OPM Disability Retirement: Burden of Proof

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, a considerable amount of effort goes into anticipating any objections which may be encountered by the Office of Personnel Management, and to “preempt” such anticipatory objections by addressing them at the outset.

A proper balance must be maintained in engaging in such preemptive accounting, because one does not want to address the issues which would unnecessarily create a “red flag”, yet at the same time, discussing and explaining reasonable areas of potential concern should be a part of any Federal Disability Retirement application.

The problems always arise because it is the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits who has the affirmative burden of proving one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The Federal or Postal employee must, by a preponderance of the evidence, prove his or her “burden of proof” affirmatively.

Conversely, the Office of Personnel Management has the authority to review, criticize, analyze, and ultimately approve or deny a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  They can merely sit back and take pot shots at an application, point out that this particular legal criteria was not “sufficiently met”, or simply make a generic statement that the medical evidence did not present a “compelling enough” case (what in the world could such a generalized non-statement possible mean?).

Yet, one must play the language game, and play it well, and the best way to play it is to attempt to preempt and anticipate OPM’s potential objections, and to meet one’s burden of proof by jumping ahead, and predicting how an OPM Representative might view the Federal Disability Retirement application that is being prepared.  Predicting the future is always a tenuous endeavor; nevertheless, one must engage the potential pitfalls, and anticipate the actions of the Office of Personnel Management, if one is going to be successful.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Responding to OPM

As different Stages in the process of preparing, formulating, and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits require a different response, so there is a reason why it is important to recognize and understand the procedural differences and distinctions between each stage.

Each stage in the entirety of the process is not just a difference of departments — of different “sections” of the Office of Personnel Management reviewing the Federal Disability Retirement application based upon the identical paradigm of review.  Yes, the first two stages of the process (the “Initial Stage” of the application, then the “Reconsideration Stage” of the process) involves the same agency (the Office of Personnel Management), but the underlying reviewing needs of the distinct departments are identifiably different).  

That is why it is important to understanding the underlying procedural requirements, thereby gaining an insight into the substantive needs and requests of the separate departments.  Thus, at the initial stage of the application, a Federal or Postal employee is attempting to meet, by a preponderance of the evidence, all of the criteria necessary in obtaining a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  

If it is denied at the First Stage, then the Office of Personnel Management will normally indicate the deficiencies they have “discovered” in the application.  Whether true or not, whether right or wrong, it is often necessary to address — at least in part — some of the issues brought up by the initial denial.  

Then, of course, if it is denied a second time and one must file an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, a response for the Third Stage of the process will require another, completely different set of responses.  Paradigm shifts occur not only in science; they occur in the administrative procedures of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire