FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Resilience

One often hears about the fragile ecosystem of which we are a part.  We speak of such natural orders as if they are somehow separate and distinct from our own existence, and indeed, because we create insular communities and artificial oases of cocoon-like existences, differentiated from the rest of the natural world, we can refer to such organic systems as if they are merely textbook civilizations of another universe.

The linear line of manufacture-to-production, then to commercial commodity-to-consumption, where we pick up neatly packaged goods at the local grocery store, alienates us from the harsh reality of the slaughterhouse.  Just for academic interest-sake, look up the history of polio and how interconnected the epidemic came to be as a result of cleanliness, antiseptic living, and the desire to dominate our environment.  By separating ourselves and creating our own artificial universe of separateness, one wonders whether human frailty is another one of those unintended consequences.

The counter to such a view, of course, is the known resilience of human beings.  Even devastating and debilitating medical conditions often serve to magnify the strength of human character.  That is why, for Federal and Postal employees who find themselves in a situation where the medical condition has come to a critical point of impacting one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, such Federal and Postal employees have often waited until they cannot wait any longer.  While not the wisest of decisions, it shows the resilience and determination of human beings.

Yes, Federal and Postal employees often have the unwarranted reputation of being civil servants who don’t “really” earn their money; but that is merely the ignorant groans from an unknowing public.  Federal and Postal employees whom this author has had the privilege to represent, are to a person workers who have dedicated their lives to the detriment of their own suffering.

For Federal and Postal Workers who need to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, no amount of apologies for such a decision should be necessary.  For, in the end, the most important of ecosystems which needs to be preserved and protected is that comprised of the individual human body, which is a self-contained ecosystem in and of itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Problem of Perhaps

Perhaps it is time to approach the problem from a different perspective; perhaps it is not.  We often engage in games of self-delusions, of allowing words of self-justification to interfere with sequential and linear lines of thinking, in order to bypass the harsh reality of what is often an inevitability.

The allowance of bifurcation of thought — of the logical disjunctive of choices and options to choose from — makes an allowance of pretense to procrastinate in intellectually acceptable ways.  We sound thoughtful and intelligent when we weigh the various alternatives.  And, indeed, it is normally a “good thing” to gather, review and evaluate the options open to us, and to make the proper decision based upon such an analysis.  But at some point in the process, continuing in a morass of intellectualization becomes problematic.

When the choices are limited, clear, and necessary to act upon, to play the “perhaps” game becomes merely a way to delay the inevitable.

For the Federal and Postal employee who must contemplate a drastic change of circumstances by preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, engaging in such mind-games merely prolongs the process.  At some point, action must proceed from thought; and for the Federal and Postal Worker whose medical condition is such that it impacts one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, it is the action which must prevail over the perhapses of our mind.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Continuation of Work

There is often the question of whether, during the process of submitting a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, can/should one continue to work, and will such a status reflect negatively or adversely upon one’s Federal Disability Retirement application?

The question is a logical one, stemming from the seemingly self-contradictory nature of the dual assertion — one which is explicit (the Federal Disability Retirement application itself, where the Federal or Postal employee asserts that he or she can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job), and the other which is implied (by continuing to work, does not one undermine the previous assertion?).

What complicates, confuses and muddles the issue further is the fact that, for FERS employees, the Federal Disability Retirement applicant must also file for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI), and in order to do so, the requirement of being in a non-working status in order to qualify, only further confounds the issue.

But careful analysis will reveal that such apparent contradictions are merely superficial ones.  Hint:  Federal Disability Retirement merely requires a legal standard whereby one cannot perform all of the essential elements of one’s job; continuation in one’s employment capacity does not necessarily mean that one can perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties; rather, it means merely that there are certain elements which cannot be performed.

Further, with respect to the intersecting issue of SSDI, there is a distinction to be made between qualifying and filing.  Life’s contradictions are often merely surface-intersections between technical word-games.  Once the verbiage confusion is resolved, the conflict itself dissolves.

It is sort of like the difference between reading about a man falling off of a cliff, and actually being a tourist at the Grand Canyon and being the subject of a news story the next day.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Gathering All of the Pieces

Multi-tasking is a concept which suddenly came about, but always existed. The idea, the concept — the identifying name itself — is secondary; ask any mother caring for her children throughout the day, whether or not she has to “multi-task” and you will be given a look of puzzlement.

When a medical condition is impacting one in performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, or in performing the daily activities, chores and life-requirements on one’s “to-do” list, then the concept itself begins to have some relevance.

Most of us not only do 2 or 3 things at a time; we must, in this technologically fast-paced society, do that and more.  But in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the attempt to gather the necessary pieces in putting together one’s case, and in an effective and persuasive compilation of proof, becomes not only difficult, but another obstacle.  For, not only does the Federal or Postal employee need to continue to work in attempting to remain employed (for most Federal or Postal employees who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, continuation of work is a financial necessity), but further, the added burden of gathering all of the medical documentation, putting together a compelling enough Disability Retirement application, etc., becomes an overwhelming feat.  But the pieces do need to be gathered; the puzzle needs to be carefully crafted and put together.

It is another task in the multi-tasking world of today– one which is necessary to secure one’s future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: 80% Rule

Around this time of year, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management sends out their Disability Earnings Survey to all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement Annuitants, to determine what earned income was obtained by the Federal or Postal Annuitant.  It is a simple form and should be completed and returned, and will not impact one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit so long as one has remained under the 80% cap.

Now, as to determining how the Office of Personnel Management determines what is the “true” 80% cap, is another matter.  There have been wide discrepancies between OPM’s determination and the Federal or Postal annuitant’s assertion as to what the “current pay” of a former position is, or should be.  That is entirely a different area of law which the undersigned writer does not become involved in.

However, the wisest thing to do, unless one desires to become engaged in a continuing, protracted battle with the Office of Personnel Management, is to calculate the amount as conservatively as possible, and to take the lower amount and remain well under 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.  While this is sometimes difficult, remember that the benefits of retaining one’s Federal Disability Retirement annuity — of continuing Health Insurance Benefits, to name one — makes it worthwhile.  For, ultimately, one is potentially making 120% of what one was making before (80% of what one’s former position currently pays, plus the 40% of annuity).

Stay close to making 100%, if possible, and that will avoid future headaches.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The 80% Rule — Earned Income

As we reach the end of the year, Federal and Postal employees who are receiving Disability Retirement benefits, and who are working in the private sector, should remember the 80% earned income rule.  Be aware that a Federal or Postal employee who is under FERS or CSRS, and who is receiving a Federal Disability Retirement annuity, is allowed to make up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.  

While it is sometimes difficult to ascertain what the current pay scale is (and the Office of Personnel Management is often completely unhelpful, whether deliberately or inadvertently), it is best to always estimate “down”, so that one is never in danger of exceeding the cap.  Further, if the Federal or Postal employee in any given year exceeds the cap, then reinstatement of the Federal Disability Retirement annuity is allowable if in any succeeding year, he or she goes back under the 80% ceiling.  It is important to keep an eye on one’s earned income if one is to continue to maintain a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  Planning is the key to the entire process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Time to Make the Decision (Part 1)

Waiting until the last possible moment to start the process to file for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS may be commendable from the Agency’s viewpoint — but is it smart?  If you are a Federal or Postal employee with multiple years of service, and you believe that because you gave your life, your blood, your sweat, tears, and even your firstborn, that therefore you will receive what I often term as “bilateral loyalty” (i.e., an expectation of receipt of loyalty from your agency for having given your undying loyalty to them throughout the years), you might want to reconsider.

If you are exhausting all of your sick leave, using your annual leave, dipping into your TSP in order to “hope” that you will recover from your continuing medical condition, then come to a point where you need to file for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, then come to realize that you must survive for 6 – 8 months, or even longer, and pay an attorney, pay for medical reports, and _______ (here, you may fill in the space yourself), then you may need to re-think the entirety of the process, the time it takes, etc.  Most people know, very early on, whether or not he or she has a medical condition which will last for a minimum of 12 months.  The time to start planning for the future is now.  As a famous football coach once quipped, “The future is now.”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire