Federal Disability Retirement: The Rocking Chair and the Never-Ending Story

The myth about retirement has long receded; once upon a time, there was an idea, a concept, an ethereal potentiality, of reaching a point of quietude where reflection, dispensing of wisdom, and calm gardening and tending to the passing of time would be the status of choice; but modern life has wreaked havoc upon such a notion.

It was perhaps engendered by the character, Mose Harper (the sidekick of John Wayne) in John Ford’s, “The Searchers”, who only wanted a “rocking chair” at the end of his troubles.  But the never-ending story in these times of modernity, is that one must always claw and fight for maintaining the high standard of living which we enjoy and have become content with.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who must take an early form of retirement — a Federal Disability Retirement — because of his or her ongoing medical conditions, where the medical conditions no longer allow for the continuation in one’s job because they prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of the job, the battle to first prove a Federal Disability Retirement application, then to retain and maintain it, throughout all of the complexities of the bureaucratic and administrative process, is a daily chore and toil.

First, there is the right to get it approved; then, there may be periodic Medical Questionnaires which are issued and which mandate a response; then, if Social Security Disability is approved, the offset between FERS Disability benefits and SSDI must be calculated; then, if you become employed and lose the SSDI benefit because of income, the FERS Disability annuity must be recalculated; then, at age 62, recalculation because the Federal Disability Retirement annuity effectively ends, based upon the total number of years of service, including the time one is on Federal Disability Retirement; and then the need to maintain income sources because of the reduction; and so the never-ending story continues.

Indeed, it is not from the rocking chair which the retiree tells a story, like Mose Harper must have done in his old age; rather, the modern retiree from the Federal sector, whether as a former employee of a Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, must tell his or her never-ending story to an empty chair with rhythmic movements to and fro absent an occupant, as the old man remains away, trying to figure out the further complexities of this age of modernity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Medical Retirement: Always the Fundamentals

Whether or at what stage of the process the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker finds him/herself in, it is always essential to harken back to the fundamentals of the legal criteria to meet.

One can become sidetracked by the complexity of the process; and, indeed, the bureaucratic, procedural hoops which one must always keep in mind while maneuvering through the process, tend to obfuscate and confuse.  Bureaucracies thrive upon complexities, just as most professions do; the greater the complexity, the higher need for continuation of the employment of experts to propagate the systemically confounding process.

In engaging the process itself, the Federal and Postal employee must distinguish between procedural issues and substantive cores; the administrative steps of the “what” to do, in contrast to the substantive evidence to be submitted.  Both are equally important; for, without the former, it may never reach the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and without the latter, even if it reaches the destination point, it may fail to meet the preponderance of the evidence test and attain a level of evidentiary sufficiency to make a difference.

Whether at the Initial Stage of the process, the Reconsideration Stage, or even an appeal to the U.S.Merit Systems Protection Board, it is always essential to keep in mind that the fundamentals of the case must always be kept at the fore.

Remember:  This is a “medical” disability retirement; the conduct of others, the meanness of coworkers, the harassment encountered, and the ill-treatment received over the years; while hurtful, and perhaps the catalyst for resentment, they are not the paths to follow in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Employee Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS, or CSRS Offset.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Delaying the Filing of Your OPM Disability Retirement Application

Delay temporarily suspends for a time in the future; sometimes, at the cost of immediacy of pain, but the human capacity to ignore and obfuscate allows for procrastination to be an acceptable act of non-action.  But certain issues defy the control of delay; medical conditions tend to remind us of that, where attempted suspension of dealing with the pain, the progressively debilitating triggers, or the panic attacks which paralyze; they shake us to the core and pursue a relentless path which betrays procrastination.

For Federal employees and Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents him or her from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, filing for Federal Disability Retirement becomes an employment option.

When to file has some room for delay; it is, after all, the underlying issue which must be attended to first and foremost — that of the medical condition.  But the Statute of Limitations in a Federal Disability Retirement case imposes a structural administrative procedure which cannot be ignored.  The Federal and Postal worker who is separated from Federal Service must file a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service.

So long as the Federal or Postal worker is on the rolls of the agency, the tolling of the statute of limitations does not begin; but once separation from service occurs, the 1-year clock (with some exceptions, but ones which you should not rely upon to subvert the statute of limitations) begins.

Delay for a specific purpose is sometimes acceptable (if one is still on the agency rolls), as in undergoing a medical procedure or seeing if a treatment regimen will work; but delay beyond the bureaucratic imposition of a statute of limitations is never one which should be allowed, as the benefit of a OPM Disability Retirement annuity will be barred forever.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: The Symbiotic Relationship

In biology, symbiosis refers to the interaction between two different organisms, often benefiting both.  It is the coexistence through the capacity to acquire greater advantage without diminishment and harm to the other, which then allows for the balance of nature to occur.

In other contexts, in differing circumstances or changed environments, perhaps the relationship and the interaction would alter, and the evolutionary forces of nature would impel each to become predator and prey; but for whatever reason, it is precisely the stability of balance in nature which allows for, and favors, such a symbiotic relationship.

By analogy, the relationship between the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the Federal and Postal worker, whether the latter is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, enjoys the symbiosis of necessity.  It is precisely for the Federal and Postal worker that the very existence of OPM is maintained; and for the Federal and Postal Worker who requires a personnel action to be processed, the existence of OPM is to the advantage of the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker.

For the Federal and Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition necessitates filing for Federal OPM Medical Retirement benefits, the enhancement and spotlight of the symbiotic relationship between OPM and the suffering Federal or Postal worker comes to the fore; it is, indeed, precisely a relationship of advantage to both entities and organisms.

Of course, just as in the universe of biological entities (of which the human species is a part of, lest we forget because of our so-called advanced state of evolutionary existence), circumstances may alter, environments may change, and contexts of interaction may convert; and a similar relationship as that between predator and prey may develop.

A denial of an initial application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits tends to do just that; for, suddenly OPM is not just a bureaucratic morass upon which one is waiting for an action to ensue; now, it is an adversary which must be countermanded.

Still, despite the change, and regardless of the alteration of the essence of the symbiotic relationship, where the Federal or Postal worker must then file a Request for Reconsideration within 30 days of the date of the denial of an OPM Disability Retirement application, the interaction must still exist, and necessity of circumstances requires the continuing relationship between the two given entities: the Federal and Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition on the one hand, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on the other.

It is by necessity of interaction that the two entities meet; it is by change of context which impels substantive alteration; but in the end, the reliance and dependence of symbiosis remains throughout.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Reconsiderations & Additional Medical Information

The denial comes in the mail; it is a further delay, a negation of prior efforts; for many, it undermines and constitutes a condemnation of sorts, and a refusal of an affirmation sought in places and from people where none is offered.  It is, after all, another piece of correspondence which negates the negative:  the medical condition itself and the loss of one’s ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, represented the first foundation of negation; now, a denial from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management merely confirms, via a second negation, the loss of positive forces inherent in failure and Federal bureaucracies.

But all things in life must be kept in their proper perspective, and a reaction of disproportionate magnitude must be kept in check; life is often a series of mishaps; yes, it just seems that such unfortunate events happen to certain individuals, and as the old adage goes, when it rains, it pours.  Once the initial shock of the denial is withstood, then the trepidation and cautious perusal, followed by an obsessively careful scrutiny, of the reasons for the denial issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is engaged; but the futility of such efforts will become apparent.

The monotony and disinterested voice behind the volume of verbiage and almost bellicose verbosity becomes more than apparent: either the administrative specialist at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management did not read the medical file or, more likely, selectively chose to extrapolate statements and findings out of context in order to justify the denial of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

At this Second Stage of the process of trying to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee is under FERS or CSRS, it matters not what the words say with respect to the denial issued by OPM; the file is immediately transferred to a general, unassigned file, awaiting further instructions from the person to whom the denial has been issued:  if left unanswered, the file will disappear within the cauldrons of bureaucratic warehouses; if a Request for Reconsideration is timely filed, then it will ultimately be assigned to someone in the Reconsideration Division at OPM; but, in either case, it is no longer the responsibility of the OPM representative who issued the denial, and no amount of phone calls, venting or sending of additional information to that person will make a whit of difference, until (a) the Request for Reconsideration is timely filed, and (b) the Federal or Postal employee addresses some of the concerns brought up in the denial itself.

The Reconsideration process itself is fraught with dangers and potential pitfalls; it confirms that perhaps the Federal or Postal employee should have sought the advice, counsel and guidance of an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law, but moreover, as most mistakes are correctable, it may be a wise avenue of choice to seek legal assistance, finally.

In any event, time factors must be considered, and the time lost today by extension of a denial, further confirms the oldest adage of all, that being penny wise is to be pound foolish,  a saying that is often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, but can be traced to those earlier.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

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