CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: A Word about Approvals

It is the general policy of the Office of Personnel Management to withhold releasing of information concerning a pending Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, via telephone.  

This is a good policy, in that a potential conflict and mistake can occur between an action taken on a case (i.e., an approval or a denial) and what is inputted into the computer system; or, as has been the case in the past, where the secretary or receptionist divulges the decision over the telephone — and is mistaken.  

Generally, one must wait for the Office of Personnel Management to send the hard copy of the decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Receipt of the actually letter of approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management, constitutes the official notification of the decision on a pending Federal Disability Retirement application.  If the Federal or Postal employee’s representative or attorney receives the decision of approval or denial from the Office of Personnel Management, that also constitutes official notification.  

The problem of telephone notification of an approval is that, if what is told over the telephone differs from the actual notification and decision rendered by the Claims Representative who is handling the case, then obviously that would be an upsetting matter to the Federal or Postal employee who is anxiously awaiting the decision.  

For the Federal or Postal employee who has waited many, many months for a decision on a pending Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management, waiting a few more days in order to receive the actual approval letter (or a denial letter, whichever the case may be) is well worth the wait.  

It is better to wait a few more days to get the decision in person.  As the old adage goes, “A bird in hand is worth two in the bushes”…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Time, Expectation & Patience

Time is the basis and essence of frustration.  Often, in becoming involved in the administrative process and procedure of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the “time factor” is the part which concerns the Federal or Postal employee most.  

During the initial stages of the process, where a certain level of activity is experienced — of requesting the medical documentation and narrative reports from the doctors; of formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A); of submitting the preliminary application through the Agency (or, if separated from Federal Service for more than 31 days, to file it directly with the Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA); and then receiving a CSA Number from the Office of Personnel Management, then…the wait.  Activity is the fodder which satisfies time; frustration with time is the chasm between expectation and reality; where there is inactivity, waiting without a specified end in sight is what frustrates most individuals. With the Office of Personnel Management, the greatest difficulty is now in gauging that “end-point”, because OPM continually falls behind in their estimate of time for decision-making.  

The process is a frustrating one; inactivity without an end only exponentially magnifies such frustration.  Ultimately, however, there is no other choice but to wait; for the Office of Personnel Management is the singular arbiter of the decision-making process in Federal Disability Retirement claims.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Added Stresses

It is a long, bureaucratic process.  Such is the state of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the Office of Personnel Management.  The funny thing about stress is that we all recognize that we are the “gatekeepers” of stress, to a great extent.  Unless a catastrophic external force is about to immediately impact our lives, the majority of stressful issues invade the essence of our conscious world only when we allow it in, and to that extent, the old adage of “ignorance is bliss” is a simplistic, but profoundly uncomplicated truism.  

Federal and Postal workers who are constantly being criticized and bombarded with the stresses of completing their daily positional duties, and now under greater stress because of the economic and political megaphonic voices shouting about the excesses of benefits for Federal and Postal employees; that, combined with the daily criticism that Federal and Postal employees constitute waste, fraud and overcompensation; that they receive excessive benefits, and undeservedly so; and, additionally, when one is medically disabled and in need of Federal Disability Retirement benefits, to be forced to wait for longer periods of time because of the bureaucratic backlog of Federal Disability Retirement cases at the Office of Personnel Management — this is, indeed, a time of stress, whether through activity or the enormous stress of inactivity.  

Waiting is a stressful activity; don’t think that inactivity is merely the art of doing nothing; if it impacts one’s conscious state, it is a stressful time.  But patience is a virtue precisely because it is one of the ultimate tests — and the conundrum is this:  to deal effectively with the stress of inactivity, it is sometimes best to engage in an alternate form of activity, whether mental or physical, such that the activity will satisfy the emotional needs of the individual.  

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a long and arduous process, whether defined by activity or inactivity, and how best to deal with the stress of the latter is often defined by the character of the former.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Long, often Frustrating Road to a Decision

It is indeed taking an inordinate amount of time in receiving a decision from the Office of Personnel Management, for a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

The problem which has been identified by various personnel at the Office of Personnel Management is that there has been a steady backlog of cases resulting from various factors, including personnel attrition through retirement, transfers, etc., without an adequate rate of substitution or replacement.

This is obviously of great frustration and concern to all Federal and Postal employees who are awaiting a decision from the Office of Personnel Management on his or her Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, but ultimately it must be accepted as part of the bureaucratic, administrative process of filing for a benefit.  

Each of the Claims Representatives at the Office of Personnel Management, when contacted, are clearly attempting to get through their case-loads, but they must review, evaluate and apply a set of criteria in making a determination on each case.  

A denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application only sets back the case further, because it then is transferred to the Reconsideration Section of the administrative process, and is reviewed anew (assuming that the Federal or Postal employee files a Request for Reconsideration within the 30-day timeframe) by a different OPM Representative.  

Frustration is a part of any and every bureaucratic, administrative process; waiting is part of that process; patience is the virtue which must be retained; and recognizing from the outset that exponential multiplication of the waiting period is the best mathematical calculus to estimate the average waiting time, then to attempt to remain productive and busy during such time, is the best (and only) approach to the long and often frustrating road to a successful outcome in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: OPM, Patience & Frustration

After one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS has left one’s agency (or, in the case of a Federal or Postal employee who has been separated from Federal Service for more than thirty one (31) days, filed directly to the Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA), it then goes to Boyers, PA for the intake processing part of the process.  

Thereafter, a CSA Number (if one is under FERS, the 7-digit number will begin with an “8”, and under CSRS it will begin with a “4”, with the eighth and somewhat irrelevant digit being a “0”), which is the case identifier for all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications, is assigned in order to be able to easily reference a case for purposes of discussion, adding or supplementing additional information, checking on the status, etc.  

Once it arrives in Washington, D.C., then the “real” waiting part of the process begins — first, waiting for it to get “assigned” to a Case Worker in the OPM Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division; then, once assigned, to have OPM review it.  Sometimes, a piece of information is found lacking or missing, and a letter apprising the Federal or Postal employee of such lack is sent out, allowing for the Federal or Postal employee to obtain such information within thirty (30) days of the date of the letter.  

OPM’s general policy is to try and make a decision on a case within 90 – 120 days of a case being assigned to a Case Worker, but that timeline is a malleable one.  One can easily add another 30 – 60 days to that block of time. What occurs during this block of time?  It is a mystery, remains a mystery, and retains the aura of secrecy and mystery.  

As frustration is the flip-side of the virtue of patience, as an emotional expression, it has little benefit or worth to the human soul.  Expression of frustration should be accomplished in constructive ways, and calling OPM in an angry outburst is not considered one of them.  Constrain the frustration; exhibit the virtue of patience; understand that time is a projection of an expectation of hope in one’s mind, quantified exponentially in a mire of frustration when one does not occupy the void and vacuity of time with other things to do.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Resisting the Urge to Panic

The process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is merely the first step in the long road to proving one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

“Merely” and “first step”, of course, are conceptual triggers which have an expanded context for those who have been engaged in the informational infinity of articles, blogs, postings, etc., which are voluminous in quantity, and often questionable in qualitative reliability.  Putting together all of the medical documentation; formulating the nexus between the medical documentation and one’s position description; securing the support of one’s treating doctor; being persuasive and adequately descriptive in one’s applicant’s statement of disability — all of these are necessary steps before the actual filing of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Then, there is the long waiting process.  Thereafter, with the potential for a denial at the First Stage of the process, and a subsequent denial — at the Reconsideration Stage of the process — then preparing for an Administrative Hearing before a Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board:  throughout it all, the urge to panic must be resisted.  

During the long and arduous waiting periods between a denial and the response to be submitted (or even sometimes between an approval and the beginning of interim pay; or between the receipt of interim pay and the finalization of one’s case), there is the looming financial pressure from not having sufficient income during such periods.  Those Federal and Postal workers who have prepared well and have the financial resources to endure the long period of non-pay status are fortunate.  Combining the difficulties of having a serious medical condition with the pressure of finances, the urge to panic is almost unavoidable.  

Ultimately, however, panic will not resolve the issue; the focus must be singularly placed upon attempting to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is entitled and eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and whatever one’s circumstances, the future rests upon one’s ability to focus upon that goal.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Don’t Count Your Chickens …

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is — as has been previously stated ad nauseum in the past — a process which, once completed and filed, requires the enduring virtue of patience.  

During the waiting period, it is natural for the Federal or Postal employee to experience the anxiety and angst of awaiting the decision from the Office of Personnel Management.  Whether continuing to work in a limited, light duty capacity; remaining and waiting it out on LWOP; using up all of one’s accrued sick leave; working at a temporary assignment; or working a job in the private sector to make ends meet; whatever one’s status, there is little one can do during the long waiting period with OPM.  

Calling them will not necessarily evoke a helpful response, but calling just to “check on the status” will often calm one’s fears and anxieties, exacerbated over time because of the sense of isolation and disquietude created by the wasteland period of waiting.  

One rule to follow, however:  when contacting the Office of Personnel Management, it is best not to try and “gauge” the response of the reviewing “specialist” or “Claims Representative” (or whatever other euphemism of self-identity the person may ascribe to), whether in tone, words or verbal references.  Whether an initial denial or an approval, the status of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application should be ascertained only upon the receipt, in hand, of the actual decision.  

Don’t count those chickens before they hatch.  Indeed, don’t even count the eggs; wait until the receipt in hand of the documentary evidence showing an approval or a denial.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Cycle of Patience

It is a common element, now, in a Federal Disability Retirement case to require patience in surviving the bureaucratic process, and while recognizing the cycle of the process does not make it any easier, understanding the entirety of the process can help one to prepare.  

There is initially the preparatory process, which is almost exclusively within the purview of one’s control — of preparing and formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A); of obtaining the proper medical narratives and documentation (although, here, the time frame is obviously dependent upon the availability of the treating doctor to prepare the narrative reports) and any introduction of legal argumentation in support of the Federal Disability Retirement packet, etc.

Then, submission to the Agency takes it partially out of the control of the individual Federal or Postal applicant — although, because of the obvious employment connection to the Agency, the Federal or Postal employee can often make phone calls or other contact to attempt to persuade the expediting of the secondary bureaucratic process.  

Once it leaves the Agency Human Resources Department, or the greater Civilian Personnel Office, then it is out of the hands and control of the Federal or Postal employee entirely, and must wind itself through the bureaucratic maze and morass of the National Finance Office and the Office of Personnel Management.  OPM, like any other agency, is subject to seasonal delays based upon Federal workers who take vacations and time off — Christmas, New Years, Easter, and Memorial Day weekend/week, and throughout the months of June, July and August.  A week’s delay in a Case Worker’s assigned cases can exponentially quantify the delay-time, because upon return of the worker, there are other administrative functions which must be attended to which further compounds the ability to take up where he or she left off.  

Patience is a virtue; as such, Federal and Postal Workers must be the most virtuous of human beings.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Simplicity of the Process

In becoming deeply involved in the morass of the bureaucratic process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS and CSRS, it is often easy to become frustrated with the inherent complexity of the process.  

Because of the multi-faceted complexities of the administrative process (e.g., obtaining the proper format and language in a medical narrative report in order to meet the legal criteria for eligibility; creating and nexus between the essential elements of one’s position in the Federal Service with the symptomatologies of the interaction between the medical conditions and the essential elements; understanding and applying the various statutory authorities and legal precedents which have evolved over many years; of preempting — if necessary — statements by the Agency or the Supervisor; and multiple other issues to be addressed concurrently), it can be frustrating for an injured or disabled Federal or Postal employee to attempt to pull all of the intricate strings together into a singular yarn of coherency and succinct presentation of a narrative form.  

Such is the time to remind one’s self of the simplicity of the process — of the 3-part essence of a Federal Disability Retirement application which will ultimately be a paper-presentation to the Office of Personnel Management.  First, the medical narrative must be simple but concise, and must provide a proper bridge between the medical condition and why a Federal or Postal employee is unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Second, one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability must be consistent with the medical narrative reports — neither understated nor exaggerated, and guided by truth. And third, it is important to understand and apply the legal precedents, and use the law as what it is intended for — a tool for both a shield and a sword.  In life’s complexities, it is important to maintain a paradigm of simplicity.  Unfortunately, it is often the simplest forms which constitute the height of complexity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Entrenchment

Once a Federal Disability Retirement application has been formulated, prepared, streamlined and filed though one’s Agency (or, if separated from one’s agency for more than 31 days, then directly with the Office of Personnel Management), then there begins to exist a sense of “trench warfare” — of waiting, and waiting.  

In response, there is always the frustration of waiting; however, the better course of action is to actively embrace the entrenchment, and to engage in productive actions — of either working as much as possible at the job from which one has filed for Federal Disability Retirement; or to find another, part-time work which can supplement the lack of income during the process.

Entrenchment can be a frustrating time, precisely because it makes one feel as if no progress is being made.  Yet, as waiting is part of the process of filing for, and becoming approved for, Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the art of trench warfare, and the acceptance of entrenchment, in awaiting the decision from the Office of Personnel Management, is the most productive course of action.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire