Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Line between Chaos and Order

It is a thin line.  Subject to the winds of perspectives, and often alternating between moods, stimuli encountered; adversarial confrontations may destroy the fragile order held together by sheer will power; and in the end, the appearance of calm and order is often a mere front, a determination to survive another day, when it is the boiling pot of underlying chaos which constitutes the reality of the person in need and crying out for help.

Whether it is to mask the pain of physical conditions by ingesting large quantities of prescribed medications in order to survive the day, while all the time concealing it (or simply not providing the full extent of information) for fear of being disqualified or being sent to a fitness-for-duty examination; or perhaps it is psychiatric in nature, and the fear of revelation and isolation from coworkers, supervisors, etc.  The line between order and chaos is indeed a fragile, almost imperceptibly thin one.

Some refrain from considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement precisely because, to do so would be a self-admission that the necessity of filing reflects the seriousness of that growing chaos.  But such chaos can only be contained for a period of a day, a month, perhaps several months, before it begins to manifest itself in ways that others will begin to take note.

Like the largest organ of the human body — our skin — which holds together the complexity of the human body with all of its organs, intestines and the gory details of our inner self, in order to make the human appearance presentable; likewise, the chaos within is contained by a slim margin.

Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a benefit which allows for that recuperative time in order to settle the chaos; for the Federal and Postal worker who treads the tightrope of a progressive medical condition which is beginning to impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, it is an option which must be considered.  Otherwise, the thin line between chaos and order may be trampled upon, thereby exposing the true nature of one’s internal condition, thus revealing the reality of our lives.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The OWCP Black Hole

Many people rely upon the “generosity” of FECA (OWCP) payments during the period of temporary total disability, and indeed, being tax free and paying 75% of one’s salary (with dependents) or 66 2/3% without, one can easily become reliant upon such benefits. But being on OWCP does not protect the Federal or Postal Worker from being administratively separated from service for extended absences, or for one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, or “unavailability for duty” or other similar basis, to promote the efficiency of the Federal Service.  The agency needs someone to fill the position and do the job.

Normally, at a fairly early stage in one’s period of enduring and suffering from a medical condition or injury, one can assess the nature, extent and severity of the medical condition.  With that in mind, it is a good idea to begin thinking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  The security of OWCP benefits is attractive; however, OWCP is not a retirement address.  FECA will “cut off” the benefits at some point — unless you are somehow lost in the black hole of their payment roster, which happens periodically.  However, there are too many horror stories of a Federal employee who stayed on OWCP, was separated from Federal Service, never filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within 1 year of being separated, and then one day received a fateful phone call…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: OPM over OWCP

I still get many emails and phone calls about the onerous, “over-the-top” behavior, and the bullying tactics of OWCP/DOL temporary total disability payments & requirements — everything from constant, incessant and unending, harassing letters, to requiring further evaluations from second and third opinion doctors (or so-called doctors), to constantly requiring one’s treating doctor to justify the continuing disability status, thereby endangering the continuation of the doctor-patient relationship.  And who can criticize or blame the doctor for wanting to drop a patient for the amount of hours he/she has to put into, for “non-medical” issues, and for the time expended which the doctor will never be paid for? 

Yes, Worker’s Comp pays more.  Yes, it is non-taxable.  Yes, there are monetary reasons for staying on OWCP.  But the truth is, money doesn’t buy peace of mind or a life of lesser stress.  OWCP is meant to be a temporary means of providing income — it is not designed for the long term, and indeed, the Office of Worker’s Compensation makes that abundantly clear by their actions.  OPM Disability retirement under FERS or CSRS pays much less, but it allows for independence and a semblence of freedom, not even to mention a life of some dignity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire