Ruling to Benefit Retirees Who Were Injured on the Job
04/19/2006 - A recent decision by the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) should ensure that employees who work less than eight hours per day as the result of job-related injuries get their full annuity they when they retire.
The MSPB decision reverses a policy enacted by the Office of Personnel Management in 2002, which declared that employees who were partially disabled due to job-related injuries should be treated as part-time workers, and their retirement annuities should be based only on their part-time work hours. The policy excluded hours for which employees were paid by the Office of Workers Compensation Program (OWCP) from calculations for retirement annuities, resulting in reduced benefits.
In a ruling issued in September 2005 (Hatch v. OPM, 100 MSPR 204), the MSPB overturned the OPM policy, reasoning that an injured employee who cannot be blamed for being unable to work should not be penalized in retirement.
The APWU has followed this issue closely, and shortly after the MSPB decision was issued, President William Burrus wrote to OPM, inquiring about how the agency would apply the ruling. Noting that OPM’s failure to seek a judicial review of the decision meant the ruling was precedent-setting, Burrus asked OPM whether the decision would be applied retroactively and whether the annuities of impacted retirees would be automatically recomputed.
OPM Director Linda M. Springer responded on Feb. 10, 2006, writing, “OPM will apply the decision in all factually similar cases, both under (CSRS and FERS). This includes new applications for retirement benefits as well as cases that come to the attention of OPM for any reason, regardless of the commencing date of the annuity.”
Retirees who fit the Hatch profile and believe their annuity was based on their part-time work hours should write to OPM at: Retirement Operations Center, POB 45, Boyers, PA 16017. Remember to include your retirement claim number and state that you are writing regarding the Hatch decision.