OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: Part-time Work

Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, face a formidable task both in terms of legal hurdles and administrative, bureaucratic glitches — not the least of which is in facing the daily battle with the medical condition itself.

Aside from requesting an accommodation from the agency, then being granted some cosmetic work refinements which probably do not constitute a legally viable (or even practically defensible) responsiveness; or of being offered an alternative part-time position which, if taken, will have dire calculation consequences in determining the average of one’s highest-3 consecutive years of service for annuity computation purposes; or more to the point — remaining in the full-time position but working only part-time and taking LWOP the remainder of the time, such decisions can be pragmatic ones which may be arrived at by the Federal Disability Retirement applicant as merely a choice which cannot be avoided, but one which should be embraced with full knowledge of the consequences.

For example, the problem with working one day a week is that such work constitutes only 20% of pay for the Federal or Postal employee who has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Yet, at the time of an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, OPM will pay back-pay for the first year of annuity, at 60%.  But if one has been working part-time during the entire process, no back-pay will be forthcoming precisely because such back-pay is paid only to the “last day of pay” — which would have been the previous week for that part-timer.

Further, the difference between what was part-time work-paid (20%) and what Federal Disability Retirement back-pay will give (60% for the first year) is one of 40% lost forever.

In practical terms, it may well be that working part-time throughout the Federal Disability Retirement process and the long bureaucratic wait was a necessity which could not be avoided; but it is nevertheless something which should be done with full disclosure and knowledge, so that there are no surprises in the end.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Back Pay

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to focus upon the first of the three — preparing.  Preparation often involves thought, reflection, and contemplation.  Formulation requires action; and filing and the time thereafter requires patience.  

In preparing, one must address the issue of how best to survive the lengthy process — does one have sufficient accrued sick leave?  Can one survive without pay and take LWOP during the (potentially) 8 – 10 month process?  Will one be allowed to continue to work, even in a light-duty capacity?  If the latter, then it should be kept in mind that when a Federal Disability Retirement application is approved, such an approval will provide for back pay all the way back to the last time a Federal or Postal employee was paid by the agency — whether it is a dollar, a hundred dollars, or a full paycheck.  

Thus, while acceptance and receipt of donated leave is often desirable, the time of having taken LWOP for any period of time will be negated with the last day of pay.  For example, if a Federal or Postal employee takes several months of LWOP, then accepts a pittance of donated leave, that time of LWOP is lost — for, again, back pay is paid only to the “last day of pay”.  Considerations to be reflected upon when preparing to formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: LWOP & Back Pay

In obtaining a Federal Disability Retirement benefit under FERS or CSRS, once an approval is obtained from the Office of Personnel Management, back pay is supposed to go back to the “last day of pay” that the Federal or Postal employee received from the Agency.  Thus, when a Federal or Postal employee files for FERS Disability Retirement benefits (or the same benefits under CSRS, which is become rarer by the minute), one must plan in order to accrue and obtain the maximum benefits possible.

Should one accept donated leave?  Should one exhaust the large cache of sick leave accrued? Should one go on LWOP part of the time, and take sick leave part of the time?  These are all issues which should be planned for, and if one does not know what the rules, regulations and statutes are governing such issues, one can literally lose out on critical back pay benefits.

For example, since back pay will be paid at the initial year’s 60% rate (60% for the first year in Federal Disability Retirement benefits; 40% every year thereafter), if an individual is receiving donated leave on average, about 15 – 20 hours per week (which constitutes 50% or less), wouldn’t it be wiser to stay on LWOP throughout the process?

On the other hand, pragmatic economic considerations must always temper such decisions.  If a Federal or Postal employee needs the income, even at 50% or less, then such considerations must be taken into account.  Regardless, one should prepare, and go forward with open eyes.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Reminder

If a Federal or Postal Employee files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, remember that:  (A)  You are not required to stop working, as most people for economic necessity continue to work, and (B)  If you stop working, and you are not using your Sick Leave or Annual Leave, but are out on LWOP, remember that once you obtain an approval for your Federal Disability Retirement, that back-pay will be paid all the way back to your “last day of pay”, and not to the last day you “worked”. 

In other words, if you are out on LWOP for three months (as a hypothetical), and on the day before you are approved for your OPM Disability Retirement, you receive a paycheck from your Agency for 1 hour of SL or AL, then you have lost all of the potential “back pay” of the three months on LWOP, because the “last day of pay” was the day just before your Federal Disability Retirement was approved.  Be careful that this does not happen.  While donated leave is often accepted because of economic necessity, you will likely regret accepting such payment once your Federal Disability Retirement application is approved.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: OPM May Say So, But… (Part 2)

Then, of course, there are the multiple “other” issues which the Office of Personnel Management “says so”, such as failure to pay the full amount of back-pay due; failure to compute the average of the highest-3 consecutive years correctly; reinstating the full amount of FERS once a person becomes no longer eligible for Social Security Disability benefits; arbitrarily and capriciously deciding that the medical report is not “good enough” in answering a post-disability approved, Medical Questionnaire; failing to compute the earned income in any given year properly, and thereby informing the disability retirement annuitant that he or she earned over the 80% limit of what the former federal employee’s former job currently pays; and a host of other issues.  My specialty is in obtaining disability retirement benefits for my clients; I only selectively get involved in post-disability annuity issues, but the point here is that the Office of Personnel Management has a track-record of being in error, in multiple ways, on multiple issues, in volumes of cases. 

It is thus important to recognize that the Office of Personnel Management is not an infallible agency.  Far, far from it, they are merely made up of people who are subject to error, but often stubbornly so — unless you counter their denial in an aggressive, but calm and rational manner.  If a denial comes your way, do not get distressed; prepare your case well, and lay out the groundwork necessary to win.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire