OPM Medical Retirement under FERS: Consider the Alternatives

In making any decision, it is always important that one consider the alternatives available.  It is the decision made in isolation — of contending with thoughts, fears and misinformation within a vacuum of not knowing — that often results in disastrous decisions made without consulting and considering the alternatives available.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition where that medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the choices are often stark and clear: Stay at a job or career which is no longer sustainable, and where the Agency will increasingly harass and punitively initiate actions in an effort to remove you; resign and walk away with nothing; or, in the best alternative available, file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS.

Sometimes, of course, the “unexpected” alternative can occur: For example, a person who has filed for FERS Disability Retirement benefits is offered a reassignment that is both acceptable and accommodating to one’s medical condition, and continuation in the Federal Workforce is thus possible.  In most instances, however, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is “The” alternative, and the only viable one available, but even such an alternative must be considered carefully in light of the existing laws, the potentiality for problems to be encountered, and the resistance met by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for the multiple and varied reasons that OPM bases its denials upon.

Considering the alternatives is not just a matter of whether and when to file, but to be cognizant of the difficulties ahead in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application with OPM; and in order to do that, you should consult with an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement Law under FERS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: The Hunt for Nirvana

The initial question is: Is there even such a state?  That would, of course, preemptively undermine the very “hunt” for it, precisely because it would be an act of futility.  On the other hand, don’t most of us chase after chimeras of various sorts — whether of fame, wealth, lost loves or repressed daydreams?  So, why not hunt after the paradigm of paragon-like virtues — a state of release, of a transcendent experience devoid of self, suffering and selfish self-centeredness; or, as some might say, of a death-like state in living form.  Many would not even have a desire for such a state.

The amalgamation of we “think” is the state of Nirvana is probably quite different from the actual concept as attained or sought after by those who profess a belief in it.  It is the complete loss of self; of a state where one’s ego no longer exists, and with its disappearance, both sides of the human “coin” are also transcended: pleasure and pain.  One cannot go through life without its opposite and corollary: If you are capable of experiencing pleasure, then you are open to feeling pain, just as the person who can have happiness must by necessity tolerate sadness.  It is, unfortunately, part of being what it means to be “human”, and it is an act of futility if you try and expunge one while attempting to retain the other.  It is simply not possible.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, it is likely time to consult with a FERS Attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement Law.  Preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS is not a hunt for Nirvana; no, not even close.  In fact, it is another bureaucratic morass which can be a pain in the proverbial behind, and is a long and complex administrative process which makes the hunt for Nirvana like a pleasurable vacation in comparison.

Consult with an experienced attorney who specializes and knows about Federal Disability Retirement Law, and leave the hunt for Nirvana to those who like to trek through the Himalayan mountains.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement from the Office of Personnel Management: SF 3112C

As a “government form” it purports to provide guidance in general terms, and it is doubtful that the lack of clarity as to its purpose or utility will assist the medical professional into writing an effective report.

The plain fact is that SF 3112C is a confusing form — confusing both to the doctor or Nurse Practitioner who is presented with it, as well as to the FERS Applicant who is attempting to prepare an effective OPM Disability Retirement application.  It refers to a “position description” being attached, but fails to provide the necessary explanatory nexus between the PD and the medical opinion sought.

What part of the position description should be focused upon?  Is it the entirety of the PD, portions of it, or just the “essential elements”?  Is it relevant whether a person can work part-time, full time, or an erratic combination of both depending upon the severity of symptoms that may arise periodically?  Is SF 3112C meant to confuse, or like so many “government forms”, is the language inevitably misleading because it is (A) meant to be that way, (B) unintentionally written in an unclear manner or (C) is meant to be wholly unhelpful because OPM doesn’t want to go out of its way to help the Federal Disability Retirement applicant?  Must the SF 3112C, the “Physician’s Statement”, be used at all?

If you are still working with the Federal Agency or on the rolls of the Postal Service, or at least not separated for more than thirty one (31) days, must the prepared physician’s statement be sent directly to your H.R. Office without first being reviewed and validated by the applicant?  The form itself certainly makes it appear so, but is that really the case?

In the end, the applicant who is preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, must make some initial and important determinations concerning the substance and content of the application itself.

Forms are tricky; the laws that oversee them, often vague; but if you are relying upon instructions written and formulated by the very government agency that will be making a determination on your application, you may want to first consult with an attorney who specializes in the very law that governs Federal Disability Retirement, before you begin “filling” out forms or having your doctor fill one out.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement Benefits: The picture album

Time was, every family had a picture album – that anachronism bound carefully in a large leather book-shaped monstrosity, kept safe where dust settles and mice scurry around; taken out for occasions where boredom is accentuated and friends or neighbors have stayed long past their welcome, and so it is taken out carefully, dusted off and laboriously paged through, telling of a history for each page, each photograph laid meticulously upon the thick plaster-backboard of a person’s history.

It used to be that we all had one picture for an event – or, two at most, once Peoples Drug (for those who are old enough to remember; and that, in and of itself, was somewhat of a historical marker – when “Peoples” Drug – the drugstore of the “people”, was bought out by successive entities of greater reserve until it finally became a nondescript, boringly corporate entity under the designation of “CVS”; somehow, something was lost when the corner drugstore started in a suburb of D.C. was engulfed by mergers and corporate purchases) declared a two-for-one sale.

Of course, we all kept in safekeeping those brownish negatives that neatly fit into those thin plastic columns (i.e., thrown into a drawer based upon the sequence of receipt) – you know, the ones you hated to slide out because you could never get it back in without bending them, and somehow you suspected that they were never meant to be fit within the columns of plastic in the first place.

Somehow, there was something quaint and innocent about a picture album that only had one shot of a slice of life that told a limited tale about a person’s continuum of historical detail – by contrast, today’s Smartphone and digital chip that can hold literally thousands of photographs, and the person who is willing to show all in a public display for everyone in the universe to see, by downloading, uploading, displaying and replaying, for a person barely in his or her twenties.

The picture album is an anachronism, telling in its humility, limited access and manifesting a humble origin of consciousness.  It is a relic that bifurcates a “before” and an “after” – of a time now gone and lost forever, replaced by an after that manifests a change most of us never asked for.

To that end, the picture album is likened to a Federal or Postal employee with a medical condition.  That Federal or Postal employee suffers from a history of that which most of his or her coworkers are completely unaware of.  And like the picture album that is taken out from the dusty bookshelves of a corner closet, when the Federal or Postal employee comes to a point of needing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the reaction displayed by others is often one of boredom, lack of concern or even of interest shown in forced phoniness.  For, what others know or find out about a person’s life – even of his or her medical condition – is ultimately a private slice of life that is shared with quiet discretion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire