Federal Disability Retirement and the U.S. Postal Service: Lack of Loyalty & Full of Shortsightedness

The following is an article from Attorney Robert R. McGill written exclusively for PostalReporter:

There was a time when the U.S. Postal Service worked in conjunction with the Department of Labor (under FECA/OWCP) to keep hard-working Postal employees who were injured on the job, with offers of modified duties to retain a productive workforce. It was a time when the USPS was forward-looking; when competition from other companies was of no concern, because the USPS had the most productive workforce and could compete with the best of them. Part of the reason why this was so was because of a conceptual paradigm which is fast disappearing: Loyalty.

Loyalty, as a working corporate model, requires a bilateral conceptual paradigm. By retaining injured workers and providing them with meaningful work in a modified environment and tools, the U.S. Postal Service was daily telling its people: You worked hard for us those many years; we will work with you and remain loyal.

Fast-forward to the present day. Postal Workers who for several years have worked under the Rehabilitation Job Offer Guidelines, are suddenly handed a letter which states: “Notice of No Work Available within the operational needs of the service.” The letter goes on to delineated the fact that such determination of unavailability of work is based upon a “comprehensive review” of the USPS operational needs and comparing them to the current medical documentation of the injured Postal Employee. What is missing in this “new” paradigm? Does this reflect an organization which looks to its competitors with a positive view to challenging them in the marketplace? Does it value its employees? Does it engender a desire on the part of its workforce to work harder, be more competitive, and to expend all efforts to the point of excellence? Or, does it act like a wounded animal, fearful of its own shadow, and trying to protect its executive-level benefits and perks?

In professional football, how many times have we seen the team try and protect its 3-point lead for the remainder of the game? What inevitably happens?

Under the National Reassessment Program (the “NRP”), the U.S. Postal Service is attempting to validate a methodical paradigm of cutting its workforce by going after everyone who is less than “fully productive”. By doing so, it has destroyed any sense of corporate unity and company loyalty.

The Postal Worker today who is subject to the NRP is left with limited choices. On the one hand, he or she can accept the determination of the U.S. Postal Service that “no work is available”, and go on to file for benefits under FECA/OWCP. However, the Postal Worker must recognize that OWCP is only a temporary system of monetary compensation. Another avenue which the Postal Worker needs to consider is to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS. While Federal Disability Retirement benefits do not pay as well as OWCP benefits (generally, 60% of the average of one’s highest-3 consecutive years the first year, then 40% every year thereafter, under FERS; a different calculation under CSRS), it provides for one benefit which FECA/OWCP does not: independence and separation from the government entity.

Loyalty is a dying concept. It was a concept which was alive and well when, once upon a time, companies took the long view, looked to the future, to its continuum of growth and prosperity, and sharing that vision of a bright future with its employees. For the essence of loyalty always encapsulated a sense of the long term – of “being in it together” through prosperous times, as well as challenging times. Of course, even during the primacy of the U.S. Postal Service, Federal Disability Retirement benefits were still there for Postal employees (and similarly for all Federal employees) who could no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job. The interesting thing, of course, is that many Postal employees continued to work at modified jobs offers by the U.S. Postal Service, because of their sense of loyalty and commitment.

Indeed, when the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit rendered its opinion in the case of Bracey v. Office of Personnel Management, 236 F.3d 1356 (Fed. Cir. 2001) — most Postal employees continued to work at their modified jobs, despite being eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits. Bracey is still the prevailing case addressing the issue of accommodations for Federal and Postal employees. It stands for the proposition that a Federal or Postal employee is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits even if he or she works in a “light duty”, modified position which may include “an ad hoc set of light duties” and may even continue “to pay the employee at the same level as before.” (Bracey, 236 F.3d 1356, at p.1362). Thus, while some may argue that the primary reason why injured Postal employees continued to work at the U.S. Postal Service was because the jobs were “easy” and that they couldn’t find a better-paying job elsewhere, the truth of the matter is that the vast majority of Postal Workers continued to work under the Rehabilitation Job Offer Guidelines because of an overriding belief that it was a career worth pursuing.

Loyalty was still a paradigm which Postal Workers believed in. With the implementation of the National Reassessment Program, in conjunction with the deep economic recession which the country is undergoing presently, Postal employees should not feel that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is an act of “disloyalty”. Loyalty, in order for it to retain its meaningful paradigm, must at its core reflect a bilateral proposition. By initiating and implementing the National Reassessment Program, the U.S. Postal Service has abrogated its core pledge of loyalty. As such, the U.S. Postal Worker is left with a unilateral avenue of loyalty – one which must now be viewed with a singular focus: not upon the best interests of the organization that once was – that competitive entity called the U.S. Postal Service; no, rather, that singular focus must be concentrated upon the best interests of the individual Postal Worker. Federal Disability Retirement is an avenue which allows for independence and a foundation of income; it is something to be considered.

Attorney Robert R. McGill specializes in securing Federal Disability Retirement benefits for Federal and Postal workers under both FERS and CSRS. He represents Federal and Postal employees from all across the United States, from the West Coast to the East, and every state in between, as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Europe, Japan, etc. For more information about his legal services, please visit his OPM Disability Retirement and U.S. Postal Service Disability Retirement websites.

© 2010 PostalReporter.com – This article may not be reproduced without express written consent.

10 thoughts on “Federal Disability Retirement and the U.S. Postal Service: Lack of Loyalty & Full of Shortsightedness

  1. Kevin, you should pursue Federal Disability Retirement with all your time and energy. Workers Comp pays more than disability retirement, but OWCP is NOT a disability system. You can be separated from service, stay in OWCP for several years, and then for any reason the OWCP will terminate your benefits. Once you are separated from service, you have only one year to file for disability or lose your right to file forever. I know you have already applied for disability retirement, so that’s the way to go. But if you are denied, try to appeal with the help of an experienced attorney. Once you have both Workers Comp and disability retirement, you can choose one only. You can stay in Workers Comp for as long as you can handle (they usually will harass you), then when OWCP finish your benefits, you can activate disability retirement. But remember, Workers Comp is not a retirement system. You should pursue first disability retirement with all you got (there are time limitations and the danger of being denied), then after you actually get it, you may also apply for an schedule award with the OWCP for limp or shoulder injury. This is a different benefit though, and you can get it only after you activate your opm disability benefits. But in my opinion, disability retirement is much, much more important than both regular workers comp and an a schedule award (which is also administered and approved by the DOL’s OWCP). You can also get a lot of money for schedule award (however, a friend of mine got only $25,000 also for a rotator cuf, but I got more than her because I think I got a good lawyer), but there is not time limit to apply for schedule award, so that can wait. About other advices, I agree that you should probably talk with a HR specialist, but remember they work for the agency, not for you. They can be biased too. But they are free, so you may talk with them but doublecheck on the information they give you.

  2. Kevin payment can take up to 6 months for annuity to started but you can stay on owcp and put the retirement in an inactive status . You can also receive unemployment while you are waiting for your retirement moneys. I know someone who is receiving unemployment now .

  3. NRP is another wrong headed drive by management to “rightsize” the Post Office. With disreguard to the “rules” they storm into an office and attempt to intemidate employees out of a job. The threat in our area is that they can tell the affected employee that two hours of work is available 50 miles away (drive there on their own time with no compensation for milage), then tell that same employee that another 2 hours of work might be a 40 mile drive away from the first office (again on their own time and no compensation for miles driven). If the employee doesn’t like chasing after work in their own “craft” they can sit at home and file for disabliliy and hope they have enough money saved up to last until the first disability check arrives in maybe a year !!!!!

  4. Kevin needs to call HR Specialists on telephone for help they are professional. Also, he must take dual retirement to protect his Federal benefits if he retires on OWCP. OWCP is an insurance disability it does not cover your federal benefits. Dual allows you to keep your federal. Ask someone in HR Services to explain.

  5. I lost my head in a car accident back in 2007 while I was a mail carrier but my supervisor said that since I couldn’t carry mail anymore, I could go into management. I’m making twice as much money and I’m working not even half as hard

  6. I tore my rotator cuff on the job on 2/09. OWCP didn’t approve my case until May (recv’d backpay). Had surgery on 9/09 and after physical re-hab was OKed to return to work with medical restrictions on 1/10. The USPS didn’t have a job for me so I filed for disability retirement. It was approved on 5/10. OWCP has me seeing a rehabilitation counselor who, with my med. restrictions, says I am limited to sedentary jobs. I have not recv’d a final letter or date of retirement from OPM. OWCP wants me to choose between them and retirement but I would like to know how much and when annuity would start. Contacting OPM is difficult with no return calls from them. For now I am sticking with OWCP because at least I am getting a monthly check, but would like to take retirement if I knew from how and when annuity payments begin. I’m stuck in the middle because I’d like to get paid without a lengthy break. What can I do?

  7. I agreed 100% with your article, however a small APWU local has challenge
    USPS in the MSPB arena and so far defeated the agency lawyers big time
    See MSPB decisions, you can download these decisions
    If you cantact APWU Pasadena Local 731, PO Box 90604, Pasadena, CA 91109
    I will be more than happy to talk to you.

  8. As a Postal employee of 29 years, I would dispute the premise outlined in the author’s opening paragraph. On the contrary, many IOD employees were given modified offers of busy work and make-work of marginal value. The rationale in those days was better to pay an employee a regular salary to do at least a little work on the job, then to pay him OWCP for sitting home and doing nothing.

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