In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important for the Federal and Postal worker who is contemplating filing for such benefits to keep in mind certain basic elements before engaging in the entire process:
First, it is a long and arduous process, involving multiple stages (potentially) and requiring a great amount of patience.
Second, the Federal or Postal employee should mentally expunge from one’s mind any view that Federal Disability Retirement is an entitlement — it is not. The conceptual distinction between an “entitlement” and a “benefit” should be clear from the outset. The former requires one to simply satisfy certain requirements in order to obtain the benefit; the latter requires that one prove all of the legal criteria, and submit evidence showing that one is eligible by a preponderance of the evidence. The former requires nothing more than meeting certain basic requirements, which are normally automatic (age, for example); the latter mandates that one prove one’s eligibility.
Third, there is almost never a “slam dunk” case, where one merely gathers the most recent medical records and reports, fills out the forms, and sends in the application. Yes, there are certain limited cases, perhaps — i.e., of a Letter Carrier or a Special Agent who becomes bedridden — but these are rare and unique cases, and even then, it is still possible that the Office of Personnel Management will find a reason to deny such a case.
Fourth, one must always prepare a case both for success at the First Stage of the Process, while at the same time laying the foundation for subsequent stages of the process.
And Fifth, one should attempt to avoid inconsistencies, both internal and external, in the application, as OPM always targets inconsistencies as the basis for a denial, and likes to extrapolate and use such issues to base their denials.
These are just some basic elements to keep in mind in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire