Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Promises

Federal and Postal workers who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS must understand that it is the Office of Personnel Management which is the agency that makes the decisions concerning approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Whether the Postal Service, or any number of agencies “promise” to support a Federal Disability Retirement application, such promises are of limited value to the extent that they are not the governing arbiter — it is the bureaucracy known by its acronym, “OPM” which makes the decision.

While certain forms must be completed by the Agency or the Postal Service; and while certain decisions concerning the SF 3112D, or the basis of a removal action, may aid a Federal or Postal worker in OPM’s decision-making process, remember that any promise made by a Federal Agency or the Postal Service claiming to “get you” an OPM Disability Retirement is one without force or effect.

The Office of Personnel Management is an independent agency which reviews, evaluates, and scrutinizes each application for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement under either FERS or CSRS — they are the final “arbiter” of the matter, in conjunction with any appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board in the event of a denial at the Initial Stage of the Application, and a second denial at the Reconsideration Stage of the application process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Limitation of Agency Actions

Often, in the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the client will ask the question, “Well, doesn’t that prove that I can’t do the job?”  Such a question invariably points to some action by the Agency — a letter or a memorandum; a statement which the Supervisor made, etc.  While it may be true that the Agency believes that a Federal or Postal employee is unable to perform, or is not performing, all of the essential elements of the job, remember that actions of the Agency can never replace the affirmative burden of proof that one is unable, medically, to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  

One must keep in mind that the Office of Personnel Management is a separate Agency which is not necessarily in communication with the Agency which employs the Federal or Postal employee.  The “mindset” of the Agency is not being considered by the Office of Personnel Management.  Whatever the motivations of the Agency in doing what it is or will do, is to a great extent irrelevant to OPM.  What the Agency is doing may well indicate “proof” as to other issues — i.e., inability to accommodate; acknowledgment that certain essential elements of one’s job is not being performed, etc. — but it does not prove that an individual is unable, as a result of a medical condition, to perform all of the essential elements of the job.  Only a doctor can do that.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Agency Overstepping

The Office of Personnel Management is the Federal Agency which reviews, evaluates and determines the eligibility of an applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  The Applicant’s Agency — in whatever sector, department or facility — is supposed to help process the Federal Disability Retirement application, by filling out its required parts and answering certain fundamental questions.  For example, the Agency must determine whether or not it can “accommodate” an individual’s medical conditions, or reassign him or her to another position at the same pay or grade, and one which the applicant is qualified for.  Further, the Supervisor must complete a “Supervisor’s Statement” (SF 3112B) which provides certain information concerning the conduct, performance and attendance of the applicant, as well as any adverse impact which the applicant’s medical conditions may have had upon the Agency’s ability to complete its work and mission.  Where the Agency oversteps its authority, is when it deems itself to be the pre-judging entity in the place of the Office of Personnel Management.  The Agency neither has the authority nor the knowledge to be making a “recommendation” or a judgment on the viability of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  In the instances where it attempts to do so, it is overstepping its authority.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Coherence

A Federal Disability Retirement packet must be coherent.  This may appear to be “self-evident”, but there have been many disability retirement packets which, upon a denial and a review at the Second, Reconsideration Phase of the process, lack the coherent coordination which results in a credible disability retirement packet.  Coherence results from the simple review of the entirety of the information submitted to the Office of Personnel Management:  The applicant’s personal statement; the medical records and reports; the position description; any additional statements or attachments.

Now, there are certain elements of a Federal Disability Retirement application which cannot be controlled — such as the Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) and the Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts (SF 3112D).  However, while one may not be able to “control” the coherence of those elements which are the purview of the Agency, there are certain steps which can be taken to preempt such uncontrollable injections from the Agency.

Regardless, it is normally not the SF 3112B or 3112D which makes for the incoherence of a Federal Disability Retirement submission; more often than not, the culprit is the Applicant him/herself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: What the Agency Can Do

It is always striking (and suspicious, of course) when an individual tells me that his or her Agency has said that they will “OK” the Federal disability retirement application.  I always remind the individual that it is not the Agency; rather, it is the Office of Personnel Management which approvals or denies an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  In many ways, the Agency attempts to assert for itself greater influence and impact than it really has.  I try and remind people all the time that a Federal Disability Retirement application is a medical retirement application — it is not an Agency retirement application; it is not a Supervisor’s disability retirement application; it is not up to the Human Resources’ Department of the Agency.  The ultimate arbiter of the entire process is the Office of Personnel Management; and the criteria for eligibility is based upon a set of statutory requirements, which must be met by a preponderance of the evidence; and the overwhelming focal emphasis concerns the medical eligibility.  Agencies are too often given too much credit for the success or failure of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  In my view, the influence, input and power of an agency is almost always overstated.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Service Deficiency & Medical Condition

The Office of Personnel Management will often use as a criteria of denial the argument/basis that despite the fact that an individual may have a medical condition such that the medical documentation states that the Federal or Postal worker can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, nevertheless, there has not been a showing that a “service deficiency” has occurred.  Often, agencies systematically write up performance appraisals without much thought or consideration; more often, Federal and Postal workers quietly suffer through his or her medical condition, and strive each day to meet the requirements of their duties. 

Whatever the reason for the lack of attention or perception on the part of the supervisor or the agency to recognize that the Federal or Postal worker has not been able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, such basis for a denial of a disability retirement application by the Office of Personnel Management is not a legitimate one, because existence of a “service deficiency” is not the whole story:  if it is found that retention in the job is “inconsistent” with the type of medical condition the Federal or Postal Worker has, then such a finding would “trump” the lack of any service deficiency.  That is not something, however, that the Office of Personnel Management is likely to tell you as they deny your disability retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire