Attorney Representation in Federal Disability Claims: Directions

The crude form of the proverbial image formulated is:  Up the creek without a paddle, but normally with an epithet inserted.  It portrays a vivid scene of being in a symbolic state, directionless and without a means of guiding or maneuvering.  One is thus subject to the winds of time, the vicissitudes of circumstances beyond one’s control, immediate or otherwise, and where a growing storm of unforeseen proportions and magnitude is coming at a rate of ferocity uncontrollable and unable to be prepared for.

People with medical conditions have that sense of progressive disintegration, where the things that one has worked and strived so hard to achieve, are now in danger of loss and ruination. For the disabled Federal employee or the injured Postal worker who suffers from an accident or other health condition, such that the medical condition is impacting the capacity and ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, the growing fear of being swept aside by slow, insidious and deliberative steps by the agency — of a poor performance review; of initiating a “Performance Improvement Plan“, or a PIP; of threats of separation and termination because of one’s absenteeism and exhaustive use of LWOP; all point towards an inevitable direction which is far from the destination that the Federal or Postal employee wants to arrive at.

Lifeboats are funny things; they may save the life, but without a paddle, one may drift and yet fail to survive for lack of food or water.  Sustenance is the key to a life worthy of living.

For the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS, when a medical condition begins to threaten one’s employment with the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, it may be time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Filed through one’s agency if one is still employed or separated from Federal Service but not for more than thirty one (31) days, the application is ultimately processed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for a determination of eligibility and entitlement.  It is a benefit which, in and of itself, provides for a basic annuity such that the sustenance of a livelihood is provided for, in order for the Federal employee or the Postal worker to attend to one’s health, and continue to look to a brighter future in the years ahead.

Thus, in that sense, Federal Disability Retirement is the needed oar for the man or woman in the proverbial boat, stranded up the mythological creek, waiting for the means to direct the drifting dictation of life’s daring demands.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: The Walking Anomaly

The identity of a person is represented by a composite of memories held, present activities engaged, and future endeavors planned, thus bringing into a complex presence the times of past, present and anticipated future.  It is because of this walking anomaly — of not just an entity living in the present, but of someone who possesses the retentive capacity of memories past, and plans made and being generated for future actions — that the complexity of the human condition can never be fully grasped.

For the individual, therefore, who begins to suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition or disability interferes with the delicate balance of the tripartite composite, the fear of destruction of present circumstances, and diminished ability for future progress, is what complicates matters, in addition to the capacity to remember how things were, which only exacerbates one’s anxiety and angst, in addition to the medical condition itself. It is like being caught eternally in the middle of a three-day weekend: one is saddened by the day already passed; one anticipates an additional day, but the knowledge of the diminishing present makes for realization that the future is merely a bending willow in the winds of change, inevitably able to be swept aside.

For the Federal employee or the Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, it is that recognition of past performances and accolades, of accomplishments and successes, combined with present potentialities yet unfulfilled, which makes for a tragedy of intersecting circumstances.  Filing for Federal Disability benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee or the Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, should not, however, diminish the hope for the future.

Federal Disability Retirement benefits allows for the impacted Federal or Postal worker to receive an annuity, and continue to remain productive and plan for the future. It is the solution for many Federal employees and Postal workers who are too young to retire, and have invested too much to simply “walk away” with nothing to show for the time of Federal service already measured.

In the end, Federal Disability Retirement may not be the best option, but the only viable option available, and for the walking anomaly known as man, OPM Disability benefits may be the methodology to complete that unfulfilled potentiality yet to be achieved.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Independent Entities

If Federal agencies were created with the proverbial single “stroke of the pen”, all at once, in unison and coordinated intersections of thoughtful complexities, then of course there would be a lack of overlap, duplication and repetition. The essence of efficiency is precisely to limit duplicative efforts. But then, some would perhaps say that it is an inherent self-contradiction to assert that Federal agencies can both be coordinated as well as efficient.

In the disability compensatory systems impacting Federal and Postal workers, there are multiple “pockets” which the Federal and Postal worker can be eligible for, given the right qualifications and by meeting certain threshold criteria. Under FERS, the system of retirement and disability retirement was fairly well-planned (and, again, some would say that such planning was a historical first, in many ways), in that it envisioned a coordination of benefits between the retirement system and Social Security. That is precisely why, in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS, the Federal or Postal employee must also file for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits sometime during the process.

Then, of course, there are a multitude of other programs and agencies, such as VA benefits (for Veterans of the military services) and OWCP/FECA, for “on-the-job” injuries. Each are independent entities, created for specific purposes, goals and targeted personnel.

Over the years, the Courts, and specifically the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, have somewhat “clarified” the interconnecting impact of a decision from one independent agency upon the decision-making process of another, and such decisions should be used in arguing one’s Federal Disability Retirement case.

Benefit coordination, offsets and simultaneous filings aside, how one utilizes the decision of one administrative agency in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an important component in reaching the goal of a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The MSPB Hearing

If you find yourself at the Merit Systems Protection Board trying to prove to an Administrative Judge that your are entitled to Federal Disability Retirements benefits under FERS or CSRS, and you have already filed a Prehearing Statement, and your witnesses have been approved at the Prehearing Conference, and further, you have outlined all of the issues, set forth the legal basis, and proffered the expected testimony, it is then “showtime”.  

It is obviously preferable for an applicant who is filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits to be represented by a Federal Disability Attorney — if possible, from the inception of the process, through the Reconsideration Stage, to the MSPB.  However, if a Federal or Postal employee finds that, for one reason or another, you simply cannot afford an Attorney, then here are three (3) tips if you find that you are before an MSPB Administrative Judge:  (1)  Have a doctor testify, and make sure that the testimony of the doctor is precise and to the point (2) Make sure that what you prove to the Judge correlates with what you said you would prove in your Prehearing Statement, and (3) Be prepared to make objections to any of OPM’s cross-examination questions.  Finally, remember that the point of making an objection during a Hearing is not to necessarily stop the question or answer, but rather, to preserve the point for a possible appeal.  It is ultimately difficult for a non-attorney Federal Disability Retirement applicant to formulate and prepare for an effective Merit Systems Protection Board Hearing, and further, it would be better if the Federal or Postal employee had an attorney (who is well-versed in Federal Disability Retirement law) throughout the entire process; but one must play the hand one is dealt with, and that old adage is true even with a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement case under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Preparing for an MSPB Hearing

There is a singular focus when preparing for a Hearing at the Merit Systems Protection Board:  that of persuading and convincing an Administrative Judge that you have proven, by a preponderance of the evidence, that you are entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Of course, as I have often pointed out in the past, the full and complete preparation for an MSPB Hearing should have come about throughout the first two stages of the process — in the initial application for Federal Disability Retirement, and in responding to the Office of Personnel Management at the Reconsideration Stage of the process.  The fact that the Office of Personnel Management denied a case twice does not mean that the Applicant or his/her attorney did anything “wrong”; rather, it merely means that the Office of Personnel Management was wrong twice over.  Beyond the singular focus upon the MSPB Administrative Judge, there must be a multiple focus before the actual day of the Hearing:  Prepare, prepare, and prepare.  That means:  Go through the Agency records with a fine-toothed comb; prepare by anticipating any cross-examination questions which OPM may have; prepare the witnesses; prepare the closing argument.  Preparation is the key to every litigation, and a Hearing before the MSPB Administrative Judge is no different.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire