OPM Disability Retirement Wait Processing Time

What is the time it takes to process an OPM Disability Retirement application?

Most of it depends upon the delays naturally encountered throughout the process itself: the length of time doctors take in compiling the medical information requested; preparation and formulation of one’s Federal Disability Retirement forms, including the Statement of Disability; how long the agency Human Resource Office takes (is it through a local H.R. Office, or through a centralized district human resource office; for Postal employees, everything it submitted through the H.R. Shared Services office in Greesnboro, North Carolina); whether it is submitted directly to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA (if the Federal or Postal employee is separated from Federal Service for more than 31 days, then it must be submitted directly to OPM; if less than 31 days, then through one’s Human Resource’s Office).

Then, once a case number is assigned to one’s Federal Disability Retirement application (called a CSA Number, a 7-digit number with an additional 0 as an irrelevant appendage, sometimes making it into an 8-digit number; for FERS employees, it begins with the number 8; for CSRS employees, it begins with the number 4), the entire application is sent down to Washington, D.C. Care should be given that the initial application be sent to the Boyers, Pennsylvania address, and not to Washington, D.C. — as this additional bureaucratic step of first processing the application in Boyers, PA is a required administrative procedure.

Then, the true waiting period begins. As to the original question, How long does it take to get an OPM Disability Retirement application decided? There is a formula to follow: First, take the number of months it took to get notification that the packet was forwarded to the next step from your Human Resource Office (again, for Postal workers, that would be from the H.R. Shared Services Office in Greensboro, N.C.); multiply it by the number of weeks it took to obtain a CSA Number from Boyers, PA; then, take that number, add the additional time it will take to sit in the “unassigned” pile of Federal Disability Retirement cases at OPM in Washington, D.C.; then, when it is finally assigned, multiply by an exponential factor of 10, and you may get a realistic wait time to meet one’s expectations of a quick, efficient and streamlined bureaucratic process (facetiously stated).

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Intersection with VERA

Questions always abound when Federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service offer incentivized programs under the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) propounded by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  In accepting a VERA, the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition must take into account whether the VERA should take the place of a Federal Disability Retirement application, or whether it will merely be the first step in the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement.

Often, because Federal Disability Retirement takes many months in order to secure and procure, Federal and Postal employees considering such an option will elect to accept a VERA in order to have some income during the time of filing for, and waiting upon, a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Questions which the potential Federal or Postal VERA annuitant should ask themselves include: What impact does a Federal Disability Retirement application have upon a VERA? Is there an offset between Social Security and the VERA annuity, as opposed to the offset which occurs under Federal Disability Retirement, and if so, which provides greater financial sense? Are there provisions where, if the Federal or Postal employee accepts a VERA, one must repay any lump sum incentive which is offered, if one subsequently files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and gets it approved?

While it often makes sense to accept a VERA, then to subsequently file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service as a result of the VERA, one should nevertheless do so with full knowledge and information.

As a final point, in addition to obtaining all information and basing one’s decision upon full knowledge, the fact that the years which one is on Federal Disability Retirement counts toward the total number of years of one’s Federal Service, should always be factored in — especially if one lives to be a ripe old age, where one’s retirement nest egg will be an important future consideration.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Shutdown

It is always the unassuming worker who becomes impacted by the larger geopolitical decisions made by the power brokers of the world.  While the short term impact of the current government shut down will apparently not interrupt the flow of disability pension checks, we must wait to see whether a protracted stalemate will reverberate with negative consequences.

For Federal and Postal Workers who are facing the unwanted challenges of a medical condition, and who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the current state of affairs will likely mean further delays in the processing of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

As personnel offices in agencies across the United States shut down, so the magnitude of interrupted processing of disability retirement packets will exponentially increase over time.  But Federal and Postal workers who file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits have no real alternative options than to move forward; the sooner one files, the sooner one is able to find a place in line; and though the line may move at a slower pace, it will ultimately move nonetheless.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Wait-time Extended

The time which takes from the assignment of a case number in Boyers, PA, to a decision rendered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., has been extended.

Recent articles regarding this issue have been slow to reveal the underpinnings of this growing problem, but the coalescence of multiple factors is making for a mini “perfect storm” of sorts, including:  Budget cuts which have forced disallowance of overtime and further hiring of additional workers; slow response to a progressively impending problem in the past couple of years; the threat of furloughs which restricts options available for OPM to respond; internal moving of offices within the same building at OPM.

Service is the essence of the function of government; when the essential function of government begins to disintegrate, it becomes a reflection on a growing, greater problem.  For Federal and Postal workers who have worked tirelessly towards their day of retirement, and for those Federal and Postal Workers who have been hit with a medical condition such that Federal Disability Retirement benefits is an option which must be relied upon, any extension of time in processing the application for disability retirement is an added burden which places great financial and emotional pressure upon an already-dire circumstance.

Fair or not, the reality of an administrative nightmare is steadily growing.

The good news is that there is such an option as Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and one which is a progressive paradigm for a society which understands that medical conditions may impact the Federal or Postal Worker, but that such medical conditions need not mean that a person is totally disabled — merely that there is an inconsistency between one’s position and one’s medical condition.

The bad news is that the wait-time to obtain such benefits has been somewhat extended.  The solution?  Only that filing sooner than later will place one in the proverbial line of the bureaucratic turmoil, only to slowly march forward towards the desired end.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Random Decisions

Waiting is indeed a requirement in the entire administrative process of preparing, formulating, then filing for Federal Disability Retirement Benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

As this author has repeatedly noted previously, if patience is a virtue, then it necessarily follows that Federal and Postal employees must be the most virtuous of individuals, for the very act of waiting for a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management mandates such a virtuous response from the Federal or Postal Worker who has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Is there a systematic and logical basis in the sequence and order of the decisions which are being made?  Perhaps.  Stories always abound, of course, of specific instances where a Federal Disability Retirement application was approved within a very short timeframe, but without knowledge of the specifics, including whether the facts included exigent circumstances beyond everyday occurrences, one cannot make a determination as to why an “exception” to the sequence of decision-making was made, if at all.

From an outsider perspective, it appears that the sequence of decisions made by OPM is rather random.  Yes, there is somewhat of a pattern of first-in, first-out, but of course that depends upon whether or not such a pattern is based upon the assignment of a CSA number from Boyers, PA or at the entry point of being assigned to a case worker in Washington, D.C.

The randomness can be troubling; waiting is a frustrating part of the process; but beyond that, virtue can be tested beyond the limits of reasonableness.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Unresponsive Agency

The complaints abound, and continue to exponentially increase; the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is way behind on its evaluation, review and decision-making process for all characters of retirements, disability retirements included.

It is a given that filing for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement, whether under FERS or CSRS, with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, must necessarily have an expectation of a time-consuming administrative process, precisely because of the encounter with a Federal bureaucracy.  But it seems that each year — nay, each month and week — the delays continue to expand.

At each step of the way, OPM has become more and more unresponsive, and with new cases coming in, the length of time at every stage, and “between” stages, has been extended.  The process itself contains inherent milestones of delay: from filing the entire disability retirement application to a facility in Boyers, Pennsylvania, which merely annotates the receipt of the case and inputs the case into the computer system; to thereafter sending the disability retirement application, with all of its evidentiary submissions and attachments down to Washington, D.C., where it must first await assignment to a caseworker; then, upon assignment, for the caseworker to even get to the applicant’s submission for review and evaluation.  Then, of course, there is the possibility that the entire packet will be selected to be sent out for review by a contract doctor.

The delays are beyond the control of the applicant, his or her OPM Disability attorney, or the agency for whom the applicant worked.  It is, ultimately, an administrative process which can be tedious, time-consuming, and fraught with delays and extended periods of silence.

Patience may well be a virtue, but the unresponsive manner in which the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has handled the delays, fails to engender much confidence in a system which should be most responsive to those in greater need.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire