Beginning the Federal Disability Retirement Process

The Chinese proverb, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, is meant to remind us that looking at a process in its entirety can result in self-defeat even before starting, and every daunting journey must begin with the small, almost insignificant, effort of initiation.

Facing a bureaucracy and an administrative process can feel like that metaphorical journey of a thousand miles.  The multiple and complex standard forms to complete; the legal criteria to meet; the need to gather, compile and consolidate the medical documentation into a linear, coherent whole; and all of this, in the face of voluntarily reducing one’s income by applying for an annuity and having to deal with the debilitating medical condition from which one suffers.

But the successful way to approach the entire administrative process known as Federal Disability Retirement, is to bifurcate it into workable portions. The SF 3107 series (reissued in May, 2014, where previous editions are now outdated) is merely informational in nature.  It is is the SF 3112 series of forms which one must take care in preparing and formulating, and especially SF 3112A, which requests for detailed information concerning one’s medical conditions, the impact of the medical conditions upon one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; and other pertinent information needed to convey compliance with a legal criteria established through many years via legal opinions issued by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Yes, it is a difficult process, and one which can be eased by legal advice and expertise. But as with all journeys, to look upon the landscape and obstacles as mere hindrances to overcome, will serve one better, than to stand at the foothills and refuse to begin the journey at all.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Misnomers and the OPM’s Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division

The problem with misnomers is not just the inaccuracy of designation which is either explicitly or implicitly conveyed, but the unintended consequences of the string of reactions and responses which can occur as a result thereof.  Sometimes, interpretive mistakes occur purely on a subjective basis; in which case it is not truly a case of a misnomer, but rather merely the misunderstanding by the recipient of the information.  Other times, a word or designation can be open to multiple meanings, where reasonable people can differ on the inferences to be made.

For Federal and Postal employees who have filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal Service employee is under FERS or CSRS (such acronyms have specific, esoteric meanings only to Federal or Postal employees, and as such, cannot constitute an objective misnomer, but rather a potentially subjective one), the complexity of the administrative and bureaucratic process can result in the failure to recognize and properly respond to various misnomers throughout the process.

For example, when a Federal Disability Retirement case is assigned to an Administrative Specialist at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and one receives a letter informing the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant that X is further needed — the identification of the OPM Representative that he or she is from the “Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division” is both confusing and a misnomer.

For, the recipient of the letter (and just to receive any correspondence from OPM other than an approval letter or a denial letter is an amazing fact in and of itself) can well infer from the designation that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application has already been denied without notification (i.e., because it is in the “Reconsideration & Appeals Division”). In fact, all cases fall under the aegis of “Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals” section of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Misnomers may be unintended. It is the recipient and the responder who must, unfortunately, live with the consequences.

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

 

OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: Foreign Territory

Entering a foreign country often has the residual impact of a changed perspective, and an appreciation for what constitutes one’s life “in comparison” thereof.

Such a perspective had greater prevalence decades ago, perhaps, because of the disparity and disproportionate inequality of comparative international standards of living, whereas in recent times there has been the meteoric rise of the middle class in many other parts of the world.  The “East” has attempted to mimic the “West”; the “West” has embraced the “East”; everywhere, in fashion, movies, clothing and personalities, the differences between foreign lands and one’s own has become monolithic in its loss of individualization.

The proverbial “culture shock” has somewhat dissipated, because through telecommunication, the internet, Skype, constant following on Facebook and Twitter, the “new world order” of a singular character has emerged without the need for totalitarian imposition.  But such shock of a foreign culture can occur in an intra-cultural sense.

Thus, for Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, the crisis felt and the impact experienced is akin to culture shock, in that the foreign territory of physical incapacity or psychological turmoil becomes just as real and unfamiliar as entering a foreign country.

Further, for the uninitiated, the bureaucratic morass which one must encounter in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, is often a complete and unalterable conundrum and puzzle for the Federal and Postal employee.  Such an experience, of course, is further magnified and exacerbated because of the crisis one experiences as a consequence of the medical condition itself.

For those Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement, then, the experience itself is often like entering a foreign country; and, in such instances, it is often a good idea to consider obtaining the services of a tour guide.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Foreigner

The “foreigner” reflects a dual-edged phenomena:  on the one hand, the individual perceives the strangeness of his or her surroundings; on the other hand, those strangers from the “other” land may similarly view the foreigner with interest, suspicion, hesitation, etc.

It is a mutual encounter of cultural clashes.  The singular traveler into untried waters would welcome a friendly face, and thus is often susceptible to criminals and scammers in foreign parts who prey upon unwary tourists.  Within the context of the tourist industry, the “business” side of the industry wants to appear personal and attending to individualized needs, while at the same time dealing in large volumes through a bureaucracy of efficiency.

But being a “foreigner” can occur in one’s own country, too — as in the context of engaging an unknown entity, or an administrative process which is strange and different.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who has been a productive member of the Federal workforce for many years, it is a strange encounter indeed to have to contemplate filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The entire administrative and bureaucratic process is like stepping onto a foreign land and trying to navigate the streets, towns and cities within the context of trying to understand a language heretofore unfamiliar.

Filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an entrance into a land of peculiar and unknown foods and attractions.  For the foreign traveler, it is often best to seek the guidance of a tour guide.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire