Monthly Archives: January 2014

Understanding FERCCA

FERCCA, or the Federal Erroneous Retirement Coverage Corrections Act, was developed and enacted to help solve the administrative difficulties federal employees and OPM were having when correcting inappropriate retirement coverage. That sentence is a mouthful.

Basically, when the government was in the process of switching between the Civil Service and Federal Employee Retirement Systems, there were errors in placing some new hires into the wrong coverage. FERCCA detailed how the corrections could be made and gave the federal employee some rights as to which system they preferred, if an actual error had occurred in their employment.

While most of these issues have been resolved, some federal disability retirement applicants are still dealing with an administrative error due to being hired into the wrong system. The technical deadline to file was September of 2002, but if the federal employee can show due diligence, the deadline can be waived.

The point is to understand that federal employee benefits are a enormous system of errors and nuances. An HR system that correctly flows to 2.5 million employees is nearly impossible, especially when you add in all of the separate rules and regulations inside of each agency. The important this to remember if you are considering a federal disability retirement is that a quality legal representative can help you navigate these precarious situations and keep you informed of your rights and options.

Being injured or sick is hard enough without having to deal with the federal government and the intense application and determination processes. Call Harris Federal now to set up a free case consultation to learn more about your rights. We are here to help!

 

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Does Federal Disability Retirement have to be work related?

A common misconception about Federal Disability Retirement is that in order to qualify, the medical condition must be work related.

This couldn’t be further from the truth. Eligibility from disability benefits from either CSRS or FERS is based solely on your participation in the retirement plans, and your inability to continue to provide useful and efficient service in your current job. Allow me to explain:

Career federal employees are enrolled in a pension plan. If you were hired in after January 1, 1984, it is under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). Every year that you spend working for the federal government, you earn credit towards the pension you will receive once you retire, in addition to the Thrift Savings Plan and Social Security Administration components. Once you reach the age and years of credible service requirements to retire under normal circumstances, you can leave your job and start to draw your earned annuity. Welcome to retirement.

But what happens if you have been working for 10 years (minimum is only 18 months) and you get sick or injured and can’t reach your full retirement age? Do you lose all of your hard earned retirement benefits simply because something unfortunate happened to you? Of course not. Just like any pension plan, there is a disability fund that provides a bridge to your full retirement benefits if the event that you become medically unable to continue.

The disability fund and requirements do not consider how the inability to continue came about. Whether you were hurt on the job, were diagnosed with cancer, or developed a mental health problem due to stress in your personal life, a disability is granted with the applicant proves that they have a diagnosed medical condition that prevents them from fully completing their job requirements. The agency has the opportunity to accommodate the medical restrictions or reassign you to an equivalent position if available. Often that is not possible and the path to disability retirement is cleared.

The OPM in Washington, DC makes all of the decisions about the federal disability applications and, through case-law, ignores cause of condition when evaluating evidence. This is important in how we set up and organize our clients’ information and legal briefs. We want to make sure that our clients have the best possible chance of being successful with their claims, and providing the Legal Administrative Specialist at the OPM with all of the pertinent evidence and rationale gives us the best chance for an approval.

We help thousands of federal employees every year with their questions and hundreds with their claims for disability retirement. Call us for a free consultation about your claim.

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Federal Disability Retirement Interim Payments

Once your claim for OPM federal disability retirement claim is approved, your claim will be put into interim payment status. Interim payments from OPM after approval can be very helpful to federal employees who have been without work and are struggling financially. Naturally, they are well intended to provide income to the newly approved federal disability retirement applicant as fast as possible. However, they can also come with bad news.

The process for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to calculate the actual payments for someone’s federal disability retirement is actually not very time consuming. The issue that causes a delay is OPM’s backlog. The department of OPM that develops the actual calculations for benefits is anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months backlogged.

The most important thing to know about interim payments is that they are paid based upon an estimate… and sometimes they are wrong. In the situation where you have been overpaid with interim payments, OPM will reserve the right to collect the overpaid portion. Even though these payments were made to you and the error was not your fault, you will be required to repay.

If you have questions about regular or interim payments from OPM for your federal disability retirement claim, call Harris Federal today. We assist federal employees everyday with these issues and would be happy to speak with you. We are here to help!

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