Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: OPM’s Arsenal

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.  Or, perhaps those who are impliedly involved herein are not so innocent after all.  Nevertheless, the names must be changed to protect confidentiality of sources, etc.  Every now and then, the Office of Personnel Management discloses their arsenal of weapons.  For instance, such an arsenal might be that a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application was based upon a review by a retired contract doctor.  Now, let us analyze such an arsenal.  First, the term “retired” reveals an interesting concept.  It means that the individual no longer sees hundreds of patients on a daily basis, nor is actively practicing medicine.  Next, on a superficial level, we take the word “contract” — meaning thereby that the individual is paid to review the paper submissions — not to examine the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  And, finally, the concept of a “doctor” — let us be certain as to the two preceding words, “retired” and “contract”, and that is the extent which one needs to understand in accepting the definition of the word “doctor”.  As opposed to:  the treating doctor of an applicant for Federal Disability Retirement.  Who would you choose to treat you?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Slam-Dunk Case

I have represented more people at the Reconsideration Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process for FERS & CSRS employees, of Federal and Postal employees who filed the initial application on his or her own because it was thought that it was a “slam dunk” case.

That is the problem with the slam dunk case — either the individual thinks that the medical evidence is so overwhelming that little or no effort needs to be expended in order to obtain an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, or if some minimal effort is engaged in, then the problem must be that the people over at the Office of Personnel Management either did not understand the seriousness of the medical conditions, or they misread X or Y, or some other such reason.

The real problem is that there are few, if any, slam dunk cases.

Inasmuch as the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits personally feels the pain, discomfort, and debilitating nature of the medical conditions from which he or she suffers, therefore it is often (wrongly) assumed that the same feelings can be imparted upon the person reviewing the Federal Disability Retirement application.

One must always keep in mind, however, that a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a paper presentation.  As such, the effort of compiling, arguing, persuading and explaining must always be engaged in.  There are no such cases as slam dunk cases.  If there are, I haven’t recently come across one.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Argument, Persuasion & Logic

Filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, either by a Postal employee or a non-Postal, Federal employee, is an administrative process which “requests” that a certain benefit be paid by the Federal Government.  In order to be approved, one must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one has met the eligibility criteria that has been set forth through statute, regulation, and cases which have interpreted those statutes and regulations over the years.  Thus, like any other area of law, there is a large pool of legal issues which have arisen over the years.  Because of this, it is important to understand that a certain amount of argumentation, persuasion, and logical analysis and delineation must occur.  Many people are surprised when, after submitting the “paperwork” and attaching some medical documents to the application, that the Office of Personnel Management would deny the applicant’s submission, saying with surprise, “I thought it would be easy”.  In any area of law, administrative or otherwise, where the pool of issues has grown over many decades, there must be a level of argument, persuasion and logic which must be engaged.  The legal arena for being approved in a Federal Disability Retirement case for those under FERS or CSRS is no different.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Knowing the Law

When an OPM Disability Attorney cites the law as a supporting, authoritative basis upon which a Federal Disability Retirement application (in part) should be approved, one hopes that the proper and relevant legal authorities are “matched” with the factual and medical issues which are presented.  When a lay, non-attorney applicant for Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS attempts to refer to, cite, or otherwise “tie in” legal authorities as supporting authority, it is more often the case that the law is inappropriately used, referred to, and misquoted.  This is not necessarily because the law is so esoteric a discipline that non-attorneys cannot “use” the law for one’s advantage; rather, what is often the case is that too much “cutting and pasting” occurs, as opposed to actually reading the cases, statutes, and regulatory references, and attempting to first understand the import, relevance and significance of the laws, statutes, legal opinions and regulations surrounding, supporting, and directly impacting upon Federal Disability Retirement issues.  On the other hand, if you are going to file a Federal Disability Retirement application, and you decide to cite the law as supportive authority, take a word of wisdom from an ancient adage:  An individual who represents himself more often than not has a fool for a client.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Knowing your own Case

In preparing and submitting an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, it is important to know your own case.  This will often take some time and effort, but it is worthwhile, for many reasons:  Knowing and understanding the extent to which your doctor will support you; understanding fully the medical terminology which your doctor has used; knowing that what you say in your Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) does not contradict or otherwise invalidate what your doctor states in his or her medical report — these are all important aspects of a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Often, doctors use medical terminology which, read in the context in which it is written, can be misunderstood and mininterpreted.  Such misreading then leads to a misstatement by the applicant in his or her Applicant’s Statement of Disability, thinking that it is supported by the medical documentation which is submitted. Even if it is an honest error, such a self-contained contradiction can harm a case, as when the Office of Personnel Management is able to point to a doctor’s report and is able to state:  While you claim X, your own doctor states Y…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: What the Agency Can Do

It is always striking (and suspicious, of course) when an individual tells me that his or her Agency has said that they will “OK” the Federal disability retirement application.  I always remind the individual that it is not the Agency; rather, it is the Office of Personnel Management which approvals or denies an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  In many ways, the Agency attempts to assert for itself greater influence and impact than it really has.  I try and remind people all the time that a Federal Disability Retirement application is a medical retirement application — it is not an Agency retirement application; it is not a Supervisor’s disability retirement application; it is not up to the Human Resources’ Department of the Agency.  The ultimate arbiter of the entire process is the Office of Personnel Management; and the criteria for eligibility is based upon a set of statutory requirements, which must be met by a preponderance of the evidence; and the overwhelming focal emphasis concerns the medical eligibility.  Agencies are too often given too much credit for the success or failure of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  In my view, the influence, input and power of an agency is almost always overstated.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Coordinate the Supporting Documentation

An Applicant’s Statement of Disability in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS must always attempt to coordinate the statement with the supporting medical (and other) documentation, taking care that the statement does not undermine the supporting documentation, and conversely, to deliberately and with purposeful intent to make sure that the supporting documentation does just that — “supports” and complements what the Statement of Disability states.  Thus, the Statement of Disability must find a careful balance between overwhelming the supporting documentation and undermining the supporting documentation.  It must do neither; it must, instead, strike the middle ground, allowing for the supporting documentation to provide the focal emphasis of the substance and content of the claims inherent in the Statement of Disability, and at the same time, must validate the Statement of Disability.  In this way, an applicant’s Statement of Disability in an OPM Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS conveys the validity of a submission.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire