Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Timing the Legal Tools

In any administrative procedure, the use of legal tools and citations may be of limited efficacy for the process itself; it is, however, building a foundation for future application, and to that extent it provides a fair warning to the agency.

Inasmuch as any portion of obtaining an entitlement or meeting an eligibility requirement engages the applicant with a faceless bureaucracy — and one which recognizably is filled with non-lawyers, clerks, etc. — there is always the question as to why an attorney is necessary at the administrative level of adjudication.

The reason is simple:  the non-lawyer governmental worker, while perhaps not fully appreciative of the legal citations which may be argued in a particular case, is nevertheless aware of the consequences of failing to acknowledge the validity of such references.  Being audited and finding that a particular case worker has a high percentage of cases denied, then reversed on an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, has an impact upon the agency worker.

Furthermore, building a foundation for future reference before an Administrative Judge — where the Judge turns to the agency’s representative and asks, “Well, how about Case X, which has already been cited by the Appellant?” — can be quite effective and often short-cuts the entire process.

For Federal and Postal Workers who are attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the effective use of legal tools and citations is crucial at all levels — if only to warn OPM of the consequences of having to go before an MSPB Judge for further adjudication of the case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Legal Standard & Persuasion

There is a distinction between the existence of a legal standard and the citing of such legal standard — to include statutory references, case-law citations, etc. — and the art of persuasion.  In reviewing Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications which have been previously prepared, formulated and submitted by unrepresented Federal and Postal employees, which have been denied, it is often refreshing to see how laymen (i.e., “non-lawyers”) have utilized cases and case-law citations (often straight from some of my articles and blogs) in arguing his or her case. 

The problem with such an approach, however, is that the unrepresented Federal or Postal employee will often refer to such legal standards without engaging in the necessary art of persuasion.  Legal standards are certainly there to be used; however, there is a proper way and methodology of utilizing legal standards, and an improper way.  The improper way is to use the legal standard as a hammer — of stating:  X exists and states Y, therefore you must conclude Z.  The proper methodology in utilizing a legal standard is to engage in the art of persuasion:  X exists, and X determines why Y must come about, and therefore Z should be the logical conclusion, and here are the reasons why. 

Normally, I advise against non-lawyers using the law precisely because of the potential mis-application of the methodology.  Leave the law to lawyers; that is why lawyers are hired.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Objectivity & Legal Arguments

Having written about the importance of maintaining a level of objectivity in preparing, formulating and submitting a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, and further, about the necessary component of a legal argument and references to prior legal citations, it is of note that the two intersect in significant ways.  Because the law, statutes, cases, etc., are intended to apply to everyone, it is meant to be a ‘universal principle’.  Whether one agrees with the law or not is beside the point, and ultimately irrelevant.  

Further, one must make a distinction between using the law as either a shield or a sword, and for a Federal or Postal employee who is considering citing the legal precedents in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is important to utilize the law, case-law and statutes as a ‘sword’ in order to persuade the Office of Personnel Management to approve your case.  

The two together — of maintaining a level of objectivity in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application by focusing upon the medical reports & records; citing case-law and legal precedents to argue one’s case in an affirmative manner — form a powerful and compelling basis in any Federal Disability Retirement application.  The intersection between the two — objectivity and legal arguments — direct the tone, tenor, and foundation of any Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Legal Arguments

Legal precedents are a necessary part of any process, and this is no less true when filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.  Some argue that legal citations and references to legal precedents are less important at the Initial Stage of the process, but such a viewpoint ignores the fact that preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a “process” — not merely a one-time filing.  

Indeed, the distinction is important to note, because that is precisely why the entire administrative procedure of having an Initial Stage, a Reconsideration Stage, then an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, then further appeals, is available for all Federal and Postal employees.  As a “process”, while each stage is considered in a “de novo” fashion (meaning, looked at “anew” without consideration of the prior decision), the legal precedents and citations which one refers to in order to establish one’s eligibility and entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS provide the foundational justification, no matter what stage of the process one is at.  

Thus, a legal citation argued for at the Initial Stage is valid for the Reconsideration Stage; a precedential legal reference made and argued at the Reconsideration Stage is valid for the MSPB, and so on.  As such, legal arguments provide for a continuum of arguing for one’s entitlement to a benefit which the Office of Personnel Management must justify in any denial it renders.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The MSPB

The Merit Systems Protection Board (better known by its acronym, the “MSPB”) is the third stage of the administrative process in attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  By this Stage, while the Office of Personnel Management has been both the “judge and jury” for determining one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the case is then handed over to an Administrative Judge to be the arbiter of such determination.

While it is advisable for a Federal or Postal Worker to obtain a FERS/CSRS Disability Attorney from the start of the administrative process, it is of even greater importance to consider obtaining proper legal representation before proceeding down the path of the MSPB.  This statement of advising any Federal or Postal employee to obtain proper representation at the MSPB is made for several reasons, not the least of which includes the following:  The MSPB is the last “stage” of the process in which a Federal or Postal employee who is seeking to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits may submit evidence in order to prove one’s case (with some special exceptions); any basis for an appeal, upon the chance that the Administrative Judge rules against you, must be established during the Hearing of the case at this stage; and since this stage is the arena of “the law”, it is important to be familiar with the most recent case-laws which govern Federal Disability Retirement.  The MSPB is not a place to feel one’s way through; it is the playground where the “grown-ups” play.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Argument, Persuasion & Logic

Filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, either by a Postal employee or a non-Postal, Federal employee, is an administrative process which “requests” that a certain benefit be paid by the Federal Government.  In order to be approved, one must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one has met the eligibility criteria that has been set forth through statute, regulation, and cases which have interpreted those statutes and regulations over the years.  Thus, like any other area of law, there is a large pool of legal issues which have arisen over the years.  Because of this, it is important to understand that a certain amount of argumentation, persuasion, and logical analysis and delineation must occur.  Many people are surprised when, after submitting the “paperwork” and attaching some medical documents to the application, that the Office of Personnel Management would deny the applicant’s submission, saying with surprise, “I thought it would be easy”.  In any area of law, administrative or otherwise, where the pool of issues has grown over many decades, there must be a level of argument, persuasion and logic which must be engaged.  The legal arena for being approved in a Federal Disability Retirement case for those under FERS or CSRS is no different.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire