Agencies which have employees who cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job will often encourage him or her to file for Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Program benefits (DOL/OWCP), if the injury or medical condition occurred as a result of an on-the-job incident, or can be shown to have an occupational cause.
That is fine, so far as it goes. For, OWCP is set up with the intent of addressing those medical conditions and issues which are work-related. However, when agencies begin to use OWCP as the dumping ground for workers they don’t believe are fully productive, it becomes a problem because OWCP is not intended for long-term compensation, but merely a venue in order to compensate a Federal or Postal employee for a temporary time in order for the worker to recuperate from his or her medical condition or injury, then to return to full duty. It is not meant to be a retirement system.
Further, it only compensates for those injuries which are causally related to the workplace. As a dumping ground, it makes it easier for the Federal agency or Postal Service to deny the ability to accommodate the Federal or Postal Worker, or to reassign the individual, and instead to provide the proper forms to file for Workers’ Compensation benefits. This doesn’t mean, however, that OWCP will accept the claim, either as an original claim or as a recurrence. OWCP is not a retirement system.
On the other hand, OPM Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is meant to compensate Federal or Postal employees who have a long-term medical condition. If the agency cannot accommodate the disabled Federal or Postal Worker, that is an option to be considered. If you are “unwanted” — and the agency shows every inclination of that — it may be time to consider the option of Federal Disability Retirement.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire