I have written on this particular topic in the past, but certain issues seem to be “recurring thematic issues” which need constant vigilance in approaching it in the proper manner. Filing for disability retirement requires an affirmation of two foundational hurdles: (1) acknowledgment and acceptance that one has reached a point in one’s life that he/she can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job. This is the “psychological hurdle” which must be overcome. And, (2) dealing with the Agency — trying to get the Agency to be “on your side” or, short of that, to render any potential agency action to become irrelevant or inconsequential.
As to the first hurdle, the Federal employee must always remember that filing for disability retirement is not a “shameful” thing — it is a pragmatic business decision: No longer a good “fit” for one’s job, it is a benefit which one has had as part of the “employment package” that one accepted when one became a Federal employee. Remember that, in the private sector, an employee may get a greater salary compensation package; in the Federal government, the employment package includes more than salary: it includes health insurance, life insurance, disability retirement benefits, annual & sick leave, etc. Filing for disability retirement is simply part of that compensation package.
As to the second, once an employee decides to file for disability retirement, it is important to try and convince the Agency that any adverse actions contemplated (putting you on a PIP; suspension actions; negative performance ratings; contemplated removal actions, etc.) will be vigorously contested — unless it is removal based upon a medical inability to perform one’s job. Hurdles often arise through inaction and fear; this is your life; take the affirmative road, and begin tackling the issues “head-on”. The time to file for disability retirement is now — not tomorrow.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire