One may choose OWCP benefits because, financially, it pays more (75% non-taxed for an individual with dependents; 66 2/3% for a single individual) than a Federal Disability Retirement annuity. It is a pragmatic paradigm to rely upon for the immediate time-frame; however, it is not a practical paradigm for the future. Obviously, one should obtain an approval from the Office of Personnel Management for one’s disability retirement, concurrently with receiving OWCP temporary total disability payments. However, upon an approval from OPM, you need to elect between the two — because you cannot be paid by both concurrently. Many people (rightly) choose to remain on OWCP and keep the OPM Disability Retirement annuity in “limbo or annuity purgatory” — again, because OWCP pays more.
However, as a paradigm for the future, it should not be relied upon forever. This, because OWCP is not a retirement system. Instead, it is a system of allowing for payment during a time of occupational disease or injury, for a person to be able to recover from such an injury. While on OWCP benefits, however, you cannot work at another job (unlike under FERS & CSRS disability retirement); in fact, if you engage in too many physical activities similar to those which you might do at work, you may find that you will be criminally charged for “fraud”. This has happened to many people, and it should frighten anyone who is on OWCP. In such cases, you will often find that you have been videotaped over hundreds of hours — but the “edited” version upon which OWCP investigators charge you with, will be a video clip of about 5 minutes. Next: Why OWCP is not a good paradigm for one’s future.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire