Federal Disability Retirement Representation: Substance and Process

In any bureaucratic, lengthy administrative process, one can become embroiled in the procedural aspects of an endeavor, and overlook the substantive elements which form the foundation of any case.  Conversely, one can make the mistake of approaching a case and declare to one’s self, “This is so obviously a good case,” and take shortcuts in the process of putting together an effective and persuasive case.

Either approach is one fraught with grave errors, and for Federal employees and Postal workers who are beginning the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Medical benefits, first through one’s own agency (if still on the rolls of the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service or, if separated, for not more than 31 days), and ultimately submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, Pennsylvania (directly, if the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker has been separated from Federal service for more than 31 days), it is important to keep the balance between the substance of a case, and the process of the case.

Substantive issues involve everything from the factual, informational content required on all standard forms (SF 3107, along with Schedules A, B & C, and the required attachment of one’s DD 214 showing prior active military service; SF 2801 for CSRS employees; and the substantive content of the description of one’s medical conditions to be considered, as required in SF 3112A, etc.), as well as the medical documentation needed to provide the evidentiary support for one’s case.

“Process” issues involve the timeframe in filing a case, the administrative procedures of where the disability application must be submitted through, as well as the myriad of sequential steps required for satisfaction of accommodation issues with one’s agency.

Substance and process — they are the necessary sides of a single, inseparable currency of an administrative reality known as Federal OPM Disability Retirement, and both must be attended to in order to reach the heights of efficacy mandated for a successful outcome in the preparation, formulation and submission of an OPM Medical Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: The Problem of Perhaps

Perhaps it is time to approach the problem from a different perspective; perhaps it is not.  We often engage in games of self-delusions, of allowing words of self-justification to interfere with sequential and linear lines of thinking, in order to bypass the harsh reality of what is often an inevitability.

The allowance of bifurcation of thought — of the logical disjunctive of choices and options to choose from — makes an allowance of pretense to procrastinate in intellectually acceptable ways.  We sound thoughtful and intelligent when we weigh the various alternatives.  And, indeed, it is normally a “good thing” to gather, review and evaluate the options open to us, and to make the proper decision based upon such an analysis.  But at some point in the process, continuing in a morass of intellectualization becomes problematic.

When the choices are limited, clear, and necessary to act upon, to play the “perhaps” game becomes merely a way to delay the inevitable.

For the Federal and Postal employee who must contemplate a drastic change of circumstances by preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, engaging in such mind-games merely prolongs the process.  At some point, action must proceed from thought; and for the Federal and Postal Worker whose medical condition is such that it impacts one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, it is the action which must prevail over the perhapses of our mind.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Coordinated Steps

When a toddler first learns to walk, what is apparent in the awkward initial attempts is the lack of muscular control, coupled with an innate awareness of potential failure; and that compound look of surprise, fear and lack of comprehension when the first fall of failure occurs.  It is, in a sense, a “failure”; not for lack of trying, or of applying the elementary mechanics of “how to”.  Rather, it is precisely because the various elements must coalesce to create a tripartite approach which has not yet come to fruition:  muscle strength and control; a sense of balance; a coordination of mind and body.

Similarly, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee who first attempts to enter into the universe of administrative law, and specifically into the world of bureaucracy culminating in an encounter with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, must contend with the following:  coordination of efforts.  For, in the end, the tripartite elements in a Federal Disability Retirement application must also come together:  The medical condition; one’s positional duties in the Federal sector; the nexus between the two, with a legal argument as to the impact of one upon the other.

The requirement of coordination does not cease merely because one learns to walk; it is a life-long endeavor which only becomes more sophisticated, with greater demands and requirements, upon those very members of society who continue to grow, mature, and become adults.  Those first baby steps only represented the beginning; once mastered, the universe of man, which includes all forms of technological absurdities and complex human behaviors, must be understood, incorporated, and ultimately engaged, in order to begin the process of mastering the coordination of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Tying Together the Loose Strands

When a medical condition impacts a Federal or Postal employee, whether under FERS or CSRS, and prevents him or her from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management begins.  

One may conceptually distinguish between a “formal” beginning of the process, as opposed to an informal or “real-time” beginning; but in any event, from a retrospective vantage point, it is clear that the “beginning” occurred at that point when the coalescence of medical-to-job impact manifested itself and it became obvious that the Federal or Postal employee could no longer continue in the same fashion as before.  

During this initial part of the process, when the Federal or Postal employee is simply struggling to survive — by going to medical appointments; attempting to continue to work; trying to ignore the reality of the medical condition by striving to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job as before; attempting to maintain the same balance of work-to-personal life, etc. — there is rarely a coordination of efforts, and the disparate strands of life’s compartments never come together in any comprehensible manner.  

But at the “formal” point of preparing and formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is important to engage in the “tying” together of the disparate strands of life — if only to package a cogent and coherent presentation of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  

Life may be a series of messes; a successful Federal Disability Retirement application, however, should be a serious compilation of proof, evidence, argumentation and logical structure.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Administrative Process

Ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement must be viewed as a “process“, as opposed to a singular procedure whereby a triggering mechanism automatically allows for receipt of benefits.  The former requires an affirmative approach which involves submission of proof, argumentation, an expectation of resistance (in many cases), and an analysis by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as to whether or not all of the legal criteria have been met.  The latter is merely a formality of filing.

As a process, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has various steps, procedures, and Stages for appeals.  There is, first and foremost, the initial application Stage, where one has the opportunity and right to submit proof of eligibility, and make legal arguments for entitlement.  If one’s Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the first Stage of the process, then one has a right to have it “reconsidered” by filing a “Request for Reconsideration” within 30 days of the date of denial, or receipt of the letter of denial from OPM, whichever is later.  If denied a second time, then the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has a right to file an Appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

There are, in addition to the 3 stages described, two (2) additional stages of appeal, but the three main stages of filing are what have been previously described.

With such a “process” in mind, it is wise to prepare for the long haul.  An expectation of a quick and easy approval, even if obtained, should not be embraced at the outset, precisely because one must take into consideration the potential length of time which the entire process may take, and prepare accordingly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Bruner Revisited

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one should never pause or hesitate from affirmatively going forward in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application based upon what the Agency will or will not do; is expected or not expected to do; or is predicted or not predicted to do.  One should simply move forward based upon one’s personal and professional circumstances, the extent of the medical condition, the impact of one’s medical condition upon one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, etc.  

Thus, for instance, where a Federal or Postal employee has informed the Agency of one’s medical condition, or one has filed for FMLA and submitted substantiating medical documentation, if the plan is to “wait” for the Agency to remove the Federal or Postal employee in order to obtain the advantage of what is generally known as the “Bruner Presumption,” such a plan is normally not the best course of action, for various reasons.  

First, the Agency may take an extraordinary amount of time, and in the end, may attempt to remove the Federal or Postal employee for “other reasons” (performance issues, for instance).  Second, whether or not one “gets” the Bruner Presumption in a case, that legal advantage is really for the Third Stage of the process — at the Merit Systems Protection Board — inasmuch as most of the Claims Reviewers at the Office of Personnel Management are not legally informed enough to know such a legal presumption from a nearby neighbor named John Doe Bruner.  And Third, one must affirmatively prove by a preponderance of the evidence, anyway, that one cannot perform the essential elements of one’s job because of a medical condition.  The Bruner Presumption, while a great thing to have, does not override the medical condition and evidence which must be presented.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: First Steps

With almost everything in life, it is that metaphorical “first step” which is the most difficult in the process of beginning, enduring, and accomplishing anything.  This is no different in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  The task at the outset can appear daunting:  the multiple forms; the ability to formulate the necessary connection between one’s medical conditions and the job which one performs; having the Agency fill out their portion; having the doctor formulate, in a precise and meaningful manner, the narrative report which will meet the legal criteria for successful eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  It is as challenging as the first step for a child; as intimidating as the first step in any life changing event.  To ease the process, it is often a good idea to do some preliminary research, including speaking with an Attorney who specializes in the process of preparing, filing and fighting for Federal and Postal Disability Retirement benefits.  As with everything in life, proper preparation is the key to success, and it is no different for a Federal or Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Changes

Changes in life occur at critical times, and whether the critical time-period is determined by the medical condition, or other events, what is always important is to take the affirmative steps yourself, as opposed to waiting for events to spiral out of control.  Rarely should one await for the Agency to “do something” which is advantageous to one’s situation.  In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to always be the one to take the lead on everything — from obtaining the proper medical documentation, to ensuring that the Agency is completing their portion of required forms, to making sure that a Federal Disability Retirement packet is fully and completed formulated, such that it will prove one’s case by a preponderance of the evidence and meet the legal criteria for an approval.  Time is of the essence in each Federal Disability Retirement case, especially when time conspires against one’s own interests.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Time to Make the Decision (Part 1)

Waiting until the last possible moment to start the process to file for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS may be commendable from the Agency’s viewpoint — but is it smart?  If you are a Federal or Postal employee with multiple years of service, and you believe that because you gave your life, your blood, your sweat, tears, and even your firstborn, that therefore you will receive what I often term as “bilateral loyalty” (i.e., an expectation of receipt of loyalty from your agency for having given your undying loyalty to them throughout the years), you might want to reconsider.

If you are exhausting all of your sick leave, using your annual leave, dipping into your TSP in order to “hope” that you will recover from your continuing medical condition, then come to a point where you need to file for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, then come to realize that you must survive for 6 – 8 months, or even longer, and pay an attorney, pay for medical reports, and _______ (here, you may fill in the space yourself), then you may need to re-think the entirety of the process, the time it takes, etc.  Most people know, very early on, whether or not he or she has a medical condition which will last for a minimum of 12 months.  The time to start planning for the future is now.  As a famous football coach once quipped, “The future is now.”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Decision

I have often spoken about the “process” of filing, but that mostly concerns the administrative ordeal of filing:  of preparing, of gathering the medical documentation, of writing up the proper applicant’s statement, of putting together the legal arguments in support thereof, etc.  Then, of course, I have spoken about the “human” side of things — of the difficult human ordeal of going through the process.  There is the initial psychological barrier — of starting the administrative process, which is somewhat of an implicit acknowledgment that a person is indeed “disabled”, as if that concept or label has some sort of a “stigma” attached thereto. 

One would think that in the 21st Century, all such stigmas would have been extinguished and extinct; and, indeed, most such stigmas are merely self-imposed.  Often, we are our own worst enemy; there is the barrier of ourselves in the process, of actually starting the process.  This is often why an attorney is the best person to handle a Federal Disability Retirement application — because it allows for the process to begin, without it being so intimately and personal a matter to the applicant.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire