Misnomers and the OPM’s Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division

The problem with misnomers is not just the inaccuracy of designation which is either explicitly or implicitly conveyed, but the unintended consequences of the string of reactions and responses which can occur as a result thereof.  Sometimes, interpretive mistakes occur purely on a subjective basis; in which case it is not truly a case of a misnomer, but rather merely the misunderstanding by the recipient of the information.  Other times, a word or designation can be open to multiple meanings, where reasonable people can differ on the inferences to be made.

For Federal and Postal employees who have filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal Service employee is under FERS or CSRS (such acronyms have specific, esoteric meanings only to Federal or Postal employees, and as such, cannot constitute an objective misnomer, but rather a potentially subjective one), the complexity of the administrative and bureaucratic process can result in the failure to recognize and properly respond to various misnomers throughout the process.

For example, when a Federal Disability Retirement case is assigned to an Administrative Specialist at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and one receives a letter informing the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant that X is further needed — the identification of the OPM Representative that he or she is from the “Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division” is both confusing and a misnomer.

For, the recipient of the letter (and just to receive any correspondence from OPM other than an approval letter or a denial letter is an amazing fact in and of itself) can well infer from the designation that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application has already been denied without notification (i.e., because it is in the “Reconsideration & Appeals Division”). In fact, all cases fall under the aegis of “Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals” section of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Misnomers may be unintended. It is the recipient and the responder who must, unfortunately, live with the consequences.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Guiding Sense of Direction

Global Positioning Systems are widely relied upon these days.  In conversations, there is never anymore an effort to recollect, whether of an old movie, a struggling synonym, or a name on the “tip of the tongue’ — for one only needs to whip out the smart phone, do a quick search, and the delicious exertion of an extended discourse greets the cessation of social interaction with silence. But one’s hand-held GPS merely gets the individual from point A to point B; it does not provide a wider perspective of one’s place in the greater world.

In the old days, the social interaction of spreading out a map before taking an extended trip was a requirement, unless of course one wanted to foolishly brave the winding roads of unfamiliar territory with the declared intention of undertaking an adventure of sorts. It was the mental exercise of figuring out the confusing grid system, of marking and remembering various routes, which taught one about the smallness of one’s being within the greater context of the world.

And in a similar vein, the pleasure of struggling to remember the name of something once known, but now locked in fuzzy storages in the dusty bookshelves of past memories, is now replaced by expediency and wasted efforts. Making decisions of important issues is somewhat akin to using a GPS or searching for information on the internet.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s job, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, is a decision somewhat akin to using a GPS or searching on the internet.

For, in the end, it is not just a matter of traveling to a different point from one’s departure-point; it is important to have a wider perspective on all of the legal issues involved, the impact for future courses of decision-making, and the proper deciphering of the complex grid which characterizes a Federal Disability Retirement application. One can always push a button and go through the motions; or, one can have a deeper understanding by expending a little more effort in any given endeavor.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is too important an avenue to undertake, to leave it to chance, or to declare that it is an adventure of sorts. It is likely necessary that one may have to resort to figuring out the complex grid of the administrative process, and in most cases, that will require the guidance of a map greater than a simple directional device.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Employee Medical Retirement: The Intersection of Interests

Throughout one’s life, most Americans have minimal contact with governmental bureaucracies and agencies, except to comply with Selective Service requirements, join the military, file tax returns, claim Social Security benefits in older age, etc. Such encounters are often considered bothersome, and many grumble and complain about the intrusive nature of such dealings. What is often not perceived, of course, is the vast amount of indirect statutory and administrative requirements placed upon private entities, which then shift burdens upon the private citizen, unbeknownst to the person entering the store, bank, etc.

For the Federal and Postal Worker, however, the daily bureaucratic encounters are part of one’s life. The Federal and Postal employee is part of that administrative process which impacts the private sector of the economy; they are, in essence, the “insiders” who make the mechanisms of government tick. As such, the Federal and Postal Worker often has little idea how the “private” individual views such inner workings, until he or she becomes just like the “outsider” and encounters a Federal bureaucracy in the same shoes as the private individual.

When the Federal or Postal employee finds it necessary to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, such a clash and intersection of interests suddenly takes on a new perspective. In one fell swoop, the Federal and Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits becomes both an “insider” as well as an “outsider” — the former, because he or she is still part of the Federal agency or Postal Service; the latter, because such dealings must ultimately be with an independent agency identified as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Such intersection of interests often becomes befuddling; for, no longer is the encounter embracing the administrative and bureaucratic work to which one is accustomed; rather, it is to stand in line like other private citizens to file a claim for benefits.

Such a state of being, for the Federal and Postal Worker, can be likened to the deceased individual caught in Purgatory; and, indeed, perhaps some sins unknown and not atoned for, have been placed upon such Federal and Postal employees to have to encounter OPM in such a state. Whatever the reasons, such an encounter can be just as much of an eye-opener to the Federal and Postal employee, as a private citizen who encounters the complex bureaucracy of the Federal government for the first time in his or her life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Some Basics

Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an administrative process which one must undergo if a Federal or Postal employee is medically unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s position.

It is a benefit which is accessible only if proven; and proof must meet the legal standard of “preponderance of the evidence“, through a tripartite methodology:  Evidence of the existence of a medical condition; the nexus of that medical condition impacting upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; and that such a medical condition(s) cannot be legally accommodated by the agency such that the Federal or Postal employee can perform all of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job.

While the Federal or Postal employee has up until one (1) year from the date of separation from Federal Service to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the proof of when the nexus formed between one’s medical condition and the impact upon the position of one’s Federal Service, must have occurred during the Federal Service.

These are just some basics of Federal Disability Retirement law; the complexity, of course, resides in the details, and it is always the details which provide the fodder for an OPM denial.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Misinformation

The problem with a society which provides unlimited information is that the traditional controls and mechanisms known for verification and validation of accuracy become diluted or altogether abandoned.  Plagiarism has become a pervasive problem; as vastness of information exponentially explodes, so the chances of being identified for unauthorized copying becomes infinitely lesser, while those who “play the odds” increase in boldness and in sheer volume.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is a procedural requirement that — sometime during the process of filing with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) — the Federal or Postal employee must show that he or she has filed for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) with the Social Security Administration.  But it is the “when” which have become enveloped within a convoluted complexity of misinformation.

Various Human Resource Offices are insisting (in error) that SSDI must be filed before an application to OPM can be submitted.  Such misinformation may preclude a Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement to meet the 1-year Statute of Limitations in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits (after separation from Federal Service), or for other Federal or Postal employees who are still employed, if only because the process of SSDI can be an equally, if not more so, of a daunting administrative process as filing for Federal Disability Retirement.  Further, in attempting to file online for SSDI, there is the question as to whether one is still employed, and if so, SSDI will not allow the online applicant to proceed any further, precisely because such an applicant would be immediately disqualified, anyway.

The fact and correct information is as follows:  At some point in the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal or Postal employee needs to file for SSDI, and show OPM proof of such filing.  From OPM’s perspective, upon an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application, they need to make sure that the Federal or Postal Retirement annuitant is or is not eligible for SSDI, for offset-provisions of benefits between SSDI and FERS.  Thus, it is ultimately merely a payment/compensation issue.  Filing for SSDI is not in reality a prerequisite for filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, but merely a check upon a coordination of payment benefits if both are approved.

In this vast universe of information, one must expect a correlative dissemination of misinformation; like the black hole in the greater universe of thriving galaxies and dying planetary systems, one can be sucked into the void of ignorance and suffer irreparable consequences as a result.  That is why Captain Kirk needed to be periodically beamed up — if only to make sure that the molecular reconstitution was properly performed in order to continue on in life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Process

The engagement of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a “process” both on a macro as well as a micro level.

On a macro level, the ability to consolidate the variety and complexity of information; of understanding that there are multiple levels in the administrative labyrinth of a Federal Disability Retirement application, beginning with the initial stage of the process; then, if denied, the Second, or Reconsideration Stage of the process; then, if denied a second time, an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board; then a potential filing of a Petition for Full Review; and, finally, an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; all told, the aggregate of all of the procedural hurdles can be characterized as a “process”, precisely because of the complexity of each stage building upon the previous one.

On a micro level, it is similarly a process, but in a different sense.  The “pieces of the puzzle” must be gathered, and the best way to do so is in a methodologically sequential manner, one which reflects a logical structure, as opposed to a haphazard compilation of facts, tidbits, arguments and rants strung together into a barely coherent whole.

Remember that putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application must reflect an argument with a purpose — of proving one’s case by a preponderance of the evidence.  As such, understanding the “process” of such an endeavor is important in the very preparation of one’s case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Information

Information is plentiful in this age of technology and the Internet.  But always remember that information is distinctly different from knowledge and truth.  A plethora of information does not necessarily constitute true, verifiable, useful, or accurate knowledge.  With all of the information “out there”, how does one verify the information?  

Further, with respect to filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, how does one discern correct and accurate information from information which, if used or relied upon, can actually result in a detriment?  One way is to spend some time reading and sifting through various sources of information; comparing the information; and further, seeing whether one can discover the underlying motivation or purpose of the source of the information.  Further, in seeking legal advice in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, remember that you must ultimately make the determination as to competency,reliability, and capabilities.  Obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits is an important step in one’s life; finding the right information, and the right source of information, is an important first step in the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire