In a Federal Circuit Court case a few years ago, a dissenting opinion concerning Federal Disability Retirement benefits argued that it was “contrary to logic” to allow for Federal or Postal employees to become eligible for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS if they have been accorded light duty and allowed to remain in his or her official position while not performing many of the essential elements of the job.
The “logic” which is argued here is based upon the paradigm that, so long as one is allowed to continue to work and receive a paycheck, one should not be considered “disabled”. But such an argument refuses to acknowledge both the law (under the Bracey v. OPM decision), as well as good economic and social policy.
The fact is that under Federal Disability Retirement rules, laws and case-laws, what the Administrative Judges and Courts have acknowledged is that a Federal or Postal worker should not be subjected to the arbitrary whims and actions of a single supervisor or Agency; instead, there should be a criteria upon which a Federal or Postal worker should be able to rely upon. That objective criteria is in essence as follows: A Federal or Postal worker should have to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job. If not, that Federal or Postal worker is deemed “disabled” under the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement benefits.
While an Agency may allow for light duty, or temporary assignments, such light duty or temporary assignments should not preclude the obvious fact that the Federal or Postal worker continues to remain disabled. This way, there is an objective criteria of the law to be followed, which cannot be altered based upon the arbitrary whim of a Supervisor or an Agency, who may come along a year later and disallow all light duties or temporary assignments. Thus, in this case, the social and economic policy as envisioned under the Federal Disability Retirement rules, regulations and laws, are not only pragmatic, but logical.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire