OPM Disability Retirement: Staying within the Acceptable Construct

Perspectives are funny matters:  everyone has them; some are more valid than others; in certain circumstances, the wrong perspective, however, can result in negative unintended consequences.

Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee who insists upon filing collateral actions against the Agency, while concurrently filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, can have different and differing perspectives for each legal venue filed.  

In an EEOC action, the Federal or Postal employee can allege the multiple incidents of the workplace environment and the hostility, discriminatory actions perpetrated, etc., and the resulting damages incurred (including medical conditions suffered); in a grievance procedure, the Federal or Postal employee can assert the wrongful actions of the agency; and in a Federal Court case, claims of Agency and Supervisor misconduct and their deleterious impact upon one’s career — all of these can be filed, asserted and claimed for, while at the same time have a pending Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management.  

Each can have its own unique perspective; each can assert a different quadrant of one’s mouth.  However, be aware of the danger that, if a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the initial stage of the process, and again at the Reconsideration Stage of the process, and is appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Office of Personnel Management is entitled to “Discovery” of such collateral procedures.  

Such evidence of collateral procedures may well lead to a potential conclusion that one’s medical condition can be characterized as “situational” — and that is a perspective which may well defeat a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: When the Agency Promises…

The Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service for whom the Federal or Postal employee works, cannot “promise” the granting of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  Such promises are presumptuous and ultimately vacuous, precisely because it is on the independent agency — the Office of Personnel Management — which is the sole agency and arbiter for determining the viability, sufficiency and legal adequacy of all Federal Disability Retirement applications under either FERS or CSRS.

While agencies can be somewhat “helpful” in the processing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is important that if there is an ongoing collateral litigation (e.g., EEOC action; a pending parallel lawsuit; a grievance procedure invoked, etc.), that any settlement or discussion of settlement not state, infer or otherwise imply that the agency can provide the applicant with a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  

Instead, the agency should complete certain forms consistent with the terms of any settlement; and, further, a separation from Federal Service based upon one’s medical inability to perform one’s job can invoke the Bruner Presumption, which can certainly be a plus in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  But recognizing the independence of OPM, and staying away from any appearance of “collusion” through promises that an Agency can somehow “promise” the Federal or Postal employee an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, is important to maintain.  

Agencies cannot promise a Federal Disability Retirement approval, and any such promise in a collateral source is only worth the cost of the paper it is printed upon — or, in most cases, even less.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Theoretical, Practical and Mechanical Realms

Just as Aristotle identified the conceptual distinction between two kinds of wisdom — theoretical and practical — so such a distinction, along with a third (mechanical), resulting and consequential end to the administrative process, exists in the procedures identified as “Federal Disability Retirement“.  

The theoretical parallels the “preparation” portion of the process — of coming to terms mentally and emotionally with the necessity of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, as a result of accepting that a medical condition is impacting one’s ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Next, the Federal or Postal worker who is either under FERS or CSRS must apply that theoretical knowledge in a practical sense, by formulating the proper approach, by compiling the aggregate of medical evidence, describing a sufficient nexus between one’s medical conditions and the positional requirements of one’s job, etc.; and, finally, there is the “mechanical” portion of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the Office of Personnel Management — the actual filing of the application, as well as the completion of the necessary forms.  

Such conceptual distinctions and identification of different realms of necessary requirements which must be met, are helpful in taking a logical, sequential approach in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, if only to bifurcate in one’s own mind the realms which must be contemplated, applied and completed, before proceeding to the next step.  Above and beyond the three conceptual realms of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS, of course, is the overarching need for good counsel and effective advice.

Ultimately, practical application of a theoretical construct must begin with the wisdom to know that which is sufficient, applicable and effective; and while information is helpful, knowledge is the key to meeting the burden of proof, of showing that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS meets the “preponderance of the evidence” standard of review.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Preparation — like a Black Friday Event

Black Friday” is a term which represents the concept of frenzied action, of waiting for the gates of hell to release the mass exodus of rationality, unleashed for the treadmill of buying, “saving” money by spending it, and furthering the cause of economic activity for the short term by exponentially expanding the debt-ceiling and widening the correlative concepts of debt, credit, and money-supply.

It is an apt metaphor for the way in which life is generally lived; and, further, it is an allegory for how Federal and Postal workers who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirements benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, must conduct their day to day lives while working with a serious and impending medical condition.  For, despite the clear and counterintuitive nature of continuing to work with a medical condition which feeds upon itself by progressively worsening and becoming more and more debilitating, exacerbated by the very work which is engaged in; and despite the obvious sense that Federal Disability Retirement benefits will provide the necessary relief in order for the Federal or Postal employee to reach a level of functionality such that the progressiveness of the medical decline will be stunted; nevertheless, it is the nature of man to work, and continue to work, at a job which is destructive to one’s health, because that is what the masses of activity-driven society (similar to the shoppers out and about on Black Friday) requires and mandates.

Federal Disability Retirement from the Office of Personnel Management is a benefit which is accorded to all Federal and Postal employees, as part of the entirety of one’s compensation package, which allows for an annuity based upon one’s average of the highest-3 consecutive years of service, a time of recuperation, and the potential to still participate in the economy of this country by being allowed to make up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal salary presently pays.  It is a thought which should be grasped, and paused for — just prior to those gates of frenzied action being opened.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Contemplative Action

Contemplation for the sake of “in and of itself” can be activity without purpose or end, and can lead to inertia; for the living of modern life inherently has demands of actions — of “making” a living, of “producing” results, and “accomplishing” set goals and purposeful ends.  But contemplation for the sake of an end is in and of itself a useful activity.  

Part of the “preparation” of the oft-used phrase (used repeatedly in these blogs), “In preparing, formulating and filing…” is the very act of contemplation — of formulating a plan of action for the securing of one’s future.  For, the Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing, as some future event, a Federal Disability Retirement application either under FERS or CSRS, with the Office of Personnel Management, must contemplate the emotional, financial, and future impact of such an action, and there is indeed much to contemplate in the very pre-preparatory stage of the administrative action.  

Can one endure the long wait of the administrative process?  Does one have a supportive medical community to provide the documentary support necessary to be successful?  Will one’s family, friends, etc., understand and empathize?  What will be the reaction of those who will be informed — family, coworkers, supervisors, doctors, etc.?  

I often state that the “Holidays” should not be a time to iron out differences within the family, but instead should be a time of “coming together” and enjoying the time and life away from the daily comedies of the modern life style; that such “ironing out” should be done during those other periods of the year.  But such respites as the “Holidays” can and should be used to contemplate and formulate a plan of action for the future; and in the quietude of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it may be time to huddle around a contemplative time of gathering, in order to secure a brighter future.  

Remember, preparation is the key to success, and wise and good counsel should always be a part of that preparation.  In dealing with the Office of Personnel Management in preparing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, it is often a good idea to have a contemplative phase, and to rely upon good advice and counsel.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Respites

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management — if one is a current employee of one’s agency or the U.S. Postal Service or, if separated but it has been less than thirty one (31) days since the separation, then the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must be processed through one’s agency; if, on the other hand, you have been separated for more than 31 days, then you must file the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits directly to the OPM intake office in Boyers, Pennsylvania, which will then be processed and forwarded to the main U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. — is a process which one should expect will require considerable energy, involving one’s emotional physical, and mental fortitude.  

Filing for the benefit and involving one’s self in the process of the administrative procedure, is rarely — if ever — merely a matter of “filling out forms“.  Yes, there are Standard Forms to be completed (the SF 3107 series for FERS employees; for CSRS employees, SF 2801 series; and the SF 3112 series for both FERS and CSRS employees) — but it is the “connecting of dots” between preparing one’s narrative in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, the gathering of the medical documentation sufficient to meet the burden of proof of “preponderance of the evidence”, and all of the attendant actions which accompany the creation of the nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional requirements of one’s duties — all of the cumulative aggregation taken as a whole, constitute an imposing, formidable process.  

Fortunately, the Holidays, the weekends, etc., provide a brief respite from such challenges.  But the problem with such periodic and temporary respites, are that they merely serve to remind us that the hurdle still exists, and the process is still to be encountered, and the procrastination of the inevitable must be confronted at some point; and that, in and of itself, is an exhausting thought.  Medical Disability Retirement from OPM is precisely there is provide a long-lasting respite. Delaying by periodic respites only prolongs the time when the true respite, of meaningful duration, may be embraced.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Interactions

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is a necessary step for a Federal or Postal employee who finds that he or she can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job because of a medical condition.  

In doing so, there are obviously potential interactive processes which one must consider.  If the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, then you must file for SSDI (Social Security Disability benefits), because that is what the law requires.  

Further, one must determine how aggressively, to what extent, and to what end and purpose one needs to file in pursuing SSDI concurrently — for, if one is planning on working at another, separate job while receiving a Federal Disability Retirement annuity, then the cap imposed by SSDI as opposed to the 80% allowance for FERS Disability Retirement without SSDI, needs to be taken into consideration.  Such future planning will then determine the course of one’s actions, as to how hard one will try and obtain SSDI benefits.  

Additionally, if the medical condition arose from a work-related injury, then obviously filing a claim concurrently with the Department of Labor, Office of Workers Compensation under FECA should be contemplated.  

Then, there are those who, whether by accident or wisdom and foresight, obtained and paid for throughout the intervening years, a private disability insurance policy.  Such private disability insurance policies are essentially contracts — and whether there is an offset with Federal Disability Retirement benefits, Social Security, or OWCP depends upon the “fine print” of the contract.  

One minor note as to private disability policies:  The time to read the fine print is when the insurance agent is trying to sell you a policy — not when you need to apply for the benefits.  Private policies can be negotiated, and the terms can be amended.  

Finding a negative consequence after the fact is a costly error in judgment which can easily be mitigated by spending a few moments at the outset.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Appearance versus Substance

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management, one often overlooks the basic, foundational questions needed to have answered in the preliminary stages of a Federal Disability Retirement case.

The fact that one has a medical condition which impacts one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job is a “given” — i.e., a fact that then prompts or initiates the entire procedure of even contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

To proceed from that “given”, however, requires further insight and questioning — more of a practical nature, as in:  What are the essential elements of my job?  Do I have doctors who view my medical condition in the same way as I do?  More importantly, will my doctors support me in my quest to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS?  How will I explain to them the very processes and procedures, of the legal and medical requirements which must be met in preparing a medical report, such that the medical narrative report will meet those legal requirements?  Do I have the resources ready in order to sustain a protracted administrative battle with the Office of Personnel Management?  Will my agency allow me to continue to work while I engage in this application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?

These are all serious and substantive questions — ones which go beyond the mere appearance of thinking that preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, is merely a matter of “filling out forms“.

It never is, and just as “substance” differs from “appearance” (which is the entire philosophical basis of the Socratic and dialectical tradition of Western Philosophy), so the questions one asks at the outset of the process is important in determining the substantive nature of one’s quest.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Qualifying Medical Condition

The question is often asked, “Does my medical condition qualify for Federal Disability Retirement?”, or some variation of that question.  

Such a question, of course, in order to “make sense” in the context of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, must be reformulated, precisely because the manner in which it is posed produces multiple sub-questions.  For, ultimately, the laws and regulations governing Federal Disability Retirement do not provide for a calculus of a mathematical correspondence, where medical condition X is considered a “qualifying” one, whereas medical condition Y fails to meet such a qualification criteria.  

The sub-questions which are immediately necessitated by the originating question, involve multiple factors:  Does the medical condition you suffer from impact your ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of your job?  In what way?  Can you describe how the medical condition impacts your ability to perform your job?  Are you being medically treated for your medical condition?  Will the doctor support you in your quest and application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?

Take, for instance, the following “extreme” hypothetical, used for purposes of expanding upon the previous conceptual paradigm:  Question:  Does my aching right thumb qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?  Answer:  Normally not.  Sub-question:  If my job requires the constant and repetitive use of my right thumb, and such use is an essential element of my job, can my aching right thumb qualify me for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS?  Answer:  In all likelihood, yes.  

Often, it is the right question asked, and not the answer to the original question, which is the important starting point of the process in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Simplicity of Presentation

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to maintain and manage the entire process in as simplified a form as possible, in presenting one’s case to each segment of the process — i.e., to the doctors who will be supporting one’s case; in the formulation and articulation of one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability; in the compilation of the supporting medical documentation; in the entirety of the presentation submitted to the Office of Personnel Management.

Thus, while the process itself may involve multiple complexities because of the bureaucratic morass from which it originates, it is nevertheless the job of the Federal or Postal worker who is preparing and formulating the Federal Disability Retirement packet to keep it within manageable and understandable, coherent and comprehensible limits.  

The art of simplifying the complex is the key to a successful outcome.  By “simplification”, however, does not mean that one should exclude or otherwise deliberately leave out complex aspects of a medical disability retirement case; rather, it means that it is the job of the Federal or Postal employee, or his or her attorney and legal representative, to articulate, convey, and delineate such complexity into an understandable format.  

As the true artist makes his artwork appear simple in its very beauty, so the Federal or Postal employee must present his or her case before the Office of Personnel Management, and potentially before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board, in a format which evinces a response of, “Of course!”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire