USPS Postal and Federal Gov. Disability Retirement: That False Sense of Loyalty

Longevity often masks itself for loyalty; yet, when an organization is so large and impersonal such that each cog in the wheel merely represents an irrelevant fraction of the larger entity, then the relative importance of the individual becomes correspondingly diminished in relation to the greater whole.

Loyalty has always implied the concept of bilateralism; but within an organization which has become a virtual Leviathan, it becomes an unilateral concept.  For Federal and Postal employees, length of service and commitment to the agency’s “mission” will often engender a strong sense of loyalty.  But such loyalty is misplaced if it is paid with the price of one’s medical health, whether physical, emotional, or psychological.

One of the greatest obstacles which forestalls a Federal or Postal employee from filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is a sense of shame and misguided loyalty to one’s agency.  Somehow, the Federal or Postal employee thinks that he or she is “letting the agency down” by filing for Federal Disability Retirement and separating from Federal Service.  But such a sense of loyalty is misplaced, misguided, and at best a self-immolation of purposes.

Look to see how the agency treats you in actions, not in terms of how you perceive how the world should be.  While honor is a virtue to be applauded, failure to preserve one’s health is a folly which cannot be afforded.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: What the Agency May Say

Individuals can and do tell untruths (an euphemism for a “lie”); organizations, as a collective congregation of multiple individuals, can therefore also convey negations of truthful statements (a further euphemism, stated diplomatically to avoid the unpleasantry of a direct statement).  Of course, the justification for such factually incorrect statements is that there is a “difference of perspective” or of an opinion which is not in agreement with another’s.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the portion of a Federal Disability Retirement application which the Agency must complete — most notably the Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) and the Agency’s Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts (SF 3112D) can and most often do contain misstatements, differing perspectives and negations of untruthful statements.

They are not like the other forms which must be completed by the Agency — i.e., the checklist, the Certified Summary of Federal Service, etc., where the information provided can be compared to factually verifiable documents, statements, etc., and therefore will be constrained by objective and ascertainable facts.

Unfortunately, there is “wiggle room” on both the SF 3112B and the SF 3112D, and agencies tend to utilize the wide expansiveness of such roominess to move about.  That is why, what the agency says or might say, must be preempted as much as possible by the medical report and other documentation.  By providing as much of an airtight case prior to submission of the disability retirement packet to the agency, one increases the odds that the impact of what the agency says, will be minimal, and minimized.

Of course, there is then the further problem of the inaccuracies engaged in by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management itself — but that is another story to tell, and one which must be categorized in a department beyond “fiction”, but more akin to the genre of “fantasy” or “science fiction”.

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

OPM Disability Retirement: Characterization of Administrative Actions

Administrative actions are a peculiar thing; from the perspective of the Agency, it will take on a certain meaning; from the view of the Federal or Postal employee, the context and underlying basis often has an explanation which is unspoken.  For purposes of how to address an administrative action in the context of a Federal Disability Retirement application, the issue often comes down to whether or not it is worthwhile to preemptively address the particular action.

Some administrative actions or sanctions can be viewed as reinforcing the medical argument in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, inasmuch as a removal based upon one’s inability to maintain a regular work schedule would tend to show that, if there are concurrent medical documentation which shows that a Federal or Postal employee was determined to be disabled during the time of one’s inability to work, then the argument obviously is that the basis for the removal merely shows that one is eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Then, there are other agency allegations which may imply that a Federal or Postal employee’s separation from Federal service was primarily based upon a non-medical basis, and that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits was merely an afterthought to try and game the system.

Ultimately, whether a Federal or Postal employee wants to fight or contest an Agency action is a legal matter, and is often a separate issue from Federal Disability Retirement; sometimes, however, they intersect, and the characteristic of the impact of such intersection often depends upon how one explains it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Agency Pressures

Ultimately, the pressures which one’s Federal Agency places upon the Federal or Postal employee creates and manufactures a perspective that events have an urgency beyond the reality of the moment.  There is, further, a context of a build-up which is often lost; agencies view employees who have not been fully productive, in terms of “liabilities”, and begin to act and react accordingly.

From the employee’s viewpoint, actions initiated by the agency are often unfair, instigated without warning, and advanced with irrational promptness without regard to the particular situation of the Federal or Postal employee.  This is because much of the context which leads up to a decision is often kept in secret from the employee — internal discussions concerning the employee, etc.

A Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is often embroiled in the midst of an employment dilemma — whether the near-certain imposition of a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), which is essentially setting up the employee for failure; or continuation of systematic workplace harassment; the pervasive nature of a hostile work environment; suspension or restriction of sick leave usage; and multiple other pressure points.

From the perspective of the agency, their stated goal is to further effectuate the “mission of the agency”.  From the perspective of the employee, it is nothing more than undue pressure and harassment, and leaving one with little or no choice but to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits quickly, and immediately. But of course the Office of Personnel Management does not act in a quick or immediate manner, and so there is the problem of dealing with agency issues until the time of a decision.

That is all the more reason why it is important for the Federal and Postal employee to not wait until the last minute, and to begin to contemplate preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, with some time still ahead, both for planning and for handling potential agency issues.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Agency Actions prior to Separation

The question is often asked as to whether there is an adverse or detrimental impact upon a Federal Disability Retirement application if the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service initiates an adverse action, places an individual on AWOL, or administers a similar type of administrative sanction, action, etc.

The general answer is that such agency actions will not prevent or influence the prevention of a Federal Disability Retirement application from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, but such a generalized answer contains within the “details” certain implicit assumptions — the primary one being, that the medical support which would accompany such a medical retirement will be strong enough to withstand and effectively refute such an adverse action.

By “supporting medical documentation” is meant, at a minimum, two issues which the treating doctor of the applicant must address:  That, prior to separation from Federal Service, the Federal or Postal employee could no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, and further, that the medical condition is expected to last for at least 12 months.

Additionally, a third element would also be helpful — that the medical condition or disability began before the adverse action, or conversely, that the behavior or acts of the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant which precipitated the adverse response of the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service occurred after the origination point of the medical condition, and such an origination point can be ascertained.

This is because OPM will sometimes argue that the underlying motivation and purpose of the Federal or Postal applicant filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits was based not upon the medical condition, but because of the adverse action.  Further, the Merit Systems Protection Board has stated that such circumstantial evidence of underlying motive or intent can indeed be reviewed.  Rebuttal of such implied intent can best be proven by a doctor’s assertion.

Motives are a peculiar thing, but the casting of such underlying motives are often difficult to refute, unless a timeline of facts can counter them.  Motives are found only in the depths of one’s consciousness; and like the air we breath, the fact that we assert its existence does not necessarily prove otherwise, especially if the doubter is receptive to the poisonous whispers of finger-pointing.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Thoughtless Agency Actions

The term, “oxymoron” comes from the Greek, meaning “sharp dull” — a phrase or concept which embraces two or more contradictory terms.  When was the last time that the combination of terms, “thoughtful” and “agency” made any sense?  

Thus, it is a waste of one’s time to rant and get upset over an agency’s actions because of bad timing (i.e., to propose a removal during the holidays; to initiate a PIP on the day before Thanksgiving; to suspend a person without pay on a Federal employee’s birthday; and other such coinciding thoughtless encounters).  It is fine to be upset for a moment because of the thoughtless actions of an agency; to continue to heave insults and focus upon the thoughtlessness, however, is a waste of one’s time, and ultimately misunderstands the role, intent and goal of an Agency.  

The reason why “thoughtless” and “Agency” do not ultimately and technically comprise an oxymoron, is because inherent in the very definition of the entity identified as a Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, is the idea that it is indeed a Hobbsian Leviathan which a singular purpose of “doing” something, whatever that “something” is.  

In the administrative process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, one should expect that one’s Agency, or the U.S. Postal Service, will engage in multiple thoughtless actions.  That is the innate nature of a Federal agency, or the U.S. Postal Service.  And, inasmuch as Federal Disability Retirement involves medical conditions, a sense that “empathy” and “sympathy” are called for — of a person’s career coming to an end; of an often progressively deteriorating medical condition, etc. — one would think that the agency would consider putting some thought into their actions.  But that would be asking too much.  

Federal Disability Retirement is an option which the agency sees as merely a problematic solution that needs to be dispensed with — yes, an oxymoron, but a truth, nonetheless.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: How Long Before…

When a Federal or Postal employee begins to contemplate — or initiate — the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the questions which begin to accompany the process are multiple, complex, non-sequential, and often wedded to legitimate concerns surrounding the actions and reactions of one’s Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.

The facts and circumstances of each Federal Disability Retirement case are unique and person-specific.  However, Federal Agencies and the U.S. Postal Service are entities which are fairly predictable, if only because they are comprised by an aggregate of human beings whose natures are fairly set in their ways.

How long before an Agency begins its process of separating me?  How long will they let me stay on LWOP?  How long before they send me home?  How long before…

Often, the length of time in which an Agency responds or fails to respond, depends upon who has been apprised of the issue.  It is interesting how an Agency will be silent on a matter, and allow things to continue for an extended period of time — then, one day, the “right” person takes notice of the fact that a Federal employee has been on LWOP for 5 months, and that there is a pending Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management.  Suddenly, it is an emergency — an urgency which cannot wait any longer, and a Letter of Proposed Removal is issued that same day.

It is the same with being on Worker’s Comp — How long will they let me stay on OWCP before they try to move me off?  It often depends upon “who” has your OWCP file, as opposed to the legitimacy of one’s chronic medical condition.

In both instances (the issue of the Federal Agency and the one concerning OWCP), it is best to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management sooner, rather than later, if only to have a “back-up system” in place in the event that either the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service begins to react, or that OWCP decides that you have been on their compensation payroll for too long.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Agency Pressures

Agencies have an inherent, built-in mechanism to pressure the Federal or Postal employee to quickly file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, and indeed, often the Human Resources Department will pressure the Federal employee to prepare, formulate and file the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits in an expedited manner.  

This can be both a positive thing, as well as contain some negative consequences.  Ultimately, the self-interest of the Agency is in vacating the position presently being held by a non-productive (or so it is viewed and thought) dead-weight, in order to have it filled by someone else for the efficiency of the service.  

This is not to say that there are not some compassionate, empathetic H.R. Personnel, or Supervisors or others in the Agency who are attempting to “fast-track” a Federal Disability Retirement application in order to look out for the best interests of the Federal or Postal Employee.  There are some good people.  But the balance of alternatives must always be weighed between filing something quickly, and doing it properly and thoroughly.  

Pressure from the agency should not be the primary basis of one’s response; obtaining the proper medical documentation, the doctor’s reports, and carefully preparing the Applicant’s Statement of Disability in order to increase the chances of success at the Initial Stage of the Application for Federal Disability Retirement with the Office of Personnel Management, should always be the paramount and first order of consideration.  

Each entity has a self-interest; making sure that one’s own self-interest is properly looked after, is the first order of business in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Agency Actions and the Bruner Presumption

Agency actions separating a Federal or Postal employee from Federal Service often contain language which comes close to allowing for a Federal or Postal employee to assert the “Bruner Presumption” (that legal presumption which essentially states that the declaration and admission by the Agency triggers a legal presumption that a Federal or Postal employee is entitled to, by a matter of law, to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS), but not close enough.  

Such language will instead be couched in references to medical documentation which has been previously reviewed by the Agency; will embrace an acknowledgement that the Federal or Postal employee has a “medical condition”; and will sometimes even entertain verbiage evincing sympathy for the Federal or Postal Worker’s “situation” — but still will base the removal upon other considerations, such as “excessive absences”, “failure to maintain a regular work schedule”, etc.  

The question ultimately then becomes:  Is it important, leaving aside relevance, to fight the agency to amend or otherwise re-characterize the original proposal to remove, in order to obtain the Bruner Presumption?  

The Bruner Presumption is a legal mechanism which gains greater weight and importance when a Federal Disability Retirement application has been denied twice by the Office of Personnel Management (both at the Initial Stage of the process, than at the Reconsideration Stage), and one therefore finds one’s self before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  But such appearance before the MSPB presumably means that there are other problems with a case — most often, insufficient medical documentation.  

The Bruner Presumption aside, the Federal or Postal employee must still prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, one’s case, by submitting sufficient medical documentation.  The Bruner Presumption is simply that “extra” ingredient that may be helpful if all other factors have been met in proving a Federal Disability Retirement case.

While helpful, it is not a certainty for an approval.  While better to have than not, one must still prove one’s case.  While triggered most effectively at the MSPB, a less-than-Bruner-trigger can still be argued at all stages of the process.  Just some thoughts.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire