Federal Disability Retirement: Proof

This is a proof-based process.  It is not merely a matter of completing some forms and meeting procedural guidelines in order to obtain a benefit; rather, it is an administrative process in which evidence and documentary support from third parties must be obtained in order to meet the legal criteria imposed by statute, regulation, and ever-evolving case-laws as handed down by the Administrative Judges of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

There are administrative processes which are “entitlements”, such as certain economic assistance programs, Social Security, Medicare, etc., where one has paid into a system, and upon reaching a certain age, or meeting income-qualification criteria, etc., such procedural guidelines are merely shown, met, and approved.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, however, it is not merely a matter of meeting procedural criteria (although that, too, is required), but moreover, one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible, by submission of substantial and adequate documentation that one cannot perform, because of a medical condition, one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

Proof is the lynchpin by which the standard of winning a Federal Disability Retirement case is won or lost.  Proof is a “must”.  As such, never consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits as merely a matter of filling out paperwork; one must prove one’s case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Confronting the Change

The transition from being a Federal or Postal employee to one of a disability retirement annuitant will inevitably spawn questions — not only concerning the process itself, but the impact, response, reaction and collateral events with which an Agency will engage the Federal or Postal employee.

The process itself can never be entered into, or participated in, within a vacuum.  Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a complex decision, and one which involves so many facets — impact upon one’s economic circumstances; the transition to a different career or vocation; the severing of ties to coworkers and supervisors; a change in the way one lives one’s life, etc.

Thus, it is not merely a matter of filing paperwork; it is not just a recognition that one has a medical condition such that you cannot any longer perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, although that is also a large part of it.  Rather, it involves the emotion, mental, and physical toil and turmoil of “change”.  And, indeed, change itself is a stress; change of any sort means an end of something, and a beginning of something else.

It is often that “something else” — the unknown of the future, which represents and greatest fear and challenge.  But the question one is left with is often:  What choices and alternatives do I have?  Once that question is asked, the road through Federal Disability Retirement often takes an easier path.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: An Inherently Adversarial Process

One often hears about administrative procedures — that they are somehow distinguishable from court cases, EEOC proceedings, grievances, etc., in that they are “non-adversarial” procedures.  Really?  In designating it as such, one becomes lulled into thinking that, somehow, preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is merely a matter of completing and submitting paperwork.

In a society which enjoys the safety of linguistic euphemisms, however, such an approach to an important application for benefits can result in devastating consequences.

Does a bureaucracy which is set up exclusively to review and potentially deny a Federal Disability Retirement application have the appearance of a non-adversarial process? Does the fact that one has a right to appeal it to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, then to a panel of Administrative Judges for a “Full Review”, then to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, possess the scent of non-adversity?

A system which is set up with a specified statute of limitations, which employs procedural and substantive legal criteria set up to deal with appeals and submission of evidence; of a body of law which applies to determine the sufficiency of evidence; such a system is inherently adversarial in nature, and whatever words or string of words one might use to describe such a system, it is first and foremost, an adversarial process.

Treat it as such, or enter into its arena with caution and forewarning.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Moving beyond the Stagnant Waters of OWCP

“Is it possible…” is an impossible question to answer.  For, the conceptual distinction between that which is possible, as opposed to probable, is one which reveals the chasm between the world of fantasy and one of reality.  The world of the “possible” is unconstrained and unbounded; the world of probable occurrences may be fenced in by statistical constructs, actual circumstances, and real-world experiences.

While it is possible to stay on OWCP for a long duration, it is also probable that OWCP will cut off one’s benefits at some future, undetermined and unexpected time.  Thus, for the Federal or Postal employee who is on, has been on, or even is contemplating filing for, OWCP/FECA benefits because of a work-related injury, the benefit itself is attractive enough to remain on the rolls of OWCP until such time as (A) the Federal or Postal employee can return back to work, (B) the Federal or Postal Worker is deemed recovered, and the OWCP benefits are cut off, or (C) the Federal or Postal Worker decides to “move on” in life.

The first two choices are essentially out of the arena of “control” of the Federal or Postal employee, for one cannot determine or expedite the recovery period of a medical condition, and further, only the doctor (or its surrogate, the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs) can determine whether or not the Federal or Postal work is now recovered.  As for the last choice, however, it is the Federal or Postal worker who can make the determination — especially if one has already gotten an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

OWCP is not a retirement system; one cannot work at another job while on OWCP; one must sit and do what the OWCP case worker tells you to do.  It is only with Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, that one can actually engage in another, alternative vocation or career, and begin to move on in life, and become released from the stagnant waters of a constraining medical condition — or that of OWCP.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Deception of Being on OWCP

“But I am on OWCP,” the caller insists.  “But that wasn’t the question.  The question is, are you still on the rolls of the agency?”  “But OWCP has been paying me for the last 2 years and…”

The deceptiveness of being on OWCP and receiving payment from Worker’s Comp results in a feeling of security and lulls one into a sense of comfort.  But receiving OWCP/FECA benefits does not mean that one cannot be separated from Federal Service.  Indeed, many people continue to remain on OWCP rolls, receive the non-taxable benefit, and believe that, because they are on OWCP, this somehow means that they have not be separated from Federal Service.  Beware.  Be aware.  While on OWCP, if the agency moves to separate you, that means that you have one (1) year from the date of separation to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Being “on” the rolls of OWCP does not stop, prevent, or otherwise interfere with the agency’s determination or right to separate the Federal or Postal employee in order to fill that position.  Then, of course, once a person is separated, and over a year passes, one can no longer file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, if over a year passes by, because under the law (what is called the “Statute of Limitations“), a Federal or Postal employee must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: How One Perceives a Case

How one views a case often determines the approach which is undertaken.  Thus, if the belief is that preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is merely a simple administrative process which requires the compilation of the medical documentation, answering some questions and filling out some forms, then such a belief will determine the extent of preparation of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

The other side of the perspective, however, is held by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  OPM views every Federal Disability Retirement application based upon a multitude of criteria:  legal sufficiency; consistency of statement-to-evidence; weight of medical documentation; analytical comparison to what the agency states; a review of the composite of forms, documents and statements made, etc.

Is OPM’s approach an adversarial one?  One often hears that such administrative and bureaucratic processes are “non-adversarial” in nature, but what exactly does that mean?  If the perspective of the Office of Personnel Management is to apply a legal criteria in order to determine the legal sufficiency of a Federal Disability Retirement application, doesn’t that make it into an adversarial process?

Euphemisms are invaluable tools in the utilization of language as a means of communication; but words ultimately must have a static meaning — at least for the duration of the sentence to be uttered.  That being the case, one must conclude that how one perceives a case should be based upon the meaning of language used in describing the case; and the meaning is quite clear in preparing, formulating, filing, and awaiting a decision of a Federal Disability Retirement application from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire