OPM Disability Retirement: Great Expectations

The title of this blog, borrowed (of course) from Dickens’ great novel, refers to the contrast between the reality of X and the mental projection of what should be, in the mind of an individual.

What does this have to do with filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS?  When an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is carefully prepared, meticulously gathered, painfully delineated, and thoughtfully prepared, one has the (logical) expectation that, when it is reviewed and evaluated by the Office of Personnel Management, that a certain minimal level of intellectual discourse would be engaged in.

In other words, it should not be an unrealistic expectation that, if it is denied or disapproved, that the person who is writing the letter of denial would provide some fundamental delineation of reasons; some intellectual discussion addressing certain aspects of the Federal Disability Retirement packet; even (God forbid) a revelation of some logical discourse with a legally viable basis in making an argument.

Alas, such an expectation would be too much to bear.  The great chasm between the reality of the process and the expectation which one has, is one which will lead only to disappointment.  If a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application comes, it is a rare event that the Office of Personnel Management engages in any justifiable discussion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Overlooking an Essential Element

Potential applicants who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS will sometimes ask the question, What are the essential elements of one’s job?

Sometimes, the answer to the question is often easy to identify, especially if there are unique and distinct features to a particular type of Federal or Postal job.  Other elements are sometimes so obvious that they are overlooked — such as the fact that one must be able to work full time at a job.

Thus, the fact that a Federal or Postal worker is able to work 4 hours a day, or 6 hours a day, and be able to perform all of the other essential elements of his or her job, does not preclude one from being eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Further, if the Agency is being “nice” and “accommodating” by allowing for the remainder of the hours to be covered by sick leave or even LWOP, does not preclude the Federal or Postal employee from filing for, and being eligible for, Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Being able to work full time in a full time position is an essential element of the job.  Don’t overlook the obvious; the obvious is often the gateway to success.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Frustrating Process

As with most administrative dealings with the government (Federal, State or local), the process itself is a frustrating one.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a process which necessarily entails patience, and along with it, a quiet frustration because of the multiple levels of administrative procedures which one must undergo.  

I recently went and watched the De Caprio movie, Inception, which involves a complex and convoluted plot-line of attempting to convince an heir to a great business fortune, to break up the company.  The way to convince the young heir was to involve him in a dreamworld of mental constructs without his knowing it, and to plant an idea into his subconscious that he should break up the company, and thereby fail to compete with another company.  If the short “telling” of this plot line is confusing and convoluted itself, you may imagine how the movie itself is.  Yet, at an IMAX Theater, it was enjoyable, and my son certainly enjoyed it.  

The point here is that the convoluted process of getting from point A to point B, is to take a simple conceptual paradigm and make it into a confusing morass of a long and involved movie.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement has that same sense of the absurd; of a process which is convoluted beyond a simple concept; and the waiting part is the most frustrating of all.  Then, when the end comes, either with an initial denial or an approval, it is anti-climactic.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: The Percentage Language Game

To the question:  “What medical disabilities do you have,” is often the response in terms of a percentage language game:  “The VA has given me a ____”; “My doctor rated me at____”.  In the proper context, in the relevant process, such percentage ascription reflecting a numerical value may be workable, as well as persuasive.  But in a Federal Disability Retirement application, where the persuasive essence of a well-formulated Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is constituted by a discussion of the delineation of symptoms as opposed to numbers; physical and cognitive impact as opposed to quantitative value; such language is meaningless unless it is interpreted and translated in terms of the human impact upon one’s job functions.  

That is not to say that the numerical value cannot be used; rather, it must be used with caution, and in a way that shows that, beyond the numbers, there is an essential impact in terms of one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Thus, the “language game” of numerical values, while important in other filings and proceedings, may be of less significance in the formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: A Different Language Game

Wittgenstein was a philosopher who is well-known for his discussion about different “language games”.  In preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is well to understand that, indeed, there is a different type of language game when formulating and submitting a Federal Disability Retirement application, distinct from preparing a Social Security Disability application, or an OWCP case, or a VA disability case.  

Often, when people first contact me for an initial consultation for filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, he or she will still be “stuck” in the language game of some other process, and will continue to use inapplicable terms such as, “I have a rating of..”; “it was caused on the job”; “I haven’t yet reached MMI”; and other such similar terms, phrases and concepts which, in a different process, a different context — a different language game — may be perfectly meaningful, but in the preparation and formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application, are either partially or wholly inapplicable, and sometime distracting from the essence of what is needed in approaching a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Remember, not all processes are the same, and a switch in conceptual paradigms, and the use of a proper language game, is necessary in order to be successful in preparing and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Agency Accommodation Reiterated

In most cases, the agency is unable to accommodate the individual.  By “accommodation” is often meant lessening the workload, or temporarily allowing for the medical conditions resulting in certain limitations and restrictions to be taken into account — for purposes of travel, for sustained periods of sitting, for physical aspects of the job, etc.  But such temporary light-duty allowances do not constitute a legally viable “accommodation”.  But one must always remember that, while such measures by the Agency do not constitute an accommodation under the law, and as such do not preclude a Federal or Postal employee from filing for and being eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, nevertheless, there is nothing wrong with the Agency providing for such temporary light duty modifications of the job.  In fact, it reflects well upon the agency that it would go to such extents, even if for only a temporary period of time, in hopes that the Federal or Postal employee will be able to sufficiently recover to return to “full duty”.  

Remember that there are at least two senses of the term “accommodation” — in the layman’s sense of some temporary measures to allow the employee to continue to work; then, in the legal sense of a viable “accommodation” under the law.  Don’t confuse one with the other.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Not all Agencies are Equal

No names will be named.  Not for purposes of “protecting the innocent”, because it is doubtful that there are any innocent entities, anyway.  Rather, the knowledge that there are some agencies which are worse than others, is widespread knowledge, anyway; and, indeed, if the agencies are “outed”, it would merely be a redundancy to name them.

There are Agencies which, when the name is spoken, it sends shivers down one’s spine, because of the mean spiritedness, the uncooperative attitude, and the sheer incompetency of the Human Resources Department which is designated to process a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Then, there are agencies where the H.R. Department — no matter who in the department is contacted — goes out of their way to assist throughout the entire process. They understand the traumatic nature of a Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS. They realize that the designation, “Human” and “Resources” and “Department”, when taken collectively, means that it is the point where employees come to in order to obtain assistance, to engage in a process which may be very personal, and that the resources sought after require the understanding and compassion of individuals.

Ponder that for a moment — that one’s job may entail, as part of the “essential elements of one’s job” — a showing of understanding and compassion.  Imagine that.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire