Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Automatic Pilot

There is the classic story of the man who sued the seller of his Recreational Vehicle:  Having been told that his RV could be driven on “automatic cruise control”, he proceeded to follow the directions, then got up and walked towards the back of the RV in order to make some coffee.  He mistakenly interpreted what the salesman had said, that the vehicle “drives itself”.

While partially true, what he failed to understand is that the “pilot” of the vehicle still needed to steer the vehicle; it was merely the forward motion which was on automatic pilot — not where the vehicle was going.  The two distinguishing features — the “what” of X (the occurrence of a running engine and movement) and the “where” of X (the direction in which the vehicle is going) — should never be confused.

Similarly, the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, should never confuse the fact that he may still have a job, with the danger of not knowing what direction the agency is considering with respect to the employee.

Smiles and inquiries about one’s medical condition are niceties which are often indicators of a deeper motivation.  What the Supervisor “says” in showing concern about one’s medical condition, may betray a directional change which may never be overtly stated.  Waiting to suddenly one day have a collision with the agency may not be the best approach in preparing for one’s future.

While it is true that all Federal and Postal employees have up to one (1) year to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM from the date of separation from service, you might consider being the pilot of that endeavor, instead of waiting for a sudden crash with the agency to occur.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The World in Which We Live

Various social commentators have observed the contradiction that, while we live in an increasingly global economy, individuals feel a greater sense of isolation; thus, the conundrum that the world is no longer an expansive, unreachable universe, but in private lives, the uniqueness of the individual is lost and forgotten.

Whether because of the stresses of isolation, or because of the fast-paced, technologically-driven world in which we live, or some organic-based reasons, one may never know; nevertheless, the exponential explosion of psychiatric illnesses erupting in our society cannot be denied.

There was a time, perhaps a decade or so ago, when a stigma was attached to medical conditions and disabilities which were deemed “stress-related“, and which encompassed depression, anxiety, uncontrollable panic attacks, agoraphobia, etc.  One cannot mark a clear demarcation of when the approach and societal attitude, let alone the medical community’s acceptance, of the wide array of psychiatric conditions, changed.

For Federal Disability Retirement purposes, however, the level of approvals versus denials between cases involving psychiatric conditions, as opposed to purely physical medical conditions, has become indistinguishable.  The U.S. Office of Personnel Management does not review or analyze cases based upon psychiatric conditions — so long as one can tell, purely from an “outsider’s” perspective — any differently from “physical” medical conditions.

This is obviously a “good” thing, because psychiatric medical conditions are just as valid, serious, “real”, and devastating, as the most serious of “physical” medical conditions.  The world in which we live has certainly changed; OPM has evolved with the new world, and we are all the better off for it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Denials

Denials come with an unexpected force and impact; for, in every Federal Disability Retirement case, there is the expectation that the application itself merits close scrutiny and a belief that a proper review will persuade the OPM trier of facts that the Federal Disability Retirement application should be approved.

Indeed, from the perspective of the applicant, who is suffering from the medical condition itself on a daily basis, it is often a reaction of disbelief and anger when a denial is issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  But one must understand that this administrative process identified as “Federal Disability Retirement” is one which is not an “entitlement”, but rather, an adversarial process where proof, argumentation and persistent appellate procedures must be invoked at every step of the way.

That is why, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one needs to always prepare a case as if it will ultimately go to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Further, it is understandably disappointing to read an OPM denial and find that the OPM case worker does not even mention or refer to much of the substantive medical documentation submitted, but instead blindly (and generically) issues a template of tired old phrases, such as, “You did not meet the legal criteria“; “The evidence did not show that…”

With hundreds of cases assigned to each OPM Case Worker, one must understand that denials are rarely personal; but in responding to a denial from OPM, one must be diligent, forceful, and approach it with the use of all legal tools available.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire