Federal Employee’s Disability Retirement: The Non-standard Approach to Standard Forms

Standard Forms are created, produced and promulgated precisely for their stated and intended purpose:  to streamline and conventionalize (yes, that is really a proper word, and spellcheck did not put a red line beneath it) the formatted receipt of information by an agency of the Federal Government.  Without Standard Forms, there would be no confining methodology of what to say, how to say it, and how much to say it.

The theory behind standard government forms is simple:  By providing the space, the questions and the apparent limitations, ease of processing will be expedited.

Of course, in pragmatic terms, the reality behind the theory is that Standard Forms create an intended limitation on space, as well as the content of what a person states or desires to state.  Yet, by self-confining the answers and information provided, the applicant for Federal Disability Retirement is essentially depending upon government lawyers to properly interpret what the statute for eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement requires.

While staying somewhat within the confines of what the Standard Forms request is a “good” thing (for Federal Disability Retirement purposes, SF 3107 series for FERS applicants; SF 2801 series for CSRS applicants; SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, SF 3112D, and SF 3112E for both FERS and CSRS applicants), it should not limit or otherwise prevent the submission of relevant information.  “Relevancy”, of course, is a relative term, and should be noted and applied by those who understand the statutory underpinnings of the legal requirements for a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.

Ultimately, one should approach the standardization of the administrative process called “Federal Disability Retirement” as merely a piece of the larger puzzle, and not be precluded from submitting non-standardized information in an effort to prevail in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement for Civilian Federal Employees: A Path to Consider

Of course, when a person begins his or her career with the Federal Government, the consideration of a Federal Disability Retirement benefit does not enter into the equation of accepting the position.  Most Federal and Postal workers would rather work and be healthy, than to resort to preparing and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

Indeed, the problem with Federal and Postal workers is not that the option of Federal Disability Retirement is considered or taken; rather, the problem lies more in the fact that it is an option of last resort — which is probably how it should be, however necessary such an option must be for many Federal and Postal Workers.  But at some point in the linear continuum of a person’s career, where health and work collide and one must make a choice between the two, it is too often the case that the Federal or Postal worker has passed the point of “reasonableness” in preparing and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

It is rare that it is ever “too late” to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits (unless we are talking about missing the Statute of Limitations in filing); but most Federal and Postal workers, whether from a sense of duty, commitment, or sheer stubbornness, will work beyond the point of a well-reasoned and informed state of health or self-preservation. But however and whenever that point of finally choosing the path of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, comes about, one should prepare one’s case carefully; formulate the disability retirement application with care and foresight; and file it in a timely manner.  

When the time comes, and the path to a recuperative period of one’s life is finally considered, it should be done “right” — as much as one has invested in the effort of work itself throughout one’s career.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Cumulative Emergency

Most emergencies need not have been; either through preventative maintenance or attending to it through troubleshooting at regular intervals; or by cautiously identifying overt signs of oncoming problems, the vast majorities of apparent emergencies turn into the status of such urgent needs because of neglect or deliberate avoidance.  

That is not to say, however, that once an event reaches a heightened status of requiring an urgent response, that it should not be treated with the appropriate manner of alarm; rather, it is merely a recognition that most emergencies need not have become so.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the best course of action is to attempt to avoid having the entire administrative process become an emergency need.  

In order to practice containment, one must recognize the medical condition, the potential impact of the medical condition; the time when the medical condition begins to impact one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; a carefully prepared plan to initiating the needed conversation with one’s treating doctor; financial planning to weather the long and arduous bureaucratic morass; and an expectation that one’s own agency will not be supportive, for the most part, throughout the process.

Such recognition of some of the bare essentials which comprise the entirety of the Federal Disability Retirement process is easier said than accomplished.  

Life rarely occurs and presents itself in neatly folded stacks of laundered clothing; instead, the more apt analogy is the pile of dirty clothes brought home in a black garbage bag by one’s college son or daughter, with the door opening, a smile on the face, and declaring, “Here, will you take care of this for me”?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: When It Is the Right Time

Most people know; and still others, know that the “right” time has already passed, and is long overdue.  Doctors have already shaken their heads in disbelief, disgust or with regretful expressions of facial futility; family members have begun to whisper behind backs; friends have stopped asking to include you for events which may require physical exertion or extensive conversations which require focus, concentration or cognitive stamina.

Federal and Postal employees all across the United States, and overseas where Civilian workers are stationed, put in long and dedicated hours to accomplish the mission of agencies.  The general public at large has been allowed to critically eye the Federal or Postal worker because they are being paid through high taxes, etc.  But Federal Disability Retirement is not a “handout”; it is merely an employment benefit which allows for disabled workers to go out and remain productive in the private sector, by being allowed to make up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays — and thereby continue to pay back into the system through paying of taxes, and essentially keeping it a “self-paying” system.  

No amount of shame or embarrassment should accompany the decision to file for Federal Disability benefits.  It is simply an acknowledgement which has already been realized by friends, family, and often one’s own treating doctor:  the right time has come because you have already “fought the good fight“, and it is time to move on to the next phase of life, and allow for the recuperative period of life take its course.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Persuasiveness

The ability to persuade requires two components:  One who utilizes the tools of persuasion; and a receptive audience, open to an alternative perspective, and willing to regard and consider the arguments of the first.  

Power is often the single most obstructive obstacle placed in the path of persuasion, precisely because it makes an individual, entity, organization or agency believe that it does not need to be persuaded to change course.  Watching news shows and political interviews is quite instructive in the loss of society’s ability to either listen, or to persuade.  The rule today is to talk, and as long as the monologue lasts, the opponent is given no opportunity to respond.  He who talks the most, and the loudest, wins the debate.  

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 recognize the mechanisms already in place, and to use them to one’s persuasive advantage.  

The Office of Personnel Management is the entity which must be persuaded.  Inasmuch as it is easier to approve a case, than to deny it and have it Reconsidered or appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, the approach must be one of:  What can be submitted to make your job easier, and to relieve you of your heavy caseload?  For one thing, a concise and streamlined Federal Disability Retirement packet.  For another, a Disability Retirement packet which is clearly proven.  And for a third, legal and other arguments which are simple but to the point.  

Meandering arguments and voluminous biographies, as well as diatribes of complaints, will not win the day.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Power, Persuasion and the Legal Argument

FERS & CSRS Disability retirement is no different, in kind, than other areas of law which intersect with individuals and personalities.  As an area of administrative law, and specifically, where a government entity (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) is involved, the Federal or Postal worker must encounter an agency which is large, powerful, and often immovable (sort of like Aristotle’s Primum movens, or the Prime Mover).  

The singular Federal or Postal worker may find the encounter with the Federal government to be a daunting, almost insurmountable task.  It is the classic meeting of two unequal forces; and, as such, there is always a question as to who will prevail.  

Fortunately, however, there are some mechanisms in place which allow for persuasive argumentation.  If a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage of the administrative process, then there is the Second, or Reconsideration Stage of the process, which places the disability retirement application in the hands of a different OPM case worker, in a different section.  If it gets rejected a second time, then it is taken entirely out of the hands of OPM, and will be placed before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Throughout the entire process, however, the Federal or Postal worker may feel lonely, small and irrelevant.  That is why the Federal or Postal worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement must engage in substantive and persuasive legal argumentation.  Persuasion is the key where power is unavailable.  It is OPM which has the power; it is the Federal or Postal Worker who has the persuasive tools, and must use them to his or her advantage as the law allows.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: How We Go about Preparing a Case

The end product of a case — how it reads; the coordination of the facts, statements, allegations, and citation of law, etc. — reflects the process in which one has undertaken in order to arrive at that endpoint.  

Some cases present themselves like a compilation of bumps and potholes; others, as if a roadmap was never consulted and the wide expanse of the universe became a meandering and directionless compass.  Maps and compasses serve a purpose; they provide the traveler with a focused direction and purpose, and a sense that there is a straight line between two points — where to start, and where to go.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to have a sense of direction — a purposive roadmap in which the preparer of the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits knows, understands, and implements a plan to reach the stated goal:  an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Yet, even the best of such preparers can never guarantee the successful outcome sought.  

What the “best of them” can do, however, is to take the terrain of the road, put forth a plan for the best route, then guide the “traveler” in the most efficient and effective manner possible.  One must work with the facts, and even if the facts are not always favorable, to give the best chance by avoiding dangerous pitfalls, and to present the safest route to the destination, all of which will provide the greatest opportunity for success.

How one gets from point A to destination B is the key to a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire