Federal Disability Retirement: Options

Often, in life, we believe that others walk around with esoteric knowledge unavailable and unreleased; it is considered from the viewpoint of what is, in philosophy, identified as an “epistemological privilege” — that as others have private thoughts which are inaccessible to us, so there must be a vast array of knowledge similarly situated.

Experience teaches us to become suspicious of others, as somehow the inner workings of power and wealth tend to bypass most of us, and the list of uninvited guests to cocktail parties reserved exclusively for the select few parallel a privileged club of partisan divides.  But the truism of life’s encounters also unleashes another candid tautology:  most things are quite self-evident, and Ockham’s razor is the general principle of prevailing determinism.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are puzzled, dismayed, confused and confined by a lack of awareness concerning one’s options when a medical condition begins to impact one’s ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, information gathering should always be the first step in the process.

Perhaps conundrums will still arise, or confusion may develop resulting from a compounding aggregate of “too much” information “out there”.  Further investigation may be warranted; but in the end, most Federal and Postal employees realize that the options are limited, and the choices relatively uncomplicated.

Federal Disability Retirement remains a preferred option for many, filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, over OWCP-based claims (because Worker’s Comp is not a retirement system, ultimately); beyond staying with the job (because it will normally turn out that doing nothing will only make the situation worse, in most instances); or expecting an accommodation or reassignment (not likely to happen, as agencies and the U.S. Postal Service rarely look out for the best interests of the Federal or Postal worker first).

In the end, options depend upon knowledge; for, as the corner ice cream shop of yesteryear had but two flavors, vanilla and chocolate, so the modern-day chain sensation may tout 50 or more; but we tend to always come back to the basics, where we find that multiplicity of additives does not make for real alternatives in life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: OPM’s Standard of Proof

In reviewing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the mandate of burden is determined both by statute and regulation, and the Merit Systems Protection Board reiterates the burden of proof in each of its decisions — that of proving one’s case by a “Preponderance of the Evidence“.  

This is a relatively low standard of proof — of showing that one is eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS based upon a showing that, with all of the evidence considered, it is more likely than not that the Federal or Postal employee has shown that he or she cannot perform, because of one or more medical conditions, one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  

There is often a question as to whether this same standard of evidentiary showing applies to the Office of Personnel Management, and this question is posed because of the statements made in many of the denial letters (which then prompts a necessary request for Reconsideration, or an administrative appeal to the 2nd Stage of the process; or, if denied at the 2nd Stage — the Reconsideration Stage — then an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board) issued by the Office of Personnel Management, to wit:  The evidence you submitted did not show a “compelling” reason why you could not…; The medical evidence did not show that you had to be “excluded from the workplace completely”; and other statements which seems to require a higher showing than that of “preponderance of the evidence“. 

OPM is supposed to follow the same standard of proof — that of preponderance of the evidence.  Sometimes, they need to be reminded of it.  

However, inasmuch as the safety mechanism for review of an improper standard is an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, such a reminder often must take the form of an appeal.  Without the appeal basis, the Office of Personnel Management can ignore the relevant statutory burden of proof.  But then, that would not be the first time that an agency acted in a non-compliant manner.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire