Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Watchful Eyes

The falcon flies in our midst; with an unknown distance of its perimeter to prey, it suddenly appears, perched with watchful eyes for squirrels, rabbits, other birds, etc.  Its flight is silent and graceful, and long before people realize its presence, the silence and sudden muteness of wildlife activity reveals the fear imposed by its mere appearance.  It flies silently, swiftly, and with a grace which demands awe and respect.  From its high vantage point, the targeted prey below rarely stands a fair chance of avoidance.  Those eyes are focused, with a singular vision operating to corner, catch and consume.  Organisms under a microscope must feel a similar sense, if indeed they become aware of being studied and prodded.

People, too, who are being surveilled and inspected; there is often a sixth sense of being constantly and vigilantly watched.  Federal and Postal Workers who are under the onerous burden of a Performance Improvement Plan (the acronym of a “PIP”) have that same sense.  It is not a positive or productive feeling; it is, instead, a dread of knowing that the “watching” part is merely a prelude for further actions forthcoming, like the noiseless glide of the hawk above.

Being under the constant gaze of a predator often requires preventative action on the part of the prey; for Federal and Postal Workers who come to recognize that his or her job performance is deteriorating because of a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management may be the best option and course of action to take.  Because it is taking such a long time to get an approval these days, preparatory steps should be taken early.  Waiting for a separation from service, while still allowing for time thereafter to file, is normally not the wisest course.

As it is always better to be the “watcher” than the “watched”, so the Federal and Postal employee who needs to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits should take the affirmative steps to prepare for an eventuality — that time when, like the hawk who has made a decision to target its prey, the Federal or Postal Worker has a place of refuge to enter.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Details Determine the Path of Success

One is often asked concerning the steps to be taken in order to formulate a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.  Whether under FERS or CSRS, all such Federal Disability Retirement applications will ultimately be reviewed and critically analyzed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, to be determined as to whether such an application meets the legal standards for eligibility and entitlement under the statutes, regulations and case-laws governing Federal Disability Retirement.

As with all things in life, the path which one undertakes in an endeavor of this nature — the logistical “steps” that must be completed — will depend largely upon the particular facts of each case.  Yes, the general outline is somewhat identical for each; and, yes, the character and kind of evidence to be compiled may be similar.  But it is the uniqueness of the particular set of facts, for each Federal Disability Retirement application, which determines the type, extent and quality of a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.

Thus, to take an extreme example:  A Letter Carrier for the U.S. Postal Service who suffers a horrendous accident and becomes paralyzed, will not need much more than the emergency room and hospitalization records, and perhaps — and this is a “big” perhaps — a short (couple of sentences) statement from a doctor.

On the other hand, an IT Specialist working for a Federal agency who suffers extreme stress, will require a comprehensive medical report which details specific reasons as to the impact upon the positional requirements of his or her job.

As with almost everything in this complex compilation of sensory perceptions we identify as “life”, the details of a particular endeavor and encounter with a Federal Agency will determine the pathway to success; details matter, and 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 precisely the details which determine which devil will rear its ugly head, and how to avoid such devilish encounters.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Social Media

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it has often been reiterated and emphasized by this writer that one should prepare each and every case as if it will inevitably take all of the stages of the administrative process in order to obtain an approval from OPM.

What counter-evidence is used, to what extent, how it is used, and whether it is used, is anyone’s guess.  It is certainly unquestionably the case that OPM workers at each stage of the process are overworked; nevertheless — whether at the initial stage of review, the Second, or “Reconsideration” Stage; or the OPM Case Worker who represents the U.S. Office of Personnel Management before an Administrative Judge at the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board; or perhaps even beyond, to the 3-member full board of the MSPB; and even before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; regardless of which entity or bureaucratic phase, one should assume that all tools and evidentiary avenues will be utilized and investigated, and rightly so.

One such piece of evidence which should be reviewed by the applicant is the information that the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits places on any “social media” page — Facebook, a website page, etc.  For, if one is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and claiming a specific type of medical condition, what one says on Facebook — whether true, untrue, or exaggerated, may well come back to haunt you.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Leverage

The ability to negotiate an advantageous settlement of an issue is dependent not merely upon the possession of leverage, but upon the effective use of that leverage.  Such effective usage would require, first and foremost, a dual presentation:  First, recognition of the value of such leverage, and second, the ability to have the opposing party believe that the value is exponentially exaggerated.  Once these dual components are satisfied, one can be assured that a favorable settlement can be reached.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one often finds that the Federal or Postal employee is involved in multiple facets of collateral litigation or adverse actions with the Agency.  As part of a “global settlement” of legal issues, the agency will inevitably offer the Federal or Postal employee a “disability retirement”.  Yet, the first recognition of order which the Federal or Postal employee must address, is the fact that the agency is not the entity which can grant a Federal Disability Retirement.  Only the U.S. Office of Personnel Management can grant or deny a Federal Disability Retirement application to the Federal or Postal applicant.

Can the support of the agency help?  Yes — if formulated properly.  Be aware, however, as case-law supports OPM’s contention that settlements of collateral issues should not be used as a basis for obtaining the support of an agency in an application for Federal Disability Retirement.  A balancing act must be adopted.  And, as always, Federal Disability Retirement is first and foremost an issue of one’s medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Impact of Collateral Problems & Advice

The problem with not being guided in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is that there are multiple collateral, and often unexpected, issues which come up in the course of preparing and filing for the eventuality, which may or may not impact the central issue of Federal Disability Retirement.

Whether a particular agency’s offer of an given action impacting one’s job can be used by the Office of Personnel Management in denying a Federal Disability Retirement application; whether a particular issue is relevant, significant, or of sufficient applicability to warrant immediate attention or a response, can only be determined by having a handle on the larger context of issues.

Much of disability retirement law and the issues which appear to intersect with the legal criteria for eligibility, are discretionary in nature; some have no impact at all; still others, have sufficient impact and possible reverberations such that they should be addressed in a legally appropriate and sufficient manner.  But the greater issue is whether the Federal or Postal employee should simply operate in the dark and hope that such seemingly collateral issues will not come back to haunt one at a later time.  That is the bliss of ignorance; unfortunately, that which one does not know, can indeed come back to hurt one.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Undisciplined Narrative

‘Discipline’ is a concept which is anathema to the American psyche; for, it is precisely the American character to have unfettered liberty, the ability to “be one’s self”; of self-expressive uniqueness, and to embrace the boldness of the American Dream, as represented by the vast expanse of the American Midwest.

We debate about the constructive use of discipline for our children; complain if the government attempts to discipline our spending habits; and question whether societal constraints should be imposed in our daily lives.  In writing, however, a measure of self-discipline is necessary, if only because the audience for whom one writes will necessarily veto our refusal to discipline one’s writing in a penultimate manner, if we do not:  by refusing to read it.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must discipline the writing of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112D), in multiple respects:  in length; in providing historical background; in careful content selection; in answering the questions asked in a relevant and appropriate manner; in avoiding breaching certain taboo subjects which could defeat a Federal Disability Retirement application; in taking on the tone, tenor and texture of objectivity as opposed to pure emotional appeal, etc.

‘Discipline’ is a dirty word in the American lexicon; but in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application from OPM, it is a necessary clump of dirt which must be sifted, cleansed and appropriately dusted, in order to provide an effective narrative vehicle to have a Federal Disability Retirement application approved by OPM.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire