OPM Disability Retirement: The Vicious Cycle of Psychiatric Conditions

The paradigm and general assumption of those who are not suffering from a chronic medical condition, especially of a psychiatric component — whether of severe Major Depression, Panic Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, or possessing characteristics of paranoia and suicidal ideations — is one of, “What’s the big deal?”

If you are going to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, then why hasn’t the paperwork been done?  Why haven’t you gotten the medical reports (as if doctors just drop everything for their patients and fill out forms, etc.)?

Those who are not in the same shoes as a person who suffers from psychiatric medical conditions, fail to understand the vicious cycle — of the impact of the medical condition itself, upon the very ability to proceed in a productive manner.  Yet, the puzzling question is:  If X could behave and produce in the same manner as non-X, would he/she be filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits to begin with?

The vicious cycle of a person beset with psychiatric conditions involves the paralysis of behavior and the ability to create and produce.  Unfortunately, the world around us fails to understand or have the requisite empathy for such behavior.  To get out of the cycle of paralysis, the sufferer of psychiatric medical conditions will often need the advice and legal assistance of someone who can guide, prompt and implement.

The world is an uncaring system of rules and regulations; empathy and understanding, unfortunately, are not written into the law of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Impersonal File

Creative writing courses almost always fall back on an old adage:  Show, don’t tell.  Such a simple advisory truism, while trite and overly simplistic, applies in so many aspects of what constitutes effective writing — whether for fiction, journalism (is there a difference between the two?), or in Federal Disability Retirement (the latter, of course, is a completely separate genre from the former two).

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 apply all of the learned, effective tools of writing, in confronting every stage, every administrative hurdle, every step in the bureaucratic, administrative process.

In approaching a treating doctor:  remember that doctors are quite effective in compartmentalizing patients — separating a patient emotionally from the patient’s file; the cold, clinical approach of treating a medical condition without becoming “personally involved” is what a doctor is trained to do.  Thus, in obtaining the support of one’s treating doctor, it is important to break that silent wall of bifurcation, and often, simply sitting down with the doctor and explaining, talking, “personalizing”, is an important first step.

Another example:  the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  That statement is the window to OPM’s soul.  It is the means and vehicle by which and through which one persuades the Case Worker at OPM that one has a medical condition which prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s job.

Writing it well is the route to success.  Showing, and not merely telling.  Old adages tend to live on forever, because the truth inherent and embedded in them continue to thrive.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Power and Responsibility

It has often been stated that, when an individual possesses the power to do X, there falls upon the individual the concomitant need to exercise such power with responsibility.  Thus, the shortened statement, “With power comes responsibility”.

In applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal and Postal employee quickly realizes that the entity which holds all of the “power” in the administrative, bureaucratic process, is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Like any large organization, OPM is possessed with a variety of individuals, each exhibiting differing facets of personalities and approaches.  Such variations, however, should of course be veiled by a veneer of professionalism, and the power which they hold — of determining the approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application — is indeed extensive as it applies and impacts the Federal or Postal employee who has made the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The “power” which OPM holds extends not only to the approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, but moreover, to the length of time a person must wait for the decision, and then even after a decision, how long before payments will be initiated.

The “responsibility” portion of the equation involves and encapsulates the application of a fair and equitable review of one’s application; a thorough reading of the medical reports and records; and an objective analysis of the applicant’s statement of disability, the comparison to the position description, and a comprehensive understanding of the doctor’s reports.

That OPM holds the former (power) is unquestioned; that they exercise the latter (responsibility) is sometimes in question, but fortunately, there are different levels of appeals, and it is the administrative process as a whole which continues to retain its integrity, and for that, we may all be thankful.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Advice and Guidance

The worth of advice is unique in that it is valued based up multiple facets of judgments: the source of such advice; the reputation and historical successes of that source; the soundness of the advisory statement, based upon all information available; and, ultimately, the receptiveness of such advice on the part of the person who seeks it. When advice falls upon deaf ears, of course, then the very value and effectiveness of such advice has been lost forever.

In the legal arena, there is an added component — that the attorney is unable to, for obvious ethical reasons, to render advice unless there has been established an attorney-client relationship.  The “obvious reasons”  have to do with the fact that proffering advice in particular circumstances can only come about if and when an attorney has received the confidential and specific information pertaining to a “client”.  Guidance of a general nature, without reference to individualized details, can be given in a generic sense.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, where each case is unique because of fact-specific medical conditions, position descriptions which are impacted by the particularized medical conditions of the individual case, and the nexus which must arise with the interaction between the two — because of this, legal advice must be tailored within a context of an attorney-client relationship.

General guidance can be given; but the Federal or Postal employee seeking help in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, should understand that the importance of getting good legal advice is dependent upon the value and worth the Federal or Postal employee places upon his or her unique and individualized case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Beginning Points

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the familiar refrain from Federal and Postal Employees, whether under FERS or CSRS, in attempting to tackle the multifaceted complexities of a Federal Disability Retirement application, is the crucial starting point of the process:  Where do I begin?

The beginning point of any process is important precisely because it determines the tone, tenor, and ultimate outcome of the Federal Disability Retirement application.  A review of a Federal Disability Retirement application, when it has been denied by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, can often be backtracked to a beginning point in discovering an originating source of error.  On the other hand, sometimes (and more often than one would think) the so-called “error” is simply in having the bad luck of having one’s case assigned to certain OPM case workers who are less than thorough in his or her review and analysis.

In any case, it is important in putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application that one recognizes, at the very outset, those issues which are within the purview and control of one’s universe, and those portions of the Federal Disability Retirement application which are not.  Focus first and foremost upon those areas where one has either total control, or some guiding influence, and work for excellence within those parameters.

The rest is left up to fate — or, at the very least, to a good lawyer and sound legal argumentation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: OWCP & the Deception of Temptation

It has happened many times before; is continuing to occur today; and will continue to entice unwary Federal and Postal employees throughout the country, throughout the year, and coalesce into a tragedy of errors — without any comedic value involved.

For Federal and Postal employees who become comfortably ensconced in the higher rate of compensation received from the Office of Worker’s Compensation Program, administered through the Department of Labor, under the Federal Employees Compensation Act, the notification (or not) of one’s separation from the agency’s rolls may come at a time when the Federal or Postal employee is distracted with more important issues at hand: personal matters; medical complications; perhaps just trying to get through each day within the traumatic universe of chronic pain or severe depression.

From the Agency’s viewpoint, the notification of separation from Federal Service, or termination of employment from the U.S. Postal Service, is merely another administrative detail to close out a personnel file — a mere name to be deleted, with future expectations of a replacement for a particular position.

From the Federal or Postal employee’s standpoint, it represents one’s life, career, end of a vocation which one worked so hard for — and, quite possibly, the foregoing of an important benefit if the Federal or Postal employee is unaware, or not made clearly aware, that the Federal or Postal employee only has one year from the date of separation from service, whether you are on OWCP rolls or not, to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Compensation from OWCP can be tempting and lull one into a false sense of security.  But the day may come when the Department of Labor terminates such payments; at that point, if the 12-month period has passed, you have no option to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The deceptive temptation of OWCP may have some irreversible consequences.  Be aware of them.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Taking the Longer View

The converse viewpoint of the short-sale, or short-term view, is the obvious:  to look to one’s future with a long-term view, which often takes self-discipline in ignoring the short-term gain.  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 difficult to disregard the attraction of OWCP payments, and to instead plan for one’s future by opting for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM.

Under FECA/DOL, OWCP pays 75% of one’s Federal or Postal salary tax free (if one has dependents), and 66 2/3% without dependents.  That is a sizable compensatory attraction.  However, with limited exceptions, when one is under the thumb of OWCP, you:  A.  Cannot work at another job, B.  Must do what OWCP says in order to continue the benefit, C.  Must be careful, as the watchful eye, especially in the form of a video camera, may be anywhere and everywhere, and D. Will likely be subjected to second and third opinion doctors, as well as a nursing case manager, to try and expedite your return to your job.

Ultimately, OWCP is not a retirement system, and the job of the Department of Labor is to get you back to your former job as quickly as possible.  OPM Disability Retirement, on the other hand, is a compensatory system whereby one is encouraged to go out and begin anew.  The long-term view is often the harder road to take; it is, however, meant to reward one for a lifetime, as opposed to a momentary and fleeting memory which will end soon enough.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire