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

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

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

OPM Disability Retirement: Opinions, OPM and Power

In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one must always be aware of the distinction between the two — opinions and power — and apply it with that awareness in filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  

There will be multiple opinions involved in any Federal Disability Retirement packet — the opinion of the medical doctor who is treating the applicant; the opinion of the applicant as to one’s ability or inability to perform some, which or all of the essential elements of one’s job; the opinion of the Supervisor or someone at the Agency on multiple issues, rendered in the Supervisor’s Statement and the Agency’s Certification for Reassignment and Accommodation; and the “opinion” handed out by the Office of Personnel Management as to whether all of the compendium of opinions, collectively gathered to present the evidence for approval in a Federal Disability Retirement application, constitute sufficient evidence such that it meets the preponderance of the evidence in proving one’s case.  It is thus helpful to understand that all of these identifiable propositions are all “opinions”.  

The one distinction, however, is that the opinion of the Office of Personnel Management carries with it the power of approval or disapproval, and so one may designate it as carrying more “weight” because it contains an inherent authority which all other opinions lack — that of the power to say yea or nay.  But remember that such power, fortunately, is not absolute, nor necessarily arbitrary and capricious, and there is ultimately an appeal process to have such raw power reviewed for viability and sufficiency.  That is why the validity and force of the “other” opinions is important to maintain — the medical opinion and the opinion of the Applicant — so that when it is reviewed by an Administrative Judge, the integrity of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS may be properly adjudicated.

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