FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Solutions

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to focus upon the solutions to the multiple obstacles which necessarily accompany the preparation of a Federal Disability Retirement packet.

Part of the inherent problem for the Federal or Postal worker who is contemplating filing for the Federal Disability Retirement benefit, is of course the medical condition itself.  It is difficult enough to maneuver through the potholes, valleys and pitfalls of life which one must face on a daily basis; it is exponentially pronounced when one must do so with the hindrance of a physical, mental, or emotional (or often all three) medical condition.

Thus, if the problem at the outset is to secure the support of a doctor, because the doctor is unwilling to provide a medical narrative report, then the solution is to find another doctor.  This often happens if the originating injury occurred as a job-related incident and the doctor’s services were obtained through OWCP; or, sometimes, one’s own lifelong treating doctor simply becomes weary of all of the administrative paperwork which is entailed by the process itself.

To “find another doctor”, of course, is an easy enough statement to make; to actually do so may entail energy, effort and a level of focus which involves much beyond what one wants to expend.  But what choice does one have?  Repetitively reviewing one’s obstacles contributes little to the advancement of one’s cause; focus upon the solution, not the problem, for it is the former whichjavascript:; leads one on a path of recovery, not the latter.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Easy Case

Life presents conundrums; puzzles exist to be solved, but few attempt to understand the foundational precepts which need to be discovered and applied; ergo, Aristotle remains an esoteric author of antiquity, to be rediscovered and in whom delight approaches an enduring mystery.  In every endeavor of that vast designation identified as “life”, difficulties abound, challenges confront, and obstacles confound.  One hears about the “easy” life, how X has it so “comfortable”, and the proverbial, “if only I…”

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one often hears about the “easy” case — it proves itself; the evidence is so overwhelming that…

Take the following hypothetical:  X has an OWCP case approved; Second opinion and referee doctors all state that X cannot return to performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; additionally, SSDI has been granted; and on top of everything else, the agency has removed X from the Federal or Postal rolls, based upon one’s “Medical Inability to perform the essential elements of his/her job.”

As Federal Disability Retirement cases go, this may constitute and possess elements which most would consider a “sure thing”.  Easy case?  What is missing?  As to the first question, the answer is a resounding, “No”.  As to the second question, those who have inquired as to the “first principles” in Aristotelian fashion, will be able to discover the answer, and this author need not state thejavascript:; obvious.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Supportive Physician

Perspectives vary; varying perspectives often lead to conflict; and conflict represents the divergent paths which pursue different directions, or follow a parallel route.

Physicians who have been practicing medicine for a number of years quite often see the therapeutic benefit of employment, and the negative impact of being identified as “disabled”, with progressive physical manifestations of deterioration, and psychological destruction of futility and hopelessness.  It is not mere coincidence that the high rate of mortality is correlated to two primary life events:  birth (where the infant’s susceptibility to being exposed to an expansive and threatening environment brings with it inherent dangers), and retirement (where the propelling teleological motivation of man suddenly comes to an end).

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 obvious that one must have supportive medical documentation in order to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Federal or Postal employee is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Part of that medical evidence should include a narrative report from one’s treating doctor, or a doctor who can properly and thoroughly assess, evaluate, and conclude that the Federal or Postal employee  can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

What constitutes “support”, however, can sometimes lead to divergent paths.  Doctors are trained to treat patients, not to perform administrative duties.  The divergence which potentially leads to conflict often involves the differing perspective of what will “help” the patient.  Federal Disability Retirement is a benefits which allows the Federal or Postal employee to remain productive in the workforce, by encouraging the Federal or Postal employee to seek outside employment.  This is the key component and concept which often lends persuasive effect upon a suspicious and cautious medical practitioner.

Explaining the process will hopefully allow for parallel paths, and not a route which results in different directions.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Agency Self-Interest

Self-interest is an interesting characteristic to observe — one which everyone possesses, but only the obtuse deny.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, be aware that the Agency has its own self-interest.

If the stated interest is couched in terms of the Federal or Postal employee’s “best interests”, it is good to be suspicious, or at least modestly cautious in embracing such a claim.  Such wariness in accepting the stated claim of one’s agency is obviously not a warning which most Federal or Postal employees would receive with any surprise; you have been Federal or Postal employees for many years, and those initial years of idealism and youthful enthusiasm have already been stamped out of you (let not the cynicism of this writer dampen the ardor of youth).

If one follows the advice of the Agency blindly, ask yourself the following question:  If you receive a denial at the First Stage of the process, will the agency respond in a helpful manner, or will they say:  It is not our responsibility — it is the Office of Personnel Management which makes the decision?  Is it a common experience that agencies defer responsibility when something goes wrong?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Reminding the Agency of the Administrative Process

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under the Federal Employee’s Retirement System (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), a reminder is often necessary to the agency which retains the Federal or Postal employee on the active rolls, that it is an administrative process, and not a singular event representing an entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Of course, the Agency itself has a self-interested motive in the outcome of the Federal Disability Retirement application, especially if the Federal or Postal employee continues to occupy the positional slot of the agency.  For, so long as the Federal or Postal employee continues to remain on the rolls, it cannot officially fill the empty slot.

Thus, what often happens if a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage of the administrative process, is that the Agency will immediately attempt to threaten the individual and demand that the Federal or Postal employee return to work by a date certain, or justify the medical basis upon which the continuing absence occurs.  By then, all FMLA rights may have been exhausted; sick leave may be depleted, etc.

At this point, the Agency Human Resources Office needs to be reminded that, as an administrative process, there are multiple levels of appeals, and the mere fact that a Federal Disability Retirement application has been denied at the First Stage is not a basis for the Agency’s demand to return to work.

Agencies tend to be hard of hearing, however, and a law unto themselves.  That’s not surprising for most Federal employees and Postal workers; indeed, you have had to endure such a perspective of self-centered attitude throughout your Federal or Postal careers, and this information is merely reinforcement of what you already knew.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Word Usage

In any endeavor involving a “paper presentation” to a third party, it is important to be fully aware of word-choice and word-usage.  An overuse and overabundance of descriptive adjectives can undermine the efficacy of a presentation; the flow of sentences, the logical connections between statements, and a conclusion which follows from the major and minor premises of an argument — all in composite and aggregate form, create an impression of a linguistic Leviathan which is formidable, and thus unable to be countered.

Obviously, the facts and evidence which provide the foundation of an argument count for much.  There is the old adage that, when a lawyer possesses no persuasive facts, he argues the law; if the law fails to support a client’s innocence, he argues the maudlin facts; if neither supports proof of the innocence of the client, then he merely blusters and argues.

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 recognize that the Disability Retirement packet is a “paper presentation” to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

You will not be meeting with anyone.  You will not be given an “in-person” interview, where one’s charm, charisma and personality may provide the persuasive foundation for an approval.  Rather, it must be by the sheer convincing force of one’s logic, methodology of argumentation, facts presented and the persuasive nexus between one’s medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job — based upon the choice of words and the application of expanding conceptual constructs.  An inadvertent use of a word may become the weak link to such a paper presentation.  Those times when you should have been listening to the English teacher in Grammar Class — it mattered.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Sports Metaphors

The abundance of metaphors comparing life with sports has pervaded throughout in literature, opinion pieces, articles, etc.  We can relate to sports, because many have been active participants in their youth; continue to engage in it via playing in various adult leagues, or coaching their kids, or perhaps just passively enjoying watching various sports on television, etc.

As a metaphor, it is seen as a “life-lesson”.  It is supposed to teach all aspects of “building character” — of the value of hard work, proper preparation, ethical conduct and behavior, etc.  In pragmatic terms, when one actually plays a sport, it merely becomes a one-to-one adversarial encounter with an opponent, and sometimes teaches merely that the “playing field” is not always level, and the opponent does not always follow the same rules of the game as one is taught to do.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, a comparative metaphor to any sports would be to characterize the entire administrative process as one of the battle between David and Goliath.  The Office of Personnel Management has its own set of rules — of a criteria which is allegedly applied, but which often has limited rational basis; of a time frame within which they say they attempt to meet, but which is systematically ignored; of following rules and regulations as they interpret them, etc.

What would one say about a sport in which one side makes up the rules and then ignores them?  Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is like a professional football team (representing OPM) going against a high school chemistry class deciding to put together a team (the Federal or Postal employee).  The teams are unequal; the playing field is never level; and the outcome of the encounter must therefore be decided by careful preparation, a cohesively formulated plan, and a filing deliberation which results in a compelling total package.

Such is the metaphor with sports:  to prepare, formulate and file — in an effective manner.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Recurring Particular Issues

Issues in life often recur repetitively without rhyme or reason; as a rule of life, it becomes true “all the more” with mistakes in life.  Thus, particular issues in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, seem to resurface regardless (I would enjoy writing “irregardless” just to irritate those who are alert enough to recognize the nonsensical nature of such a term, but I refrain) of the number of times such issues are addressed or corrected.

Three such issues are:  A.  Filing for SSDI.  Yes, it does need to be filed.  No, it does not technically need to be filed in sequence; moreover, while many Human Resources (one agency calls it “Human Capital”, which is viewed as a self-contradiction and an inside joke) offices misinform Federal and Postal workers that you have to wait for a decision of approval before filing for Federal Disability Retirement, the Federal or Postal Worker should refuse to listen to such misguided misinformation.  Technically, the only time OPM needs a receipt showing that one has filed for SSDI is at the time of an OPM approval.  However — yes, just to get it over with, you should just go ahead and file online, and print out a receipt showing that you filed, and attach it with the Federal Disability Retirement application.  B.  Time of filing:  within 1 year of being separated from Federal Service.  No, LWOP or being on sick leave does not begin to toll the 1-year Statute of Limitations.  C.  One’s medical condition must last for a minimum of 12 months.  No, you do not need to wait for 12 months and endure your medical condition.  Most doctors can provide a prognosis of the extent of your medical condition early in the process.

Don’t let the irony of life rule one’s actions.  Mistakes and misinformation abounds, but how one responds is the key to successful living.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Time and Concision

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 allocate the time properly — not from one’s own perspective, but from the viewing aspect of the Office of Personnel Management.

This is often a difficult point to consider, and indeed, more difficult to acknowledge and recognize.  For, the applicant who is preparing and formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application often views the substantive content of a Federal Disability Retirement packet as an opportunity to spew out all of the facts and circumstances which coalesced and accumulated in the course of the past few years, which resulted in the present need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits in the first place.

Thus, the compendium of assertions often includes medical facts, opinions, etc.; allegations concerning hostile work environment; mistreatment by coworkers and supervisors; the bathtub (and the baby) encapsulating every conceivable medical diagnosis and symptoms; allegations against one’s agency; and multiple other compilation of facts, opinions, statements and propositions.  But a Federal Disability Retirement application is neither the place, the time, nor the proper forum for all such aggregations of such information.

Concision and narrow, focused pinpointing of facts, statements, and references to medical conditions; their impact upon one’s inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job — that is the key to an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Time is a valuable commodity — for everyone, including the Case Worker at OPM.  Moreover, a focused approach — one guided by a concise and time-sensitive criteria — will be the one which OPM will recognize as one worthy of consideration, if not for the simple fact that it is an “easier read” than that one in the corner with a 36-inch stack of medical records.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire