Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Discretion, “What Ifs”, Etc.

The anxiety and angst which accompanies the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is on the one hand understandable, and yet, because it is an administrative process which may potentially involve multiple stages, and require investment of an extraordinary amount of time, and because it is requires a rationally-based approach in meeting the legal criteria for approval, it must be viewed and approached with a quietude of professionalism.

There are obviously times when the Statute of Limitations is about to impose some restrictive encroachment of formulation, and thus one must respond appropriately.  And, much of the decision-making process involved in whether to attach X-document, or to include Y-statement, is a discretionary matter — one which should often be left to an OPM Disability Attorney who has had some prior experience in the matter.

But the “what ifs”, as in, “What if I say A” as opposed to “having said B” is something which should be avoided.  Obsessing over singular statements — even if it is true that a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application could potentially focus upon a statement, characterized in a wrong manner, or taken out of context (as OPM often does) — is normally unproductive.

While most “mistakes” in a Federal Disability Retirement application can be corrected, explained or expanded upon into obsolescence, one thing which cannot be accomplished is to put artificial blinders on OPM in the event that something is stated or submitted which otherwise should not have.  Even if one were to refile at a later date, once a CSA Number is assigned to a case, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management maintains the original documentation which was filed with their office.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Accommodation Issue, Redux

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee must satisfy certain requirements (one often views such legal requirements and criteria as “obstacles” as opposed to procedural steps to be taken and satisfied) in order to have what is deemed by the Office of Personnel Management as a “complete” package which can be reviewed and determined for approval or denial.

As part of the requirement, one must have an SF 3112D completed — the Agency’s “Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation” form.  This form is the one which satisfies the question, “Don’t I have to ask for an accommodation from the Agency?”  The answer to the question is satisfied in the very act of the Agency completing the SF 3112D, and one need not separately or independently have asked the agency the question.  It is, as such, part of the administrative process and procedure which the agency must engage in and satisfy.

There is often a mistaken idea that the Federal or Postal employee must make a separate and formal request of the Agency.  But it is in the very act of completing the form — the SF 3112D — that the tripartite issue is resolved:  In the completion of the form, the (A) question of accommodation is asked, (B) the issue of accommodation is answered, and (C) the requirement that the agency address the issue of accommodation is satisfied.

No separate or independent effort, either by the Agency or the Federal or Postal employee, need be expended, for purposes of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Proper Balance

Meeting and arriving at the “proper balance” in any endeavor is an Aristotelian concept found in his Nichomachean Ethics, of achieving a median between any two extremes.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to ascertain, then apply, this concept of a “middle” balance between providing too much information (which then includes much superfluous content and documentation which merely provides volume, but not qualitative evidence of one’s Federal Disability Retirement eligibility), and not enough to meet the legal criteria.

By appearance alone (and here, of course, the philosophical outlook and distinction between that which is merely “appearance” as opposed to “substance” applies beautifully), it is sometimes necessary to provide a certain level of volume of medical records in order to satisfy OPM that there is indeed “substance” to one’s medical claim.

It is an unfortunate anomaly that, while on the one hand OPM is looking for “relevant” information, and much of the office and treatment notes of a doctor merely contain passing and quick notations on treatment modalities, medication regimens prescribed, etc.; nevertheless, the appearance of office notes, regardless of their irrelevant nature and lack of substantive content, accompanying a qualitatively significant medical narrative report, often satisfies OPM’s request for “documentation” of a medical condition.  On the other hand, too great a volume of immaterial medical documentation which tends to show nothing, should be streamlined, if possible.  Meeting that Aristotelian “median” between providing too much and too little is something which is discretionary, but important to attain.

It is normally through experience of having handled a volume of cases that one can gain a sense of what the “proper balance” means, but for the particular Federal or Postal employee who is preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, such an endeavor is, and should be, the one and only time that such an encounter would be engaged in.

That, in and of itself, is a conundrum which can only be resolved by consulting someone who is knowledgeable in the area of Federal Disability Retirement law, and as knowledge of first principles is also an Aristotelian mandate, so consultation with those who are familiar with such first principles (or any principle which applies to OPM’s arbitrary approach, for that matter) should be a must for the Federal or Postal employee considering a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: OWCP, EEOC, Grievances & the Comfort Zone

Medical conditions are often accompanied by the necessity to engage in certain forums, to initiate particular legal actions, and to file for alternative means of compensation.  Actions of necessity often come in bundles, and this is natural, as a single event can spawn multiple avenues of legal relief, and reflect various responses by the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.

