Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Holiday Slowdown

The time between the 20th of December until the beginning of the following year has traditionally been a slowing down period, and Federal and Postal Workers who are preparing, formulating or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, or awaiting a decision from the Office of Personnel Management so that they can make future plans, present choices, and put their past behind them in order to move on to the next phase of their lives, must accept the period of respite.  

It is always better to complete a Federal Disability Retirement packet properly, over doing it quickly; and choice of timing is important in submitting a completed Federal Disability Retirement application.  Of course, preparatory work can be done during the slow-down period, but submitting anything to the Office of Personnel Management, or to one’s Agency, during this traditionally slow time, is counterproductive.  

What often happens is that the paperwork merely sits in a pile, unattended to, and the normal rule of “first in, first out” never seems to apply.  In fact, the opposite is true:  the mail which comes in first, sits on someone’s desk, and other mail which comes in later is piled on top of the mail which came first.  When the H.R. Specialist or the OPM Representative begins to sort through the stack of mail after the new year, the “later” mail is attended to first, and the one which was first in order to finally sifted through in the last order of sequence.  

Waiting for the 2-week period to pass before aggressively pursuing one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a wiser application of one’s time, effort, and options.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Professionals & Saving Time

In many areas of law, it is often the case that “professionals” prefer dealing with other professionals.  Thus, doctors will often encourage their patients to obtain the services of a lawyer when it has come time to consider medical retirement.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, submitted to the Office of Personnel Management, there are multiple factors to consider when engaging in the preparatory stages of the administrative process.  The reason why doctors often prefer to deal with attorneys when the patient is compiling the “paperwork” for Federal Disability Retirement is that it saves time.  

Time is a commodity which is scarce and valuable.  Doctors do not want to have to engage in multiple revisions or rewriting of medical reports.  Doctors are professionals who believe that their time is best spent in treating patients — and while such “paperwork” is a necessary part of a doctor’s practice, and one which ultimately assists the patient in furthering his or her medical condition and future well-being; nevertheless, if an administrative issue needs to be addressed, doctors will often prefer to accomplish such administrative tasks in the most efficient, expeditious manner possible.  

The same concept holds true for the Federal or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  While there is never a guarantee that a “professional” will present a compelling enough case to the Office of Personnel Management such that an approval of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will be a certainty; nevertheless, it is normally the most effective road to success.  

As time is a valuable and scarce commodity, so such scarcity and value should be considered at the beginning of the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Narrowing the Options

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, clarification of the direction, purpose and choices/options available is often helpful in compiling an effective and compelling Federal Disability Retirement case.  

Often, there is hesitancy in preparing the application, and such hesitancy and pause are a sign that there is a part of the Federal or Postal worker who is hoping that the medical condition will either resolve itself, or that somehow — in some nebulous and obscure thought-processes — procrastination will result in resolution and continuation in the career one has chosen.  

Narrowing the options with a perspective of reality-based evaluation of one’s situation, however, is important in taking the initial steps.  “Preparation” constitutes thinking about the various options, including questioning the circumstances of one’s medical history, present reality, and future expectations.  

Thus, some questions might be:  Can I continue to work at this job until retirement?  If I continue to work at this job till retirement, will my health have been impacted so detrimentally that I will be in a debilitated state such that “retirement” would be a meaningless goal?  What is my doctor saying?  Will my doctor support me in an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?  How is my agency acting/reacting?  Will they continue to tolerate less than full performance and productivity?  What are my choices — work till retirement, file for Disability Retirement, or walk away without anything?  

Such narrowing of choices and options, through proper questioning, is the initial preparatory step 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

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: A Word about Approvals

It is the general policy of the Office of Personnel Management to withhold releasing of information concerning a pending Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, via telephone.  

This is a good policy, in that a potential conflict and mistake can occur between an action taken on a case (i.e., an approval or a denial) and what is inputted into the computer system; or, as has been the case in the past, where the secretary or receptionist divulges the decision over the telephone — and is mistaken.  

Generally, one must wait for the Office of Personnel Management to send the hard copy of the decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Receipt of the actually letter of approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management, constitutes the official notification of the decision on a pending Federal Disability Retirement application.  If the Federal or Postal employee’s representative or attorney receives the decision of approval or denial from the Office of Personnel Management, that also constitutes official notification.  

The problem of telephone notification of an approval is that, if what is told over the telephone differs from the actual notification and decision rendered by the Claims Representative who is handling the case, then obviously that would be an upsetting matter to the Federal or Postal employee who is anxiously awaiting the decision.  

For the Federal or Postal employee who has waited many, many months for a decision on a pending Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management, waiting a few more days in order to receive the actual approval letter (or a denial letter, whichever the case may be) is well worth the wait.  

It is better to wait a few more days to get the decision in person.  As the old adage goes, “A bird in hand is worth two in the bushes”…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Interests of Each

In assessing and evaluating friends, adversaries or neutral parties, it is important to analyze the self-interest of each, to understand the differing perspectives of the people involved, then to arrive at conclusions concerning the benefits received in the interaction of the process.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, the parties involved include:  The individual CSRS or FERS Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating initiating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; the Agency (including coworkers, Supervisors, Managers, etc.) for whom the Federal or Postal worker is employed by; the Human Resources Department of the Agency (which is a separate and distinct entity from the “Agency” for whom the Federal or Postal worker is employed by, precisely because (A) they are often a separate section of the agency and (B) the personnel employees have had no day-to-day contact, for the most part, with the employee but (C) whether the Human Resources Department is “management-friendly” or “employee-driven”, may color the perspective of where their alliances and loyalties lean); the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; the Attorney or Representative of the Federal or Postal employee assisting in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Obviously, the first and the last (the potential Federal or Postal employee applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits) and his or her attorney, should have a contiguous perspective:  to look out for the best interests of the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  The “others” — no matter how friendly, by all appearances “helpful”, and no matter how much assistance is provided —  have their own self-interests to protect, preserve and advance.  Keep the different perspectives in mind.  Better yet, understand that self-interest is the primary motivating factor of Agencies — and act in the interest of one’s own advancement accordingly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

F

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Rumors, Stories and…

Part of the successful strategy of remaining focused, steadfast and purposeful is to maintain and retain the ability to filter out ancillary information  as opposed to the essential ingredients which comprise the important, relevant foundation in any endeavor.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, throughout the administrative process comprising the aggregate of procedures, maneuvering through the agency, then waiting for the decision from the Office of Personnel Management, the Federal or Postal employee naturally becomes sensitive to rumors; to information received from various sources — other co-workers, Agency Human Resources personnel, friends, family, etc.

Whether such rumors or “information” concern the success or failure of other Federal employees who filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; or more generic rumors about the Federal Government and pension benefits, pending legislation about new or proposed laws impacting Federal Disability Retirement benefits; or that OPM is “denying a higher number of initial applications”; or the opposite argument that OPM is “approving Federal Disability Retirement applications to get rid of Federal employees”, and a host of other rumors, stories, and out-of-context partial truths, stories, and outright misinformation — it is important to distinguish between truth, lies, rumors and half-truths.

The better methodology is to focus upon the present process, and one’s own Federal Disability Retirement application, and leaving aside such rumors and stories.  Put together the most effective Federal Disability Retirement packet one can possible compile; submit it; and the outcome will be based upon the sufficient viability of the Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: How Long Before…

When a Federal or Postal employee begins to contemplate — or initiate — the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the questions which begin to accompany the process are multiple, complex, non-sequential, and often wedded to legitimate concerns surrounding the actions and reactions of one’s Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.

The facts and circumstances of each Federal Disability Retirement case are unique and person-specific.  However, Federal Agencies and the U.S. Postal Service are entities which are fairly predictable, if only because they are comprised by an aggregate of human beings whose natures are fairly set in their ways.

How long before an Agency begins its process of separating me?  How long will they let me stay on LWOP?  How long before they send me home?  How long before…

Often, the length of time in which an Agency responds or fails to respond, depends upon who has been apprised of the issue.  It is interesting how an Agency will be silent on a matter, and allow things to continue for an extended period of time — then, one day, the “right” person takes notice of the fact that a Federal employee has been on LWOP for 5 months, and that there is a pending Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management.  Suddenly, it is an emergency — an urgency which cannot wait any longer, and a Letter of Proposed Removal is issued that same day.

It is the same with being on Worker’s Comp — How long will they let me stay on OWCP before they try to move me off?  It often depends upon “who” has your OWCP file, as opposed to the legitimacy of one’s chronic medical condition.

In both instances (the issue of the Federal Agency and the one concerning OWCP), it is best to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management sooner, rather than later, if only to have a “back-up system” in place in the event that either the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service begins to react, or that OWCP decides that you have been on their compensation payroll for too long.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Essential Points

Becoming embroiled in the minutiae and complexities in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application is important and necessary; however, in doing so, it is important to make sure that the foundation — the “essentials” — are not overlooked in the process.

Thus, while preparing and formulating the Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, for submission to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, always go back to the three (3) essential elements of a Federal Disability Retirement case:  First, the medical condition itself.  Preparation by the treating doctor of a sufficient medical narrative report is essential to the successful outcome of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Guidance as to the elements which must and should be contained in the medical narrative report is crucial to the endeavor.  

Second, the position description.  Always remember that it is not only what one is actually doing in a Federal or Postal position (although that is also a part of it), but also what the official position description states that one should be doing, or may be asked to do at any moment (this can become an important part of the argument later against OPM if OPM decides to bring up any issues concerning Agency Accommodations).

Third, the Bridge or Nexus between the Medical Condition and the Position.  This is the important “third rail” of the entire process, which should be delineated first in the medical narrative report prepared by the doctor, as well as described effectively in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  Of course, throughout the process, it is important to attend to the details; but never let the complexities of the details sidetrack you from the important essentials 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

OPM Disability Retirement: Clarity in the Minefield of Procedural Opposition

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, can be a daunting and intimidating process without the opposition — whether intended or not — from one’s Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.  With such “opposition”, life can be made that much more difficult unless one knows one’s rights and the legal obligations of the Agency.  Human Resources Departments of various agencies often reveal peculiar characteristics.

On the one hand, the original raison d’être (the originating reason or purpose for existing) was presumably to assist the employees of the Agency in any and all personnel matters — from payroll issues, to job classification concerns, to preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management.  However, whether it is because “Management” co-opts the personnel in the Human Resources Department; or whether the employees in an Agency Human Resources Department merely take it upon themselves to become contrary and resistant to the needs and concerns of the very employees for whom the H.R. Department’s originating reason for creation are there for; regardless, it has become a commonplace paradigm that there exists an oppositional attitude towards the Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Recognizing this “fact” is important before proceeding down the administrative morass of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Once recognized, it is important to be prepared to understand how one will, and must, maneuver through the administrative procedures in order to reach the ultimate goal — a favorable decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire