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The Viable Option Where Health Impacts One’s Ability to Continue in the Federal or Postal Job: OPM Disability Retirement

Date Added: May 16, 2014 06:37:00 PM

Federal and Postal employees, whether under the older system of the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), or the new one of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), face the unenviable prospect of having one's career cut short by an acute or chronic, progressively deteriorating medical condition. For the young, vibrant and energetic Federal or Postal employee, perhaps such a negative prospect appears remote and unlikely; as one grows older, however, and begins to experience the vulnerability to injury and susceptibility to health concerns, the reality of one's mortality and potential undermining of invincibility may come to the fore.

In the case of Federal and Postal employees facing a major health crisis, OPM Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, may be the best option to take. Filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is blind as to fault or causation; unlike Federal Worker's Compensation programs (which require a causal connection between one's job and the injury incurred), Federal Disability Retirement benefits can be approved based upon a showing of the "nexus" between one's medical condition and the inability to perform at least one, if not more, of the essential elements of one's job.

The expansive spectrum of medical conditions which may qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits include a wide-ranging list. From physical ailments and health concerns, including Cervical, Lumbar and Thoracic disc degeneration; multi-level degenerative disc disease; Shoulder Injuries; Rotator Cuff tears; subacromial bursitis; Carpal tunnel syndrome; Spondylosis; Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome; the spectrum of autistic syndromes; Fibromyalgia Syndrome; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; injuries which impact the knees, hips, joints, etc., including Arthritis, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Osteoarthritis; the impact and effects from Lyme Disease; Plantar Fasciitis; Chronic Pain Syndrome; Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD); Alcoholism and alcohol-related conditions (with some caveats that the Federal or Postal employee has attempted to expend a good-faith effort for treatment); Psychiatric conditions, including (but not limited to) Major Depression, Anxiety, Panic attacks; suicidal or homicidal ideations; Psychosis of varying degrees; Schizophrenia; Paranoia; Agoraphobia; Bipolar Disorder; Mood Disorder; Metabolic disturbances; and an all-inclusive list of medical conditions not identified herein.

The point is that, unlike Social Security Disability Retirement, which requires a higher standard of proof which essentially constitutes "total disability", and which focuses upon the medical condition itself as the qualifying foundation of disability - instead, Federal Disability Retirement is not based upon the strict and narrow "medical condition to proof of disability" format; rather, it is based upon the impact of the medical condition upon the ability of the Federal or Postal Employee to perform the essential elements of one's job. Thus, by way of example, take the following hypothetical: A right-hand dominant IT Specialist who must engage in complex software and hardware installations goes on a skiing vacation, falls, and suffers a complex fracture of his right hand and wrist. After treatment, he has limited use and functional mobility of his right hand and wrist. Is he totally disabled? No, and so in all likelihood, would not qualify for SSDI. Was it "job-related"? No, and so in all likelihood, would not be eligible to file for Worker's Compensation. However, such an individual would be eligible to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, precisely because the medical condition would have a "nexus" to his or her ability to continue to perform all of the essential elements of the position as an IT Specialist.

OPM Disability Retirement is an employment benefit offered to all Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS or CSRS, based upon the health impact upon one's ability to perform all of the essential elements of one's job as a Federal or Postal employee. Far from being relegated to the "last option" available, it should always be considered as a viable alternative to suffering silently, or resigning from Federal employment and foregoing a benefit which is available to all Federal and Postal employees, but is often excluded from consideration because of a lack of knowledge.

 

 

About the Author
Robert R. McGill is an Federal Disability Lawyer who specializes in FERS and CSRS Medical Retirement, a practice area he dedicates 100% of his time helping Federal and Postal workers secure their disability retirement benefits under OPM disability laws. For more information about his legal services, publications and forum, please visit his OPM Disability Retirement Website.

 

 

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