Thus, a medical condition — whether work related or not — can result in Agency retaliation, persecution, adverse actions, subtle changes of attitudes, etc.

It is therefore not a surprise that a Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, also has parallel actions which may include the wide spectrum of a simple Grievance, to an EEO Complaint; a concurrent OWCP/Department of Labor case (for an application of compensation based upon a medical condition or injury resulting from an on-the-job incident or on an occupational disease claim, etc.); a claim of hostile work environment, retaliation; assertion of the whistleblower provision, etc.

As an attorney who specializes in obtaining Federal disability retirement benefits for Federal and Postal employees, one observes the following:  there is often a mistaken belief that being involved in parallel or alternative routes of litigation somehow delays the need — whether practically speaking, or in terms of the 1-year Statute of Limitations — for filing of Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management.

This mistaken belief often stems from a “comfort zone” that arises — whether because OWCP is paying on a regular and monthly basis, and so the financial concern is not presently and immediately existent; or because one is continually engaged in some form of contact with the Federal Government through alternative litigation, that the 1-year requirement to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is automatically delayed.  The Statute of Limitations is not a sympathetic statute.

A personal comfort zone is not a basis to delay what the law requires.  Immediacy of an event should not be the basis of whether to file for a claim or not.  Planning for the future is the important basis to act, and preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is something which every Federal or Postal employee should be considering concurrently with all other forums and avenues of compensation.  A man can do more than one thing at a time, and preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits should be one of those multiple issues to be embraced.

Don’t let a present comfort zone deny you the right of a secured future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Key to a Case

Often, when dignitaries or celebrities visit a particular city, they are recognized, applauded and sometimes “given the keys” to a city — metaphorically meaning that they are provided with certain benefits and access to such benefits.  It would be nice if, in every circumstance involving the necessity of identifying a key to an access, that we could figure out which key fits, in order to open the door to that previously-inaccessible entranceway.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to identify, recognize, and implement the “keys” to a successful outcome.  If one metaphorically views a Federal Disability Retirement application, then the application itself would be the key; the doorway which prevents access is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; and the opening of the door is the successful approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

The “key”, then, is that which opens the doorway, and leads to eligibility of one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The focus of the Federal and Postal employee must be upon choosing the right key; crafting the proper implement; then ensuring that the instrument fits properly the lock which bars the entrance to the gateway of success.

Such formulation and compilation of the proper key in order to obtain access, is — to put it in trite form — the key to one’s success.  As such, it is important to put one’s effort in the timeline just before putting the key into the lock — i.e., in the formulation and preparation, of compiling the right data, arguments and documents, in order to possess and apply an effective application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Left and Right Hands

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, part of the successful process of preparation and formulation is the ability to coordinate everything for the sake of consistency.  Indeed, “consistency” — or the lack thereof — is precisely the issue which often defeats a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Whether it is the inconsistency of a medical report submitted and the office/doctors’ notes attached; whether how the Agency views the employee and what the Federal or Postal employee claims as to one’s ability or inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; or at a macro-level, a settlement agreement between the Agency and the Federal employee to determine the nature of a removal or resignation, and how cooperatively the Agency will complete SF 3112B and SF 3112D.

Such inconsistencies are the “fodder” of a denial for the Office of Personnel Management, who takes great effort in comparatively analyzing all aspects of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Further, if the medical conditions noted on one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) are not supported by the medical documentation attached, or perhaps the treating doctor focuses upon medical conditions X & Y while the applicant/patient thinks it is C & D, such internal incompatibilities can impact the outcome of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Obtaining, Maintaining and Preserving

Just as preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is an administrative process — as opposed to an “entitlement” where a simple act of filing or meeting an automatic requirement makes one eligible and entitled — where one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the Federal or Postal employee meets all of the legal criteria for eligibility; similarly, once the Federal or Postal employee obtains the Federal Disability Retirement benefits, it is a “process” which one must be prepared to embrace, in order to maintain the continuing viability of one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and further, in order to preserve the right to retain and continue to receive the Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

That is why it is important to understand the entirety of the administrative process — not only in obtaining the benefit itself, but to ensure future compliance with the statutes, regulations and case-law.  While legal and on-line resources are certainly available and abound with information, ultimately those very resources must be applied; and in order to apply them, they must be interpreted by someone who understands the entirety of the administrative process.  “Trial and error” is often not the best approach in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, if only because the “error” may outweigh the benefit of the trial itself.

As such, it is advisable to consult with an OPM Disability Retirement attorney  who can guide one through the administrative process — not only at its inception, but in its continuing maintenance and retention of this benefit called, Federal Disability Retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire