OPM Disability Retirement: The Necessity of Filing

Sometimes the question is asked as to whether it is “necessary” to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits if certain advantages, benefits and comfort levels have already been reached.  

Therein lies the problem, of course:  that when one has secured one benefit which one relies upon and has depended upon, the necessity of filing for a collateral source in order to allow for future options, seems (at times) to be a remote necessity.  But the immediacy of a necessity should never be the primary basis for deciding whether or not to do something; forethought, securing the possibilities for future circumstances, perhaps somewhat unforeseen at the moment, should always be factors in making a decision.  

In general, it is best to allow for as many options to remain open in life, and not allow for an option to close merely because the tolling of the Statute of Limitations has passed.  Thus, if a person is on SSDI or OWCP, the question will often be presented as to whether or not filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is necessary.  The unequivocal answer is, “yes”.  

For those on SSDI (already approved), the approval itself from SSDI will have some persuasive authority in getting a FERS Disability Retirement approved.  It will not be determinative, but merely persuasive. Further, while there will be an offset between SSDI and FERS Disability Retirement, there are multiple other factors which should convince a Federal or Postal Worker that filing for FERS Disability Retirement is the intelligent thing to do.  

As for those on OWCP, while one cannot receive both OWCP and FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement benefits concurrently, the Federal or Postal employee can get it approved, and simply leave it in an inactive statute — for, as no one knows what the future holds, it is good to secure multiple benefits for potential future use.  To unnecessarily close out options to the future is never a wise thing to do.

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