Federal Disability Retirement: The Interests of Each

In assessing and evaluating friends, adversaries or neutral parties, it is important to analyze the self-interest of each, to understand the differing perspectives of the people involved, then to arrive at conclusions concerning the benefits received in the interaction of the process.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, the parties involved include:  The individual FERS or CSRS Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating initiating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; the Agency (including coworkers, Supervisors, Managers, etc.) for whom the Federal or Postal worker is employed by; the Human Resources Department of the Agency (which is a separate and distinct entity from the “Agency” for whom the Federal or Postal worker is employed by, precisely because (A) they are often a separate section of the agency and (B) the personnel employees have had no day-to-day contact, for the most part, with the employee but (C) whether the Human Resources Department is “management-friendly” or “employee-driven”, may color the perspective of where their alliances and loyalties lean); the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; the Attorney or Representative of the Federal or Postal employee assisting in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Obviously, the first and the last (the potential Federal or Postal employee/applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits) and his or her attorney, should have a contiguous perspective:  to look out for the best interests of the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  The “others” — no matter how friendly, by all appearances “helpful”, and no matter how much assistance is provided —  have their own self-interests to protect, preserve and advance.  Keep the different perspectives in mind.  Better yet, understand that self-interest is the primary motivating factor of Agencies — and act in the interest of one’s own advancement accordingly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Agency Human Resources

Ultimately, of course, as has been stated mundanely by many sources, the most valuable “human resources” which any company, Federal, state or local agency possesses, are the employees which perform the essential elements of all of the myriad of jobs and duties required in order to accomplish the mission of the entity.

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, if the Federal or Postal employee has not been separated from Federal service for more than thirty one (31) days, the entire Federal disability Retirement packet must be submitted through the agency Human Resources office, whether at the local level or the district level, for further processing before being forwarded to the Office of Personnel Management.

Even if the Federal or Postal worker has been separated from Federal service for over thirty one (31) days, the agency H.R. Office still must prepare and complete certain forms for submission to the Office of Personnel Management (e.g., the Supervisor’s Statement — SF 3112B — as well as the Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts — SF 3112D; Certified Summary of Federal Service, etc.).

Whether, and to what extent, the Human Resources Office is helpful in assisting the Federal or Postal employee in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is always up in the air. The feedback received over many years is one of uncooperative neutrality, at best, and open hostility at worst.

Exceptions to such an observation have certainly been encountered, with a satisfying sense of appreciation that, indeed, some individuals recognize that when the time comes that a Federal or Postal employee must by necessity file for Federal Disability retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, that is NOT the time to abandon the dictum that employees still “count” even though the worth of their work may have been somewhat (and temporarily) diminished.

A constancy of treating the Federal or Postal employee, at any stage of one’s career, is the key to fostering the loyalty of the workforce. Just a thought.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Human Resources Personnel

The problem with relying upon one’s Human Resources department to help in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management (if in fact they are even willing to help, other than to provide the necessary forms — if that) is not based upon their lack of knowledge (some are fairly knowledgeable); rather, they work within the same mindset as the rest of government, and therefore unable to think outside of the paradigm of government regulations, rules, and statutory mandates.  

Furthermore, Human Resources personnel are not lawyers; as such, the moment there is a problem with an application — whether in its substantive presentation, or in the legal criteria which apply to the eligibility of any one Federal or Postal employee — they have a tendency to side with the Office of Personnel Management.  

That is not to say that there are not excellent H.R. Personnel — there are.  But H.R. Personnel are trained to assist in the procedural stream of making sure that the paperwork is all “in order”.  They do not comment upon — and nor should they — the feasibility or substantive credibility of a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.  

Furthermore, the number of years a person has been a “Human Resources Specialist” is not indicative of the competency of that person in providing any guidance; those who have been in Human Resources often box themselves into a paradigm of repetitive labor, and perform a task “because this is the way it’s always been done”.  That is never a reason to do something, let alone a good reason.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Agencies & SF 3112C

Agencies have an amazing ability to be inquisitive, especially into those areas which really do not concern them.  Often, Agencies will insist that, despite all of the relevant, pertinent, and desired medical documentation already having been attached to a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the applicant/Federal employee “must” sign the Standard Form 3112C (“Physician’s Statement) , which becomes superfluous and irrelevant.  They insist that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) “requires” the form, which is an erroneous statement.  OPM has never required a signed SF 3112C so long as the Federal Disability Retirement application is accompanied by sufficient medical documentation to support the application.  Sometimes, the insistence by the Agency is merely based upon ignorance; other times, it is based upon an administrative and bureaucratic inflexibility to longstanding “procedures” which the Human Resources personnel cannot adapt to, or change, because “this is the way we’ve been doing it for X number of years”.  Still, there is a suspicion that in some instances, the “requirement” of SF 3112C is because of a more nefarious reason:  The Agency wants full access to all medical records, notes, treatment notes, etc.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: On the Other Hand

On the other hand, there is no such thing as a “lost cause” case.  To assert such a conclusion would be to presumptively admit defeat.  In Federal Disability Retirement cases, there is always a good chance of prevailing, whether or not a mistake was made; whether or not a doctor annotated, on a particular day in a moment of hope, that the patient showed “hopeful improvement”.  Yes, it is the job of the Office of Personnel Management to cling onto such peripheral statements, and to magnify such statements such that they appear to encompass the essence of the medical condition.

It is always with some amusement that I hear an agency Human Resources person state something to the effect of:  “Well, you know, Mr. McGill, this is not an adversarial process.  We and the Office of Personnel Management are merely here to determine the eligibility of the Federal worker, and to make sure that he or she fits the criteria.”

Not an adversarial process?  Is the Office of Personnel Management “there” to help you?  Is that why, in their template denial letters, they latch onto the most peripheral of issues and emphasize those points which allegedly present a problem, and ignore the rest of the medical evidence?  Any Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS would be wise to see the entire Federal Disability Retirement process as one of an “adversarial process”.  If you don’t, you proceed at your own peril.  On the other hand…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Supervisors, Agencies and H.R. Personnel

I am sometimes pleasantly surprised at Supervisors — ones who actually recognize that an individual filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS does so out of necessity, and not out of any personal or professional spite against the Supervisor or the Agency, and that the proper response to convey is one of support, empathy, and cooperation, without needing to compromise the goal and mission of the Agency.  Further, I am taken aback by the unprofessional and utterly unhelpful attitude of many Human Resources personnel in the processing of a Federal Disability Retirement application. 

Too often, the H.R. person finds it his or her mission in life to be an obstacle to the smooth processing of a disability retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  Yet, the law is clear (though not to many of the H.R. Departments at various agencies):  it is the Office of Personnel Management which has the sole legal authority to make a positive or negative determination on a Federal Disability Retirement application; at the agency level, the role of the Human Resources person is to try and expedite and efficiently process the disability retirement application.  Hopefully, those who have the positional designation of “Human Resources” will come to realize what it all actually means:  he or she is supposed to be a “resource” (a positive one, for that matter) with a “human” emphasis.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Helpers

Then, of course, there are those Human Resources and OPM personnel who have been, continue to be, and will always be, greater helpers throughout the process in assisting Federal and Postal employees to obtain disability retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.  They are diamonds in a sea of hindrances and obstacles.  And when you come across such an individual, at any stage of the process, one must always express one’s gratitude.  One might argue that they are “just doing their job”, but what such individuals do is clearly beyond the job that they are paid to do.  No only do they assist in the process, but they “humanize” the process; and, especially when a Federal or Postal employee who has a medical disability receives not only assistance in the process, but guidance in providing help to ease and smooth the road to approval, it is indeed a pleasant experience to come across the human touch. A word of thanks to all such Human Resources Personnel.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire