than to resort to preparing and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

Indeed, the problem with Federal and Postal workers is not that the option of Federal Disability Retirement is considered or taken; rather, the problem lies more in the fact that it is an option of last resort — which is probably how it should be, however necessary such an option must be for many Federal and Postal Workers.  But at some point in the linear continuum of a person’s career, where health and work collide and one must make a choice between the two, it is too often the case that the Federal or Postal worker has passed the point of “reasonableness” in preparing and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

It is rare that it is ever “too late” to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits (unless we are talking about missing the Statute of Limitations in filing); but most Federal and Postal workers, whether from a sense of duty, commitment, or sheer stubbornness, will work beyond the point of a well-reasoned and informed state of health or self-preservation. But however and whenever that point of finally choosing the path of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, comes about, one should prepare one’s case carefully; formulate the disability retirement application with care and foresight; and file it in a timely manner.  

When the time comes, and the path to a recuperative period of one’s life is finally considered, it should be done “right” — as much as one has invested in the effort of work itself throughout one’s career.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Choosing from the Options

The self-evident approach to making a right choice is to first understand what one’s choices are comprised of; yet, for many, this necessary first step is never taken, and so the option taken is based upon the choices presented, and not upon the greater universe of alternatives available.  If the parent asks the child in an ice cream store, “Do you want chocolate or vanilla?”, the unsuspecting child will choose from the options presented — until the child observes the one standing in front, who has just received another flavor.  “How about that one?” is the natural next query.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there is a universe of options which present themselves in concentric circles of choices within options within alternatives — but in order to make any positive steps towards accepting any of them, one must first be aware of them.

Thus, whether the agency moves forward to remove a Federal or Postal employee based upon reason X, may not be the only option if you don’t know that there may be an alternative option for removal, or to negotiate a delay of the option itself; whether OWCP/FECA, or Federal Disability Retirement, SSDI or VA benefits, or a combination of some or all to be approved; whether the basis should be medical condition A, B & C, or E, F & G, or a combination of some of each category; all such options need to be reviewed and the universe of alternatives explored, until the crucial decision is made of picking one over another.

Wisdom first begins with exploring the explorable universe; if one believes that one’s crib is the only universe in existence, then that will be the one which defines the confinement of one’s life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Clarification of Options

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is often necessary to perform a methodological analysis similar to a “risk-benefits” evaluation before proceeding down the path in attempting to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The risks versus benefits analysis should already have been performed:  the necessity of filing because of one’s medical conditions should have answered any such issues arising from such a concern.  The “other” analytical approach, however, often revolves around the ever-prevalent and uniquely human ability to endlessly ruminate:  the “What if” syndrome.  What if I don’t get the disability retirement?  What if my agency terminates me before I get approved?  What if…

Such questions, while important to consider, should be first preceded by the overarching “what-if” question of all, which generally answers all subsequent similar questions:  “What if I don’t file?”  Presumably, one comes to a point in deciding to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits because of a medical condition which has progressively or suddenly come to a point where it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Given that, the options to be clarified are quite simple:  If one does not file, then one will either have to continue working in the same or similar capacity; or one can resign and walk away, perhaps with a deferred retirement at age 65.  Are any of those options truly viable?  Ergo, many — if not all — of the other “what if” questions resolve themselves by first clarifying the penultimate what-if question.

Sequential clarification of one’s options is an important step in the reflective process of decision-making; take the time to consider the options; clarify the options; then, when the decision to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefitsbecomes a matter of necessity, move forward with the view that one will be approved precisely because the facts prove the case, without engaging in the self-defeating, very-human endeavor of self-doubt and questioning.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Periodic Clarifications

Clarifications are needed to be periodically made, based upon questions which Federal and Postal employees continue to ask.  There is often a confusion concerning the “one year” issue — whether it concerns the Statute of Limitations in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, or the length of time a medical condition must last. 

A Federal or Postal employee must file a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS within one (1) year of being separated from one’s Agency.  The confusion often arises because a Federal or Postal employee is unsure of whether or not such separation from service has actually occurred.  Especially for Postal employees, where the U.S. Postal service will often continue to keep a Postal employee “on the rolls” despite having been on OWCP for many years, the confusion can be understandable.  However, one indicator is that if a Postal employee is continuing to receive zero-balance pay stubs, then in all likelihood that Postal employee has not yet been separated from service, and the 1-year tolling of the Statute of Limitations has not yet begun. 

Because obtaining an approval from the Office of Personnel Management on a Federal Disability Retirement application can take an extraordinary amount of time, however, it is wise to begin the process sooner, rather than later, whether one has been “officially separated” from service or not.  For Federal employees, an SF 50 (Personnel Action) form would systematically be issued showing that a Federal employee has been separated from Federal Service

As for the 1-year issue concerning the extent of a medical condition, we will address that issue at another time.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire