Newspaper stories are replete with articles involving scams, dishonesty and crimes of financial improprieties; that is not surprising, given the nature of what constitutes “newsworthiness”. Fraudulent claims involving disability applications are trumpeted loudly to reveal the disintegration of a system requiring structural integrity. Of course, no one makes the distinction that such claims of fraud almost always involves the “other” disability system, and not the option available to Federal and Postal employees through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.
Just as all politicians are lumped together, so the aggregation and broad-painted brushing of anyone receiving a “disability” annuity is to be expected. But Federal Disability Retirement is a different animal from the “other” disability system, and with good cause:
First, Federal and Postal employees do not file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits until and unless it becomes a necessary option to take. The general public cannot have it both ways: on the one hand, they complain that Federal and Postal employees have it “easy” with their Federal or Postal jobs; on the other hand, they grumble that receipt of Federal Disability Retirement benefits is taken advantage of by unscrupulous Federal and Postal employees. But if the employment itself is so easy, why would the Federal or Postal Worker take a lesser income by filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits? The fact is that most Federal and Postal employees work hard, and well beyond their rate of compensation, in furthering the mission of their agency or department; and filing for Federal Disability Retirement is the furthest thing from the mindset of a Federal or Postal employee.
Second, because of the reduction of income accorded by an approved Federal Disability Retirement, many Federal and Postal employees must go out and seek employment in the private sector. Yes, they can continue to receive the disability annuity so long as they remain under 80% of what the former Federal or Postal position currently pays; and yes, the combination of both the annuity and the employment income can aggregately comprise more than what the former Federal or Postal position was paying; but that is the very attractiveness and intelligence of the incentivized system. It encourages the Federal and Postal Worker to remain productive, and to “pay back” into the system. In essence, it is a self-paying enterprise.
And, Third, because Federal Disability Retirement recognizes that the disability is tied to a particular kind of job, there is very little room for abuse within the system. One is encouraged to remain productive, and such an incentive allows for the system to remain economically viable.
In these difficult economic times, people are often afraid of considering filing for “disability” benefits; but for Federal and Postal employees who have given their time, life and (often) health in the pursuance of an agency’s mission, being treated like a “suspect” in a broadly-painted indictment is not only unfair, but reprehensible. The Federal and Postal Worker has nothing to be ashamed about, and the fact that the general public may harbor some hidden resentments during these trying economic times, is merely a reflection upon the often petty nature of humanity, and not a true gauge of the work ethic of Federal and Postal employees throughout the country.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire