CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Complexity in the Hidden Background

To prove one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, is seemingly an uncomplicated matter.

As one’s medical condition impacts the ability to perform one or more of the essential element of one’s job, it is up to the treating doctor to establish the nexus and provide an opinion as to the connecting bridge between the medical condition and the positional requirements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

How does one do that? Must it be comprised of a 1-to-1 ratio between job elements and medical conditions? How important and prominent are “symptoms” considered, as opposed to the mere clinical declaration of the diagnosis, in persuading the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that a particular medical condition should qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits? To what extent is one’s own statement of disability, as described on Standard Form 3112A, important in establishing the foothold towards gaining an approval from OPM?

Also, what algorithm or comparative analysis does OPM use in evaluating a case, and how does one enhance the chances of success at the First Stage of the process? If denied at the First Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process, does the basis of the denial (often characterized by a plethora of multiple reasons given) require a point-by-point refutation, and is the Reconsideration Division at OPM using the same standard of review, or a different application of laws in evaluating the additional evidence submitted at the next stage?

If one watches a gymnast, a ballerina, or even a mathematician at work in solving or unraveling a complex problem or exercise, one is immediately struck by the ease with which the feat is performed. But it is almost always the unseen preparation which has preceded the actual performance that sets the stage of an uncomplicated presentation.

It is that mystery of the uncomplicated, which tends to trip us all, and that is no different in the preparation, formulation and submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application, applied through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Ignorance and Coping

Within the complex world of information technology, modernity has reached a level of overload which few from past generations could have ever imagined. One needs only to peruse a Tom Swift novel to compare how far we have come; and even the old greats like Asimov and Bradbury could not have foreseen, in the height of their intellectual and creative powers, much of the technological gadgetry of the present age.

Then, of course, there is the “human side” of the equation of modern technology — of how individuals cope with such information overload.  Many have theorized that the exponential explosion of Major Depression, anxiety and panic attacks, and the societal impact of increased psychiatric disorders, stems from a response in terms of coping mechanisms; and we counter the response with advanced pharmaceutical admixtures.  The more common means employed to cope with the deluge of constant informational dissemination, is to limit the exposure to the volume of encounters.

Thus, the age-old adage of ignorance being a “blissful state” retains some semblance of truth.  But for those facing issues of legal limitations and filing deadlines, it is best to “be in the know”.

For Federal and Postal Workers intending upon filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the 1-year Statute of Limitations for filing applies from the time of separation from Federal Service.  Being on OWCP does not forestall or extend the 1-year rule. As such, once an SF 50 or a PS Form 50 is issued or, for Postal Workers, when those 0-balance pay stubs stop coming in the mail, it is well to be aware that the clock has begun to tick.

Ignorance can indeed be blissful, and being the gatekeeper of information overload may be a means of coping; but in the end, the inquisitiveness of Tom Swift must always prevail.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Simplification of a Complex Process

It is the simple things in life which provide the greatest amount of pleasure; but simplicity often conceals the underlying complexity inherent in that which merely appears so.  

The child who first observes the vivid pictures on a computer screen has little to no understanding of the complex hardware and software network interfacing which, in the long history of computer design and evolving creation of computers, resulted in the seemingly simple result, produced by a push of a button.  Thus, the complexity behind the microchip and the human endeavor which designed, created and manufactured the product is what makes for the simplicity of the complex.  

As with all other things simple and complex, Federal Disability Retirement must be approached with caution. The questions which are required to be answered on Standard Forms (SF 3107 series for FERS applicants; SF 2801 series for CSRS applicants; SF 3112 series for both FERS and CSRS applicants) may appear quite simple in form; the content of what must be provided will necessarily require a complex interaction of thought, foresight, knowledge of the law, and carefully chosen words to provide information, argument and documented evidence which proves, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Federal or Postal worker is entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  

To compile and produce a product which appears “simple”, from the myriad of administrative complexities, is the key to a successful outcome in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Simplicity betrays complexity; that which appears so, may not reveal the underlying and compound complexities which must be cautiously approached.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Unplanned Event

One always likes to think of the present state of affairs as one resulting from the systematic planning put in place years ago — as in the proverbial “comfortable retirement” that was set in motion through wise investments and retrospective prognostications which were presumably based upon sage advice.

But life rarely works that way.

Yes, the analogy of the treadmill, or of taking one step forward and two steps back, all apply.  There is a famous line in a British rendition of “Emma”, in which the father mumbles beautifully, “Life is like going from one bowl of gruel to another”.

Those who come to a point of contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, often find themselves in a similar situation.  One works tirelessly, thinking that such hard work will reward itself by growing one’s nest egg, where savings develop over time; where within-step-increases come because of meritorious behavior; and where loyalty to, and from, one’s agency is strengthened and established because of the time, effort, and hard work one has, and will, put in.

But then the unplanned event surfaces.

In the beginning, one can fool one’s self and say that it is merely temporary, that it will all go away, and that one needs only to survive for the next coming day.  But the unplanned event can be just as effectively destructive as the planned one, and the results just as final.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is best to see the neutrality of one’s circumstances — for, it matters not whether one “planned” for a medical condition; rather, the point is that, once accepted as a fact, it is the extent and effort of planning after the revelation of an unplanned event, which will make all the difference in one’s life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Proof

This is a proof-based process.  It is not merely a matter of completing some forms and meeting procedural guidelines in order to obtain a benefit; rather, it is an administrative process in which evidence and documentary support from third parties must be obtained in order to meet the legal criteria imposed by statute, regulation, and ever-evolving case-laws as handed down by the Administrative Judges of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

There are administrative processes which are “entitlements”, such as certain economic assistance programs, Social Security, Medicare, etc., where one has paid into a system, and upon reaching a certain age, or meeting income-qualification criteria, etc., such procedural guidelines are merely shown, met, and approved.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, however, it is not merely a matter of meeting procedural criteria (although that, too, is required), but moreover, one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible, by submission of substantial and adequate documentation that one cannot perform, because of a medical condition, one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

Proof is the lynchpin by which the standard of winning a Federal Disability Retirement case is won or lost.  Proof is a “must”.  As such, never consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits as merely a matter of filling out paperwork; one must prove one’s case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Adversarial Structure

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, has inherently an adversarial structure built into the entire administrative process.  This is ultimately unavoidable, but one should not be persuaded into complacency about the bureaucratic side of things, merely because a Human Resources office describes it as procedural in nature, and merely an “administrative” matter.

That is precisely why there are appellate stages built into the system — first, within the administrative procedure itself, of filing a “Request for Reconsideration” within the same agency which denies the Federal Disability Retirement application, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, then the ability to appeal the case to a separate, independent body, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board; and further to a 3-Judge panel of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, which is identified as a “Petition for Full Review” (PFR).  Beyond that, there is an oversight mechanism provided via further review, by the ability to file an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which reviews the legal application and its sufficiency through overview of the laws applied.

Indeed, one need only look at the structural mechanisms in place to understand that, far from being merely an “administrative” process, it is adversarial in nature, and should be treated at the outset as such.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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