You're a dummy if you quit your job and think your supervisor will just write you the best Supervisor's Statement ever when you're no longer around.
You're a smarty if you sweet-talk your supervisor into firing you for a medical reason - and make sure your medical condition is listed in both the Proposal to Remove and the Notice of Removal!
Example: Linda Lemon worked at the department of agriculture. She had multiple back surgeries and needed to lie down about half the day. Her job required sitting at a desk as well as travel, so she was about to quit because she knew she wouldn't be able to do her job. Linda was a great employee, but she was a dummy!
Solution: Luckily for Linda Lemon, she didn't quit. Instead, she checked out Harvey's OPM Disability Retirement Blog the night before. She called Harvey, who advised her to get her boss to fire her - for the right reason. Linda's boss was Amanda Apple, and the two had been working together for years. Amanda knew Linda was in terrible pain and used to do great work before the surgeries. So Amanda wrote a beautiful "Proposal to To Remove" outlining how Linda Lemon couldn't do her job due to her back problem, and even showed the letter to Harvey to make sure it would help Linda get disability retirement! After taking a few months LWOP, Linda was fired on the grounds that were laid out in the proposal.
Harvey says: People who have been removed for their medical condition (as opposed to staying in their job, quitting, or being fired for another reason) are statistically much more likely to be awarded Disability Retirement.
You're a dummy if you think you're an expert on getting OPM Disability Retirement and don't want to pay a lawyer to help you.
You're a smarty if you realize that Disability Retirement can end up being one of the best financial investments in your life. That's because the several thousand dollars you will pay a lawyer will net you a yearly income of roughly half your salary until age 62. Plus, you can go out and work at another job for which you are not disabled (your new job can't pay more than 79.9999% of your old job's rate of basic pay).
Example: Wilbur Wiseguy needed Disability Retirement for a progressive nerve disease. He thought, "I'm a smart cookie, I'll just read Harvey's blog and do it all myself." Wilbur did a great job getting fired, filled out all his forms, got his medical records and a statement from his doctor, and filed for Disability Retirement. But he was denied! OPM said his condition wasn't so severe that he couldn't be accommodated. OPM also told him he had the right to reconsideration.
Solution: Wilbur Wiseguy finally smartened up and got a lawyer, and lucky for him. The lawyer looked at his application and said, "That's a useless physician's statement. If we don't fix this, you won't win." Wilbur Wiseguy was confused, he thought a doctor's letter could only be written by a doctor. How could that be fixed? Well, if he was a smarty, he'd know that lawyers always have their tricks. Mr. Wiseguy should have known that his lawyer was going to sweet talk the physician and help write the letter with him, to make sure it was perfect.
But lawyers have their fees, and Wilbur was out of money. Lucky for him, there are lawyers who will take contingency fees based on a percentage of any back annuity owed them by OPM when they win, and not charge a fee up front.
You're a dummy if you think you can just ask a doctor to write a Physician's Statement without giving them any guidance on how to craft it. You're an even bigger dummy if you think you can help them craft it.
You're a smarty if you recognize there is more to a Physician's Statement than medical gobbledygook.
Example: The runaway doctor writes: "The client has hypertension with a blood pressure of 180/2,000,000 and he has run out of white blood cells." This means zilch to an OPM adjudicator. They need to know if you can take medicine to treat the condition, the reason the blood pressure will prevent you from working, and much more. The problem is that the doctor doesn't know how to help you! He doesn't know what the OPM adjudicators want to hear. How would he? He may be a great doctor, but he's definitely not a lawyer who knows his way around OPM Disability Retirement.
Solution: Get someone who has done enough cases at OPM that they know what OPM adjudicators want to hear from a doctor. Your doctor doesn't know, and neither do you, your know-it-all husband (or wife), or even less-experienced lawyers. OPM Disability Retirement is all about knowing what OPM adjudicators want to hear.
Harvey says: You want a lawyer who has done scads and scads of cases!
We have a real problem with Physician’s Statements from doctors who are too busy to spend time writing them and unwilling to go out on a limb to say it like it really is. So you have to work around this.
When it comes to doctors, you have to…
Following up on my earlier post about getting fired for misconduct:
If you are fired for misconduct, that does not mean your agency can wash its hands of you and not cooperate with your claim for Disability Retirement. Your agency is still required…
How much will I collect each month on disability retirement?
ANSWER: The amount you collect each month depends on the federal government retirement system in which you are enrolled. FERS has a simple formula; CSRS requires some calculations.
FERS Employees: First, the good news. Apart from any potential cost of living increases, you will receive 60 percent of your "average pay" the first year you collect and 40 percent of your "average pay" during every other year you collect. "Average pay" is the average amount you earned each year during your three highest consecutive paid years of federal civilian employment.
Now the bad news: all FERS employees are required to apply for Social Security, even if they believe that they are ineligible. The majority of FERS employees who apply are not eligible for Social Security benefits, so their disability retirement annuities will not be affected.
FERS employees who are eligible for Social Security benefits will have their 60/40 percent of average pay annuities adjusted as follows: during the first year, for each dollar that Social Security gives you, FERS will deduct one dollar from your annuity. (This is known as a "wash," a transaction in which gains and losses are exactly equal.) During the second and all succeeding years, for each dollar Social Security gives you, FERS will deduct sixty cents from your annuity. In this case, there is some benefit from Social Security eligibility, but the value of that benefit is greatly diminished.
CSRS Employees: The good news is that you don't have to apply for Social Security. If you do apply and are eligible, your disability retirement annuity won't be reduced. Another bit of good news is that some CSRS employees will receive disability annuities higher then the 60 percent ceiling paid FERS employees. But there's bad news for CSRS employees, too. Although the law assures you a "guaranteed minimum" disability retirement annuity, that minimum can be far lower that the 40% floor paid to FERS employees.
A CSRS annuity is predicated on "average pay," (defined above) just as is a FERS annuity. CSRS employees with less than 22 years of actual service also need to consider an additional factor, known as "creditable service." You compute your "creditable service" by calculating the number of years until you reach age 60, and adding that number to your number of years of federal civil service.
Apart from adjustments in the annuity resulting from the potential application of COLA (cost of living adjustment) rules, CSRS employees can determine their approximate annuities by applying one of the following three rules:
If you have 22 or more years of "creditable service," but less than 22 years of actual service, you will collect 40 percent of "average pay" and you don't have to bother with any other calculations.
If you have 22 or more years of actual service, then don't worry about creditable service at all. Your annuity will be computed under the general formula for regular retirement and you will receive more than 40 percent of "average pay."
If you have less than 22 years of "creditable service," you will receive less than 40% of "average pay," and to find your approximate monthly disability retirement annuity, use the chart that follows.
EARNED RETIREMENT PERCENTAGES BASED OF YEARS OF SERVICE
YEARS OF SERVICE
PERCENT OF HIGH 3-YEAR AVERAGE EARNINGS
YEARS OF SERVICE
PERCENT OF HIGH 3-YEAR AVERAGE EARNINGS
If I withdraw all of the money from my retirement fund after separation from government service, am I still eligible for disability retirement?
ANSWER: Probably, but the answer is not clear-cut. Depending on the circumstances, withdrawal of your retirement fund does not necessarily extinguish your right to disability retirement. However, since the law is somewhat unclear, you certainly should not withdraw your retirement fund at separation if you think there is any chance that you may seek disability retirement within the next year.
If the agency won't grant LWOP, can I quit and still apply for disability retirement?
ANSWER: Yes. Even if you resign from your job, you can still apply for disability retirement. You must, however, have already filed your application with OPM at the time of your resignation or do so within a period of one year from your separation date.
Will I need a lawyer to win disability retirement?
ANSWER: Probably. While it is true that a typist whose hand is cut off probably will not need a lawyer to get disability retirement, most cases are not so clear-cut. Remember the case of the government attorney disabled by AIDS dementia that I discussed previously? If someone suffering from such a serious and incurable illness needed a lawyer to win, then most applicants probably need a lawyer. This is particularly true given that most government employees seek disability retirement for illnesses like chronic pain, depression, anxiety, phobias, allergies, chemical sensitivities, and the like -- all of which have a single common denominator: they are subjective. While such symptoms may severely disable the sufferer, they cannot be readily perceived by others, including the physicians who are called upon to diagnose and treat them. Employees with such difficult-to-prove symptoms have a particular need for strong legal advocacy.
I have represented Federal government employees and Postal workers seeking OPM Disability Retirement for a long time. I also represent them in agency leave problems such as AWOL, FMLA, LWOP, etc. Leave problems often come along with being sick and disabled. I have stuck to this area of the law for more than 30 years of the 50 years I have been a lawyer.