OPM Disability Retirement: The Fingerprints of an Ineffective Disability Retirement Presentation

Rushing through something is often a sign of attempting to make up for something lacking; if excellence is the goal, then one must take the time to cultivate the means of achieving it; if completion is the sole achieving end, then almost anything will satisfy such an undistinguished crown.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one can discern from the quality of the disability retirement packet the psychology behind the packet itself.  Much like fingerprints left behind by a burglar, or a work of art created by a craftsman or an amateur bumbler merely attempting to make a few extra dollars in one’s spare time, the collateral context of a presentation can be very indicative.

If such indicators manifest a negative vibration to an objective observer, what could it be stating to the OPM Representative who is reviewing the case?  Whether it is a Federal Disability Retirement packet which is sloppily put together; is presented with generalizations in offering a diagnosis or symptoms; is disconnected or barely coherent in its reasonings; or a multitude of other linguistic symptoms implying lack of attentiveness — these will not do.

Excellence should always be the goal; as the craftsman must take care at each stage of the creative process, so a Federal Disability Retirement packet must reveal the fullness of the medical condition, its impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, and why one has met all of the legal criteria in being entitled to the Federal Disability Retirement benefit.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Ties that Bind

Often, the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is involved in, or considering such involvement in, collateral or ancillary actions against the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.

Litigation is a difficult road to travel; both in terms of emotional drain and financial commitment, a successful EEOC action or some form of lawsuit against a Federal Agency, can take a tremendous toll upon the Federal or Postal employee engaging in such parallel legal universe.  Further, when a medical condition is involved, the ability of the litigant to engage in the protracted, emotionally and physically draining garbage pit of depositions, discovery and endless demands of a Dickensian “Bleak House” endeavor, can detrimentally impact one’s health and ability to recover.  Justice has a high price; perhaps that is why it is rarely achieved.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the engagement of collateral legal avenues often reflects a complex history of an adversarial relationship between the Federal or Postal employee, and the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.  Yet, such ancillary litigation is often anathema to obtaining Federal Disability Retirement and in many ways defeats the purpose.

As part of the review of the entirety of the process, it serves you well to consider the toll of such collateral litigation once the Federal or Postal employee files for, is waiting for, or receives a Federal Disability Retirement.  At what price, and to what end?  Or is it a tie which continues to bind, and merely squeezes the life that is left?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Problem of the Incremental Loss of Time

This short adage has probably been told in the past, but it is nevertheless instructive and applicable:  In a local courthouse, there is a sign on the desk of the clerk which receives and processes pleadings from lawyers and lay litigants, and it states:  “The fact that you have waited until the last minute does not constitute a dire emergency for me”  Now, from the viewpoint of the attorney or lay person who is proceeding pro se, such a preemptive assertion may seem rather cold-hearted; but from the perspective of the clerk, who has seen many such pleas for mercy because of an imminent deadline, it is merely a warning of intolerance.

Time can pass away in incremental aggregates which become days, months; and suddenly, the calendric year has slipped away. This often happens for the Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Time becomes delayed in incremental bits of precious bundles, and before you know it, one’s agency has lost any accrued good will or patience, and finances become increasingly more difficult to manage.   Illnesses and medical conditions have a way of suspending time and making such a constraining conceptual construct an irrelevancy; for, if time can be divided in the gauging of events, celebrations, occurrences bifurcated by differentiating responsibilities — i.e., work; chores; weekends; obligations; appointments, etc. — the great equalizer is a medical condition, precisely because whether it is the chronic pain, or a psychiatric condition which impacts one’s focus, concentration, mood, etc., then time becomes a single continuum indistinguishable because everything is concentrated upon overcoming the medical condition.  All that one can do in such a quandary, is to attempt to delay various responsibilities through incremental procrastination.

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 not to allow for the problem of incremental loss of time to impede the ability to effectively and properly prepare and file a Federal Disability Retirement case.  Now is the time to inquire, prepare, and begin to plan; for “now” constitutes the stop-gap to the loss of time.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Audience

Knowing one’s audience is important in determining the content and manner of a performance, a submission, or a presentation.  Such knowledge allows one to tailor the level of sophistication and informational complexity in order to maximize the effectiveness of that which is being presented.  Certain assumptions can come into play in assessing the audience:  the level of intellectual sophistication; content-appropriate substantive determinations; certain preemptive issues and whether a given element needs to be addressed before it is brought up.

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 often instructive that the Federal or Postal employee will formulate and put together a Federal Disability Retirement packet as if one’s own agency will be the deciding arbiter — and therefore an explanation of certain actions of the agency will be preemptively rebutted when no such explanatory delineation is necessary.

Yes, while it is true that if one has not been separated from Federal Service, or has been separated but not for more than thirty one (31) days, that the Federal Disability Retirement packet must be processed through the Agency Human Resources Department; and, yes, the agency itself does include its input through the completion of certain forms and insertion of additional information; nevertheless, the Federal Disability Retirement packet is decided by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and not by the agency for whom one works.

This minor distinction is important, for it will determine at the outset the perspective, tone and tenor of the Federal Disability Retirement application.  Knowing that the chip on one’s shoulder should be set aside because the audience is no longer the neighborhood bully, will go a long way in preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Always the Basics Matter

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 always instructive to remind one’s self that the focus of any application should be placed upon the basic components of a Federal Disability Retirement application, and once that focal point is embraced, to reiterate and reinforce that aspect of the Disability Retirement application.

Often, when one requests and receives a blank packet of information, including all of the Standard Forms, instructions, financial forms and life insurance forms, etc., to fill out and complete, the sense of being overwhelmed can easily defeat a Federal Disability Retirement application at the outset.

There are multiple personal questions; information requested on military service, on receipt of OWCP benefits; then the complexity of the queries focuses upon those rather simple but “tricky” questions concerning Agency actions, about whether one has “requested” an accommodation; to describe one’s medical conditions, etc.  How a question should be answered is indeed crucial in the successful filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application; whether the answers given should be consistently coordinated with other answers provided is equally of importance.

Ultimately, the basic components of a Federal Disability Retirement application embrace the relationship between the medical condition suffered, and the impact upon one’s positional duties required to be performed.  But, inasmuch as it is not the Agency of the Federal or Postal employee who makes the decision concerning an OPM Disability Retirement application, but the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to understand that while the answers given involve the actions of the relationship between a Federal and Postal employee and one’s agency, it is ultimately people outside of the agency to whom such answers must be directed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: From the Doctor’s Perspective

In attempting to understand others, it is important to gain a perspective from which the third party views the world.  Understanding the third party perspective is a way to formulating an effective way of persuading a change in that person, if that is the goal. Or, perhaps understanding X merely in order to accept the behavior or actions of the individual, is enough of a reason.

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 often important to understand the perspective of one’s treating doctor in order to obtain the necessary support and administrative initiation of the medical provider.

From the doctor’s viewpoint, it is normally counter-productive in terms of treatment and therapy to declare, ascertain and deem that the patient is “totally disabled“.  Work is therapeutic; it allows for a teleological motivation which compels continuation in recuperative and rehabilitative terms.

Further, when this “fact” is combined with the general exposure of most doctors to other forms of disability benefits — state or federal OWCP benefits; Social Security Disability benefits; private disability insurance benefits — and rarely an encounter with FERS or CSRS disability retirement issues, it becomes apparent why doctors often become reluctant and resistant to getting involved with the administrative process.  OWCP benefits require an assertion of causality-to-employment; SSDI necessitates a declaration of “total disability”; private disability policies can often lead to depositions and legal responses.

Thus, everything that is counterintuitive to a doctor’s perspective of what is therapeutically beneficial to the patient, is potentially there when presented with a request for support in a disability retirement case.

Explanation is the key to understanding; effective explanation should persuade and alter a perspective founded upon a misinformed foundation.  It is often necessary to explain the differences between FERS & CSRS disability retirement benefits and the “others” which have previously polluted the waters of a pristine stream of thought.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Filing

The actual filing of a FERS Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, can be rather anti-climactic, precisely because the prospective anticipation is merely beaten down by the long wait and the extended period of inactivity.

Thus, in the prior two phases of the administrative process — the “preparation and formulation” part of it —  the engagement in obtaining and completing the forms, presenting in written form and putting the entire Federal Disability Retirement application together, creates an appearance of progressively working towards a goal.  Once filed — if still with the agency or within thirty one (31) days of being separated from the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service —  the agency must complete their portion.

Depending upon whether it is with the local Human Resources Office or the District Human Resources Office will often determine how efficient or helpful they are.  If a Federal or Postal employee has been separated from Federal Service for over thirty one (31) days, of course, then it must be filed directly with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, Pennsylvania.

Filing a Federal Disability Retirement application is both a physical act, as well as a psychological barrier to be broken; as to the former, it is a relatively simple matter of sending it in; as to the latter, it constitutes an important step in recognizing and acknowledging the necessity of attending to one’s medical needs for recuperative purposes, whether because of physical or psychiatric medical concerns which require an alteration of employment demands.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Clarification of Options

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 often necessary to perform a methodological analysis similar to a “risk-benefits” evaluation before proceeding down the path in attempting to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The risks versus benefits analysis should already have been performed:  the necessity of filing because of one’s medical conditions should have answered any such issues arising from such a concern.  The “other” analytical approach, however, often revolves around the ever-prevalent and uniquely human ability to endlessly ruminate:  the “What if” syndrome.  What if I don’t get the disability retirement?  What if my agency terminates me before I get approved?  What if…

Such questions, while important to consider, should be first preceded by the overarching “what-if” question of all, which generally answers all subsequent similar questions:  “What if I don’t file?”  Presumably, one comes to a point in deciding to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits because of a medical condition which has progressively or suddenly come to a point where it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Given that, the options to be clarified are quite simple:  If one does not file, then one will either have to continue working in the same or similar capacity; or one can resign and walk away, perhaps with a deferred retirement at age 65.  Are any of those options truly viable?  Ergo, many — if not all — of the other “what if” questions resolve themselves by first clarifying the penultimate what-if question.

Sequential clarification of one’s options is an important step in the reflective process of decision-making; take the time to consider the options; clarify the options; then, when the decision to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefitsbecomes a matter of necessity, move forward with the view that one will be approved precisely because the facts prove the case, without engaging in the self-defeating, very-human endeavor of self-doubt and questioning.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Prospective Affirmation versus Retrospective Correction

Moving forward with the right tools is generally more effective than looking back and trying to correct deficiencies; thus, the age-old adage of being penny wise, pound foolish applies; and 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 make a determination early on to clearly assess the strength of a case, the needs required to optimize such strengths, and to obtain assistance where necessary.

As to an objective assessment of a case:  one is normally not the best evaluator in analyzing the strength or weakness of one’s own Federal Disability retirement case.  This is because of a self-evident principle operating in each such Federal Disability Retirement case:  the subject who suffers from the medical condition cannot objectively evaluate from a third-party’s perspective the viability of a case in terms of proving by a preponderance of the evidence the coherence and compelling nature of the evidence to be presented.

Most believe that his or her case is a “slam-dunk”; few in actual reality ever are.  To get denied by OPM at the First Stage; then at the Reconsideration Stage; then to go pro se before the Merit Systems Protection Board; then to obtain a lawyer — while it is good to get a lawyer at any stage of the process — is it wise to attempt a retrospective correction of one’s mistakes?  At what stage does it become too late?  Where in the process does “correction” override “mistakes”?  Compare that to a prospective affirmation of one’s inadequacies — that it is difficult, if not impossible, to objectively evaluate one’s own case; that an effective compilation and presentation of a Federal Disability Retirement case is necessary in order to win in a Federal Disability Retirement case; and that providing a legal citationin support of one’s case is an essential element of a compelling case:  combining it all, it would seem that being wise for the pound is preferable than being foolish for the penny (to make an inverse adage applicable).

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Tidbits

The term itself is an interesting one; for, unlike its corollary, it refers to the “choice” or “pleasing” morsel of food, as opposed to “leftovers” or “crumbs”, which imply food which has either been rejected or left behind after the table sitter has made the prime decision.  “Tidbits” in its secondary meaning, of course, implies information; the conceptual applicability has transferred from one within the exclusive context of foods, to include information, facts, statements, etc.

Thus, a tidbit:  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to understand and recognize that, while most mistakes in the preparation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application are “correctable” (what an ugly word — both in appearance and in phonetic structure), what one cannot do is to put “blinders” on the eyes of OPM or before an Administrative Judge, once certain information has been submitted to OPM.

Thus, if an individual wants to attempt the First Stage of the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement on his or her own, without the assistance of an OPM Disability Attorney, thinking that it is an “easy” case, that is all well and good, but while the tools of representation for an attorney include use of the malleability of language, such that “linguistic gymnastics” will be engaged in as the primary sport of the attorney; nevertheless, elasticity of language does have its limits.

Facts, once exposed, can be explained and amended, but the essence of the fact or statement remains in the hands of OPM.  This constitutes and comprises the tidbit of the day; a choice and pleasing morsel?  Perhaps not in consequential substance, but hopefully in terms of informational relevance.  Ah, but to have been offered instead a morsel of apple pie!

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire