Medical Retirement from Federal Employment: The Initial Stage

There are multiple stages in a Federal Disability Retirement process.  The term “process” is used here, because it is too often the case that Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who engage this administrative procedure, fail to realize that there are multiple potential stages to the entire endeavor.  That is a mistake that can come back to haunt.  One should prepare the initial stage “as if” – as if the Second, Reconsideration Stage of the process may need to be anticipated, and further, invoking the rights accorded through an appeal with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Why?

Because that is how the Administrative Specialists at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management review each stage – and especially the initial stage of the process – by reviewing the weight of the evidence, conformity to the existing laws concerning Federal Disability Retirement, and considering whether or not an initial denial will involve much resistance at the Reconsideration and subsequent stages of the Administrative Process.

Every Federal Disability Retirement application put together by the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker  and submitted through one’s own Human Resource Department of one’s Federal Agency or the H.R. Shared Services facility in Greensboro, North Carolina (where all Postal Federal Disability Retirement applications are submitted and processed), whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is considered “valid” and a “slam dunk” – precisely because the person preparing the Federal Disability Retirement application is the same person who daily experiences the medical condition itself.

How can OPM deny my claim?  I cannot do essential elements X, Y and Z, and the doctors who treat me clearly see that I am in constant pain, or that I am unable to do certain things, etc.

But the Federal or Postal employee preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application must understand that there is a difference between “having a medical condition” and proving to a separate agency – the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (an entity who will never know you, meet with you or otherwise recognize your existence except in relation to a case number assigned to every Federal Disability Retirement application submitted to Boyers, Pennsylvania) – that such a medical condition no longer allows you to perform all of the essential elements of your official position.

Preparing one’s case for the Initial Stage of the process is important in establishing the foundation for the entire process itself.  It is not merely a matter of “filling out forms”; it is a matter of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one’s medical condition has a clear and unequivocal nexus to the capacity and ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement Lawyer: The Disadvantage of the I-Thou Perspective

People tend to expect the best results; and when a Federal or Postal employee files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the applicant who is unrepresented and prepares, formulates and files the Federal Disability Retirement packet on his or her own believes that an approval is forthcoming at the First Stage of the Process.  Yet, often unaware and unbeknownst to the Federal or Postal applicant, the lack of separation between the I-Thou construct fails to provide a proper perspective of objectivity.

Allow me to expand and explain:  As the Federal or Postal employee who experiences the medical condition (the “I”) is the same person who prepares, formulates and files the Medical Retirement application (the “thou” from the perspective of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management), any sense of objectivity is often lost because the I and the Thou are one and the same person, and the Federal or Postal employee who experiences the medical condition is simultaneously the same one who is seeking an approval of the OPM Disability Retirement application.

Of course, that same scenario is repeated even if the application is filed through a Federal Disability lawyer (in the sense that the Federal or Postal employee still seeks to obtain an approval from OPM) with one major exception:  there is another “thou” perspective included and involved — that of the Federal lawyer representing the Federal or Postal employee who is seeking to have a Federal Disability Retirement application approved.

Objectivity is a crucial component of a Federal Disability Retirement application; that is why so many “silly” mistakes are injuriously embraced without self-knowledge or with disengaged awareness.  It is like the cook who loved the taste of arsenic, and thought that everyone else should as well; and so he sprinkled the deadly poison onto his own food and enjoyed the taste of his own creation, only to slowly die from the feed of his own foolishness.

There are many “kinds” in the arena of foolish endeavors:  There is the “quantitative approach” (“I sent them thousands of pages of treatment records”) which fails to ask the question, Who will read it all?  There is the “trusting soul”:  “I just signed a release and had them send it all directly to my Human Resource Office”.  Then, there is the person of naive disbelief:  “How could they not approve it with the medical conditions I suffer from?”

The problem with all of these is the lack of objective perspective; the I-Thou connection is now given the distance, separateness and objectivity necessary to determine the viability and effectiveness of each and every piece of the puzzle needed to put together a proper Federal Disability Retirement application.  Are there ever any guarantees in life?  No.  Can a lawyer who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement laws make a difference?  Yes.

Fortunately, unlike the metaphor arising from the cook and the salsa of arsenic, there are multiple stages within the administrative process of pursuing Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM, and a denial at the First Stage of the bureaucratic pathway is not irreversible, and does not result in the inertia of life rendered by ingestion of substances otherwise tasty but harmful.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Disability for Civilian Federal Employees: The Inactivity

Waiting upon a third party or entity is often the hardest thing to do.  Waiting upon a bureaucratic process is an exponential aggravation of that same hardest thing to do, because one cannot fathom a reason or rationale for such dependency of unproductive time.

If there was actual knowledge of some accounting for activity during the process, it would perhaps justify the inactivity; but merely awaiting the sequential attendance of a case file which may or may not be reviewed on any given day, is a non-activity of an unknown and unknowable non-productivity of non-action. The result: frustration.

Now, one may argue that the voluntary submission into the world of bureaucratic waiting means that one has received that which was asked for; but this merely explains the cause, and solves nothing.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an administrative process which, unfortunately, requires patience, waiting, and a resolve that there will be an ultimate end to the process, given the right amount of time.

Then, of course, the Federal or Postal employee who is subjected to the long wait, must immediately comply with the time-limitations imposed if a denial of a FERS or CSRS disability retirement application is issued by OPM.  When it is upon them, the Federal and Postal employee must be patient; when it is upon us, there are strict time limitations which must be followed, or else…

The bureaucracy moves, albeit at a pace designed to test the patience of saints; but then, the old adage applies as always, that Federal and Postal Workers are the most virtuous of human beings, given that patience is still considered a virtue.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Difficulty of Coordination

From the time one is born, coordination becomes a matter of survival: from maneuvering in the awkward ambulatory manner of humans on two legs as opposed to four; to trying to excel in sports and other competitive endeavors where there are always others who have greater physical abilities; to a world which demands multitasking and where singularity of performance is considered inadequate.

Then, when a medical condition suddenly hits, the learning curve of the individual takes on a magnified and crippling proportionality.  Suddenly, it is not a matter of attempting to coordinate two or more efforts; it is effort enough to accomplish a single task.

Further, for the Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there is the additional task — beyond the physical coordination of work and worry — to coordinate the multiple elements in compiling a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Thus, from acquiring sufficient medical evidence and documentation, to completing the proper forms in order to meet the minimum eligibility criteria, to meeting deadlines and all the while, for many, continuing to work in order to survive.

Coordination is an ability which must be continually learned. On top of it all, for an effective submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application, reference to the prevailing laws governing Federal Disability Retirement issues should be made.

In the end, while the ambulatory beginnings of a toddler may have been the easiest to overcome, it turns out that it is merely the foundation for all future courses of challenges and obstacles to face.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and USPS Disability Retirement: First Impressions

The older generation often refers to the importance of “first impressions” — of the firmness of one’s handshake; of whether eye contact is made to betray secretiveness; the clothes one wears; tattoos and the number of body piercings; all are evidence of first impressions left for future judgment.

While such initial encounters may not reveal the true “inner” person, they nevertheless leave an indelible and lasting imprimatur upon those who rely upon such an approach.  Whether one likes it or not is besides the point; first impressions are psychological realities which one must deal with in this harsh world.

For those who prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal applicant must understanding that one’s formulation of one’s case is merely one of thousands, and the Case Worker who is assigned to the case, upon an initial review and analysis, will be left with such a first impression.

The methodology of evidentiary presentation; the conciseness of the Statement of Disability; the coordination and support of the medical evidence; all will depend upon the manner and content of the presentation.  Too many tattoos, and the grandmother-characteristic in the Case Worker may turn up a nose; not a firm enough handshake, and the old-man sense in another Case Worker may pause with concern.

First impressions; it is how one approaches a case, as much as the presentation of the evidence, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Case Development

Federal Disability Retirement is one of those areas of law where countervailing forces are always at play, and the tug-of-war against time, resistance of individuals to respond, all within a context of a hectic-pace of life, create for a havoc of systems and regularity.

Because the underlying basis of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits often involves a chronic, progressively deteriorating medical condition, it is often seen from the perspective of the Federal or Postal employee to be an emergency; from the viewpoint of the medical doctor whose support for the case is critical, because the opinion of the doctor is essential to formulating the foundation of a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is often seen as another administrative burden; from the Agency’s vantage point, the alleged patience over the years which it has shown in “dealing” with loss of time, less-than-stellar performance, etc., often results in a reactionary adversity of being entirely unsympathetic to the plight of the Federal or Postal employee; and, together, all of the strands of these multiple countervailing forces places an undue pressure upon the entire process.  Yet, once it gets to the Office of Personnel Management, the file sits…and sits.

The long-term perspective on every Federal Disability Retirement application must always be to accept the fact that case development is the most important point to ponder.  Quickly filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, may in the end prove to be pound-foolish, especially in a retrospective, Monday-night quarterbacking sense, if OPM denies the case anyway.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Where to Begin

One is often asked the question, “Where do I begin”?  It is the question of pervasive immediacy, combining both exasperation at a process too complicated to comprehend and requiring a sense of urgency because of the importance attached to the successful outcome, precisely because it may well determine one’s future financial security, and the present ability to continue to attend to one’s medical conditions.  Such a question, however, often needs to be reordered in order to prepare a case properly, in retrospective fashion.

Thus, to reorganize the priority of questions:  Where do I want to end up? (With an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management)  Who approves a Federal Disability Retirement application?  (Not one’s agency, but the Office of Personnel Management and, as such, be careful of promises made and statements asserted by one’s own agency)  How does one obtain an approval from OPM (By satisfying the legal criteria as applied by OPM)  What does one need to do to obtain such an approval?  (Two-part answer:  File the proper forms; complete the forms effectively)  When should I begin the process?  (Since filing for, and obtaining, Federal Disability Retirement benefits can be a long, arduous process, it is wise to file as soon as one has the support of one’s doctor)  Where does the application need to be filed?  (If one is still with one’s agency, then it must be filed through one’s agency; if one has been separated from the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service for more than 31 days, then it must be filed directly with the Office of Personnel Management).

The question of “why”, of course, need not be asked or answered, because it is a self-evident one.  It is the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “how” which require one’s attention.  For, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal and Postal employee already knows the “why” of filing.  The medical condition itself provides that answer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire