Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Misinformation

The problem with a society which provides unlimited information is that the traditional controls and mechanisms known for verification and validation of accuracy become diluted or altogether abandoned.  Plagiarism has become a pervasive problem; as vastness of information exponentially explodes, so the chances of being identified for unauthorized copying becomes infinitely lesser, while those who “play the odds” increase in boldness and in sheer volume.

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 a procedural requirement that — sometime during the process of filing with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) — the Federal or Postal employee must show that he or she has filed for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) with the Social Security Administration.  But it is the “when” which have become enveloped within a convoluted complexity of misinformation.

Various Human Resource Offices are insisting (in error) that SSDI must be filed before an application to OPM can be submitted.  Such misinformation may preclude a Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement to meet the 1-year Statute of Limitations in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits (after separation from Federal Service), or for other Federal or Postal employees who are still employed, if only because the process of SSDI can be an equally, if not more so, of a daunting administrative process as filing for Federal Disability Retirement.  Further, in attempting to file online for SSDI, there is the question as to whether one is still employed, and if so, SSDI will not allow the online applicant to proceed any further, precisely because such an applicant would be immediately disqualified, anyway.

The fact and correct information is as follows:  At some point in the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal or Postal employee needs to file for SSDI, and show OPM proof of such filing.  From OPM’s perspective, upon an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application, they need to make sure that the Federal or Postal Retirement annuitant is or is not eligible for SSDI, for offset-provisions of benefits between SSDI and FERS.  Thus, it is ultimately merely a payment/compensation issue.  Filing for SSDI is not in reality a prerequisite for filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, but merely a check upon a coordination of payment benefits if both are approved.

In this vast universe of information, one must expect a correlative dissemination of misinformation; like the black hole in the greater universe of thriving galaxies and dying planetary systems, one can be sucked into the void of ignorance and suffer irreparable consequences as a result.  That is why Captain Kirk needed to be periodically beamed up — if only to make sure that the molecular reconstitution was properly performed in order to continue on in life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Sources and Information

George Orwell’s classic work, 1984, depicts a society in which the gradual, systematic reduction of words, and therefore the availability of the use of words, is deliberately restricted and expunged from the universe of vocabulary.  Such reduction is performed through the issuance of the official dictionary, which comprises the totality of acceptability of language in his fictionalized society.

As words and the compendium of words comprise conceptual thought; as conceptual thought form to create ideas in a universe of human consciousness; and as rebellion is acted upon through the prefatory coordination of thought, so the stamping out of rebellious-driven words is the first step towards total control of man.

Orwell’s approach is interesting, but not the only way in which to control the populace.  The inverse approach is also as effective, if not more so: inundation of information can also paralyze a population from effective action.  In the real society of our age, the vast expanse of information has become the problem, not the lack thereof.

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 important to distinguish between information which is third or fourth hand (as in, “I was told that…” or, “A friend of mine said…”), and information which is accurate and of a reliable nature.  Further, each case is different and unique, and stories about what X did, or the fact that Y was told that a Federal or Postal Worker got Z, should ultimately be discounted.

Vast information in and of itself is worthless unless it is guided by truth, objectivity, and relevance.  Be aware of the unfettered information “out there”, for the source of information is just as important as the accuracy of such information.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the Federal and Postal employee must always be cautious of the source of any and all information.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Information

I am sometimes asked whether or not, in providing detailed information concerning FERS or CSRS disability retirement, I am revealing “too much” information. The way that I look at it is this: Not everyone can afford an attorney. I try to set my fee structure in a fair, reasonable and competitive manner, so that most people are able to retain me. When people are not able to afford an attorney, information on the process, the substantive requirements, and the legal precedents, are important to be able to access. While information provides power, however, it is not the same as having an effective advocate representing a case before the Office of Personnel Management.

Further, one of the greatest compliments I find in providing the benefit of my experience and knowledge to the public at large, is when other attorneys (i.e. competitors) parrot my information and repackage and restate what I have said, in their own “blogs” and “articles”. Professionally, I have no problem with other attorneys accessing the same information as the public at large, and restating the same (or similar) advice concerning the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS. Good law is just that — good law. Who uses it, how it is used, and what the “totality of the end product” results in, makes all the difference.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Social Security Disability

Under the rules concerning FERS disability retirement applications, one must file for Social Security Disability.  As most people already know, there is an interaction/offset between Social Security Disability benefits and FERS disability benefits, if both are approved (100% offset in the first year of annuity, 60% offset every year thereafter).  One would assume (dangerously, as it turns out), that if an application for Social Security disability is approved, that it would automatically render an approval under FERS disability retirement a “sure” thing.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

The fact that Social Security has a higher standard of proof — where one must be considered “totally disable” as opposed to (under the legal standards for FERS) “disabled from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job”) — one would think that, legally and logically, if you have met the higher legal standard of proof, then the lesser standard would have been automatically met.  Unfortunately, because the two standards are applied in different, independent agencies, the fact that Social Security Disability benefits are awarded is not a guarantee that the FERS disability retirement application will automatically be granted.  However, there is clear case-law stating that OPM must consider the approval by SSD as one factor among many in the consideration of FERS disability retirement applications.  It is important to cite such cases in support of your application for FERS disability retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Can the Agency Accommodate You?

The term “accommodations” continues to be a highly misused one.  There is the general conceptual application, as when an agency attempts to do something to help a Federal or Postal employee by “allowing” for “light duty”, or allowing one to work at a reduced schedule, or to take sick leave, annual leave, or Leave Without Pay.  But such actions (as kindhearted as they might be intended) do not constitute a legal accommodation under disability retirement rules, statutes, laws or case-law. 

To legally accommodate someone must always mean that the agency does something, provides something, or creates something of a permanent nature, such that it allows you to perform the essential elements of your job.  Temporary measures, or allowing you to take time off, does not allow you to perform the essential elements of your job — instead, it merely allows you take time away from being able to do your job.  Remember, on the other hand, that there is nothing wrong with your Agency doing these things to “help you out”.  It simply does not constitute, or rise to the level of, an “accommodation” under the law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire