OPM Disability Retirement: The Three Pockets

In discussing Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to keep in mind the conceptual distinction between the three “pockets” of compensatory programs or resources (and, not to confuse the issue further, but these three pockets are separate and apart from the 3-legs of the retirement stool envisioned under FERS — the FERS Retirement annuity, Social Security, and TSP).

The three primary pockets of compensatory programs include:  CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement (and its companion hybrid, the CSRS-Offset)  — all of which get recalculated at age 62 to regular retirement; SSDI (Social Security Disability which, under FERS, one must file for automatically as part of the process of submitting for FERS Disability Retirement benefits, but under CSRS, one does not need to); and finally, Department of Labor, Office of Worker’s Compensation Program.

The former two have direct interaction, inasmuch as one who falls under FERS Disability Retirement must also file for SSDI, and if both are accepted, there is an offset of benefits between the two (100% offset the first year of benefits, 60% offset every year thereafter until age 62).  The last of the three pockets, OWCP benefits, as I have stated on many occasions, is not a retirement system, but one may file for such benefits concurrently with filing for FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement benefits (but one must elect between OWCP benefits on the one hand, and FERS or CSRS benefits on the other hand), have both approved, but cannot collect both concurrently.  There is an exception — and that has to do with a “scheduled award”.

While keeping these various benefits conceptually distinct can be rather confusing, it is important to understand the distinctions when contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: A Different Process Reality

The “process reality” of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS is a completely different kind of reality — a parallel universe that continues on regardless of whether or not one enters into such a world.  That is why it is often a shock for Federal and Postal workers who enter into such a foreign process reality.  

When a Federal or Postal worker is engaged in the “work world”, the process reality involves and entails goal-oriented accomplishments, daily tasks to be completed, career goals to be defined, interactions with coworkers and supervisors to be handled in diplomatic manners, etc.  

When a medical condition intervenes, however, the process reality of the work world suddenly changes — and changes traumatically and dramatically.  Suddenly, coworkers and supervisors view you differently; career goals are replaced with fear and trepidation for the future; daily tasks are seen as hurdles to overcome; work becomes a trial of daily pain.  On top of it all, the process reality of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS — with all of the surrounding laws, statutes, case-laws and procedural complications — becomes the new reality.  It is a reality which encompasses bureaucratic hurdles and pitfalls, but one which must be confronted.  While most Federal or Postal employees have little choice but to enter such a parallel process reality when the need arises, it is nevertheless a difficult reality to face, and little can be done to prepare in advance for it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire