Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: What the Agency May Say

Individuals can and do tell untruths (an euphemism for a “lie”); organizations, as a collective congregation of multiple individuals, can therefore also convey negations of truthful statements (a further euphemism, stated diplomatically to avoid the unpleasantry of a direct statement).  Of course, the justification for such factually incorrect statements is that there is a “difference of perspective” or of an opinion which is not in agreement with another’s.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the portion of a Federal Disability Retirement application which the Agency must complete — most notably the Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) and the Agency’s Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts (SF 3112D) can and most often do contain misstatements, differing perspectives and negations of untruthful statements.

They are not like the other forms which must be completed by the Agency — i.e., the checklist, the Certified Summary of Federal Service, etc., where the information provided can be compared to factually verifiable documents, statements, etc., and therefore will be constrained by objective and ascertainable facts.

Unfortunately, there is “wiggle room” on both the SF 3112B and the SF 3112D, and agencies tend to utilize the wide expansiveness of such roominess to move about.  That is why, what the agency says or might say, must be preempted as much as possible by the medical report and other documentation.  By providing as much of an airtight case prior to submission of the disability retirement packet to the agency, one increases the odds that the impact of what the agency says, will be minimal, and minimized.

Of course, there is then the further problem of the inaccuracies engaged in by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management itself — but that is another story to tell, and one which must be categorized in a department beyond “fiction”, but more akin to the genre of “fantasy” or “science fiction”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Leverage

The ability to negotiate an advantageous settlement of an issue is dependent not merely upon the possession of leverage, but upon the effective use of that leverage.  Such effective usage would require, first and foremost, a dual presentation:  First, recognition of the value of such leverage, and second, the ability to have the opposing party believe that the value is exponentially exaggerated.  Once these dual components are satisfied, one can be assured that a favorable settlement can be reached.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one often finds that the Federal or Postal employee is involved in multiple facets of collateral litigation or adverse actions with the Agency.  As part of a “global settlement” of legal issues, the agency will inevitably offer the Federal or Postal employee a “disability retirement”.  Yet, the first recognition of order which the Federal or Postal employee must address, is the fact that the agency is not the entity which can grant a Federal Disability Retirement.  Only the U.S. Office of Personnel Management can grant or deny a Federal Disability Retirement application to the Federal or Postal applicant.

Can the support of the agency help?  Yes — if formulated properly.  Be aware, however, as case-law supports OPM’s contention that settlements of collateral issues should not be used as a basis for obtaining the support of an agency in an application for Federal Disability Retirement.  A balancing act must be adopted.  And, as always, Federal Disability Retirement is first and foremost an issue of one’s medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The History of Agency Interaction

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is often a long history of interaction with one’s own agency, and to what extent such prior historical context is or is not relevant to a Federal Disability Retirement application depends upon the uniqueness of each case.

Some issues constitute an impact upon the Federal or Postal employee only — i.e., leave issues, whether FMLA has been invoked and how much has already been used; whether the Federal or Postal employee has been able to provide any substantiating medical documentation to the agency, etc.

Other issues are more in the province of the Agency — how patient will the agency be during the process of awaiting OPM’s decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS; has a PIP already been initiated?  Is there a security clearance issue, or an issue with retention of a medical clearance in order to perform one’s job?

Then, of course, there are issues which intersect, and where an adversarial — or at least a conflicting — relationship develops.  When the agency attempts to initiate an adverse action, or when harassment occurs, the issues which arise may need to be resolved through litigation, filing of a grievance, internal personnel procedures invoked, etc.

Ultimately, whether or not any of the various peripheral issues impact a Federal Disability Retirement application is questionable, because it is not the agency itself which determines the approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, but only the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Agency which Decides

These days, the chasm between language, truth and reality has widened to where the bifurcation and distinction between each has resulted in a lack of any significant relationship between them; or, conversely, each has become identical with the other, which amounts to all the same if one pauses to reflect upon it.

Once upon a time, prior to Bertrand Russell’s mischievous offering of a conundrum with the statement, “The King of France is bald” (for, as there is no King of France, and therefore there can be no bald King of France; yet, how is it that such a statement can nevertheless have meaning?  Ergo:  language need not have any relationship to truth or reality); the prevailing operative theory involved the correspondence theory of truth, where statements were said to correspond to the noumenal world around us.

In the practical world, the weight which keeps us grounded is based upon the extent of responsibility one must accept.  Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is precisely the agency to whom a Federal Disability Retirement application is submitted which the Federal or Postal worker should be focused upon.  It is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — OPM in acronym form — which should guide and dictate how a Federal or Postal worker should act, react, and correspondingly prepare for.

While agencies will attempt to pressure the Federal or Postal worker into hastily preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application for their own purposes, the Federal or Postal worker must always realize that if OPM denies a claim, you cannot go back to your agency and say, “See, you made me do X, Y and Z, so now it is your problem.”  No, the Agency will not take responsibility; it is between OPM and the Federal or Postal Worker.

Therefore, act accordingly; do not unwisely and hastily be pressured to prepare or formulate a Federal Disability Retirement case just because the agency wants the positional slot vacated.  Do it properly; take the necessary time; get legal counsel; otherwise, you may in fact have to meet the bald King of France.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Medical Disability Retirement and Agency Promises

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is often easy to confuse the varying roles of the individual and agency entities which are involved in the process.

First and foremost, the Agency for which the individual works, has certain administrative obligations which must be met — of completing certain forms, such as the Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) and the Agency Efforts for Reassignment and Accommodation (SF 3112D).  The Office of Personnel Management, on the other hand, is the ultimate arbiter and deciding entity determining the viability of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, as to meeting the legal criteria for eligibility for the benefit.

The agency cannot make promises to the Federal employee, or the Postal employee (if the case happens to be the U.S. Postal Service), as to “getting” the individual Federal employee or Postal employee, a Federal Disability Retirement.

There can certainly be actions taken by the agency, or the representative of the agency, which may help to “enhance” the chances of an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement.  However, enhancing the chances of an approval is quite different from promising to “give” or to “get” a Federal or Postal employee a Federal Disability Retirement from the Office of Personnel Management.  Only the latter entity can accomplish that.

As for any promises by the agency that “he said X” or “he promised Y” — get it in writing.  It may only be worth the paper it is written on, but at least by asking, you can determine the truth or falsity of such a promise.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Agency Actions & OPM

The argument in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS goes as follows:  An Agency has determined that a Federal or Postal employee is medically unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; that Federal or Postal employee cannot be accommodated; the case-law states that, at a minimum, the agency conclusions have a persuasive effect upon a Federal Disability Retirement application; ergo, the Office of Personnel Management should approve the Federal or Postal employee’s Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.

The problem with such an argument, if relied upon exclusively, is threefold:  (1)  The statutory mandate as to which agency makes a determination upon a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is misplaced, (2) The Agency, whether the Flight Surgeon at the FAA who determines that an Air Traffic Controller is medically unqualified to continue in his or her job, or the Postal Service who determines pursuant to the National Reassessment Process (NRP) that there is no longer a job available at the Postal Service, or any other agency which determines that no accommodations can be provided — has not applied all of the legal criteria under the laws and statutes governing Federal Disability Retirement applications, and (3) the focus from the perspective of the agency is a “second-tier” focus — of whether an accommodation can be provided to the Federal or Postal employee to see if the efficiency of the Agency can continue, as opposed to the “first-tier” issue of whether the Federal or Postal employee has a medical condition such that it satisfies all of the criteria for a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

As such, it is the focus of the respective agencies which differentiate the possibility of an agency action being merely persuasive, as opposed to determinative, in a Federal Disability Retirement applicationunder either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Agency Collateral Actions

Often, in the preceding years before preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is a “history” of events between an Agency and the Federal or Postal employee.  Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and such a trite adage is certainly true for the Federal and Postal employee.  

Whether in the form of an EEOC complaint or a response to an adverse action which promulgates an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, or multiple other legal forums and responses, actions, etc., there may be a settlement of the issue, and the settlement of such collateral issues may involve a provision concerning Federal Disability Retirement.  

If in fact there is a reference concerning Federal Disability Retirement by the Agency as part of a “global settlement” of collateral issues, it is important to make sure that there is enough specificity in the language to make it worth one’s while to have the provision inserted in a settlement agreement to begin with.  Thus, a generic statement such as, “Agency endeavors to assist the employee in filing for Federal Disability Retirement” would not be very helpful, precisely because the term “assist” can be interpreted in multiple ways, and normally the way that an Agency will interpret the term will not in the least be helpful to the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Language is a tool which must be used carefully; the effectiveness of language, as with any tool, depends upon the competence of the user.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire