Federal Employees Disability Retirement Systems: The Quarantined Mind

From early childhood, the necessity of imposing constraints and conformity produces the positive effect of a well-ordered society.  But corollary and unforeseen consequences often occur, as in the quashing of creativity and mindsets which step outside of the proverbial “box”.

The problem with people talking about thinking “outside of the box” is that such a thought process itself constitutes nothing more than mundane conventional wisdom.  Those who have considered thoughts beyond the artifice of social concordance have already done that which is widely preached, but little known.  Then, along comes a calamity or crisis, necessitating a change of lifestyle and a different manner of approaching the linear and customary manner of encountering life.  The other adage comes to mind:  necessity is the mother of invention.

Medical conditions tend to do that to people.  Suddenly, things which were taken for granted are no longer offered:  health, daily existence without pain; the capacity to formulate clarity of thought without rumination and an impending sense of doom.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit offered to all Federal and Postal employees who require a second chance at life’s anomaly; it allows for a base annuity in order to secure one’s future, while at the same time allowing for accrual of retirement years so that, at age 62, when the disability retirement is recalculated as regular retirement, the number of years one has been on disability retirement counts towards the total number of years of Federal Service, for recalculation purposes.

It allows for the Federal or Postal employee to seek out a private-sector job, and earn income up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal position currently pays, on top of the disability annuity itself.  It thus allows and encourages the Federal and Postal worker to start a new career, to engage another vocation, and consider options beyond the original mindset of one’s career in the federal sector.

In the end, it is often our early childhood lessons which quarantined the pliant mind that leads to fear of the unknown because of changed circumstances.  To break out of the quarantined mind, sometimes takes a blessing in disguise; but then, such a statement is nothing more than another conventional saying, originating from the far recesses of another quarantined mind.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: When and Whether

When one should file a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is a matter of individual circumstances and needs — except in the particular situation where objective timeframes impose mandatory filing.

Whether one should file or not is a similar question based upon the medical conditions one suffers from, as well as the extent of a doctor’s support for such an administrative filing — but again, the “whether” also may be mandated by necessity if a Federal or Postal Worker is approaching the 1-year mark of having been separated from Federal Service.

The general rule concerning an impending and upcoming Statute of Limitations is the following:  If the Federal or Postal Worker fails to file within 1 year of being separated from Federal Service, the ability to file will forever be blocked (with some narrow and exceptional circumstances excepting the passing of the 1-year deadline).  As such, it is better to file than not (obviously).

Further, on most issues, one can supplement a Federal Disability Retirement application later on (this is where the Federal or Postal applicant must be very careful in completing the SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability); whereas no such additional pursuance of the Federal Disability Retirement matter can be advanced if one does not file on a timely basis to begin with.

When and whether to file are therefore matters of discretion — unless the Statute of Limitations is about to impose itself upon the when and the where

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Reality of Accommodations

Medical conditions test the value of a worker; for, while people may engage in theoretical discussions of “cost-benefits analysis“, where the cost of X is compared and contrasted to the benefit of Y, such that the hypothetical analysis results in a business decision based upon pure economic need — the reality of such an approach rarely gets a true test beyond such dinner table discussions.  But when a Federal or Postal Worker begins to suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition visibly impacts one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, then the economic paradigm of a cost-benefits analysis is applied, whether overtly or in a more subtle, inconspicuous manner.

The agency may recognize the need to allow for temporary suspension of certain positional duties — travel may be taken up by some other employee; heavy lifting may need an additional helper; telecommuting may be a viable option.  The cost of such temporary measures is felt in the work left undone; the benefit is accrued by the experience, wisdom, and knowledge of the disabled retained worker.  In rarer occasions, a formal request for an accommodation may be submitted by the Federal or Postal Worker, and an administrative process of attempting to provide a legally viable accommodation may ensue; but that is a rare process, indeed.

The reality of accommodations in the Federal sector is one of practical need versus the trouble such attempts bring; for the Federal or Postal Worker, whether under FERS or CSRS, the true option left is to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Such an option results from an agency being tested — and loyalties revealed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Unequivocal Doesn’t Mean That One Is “Right”

In a denial letter from the Office of Personnel Management, the Claims Specialist/Representative will often make statements in confident, unequivocal terms.  “You have not…”   “The medical evidence fails to show…”    “Your doctor never…”   “The law requires that you…”  Such a voice of unequivocal confidence often leaves the impression that there is no room for argument; that the case is lost; that there really is no point in even attempting to argue with the Office of Personnel Management.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

Merely because an individual makes statements in an unequivocal manner, is not a basis for determining the truth or falsity of his or her argument.  In a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is almost always room for disagreement.  We are speaking about interpretation of medical documents, the significance of what is said, etc.  We are talking about the different and proper application of the OPM Disability law, and the multitude of case-law which would be applicable.  Don’t let the voice of a statement fool you as to the validity of the statement.  In a Federal Disability Retirement case, the Office of Personnel Management is rarely right; they just like to sound like they are.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The "Lost Cause" Case

Often, an approval for a Federal Disability Retirement case will come in the mail, and the client will state, “I never thought I would see it approved.”  It is the job of an attorney who specializes in any area of law, to win the case.  In representing Federal and Postal employees to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the ultimate “win” is to get the approval from the Office of Personnel Management

Some cases are harder to get approved than others; then, there are the “Lost Cause” cases — ones which, for one reason or another, seem to encounter greater obstacles:  from agencies which attempt to undermine the Federal Disability Retirement application, to adverse termination proceedings prior to the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application; to insufficient medical documentation; and multiple other reasons, there are cases which appear to be lost causes.  Yet, so long as there is another stage of appeal, and so long as there is sufficient merit to a case, one should never give up.  Lost causes are especially triumphant moments for the attorney representing a disabled Federal employee.  For an OPM Disability Retirement case, it is especially sweet to obtain that letter of approval from the Office of Personnel Management, for that case which the client himself/herself believed as a “lost cause”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Approvals & Disapprovals

Approvals of Federal Disability Retirement applications under FERS & CSRS, for an attorney who specializes exclusively in that area of law, are self-evidently a professionally satisfying bit of news.  If the OPM Disability approval occurs at the initial stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process, all the better; it means that everything was properly prepared and executed. 

Disapprovals, of course, constitute a temporary setback.  It is a disappointment.  Professionally, it means that the Office of Personnel Management found something wanting; it may not be substantive; it may be as simple as the OPM Representative being in a bad mood on a given day. At the same time, it is a challenge for the Attorney — a time to redouble one’s efforts, discern what is needed to win at the Reconsideration Stage, and win the full confidence of the client.  Winning a case only lasts for the day of the win.  Every attorney worth his or her salt wants to win every case. 

Watching the Olympics during these couple of weeks, it is interesting to see how “winning” is an inherently human desire.  But as with everything in life, it is not just winning; it is how one wins.  Watching each athlete conduct him or herself, it is interesting to observe how there are “winners for the moment”, and “winners in a greater-context-of-life”.  This is not to even discuss the “losers” — or those who believed they should have gotten a gold medal, but instead had to “settle” for silver or bronze.  How one loses at anything in life —  a sporting event, a contest, competition, or a legal case — and how one responds to the “loss”, is what is important.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Approaches & Decisions

With each case, a story must be told.  If the case gets denied, normally my approach is not so much that a “narrative” must be retold, but rather, I tend to view the Reconsideration Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement application process more as the “battle” to set the proper stage — to either win at the Reconsideration Stage, or to win at the Merit Systems Protection Board stage.  What is interesting is that, within the three stages of the process (excluding the appellate stages of the Full Board Review and the appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals), the need to tell a coherent, empathetic, sympathetic and compelling story of a dedicated and loyal Federal employee who suffers from a medical condition such that it impacts him or her from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, comes “full circle”. 

I approach the “Reconsideration Stage” of the Federal Disability Retirement process under FERS & CSRS as the “center point” of battle, in many ways, precisely because it is the step just before taking it before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  It is the place to give the Office of Personnel Management a subtle warning:  This is your last chance before the destiny of the Disability Retirement Application is taken completely out of your hands and control, and placed into the hands of an Administrative Judge.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire