Federal Disability Retirement: The Rocking Chair and the Never-Ending Story

The myth about retirement has long receded; once upon a time, there was an idea, a concept, an ethereal potentiality, of reaching a point of quietude where reflection, dispensing of wisdom, and calm gardening and tending to the passing of time would be the status of choice; but modern life has wreaked havoc upon such a notion.

It was perhaps engendered by the character, Mose Harper (the sidekick of John Wayne) in John Ford’s, “The Searchers”, who only wanted a “rocking chair” at the end of his troubles.  But the never-ending story in these times of modernity, is that one must always claw and fight for maintaining the high standard of living which we enjoy and have become content with.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who must take an early form of retirement — a Federal Disability Retirement — because of his or her ongoing medical conditions, where the medical conditions no longer allow for the continuation in one’s job because they prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of the job, the battle to first prove a Federal Disability Retirement application, then to retain and maintain it, throughout all of the complexities of the bureaucratic and administrative process, is a daily chore and toil.

First, there is the right to get it approved; then, there may be periodic Medical Questionnaires which are issued and which mandate a response; then, if Social Security Disability is approved, the offset between FERS Disability benefits and SSDI must be calculated; then, if you become employed and lose the SSDI benefit because of income, the FERS Disability annuity must be recalculated; then, at age 62, recalculation because the Federal Disability Retirement annuity effectively ends, based upon the total number of years of service, including the time one is on Federal Disability Retirement; and then the need to maintain income sources because of the reduction; and so the never-ending story continues.

Indeed, it is not from the rocking chair which the retiree tells a story, like Mose Harper must have done in his old age; rather, the modern retiree from the Federal sector, whether as a former employee of a Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, must tell his or her never-ending story to an empty chair with rhythmic movements to and from absent an occupant, as the old man remains away, trying to figure out the further complexities of this age of modernity.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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