Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Holidays

The “holidays” — or any respite from the daily treadmill of the repetitive reality of daily living — brings about realizations and gestalt moments of insight, precisely because such moments provide for opportunities of thoughtful reflection.

The modern approach of engaging in conversations and discussion for purposes of “value clarifications” became necessary when a tension occurred within society; where new ideas began to question and challenge the old; when habitual engagements of societal values, ethics and mores began to be undermined by revolutionary approaches, technological advances, and unrestrained actions by youthful movements of protestations and revolts.  Similarly, when time and opportunity allows for reflection and contemplation, certain realizations begin to surface.

For Federal and Postal employees who have been suffering from various medical conditions, whether chronic physical pain which limits movement, flexion and unsustainable capabilities of endurance; or psychiatric conditions which impact focus, concentration, and the ability to engage in cognitive-intensive work; the time of the “holidays” can be a challenge, where it provides for an opportunity to take some time off to rest those tired bones; but also a time of reflection to recognize and realize that one cannot remain on the same treadmill forever.

Federal Disability Retirement is an option which needs to be considered, precisely because it is not an “opting out of life”.  Rather, it is a means of downsizing, recognizing that one’s medical condition is preventing one from performing the essential elements of one’s job, and to seek a change of venue for the future.

The “holidays” are indeed a time for reflection; but reflection, if allowed without subsequent action, is an impotent moment of self-realization.  Be a rebel; grab the opportunity if presented.  That is what the holidays are ultimately for — to reflect and change course.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Multiple Tracks

Multi-tasking is a relatively modern term, but the substance of which people have obviously been engaging in for centuries.  With the limitations imposed by the human anatomy, as well as the capacity of the human brain to effectively function and respond to stimuli from multiple sources, the problem for the human being arises when a coordinated effort to bombard an individual collectively and from a variety of sources is initiated with a purpose in mind.  Thus, the common idiom, “When it rains, it pours”.

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 distinguish between those actions by the Agency which directly, or even in a peripheral manner, impact one’s Federal Disability retirement application, and those efforts by an Agency which are independently initiated, but have little to do with the Federal Disability Retirement process itself.

Agencies often act without thoughtful coordination, but a coincidence of actions may come about from different branches of the agency, without a connecting coordination between such branches.  Unfortunately, the mere filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application does not necessarily provide a legal tool against an agency; one has various other tools, such as invoking FMLA protection; utilizing the sources of a Union and initiating grievances and administrative appeals; and certainly, one should respond to any agency-initiated actions; but ultimately, the solution to the recognition that one is no longer medically able to perform one’s job, is to prepare, formulate, and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM.

That is the ultimate line of protection; that is why the benefit exists for the Federal and Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: To Enter the Gates Blindly

Being naive is a quality and character trait which is distinguishable from innocence; in this world where information and the opportunity to obtain wisdom is vast and limitless, retaining the former quality may be unpardonable, whereas maintaining a level of innocence may reveal a life of self-discipline, where one has deliberately placed lines of demarcation around one’s life, and insisted upon not being sullied by the world around us.

One can remain innocent, yet not be naive.  While the converse may also be possible, it is important not to deliberately avoid the harsh reality around us.

Thus, 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 that one enters into the metaphorical gates of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management with eyes of wisdom and experience, and not be saddled with the blind naiveté of thinking that the administrative process will be one of fairness and just analysis.

Assume that OPM will attempt to selectively read medical reports and records with an eye to deny; presume that they will ignore crucial evidentiary documentation which upholds one’s case; expect that legal “triggers” such as the Bruner Presumption or the holding in Trevan will be unimpressive.

That is why that which may be implicit, needs to always be made explicit, and repetitively so.  While it may be advantageous for one to enter the proverbial pearly gates with innocence, to enter through the gates of OPM with naiveté is merely inviting a door slammed shut.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Persuading with Persuasive Arguments

The question is often asked concerning whether or not and to what extent other collateral agency decisions can impact a Federal Disability Retirement application filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), whether under FERS or CSRS.

The only answer which can be provided is the standard, “It depends…”  The reason why “it depends” is precisely because utilization of any persuasive information or evidence is primarily dependent upon the persuasive efficacy of the evidence itself.

There is certainly legal case-law support for collateral evidentiary submissions, including SSDI, Department of Veterans Affairs ratings, Military Board findings, and DOL/OWCP second opinion and “referee” findings, etc.  Thus, the issue is not whether or not there is a basis for using such third-hand sources to support the primary evidentiary foundation of a Federal Disability Retirement application; rather, the issue becomes one of how effectively should one use such evidence.  Such a question, of course, can only depend upon the particular and unique circumstances of each case, by analyzing and reviewing the strength, applicability, and relevance of the documented information.

Sometimes, use of such collateral evidence can somewhat backfire, in that OPM will actually point to such evidence and discuss it in a way which supports a denial.  Care and discretion must always be taken in using collateral information; it is always the primacy of the primary information which must be used, and used effectively.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Medical Retirement and the Interplay with SSDI

Some stream of consciousness thoughts:  First, there is still the prevailing problem of Federal or Postal workers being lead to believe that there is some sort of sequential requirement in filing for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

While the sequence of filing for SSDI would be logically coherent — i.e., since at the time of an approval of a FERS Disability Retirement Application, the Office of Personnel Management requests to see a receipt of filing from the Social Security Administration — many people in fact go this route.  But the problem arises when Federal and Postal employees somehow get the misinformation that they must wait until they receive an approval from SSDI, which can take years.

During the wait, the 1-year statute of limitations may come and go.

The solution:  Go ahead and file for SSDI, get a receipt, etc.  But never allow the 1-year Statute of Limitations to pass in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Again, for OPM purposes, all that is required is a mere showing of a receipt that you filed; no determination needs to be made and, moreover, OPM only requests to see the receipt at the time of an approval.

Second, if SSDI approves your Social Security Disability Case at any time during the process of filing for OPM disability retirement benefits, it can have a persuasive impact, but not a determinative one.  This merely means that OPM will consider it in the totality of the medical evidence you submit.  But to have a persuasive impact, you need to make the “legal” argument — i.e., you need to try and persuade.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Misinformation Leading to Self-defeating Actions

The “I was told” phenomenon is pervasive in our society, where information is plentiful, and more dangerously, where the dissemination of such information, at no cost to the recipient (except for detrimental consequences resulting from reliance upon the purveyor of such vast knowledge of unsolicited tidbits), is promulgated without discretion or discriminating tastes.

It is the one aspect, of course, in which George Orwell was perhaps mistaken; for, in his book, 1984, Orwell conveys the notion that it is the societal limitation of words which will lead to restriction of knowledge.  In the modern world, however, it has become the unfettered expansion of any and all information, which has had the collateral effect upon society of engendering dangerous ignorance.

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 first obtain accurate information, then to determine the relevance and applicability of such information, then to act upon it.

The “I was told” phenomena should be ignored, as such nebulous sources of information, unless verifiable, should never be relied upon.  For example:  Having an active EEO matter does not extend the Statute of Limitations in being required to file a Federal Disability Retirement application within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service.  And another: One does not need to, and should not, wait for Social Security to make a determination in order to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits for OPM.

Remember always that the 1-year Statute of Limitations is a “hard” limitation; there are only a limited number of exceptional circumstances which can climb over that obstacle, and one should not try to test the strength or height of that wall.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Misunderstanding Leading to Irreversible Detriment

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee must first engage in a general foraging for information.

The act of gathering information is of importance; for, just like the animal in the wild who must “learn” to forage for food before the first winter comes, so the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal medical/disability retirement benefits must develop the keen sense of how to gather the necessary, pertinent and relevant information concerning the entire bureaucratic process, and once gathered, to sift through the vast array of information to determine truth, falsity, relevance, effectiveness, and that which is erroneous or misleading — to one’s detriment.

Foraging is a learned tool, necessary in the wild, and a key component of the natural process of selectivity.  It begins with an inborn part of an animal’s nature, but must be honed in the wild — to be clever, quick, and be able to distinguish between that which is good for one’s diet, as opposed to that which may be poisonous.

By analogy, in the vast array of the universe of information “out there”, one must be able to quickly discern and bifurcate information concerning Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits, dividing between relevance and irrelevance, substance versus fluff, for purposes of failure versus defeat.  As information gathering leads to action upon the knowledge gained, so one must be cautious in determining the source of such information.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Unique Story

This is a world which requires conformity and uniformity; eccentricity is a leisure which few can afford, and as the world operates on a factory-like assembly line, where productivity is the measure of one’s worth, so the uniqueness of a story gets lost in the fading echoes of a scream one hears in a solitary cave, where the sound of one’s cry reverberates deep into the chasm of darkness and the silent quiescence of water dripping upon a moss-covered granite surface.  That is why the poignancy of Chekhov’s story about an old man’s grief and his need to tell his story of the death of his son, resonates with us.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to strike the proper and delicate balance between recognizing the “uniqueness” of one’s case, and the pragmatic acknowledgement of the bureaucratic need of the Federal Agency (both one’s own as well as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) to have a conformity of one’s story.

Yes, some history and background can be told in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (although one must be careful in avoiding the pitfalls of ‘situational disability‘ and other issues); yes, one can provide some additional details of one’s ‘story’; but, ultimately, the issue which must be addressed is the legal one:  the essence of the case remains the same throughout.  Throughout, always prepare the Federal Disability Retirement case to conform to the law.

One’s story is unique; the uniqueness must be conformed to a standard of legal proof in order to meet the requirements of Federal Disability Retirement law; once told and conformed, you can still go out and relate your story to those who have a willing ear.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Federal Disability Retirement: Fiscal and Other Cliffs

The general public is, by and large, rather puzzled by the inability of the Executive and Legislative branches to come to terms with the impending “fiscal cliff” facing the nation, precisely because they face such hard decisions on a microcosmic level on a daily basis.

In representing Federal and Postal employees to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is clear that the “everyday person” faces tasks and obstacles which require hard decision-making almost on a daily basis.

The surreal world of the Federal Government, where there is never a debt limit, and where the hardest task is determined by the difficulty of reelection, fails to properly recognize and appreciate the daily toil of its own workers.  Proper management at the highest levels of government should be presumed to take place, so that the “field workers” can continue doing their duties.

For the Federal or Postal Worker who has come to a point in his or her life that the positional duties cannot be performed, anymore, the decision to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is one which comes with a harsh realization:  one’s chosen career may be effectively over; the camaraderie and interaction with coworkers will cease; the financial security of one’s future will be compromised, etc. But necessity of action results in the making of such decisions, and Federal and Postal employees must, and do, make such decisions on a daily basis.

They face fiscal and other cliffs almost daily; as greater responsibility falls upon those in higher echelons, it is a puzzle why there is a cliff at all.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Representation Is Not Limited

When calls of a repetitive nature occur, it is time to provide some clarification.  Often, from the very nature of a question, it becomes clear that some extent of confusion or puzzlement underlies the very question itself.

For “Federal matters” — i.e., in cases where representation by an attorney occurs before a Federal administrative body, such as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., which is the Federal Agency which receives, evaluates, and determines all Federal Disability Retirement applications for Federal and Postal employees who are under FERS or CSRS — the attorney who represents the Federal or Postal employee can be licensed from a state which is different from the state in which the Federal or Postal employee resides.

This is why it is not necessary for the Federal or Postal employee who lives in, for example, the State of Arizona, to be represented by an attorney licensed in Arizona, for representation before the Office of Personnel Management.  Indeed, because Federal Disability Retirement Law is a very particularized field, it may simply be impractical to find a “local” attorney to represent the Federal or Postal employee in the very state in which the Federal or Postal employee resides.

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a Federal issue, not a State issue, and as such, national representation is accordingly performed by those who engage in such practice of law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire