Federal Employee Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Procedural Hurdles

Bureaucratic complexities have become a part of everyday life.  When societies become entrenched in administrative procedures, where the process itself is paramount over the substantive goals intended to achieve, and the proper filing of standard forms cannot be ignored lest the conformity of all is undermined by the exception of the singular; then, it is declared that progress has been made, the height of civilization has been achieved, and the pinnacle of human inventiveness has been reached.

Whether one agrees with the satire of bureaucratic conundrums or not, the reality is that the inherent complexities of government must be contended with, and attempting to subvert or otherwise evade the necessity of completing standardized procedural methodologies is an act of futility bordering on rebellion.

For injured/ill Federal employees and Postal Workers who must consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, or even CSRS Offset, the importance of overcoming procedural hurdles cannot be overstated.  SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C & SF 3112D must be completed for all Federal and Postal employees filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset; and for FERS Federal and Postal Workers, one must also complete SF 3107 (as opposed to SF 2801 for CSRS & CSRS Offset Federal and Postal employees).

And, while there are ways to provide additional addendum information beyond that which can fit within the neat spaces provided on the standard forms themselves, nevertheless, it is necessary to follow the rules and abide by the bureaucracy of conformity.  Yes, administrative hurdles are a headache and a difficulty to overcome; but, no, you cannot ignore them, as the reality of administrative and bureaucratic headaches is a constancy we must live with in a society deemed to be the pinnacle of human achievement and progress.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

 

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: The Reset Button

We often hear in geopolitical circles about international relations taking a fresh turn because of a metaphorical and figurative ”reset” button which has been pushed.

Whether any substantive changes have taken place; regardless of an alteration in the behavior of one or both parties; the important event which seems to predominate in such declarations of a new partnership or alliance, is that the words which are spoken are now rearranged, and the harsh language of previous decades, or perhaps not even a fortnight ago, reflects a forgiven past with happy days ahead.

Often, however, the lack of substantive change manifests itself quite quickly, as words have the extent of impact only within the context of that momentary declaration of purpose.  Beyond the statement itself, unless the alteration itself is imposed upon the substantive behavior of the individual, group, entity or country, the reality of an unchanged heart slowly reveals its true nature as circumstances test the essence of who or what a person or country truly represents.

The real problem with the concept of a “reset” button is that it only works if both parties to an accord push the metaphorical object.  Eagerness by one side to declare the change of relationship is often the rule, while the “other” party who is the one who really needs the resetting of behavior stands by in silent indifference with a wry smile.  Ultimately, it is the need for change which underlies the entire resetting of a relationship.

For Federal and Postal employees who have come to a point in their career where a medical condition continues to impact the ability to perform the essential elements of their job and positional duties, the proposal and imposition of adverse actions, such as a Performance Improvement Plan (commonly known as a “PIP”); suspensions; letters of reprimands; Leave Usage Restrictions; or Proposed Removals — all are actions by the agency which reveal that a resetting of the relationship between the agency and the individual is sorely in need.

The ultimate tool for that resetting of the relationship, is for the Federal and Postal employee to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS.  While taking such a step may not alter the behavior of the agency, it at least changes the relationship by letting the agency know that the underlying medical condition is the primary cause for the deterioration of the employer/employee relationship, and further, that the severing of ties will be the ultimate outcome.

Moreover, in the case of an OPM Disability Retirement, the pushing of the reset button is never to change the relationship for the benefit of the agency, but merely to change the relationship itself in order for the Federal or Postal employee to attend to the substantive importance of one’s health and wellbeing.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Watchful Eyes

The falcon flies in our midst; with an unknown distance of its perimeter to prey, it suddenly appears, perched with watchful eyes for squirrels, rabbits, other birds, etc.  Its flight is silent and graceful, and long before people realize its presence, the silence and sudden muteness of wildlife activity reveals the fear imposed by its mere appearance.  It flies silently, swiftly, and with a grace which demands awe and respect.  From its high vantage point, the targeted prey below rarely stands a fair chance of avoidance.  Those eyes are focused, with a singular vision operating to corner, catch and consume.  Organisms under a microscope must feel a similar sense, if indeed they become aware of being studied and prodded.

People, too, who are being surveilled and inspected; there is often a sixth sense of being constantly and vigilantly watched.  Federal and Postal Workers who are under the onerous burden of a Performance Improvement Plan (the acronym of a “PIP”) have that same sense.  It is not a positive or productive feeling; it is, instead, a dread of knowing that the “watching” part is merely a prelude for further actions forthcoming, like the noiseless glide of the hawk above.

Being under the constant gaze of a predator often requires preventative action on the part of the prey; for Federal and Postal Workers who come to recognize that his or her job performance is deteriorating because of a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management may be the best option and course of action to take.  Because it is taking such a long time to get an approval these days, preparatory steps should be taken early.  Waiting for a separation from service, while still allowing for time thereafter to file, is normally not the wisest course.

As it is always better to be the “watcher” than the “watched”, so the Federal and Postal employee who needs to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits should take the affirmative steps to prepare for an eventuality — that time when, like the hawk who has made a decision to target its prey, the Federal or Postal Worker has a place of refuge to enter.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Historical Problem

Ultimately, before the Federal or Postal Worker considers filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a number of factors need to be considered, including (but not limited to) the following:  Can I last until regular retirement?  Will continuation in the job result in further deterioration of my health?  Will my absenteeism or subpar performance result in adverse actions being initiated, including imposition of leave restrictions, a PIP, further disciplinary measures such as a suspension, or ultimately a removal?  Is waiting going to make things any better?  Do I have a doctor who will support my Federal Disability Retirement application sufficiently?

The history of most applicants who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, is replete with unanswered questions and issues ignored or unaddressed.  But when the convergence of a medical condition with a Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service comes to fruition, the clash and collision between appearance and performance will often force the questions to be answered.

Waiting for things to occur will normally not solve the historical problem; being proactive, directly confronting undesirable questions, and taking the necessary steps to secure one’s future — these are the foundational steps necessary for a successful Federal Disability Retirement application, and the key to age-old questions which harken back to the problem of history, so that history may not repeat itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Agony of Beginning

Somehow, the agony of beginning a process is the most excruciating; why that should be so is a mystery, when the prefatory phase leading up to actually starting and engaging an activity is probably the period where most people experience the greatest anxiety.  By “beginning” is often a milestone of a mental nature, as in coming to a decision to initiate an activity.

Then, the question remains of bridging the chasm between the thought and the physical action of “doing it”.  Thus, one can “decide” to perform X in one’s own mind, but never actually implement any objectively ascertainable steps to manifest any signs of having begun the process in order to reach point Y. Beginning the process must follow a sequence of steps.

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 close the gap between thinking about it, and actually doing it.  Agencies often get frustrated with mere words; they want to see some evidence, some progress; and even if it is information regarding having retained a Federal Disability Retirement attorney, or some communication concerning the process and the progress made, will often delay an administrative action or sanction contemplated.

As OPM takes an inordinate amount of time in making a decision on any given case, it is important to take the necessary initial steps, and to submit a Federal Disability Retirement packet within a reasonable period of time, and to shorten the period of agony and anguish, by initiating the administrative process of Federal OPM Disability Retirement.

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