Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Harm of Linguistic Impurities

The integrity of the law is kept intact by the careful scrutiny of compliance, via oversight by guardians whose responsibility it is to maintain, challenge and question the diversionary attempt, however minor and in what seemingly inconsequential modalities, such imperceptible excursions into areas outside of the linguistic purity of the law, regulations and case-law interpretation when attempted.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, it is the Federal Agency itself — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — which often must be kept “in check”.  For, it is precisely those “allowances” of language which provides for licenses not otherwise granted which, if left unchallenged, will continue to repetitively reappear in subsequent decisions rendered for future Federal Disability Retirement applicants.

Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement denial, it may be that a decision of denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application may state that the medical evidence “does not show that your medical conditions kept you out of the workplace altogether”, or that the diagnostic testing did not establish that the Federal Disability Retirement applicant “had a disabling disease which caused a disablement which incapacitated” the individual — implying, thereby, a standard of medical disability far above and beyond what is necessary for eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Such misstatements must be challenged and refuted; otherwise, the integrity of the law is left soiled and smeared, and future attempts by Federal and Postal Workers may be harmed by the careless allowance of linguistic impurities to surface and fester.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Misinformation Leading to Self-defeating Actions

The “I was told” phenomenon is pervasive in our society, where information is plentiful, and more dangerously, where the dissemination of such information, at no cost to the recipient (except for detrimental consequences resulting from reliance upon the purveyor of such vast knowledge of unsolicited tidbits), is promulgated without discretion or discriminating tastes.

It is the one aspect, of course, in which George Orwell was perhaps mistaken; for, in his book, 1984, Orwell conveys the notion that it is the societal limitation of words which will lead to restriction of knowledge.  In the modern world, however, it has become the unfettered expansion of any and all information, which has had the collateral effect upon society of engendering dangerous ignorance.

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 important to first obtain accurate information, then to determine the relevance and applicability of such information, then to act upon it.

The “I was told” phenomena should be ignored, as such nebulous sources of information, unless verifiable, should never be relied upon.  For example:  Having an active EEO matter does not extend the Statute of Limitations in being required to file a Federal Disability Retirement application within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service.  And another: One does not need to, and should not, wait for Social Security to make a determination in order to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits for OPM.

Remember always that the 1-year Statute of Limitations is a “hard” limitation; there are only a limited number of exceptional circumstances which can climb over that obstacle, and one should not try to test the strength or height of that wall.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Other 12-month Confusion

The other issue which may involve a 12-month period — aside from the Statute of Limitations, which allows a Federal or Postal employee to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within 1 year of being separated from Federal Service — is the duration of one’s medical condition.

Federal and Postal employees will often confuse the issue, and believe in error that they must suffer through a minimum period of 12 months before they can even begin the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits. This is an error either in the proper interpretation of the law, or through receipt of misguided information from third parties.  The law simply requires that a Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, have a medical condition which will impact him or her for a period of at least 12 months.

Practically speaking this would make sense.  For, since the bureaucratic process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management takes a minimum of 8 – 10 months for the entire process anyway, it would make no sense to have a medical condition which will be “cured” within that time frame, for a Federal or Postal employee to file in the first place.

The minimum requirement of the 12-month period can be easily addressed in the “prognosis” portion of a doctor’s statement.  Most doctors can prognosticate within a couple of months of beginning treatment, concerning the long-term duration of a medical condition; whether it is chronic, lasting, or likely permanent.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, knowledge equals the ability to overcome obstacles, and knowing the law will allow the Federal and Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits to possess the necessary tools to effectively manage his or her life and future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Periodic Clarifications

Periodically, despite multiple prior blogs addressing certain issues, it becomes clear that confusions continue to abound, and a clarification is in order.

In many ways, such necessity for periodic clarifications only emphasizes the inherent complexities in Federal Disability Retirement law, despite the foundational simplicity of what needs to be proven.

Indeed, while the substantive law requires the primary basis of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, the nexus between one’s official positional duties, and the medical conditions which prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; nevertheless, there are numerous procedural issues and hurdles which must concurrently be met in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Thus, for instance:  the Federal or Postal employee must file an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service — not 1 year from the date of being placed on LWOP, or from the “date of injury”, etc.

Further, SSDI must be filed by FERS employees, but of course Social Security will not even consider a filing for purposes of evaluating eligibility until a person has stopped working — nevertheless, for FERS Disability Retirement purposes, all that is necessary is a receipt showing that one has filed for Social Security Disability benefits.

And one more:  never wait for one’s agency to act in a Disability Retirement case; such waiting merely constitutes an act of futility, and one which almost always results with an adverse effect upon the Federal or Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Recurring Particular Issues

Issues in life often recur repetitively without rhyme or reason; as a rule of life, it becomes true “all the more” with mistakes in life.  Thus, particular issues in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, seem to resurface regardless (I would enjoy writing “irregardless” just to irritate those who are alert enough to recognize the nonsensical nature of such a term, but I refrain) of the number of times such issues are addressed or corrected.

Three such issues are:  A.  Filing for SSDI.  Yes, it does need to be filed.  No, it does not technically need to be filed in sequence; moreover, while many Human Resources (one agency calls it “Human Capital”, which is viewed as a self-contradiction and an inside joke) offices misinform Federal and Postal workers that you have to wait for a decision of approval before filing for Federal Disability Retirement, the Federal or Postal Worker should refuse to listen to such misguided misinformation.  Technically, the only time OPM needs a receipt showing that one has filed for SSDI is at the time of an OPM approval.  However — yes, just to get it over with, you should just go ahead and file online, and print out a receipt showing that you filed, and attach it with the Federal Disability Retirement application.  B.  Time of filing:  within 1 year of being separated from Federal Service.  No, LWOP or being on sick leave does not begin to toll the 1-year Statute of Limitations.  C.  One’s medical condition must last for a minimum of 12 months.  No, you do not need to wait for 12 months and endure your medical condition.  Most doctors can provide a prognosis of the extent of your medical condition early in the process.

Don’t let the irony of life rule one’s actions.  Mistakes and misinformation abounds, but how one responds is the key to successful living.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Clarifying Misconceptions

Information is interesting.  But not all interesting information is useful.  And, further, not all information, even if interesting and (potentially) useful, is accurate.  Ultimately, in order for information to be of practical use, it must be accurate, useful, and purpose-related.  Thus, when inaccurate (partial or complete) information is placed into the public domain, it often becomes useless, but remains interesting to the extent that people continue to rely upon such information.

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to obtain, process, and apply useful and accurate information.  Two sets of basic information need to be clarified:  First, many Postal and Federal employees have been confused about SSDI and its impact upon Federal Disability Retirement and the application process in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS (CSRS exempted because an SSDI receipt is not necessary).  Showing a receipt for having filed an SSDI application is all that is needed.  An approval is not necessary; and, indeed, for most Federal and Postal employees, one will not ordinarily qualify for SSDI precisely because it has a higher standard to be eligible.

Further, a sequential showing is NOT necessary — i.e., one does not have to first file for SSDI in order to file for FERS Disability Retirement benefits.  All that is necessary, from OPM’s perspective, is that at the time of an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS, a Federal or Postal employee must show a receipt showing that one has filed for SSDI benefits.

The Second informational error to be corrected:  While somewhat redundant based upon the first, a Federal or Postal employee does NOT have to be approved for SSDI in order to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS.  That would be pointless and illogical, if one stops and thinks about it.  Again, all that is necessary is that one files, and one shows a receipt at the time of an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS.

Yes, this is the information age; but it still comes down to a human being who places the information into the public domain, and the

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Further Clarifications

In order to prepare, formulate, file and qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS, one must have a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  There are, of course, additional minimum eligibility requirements — such as the fact that one must have been a Federal employee for at least 18 months under FERS (and 5 years under CSRS — which is a moot point, obviously, because anyone who finds him/herself under CSRS already has the minimum 5 years), and further, that the medical condition must last for at least 12 months. 

The 12-month/1 year requirement often poses a puzzlement to Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Often the question is asked whether a Federal or Postal employee must have been “out of work” for at least 1 year; or, just as often, the question of the 12 month length or duration of the medical condition will often be confused with the requirement that a Federal or Postal employee must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within 1 year of being “separated” from Federal Service.  Thus, the confusion often becomes coagulated to be interpreted as:  I must be separated from service and suffer from my medical condition for a year.  WRONG. 

Normally, a doctor can provide a “prognosis” when it comes to a medical condition — where the doctor “predicts”, within reasonable medical certainty, that a medical condition will last for a minimum of 12 months, 2-3 years, permanently, etc.  That is all that is required in order to meet the 12-month requirement.  One does not have to suffer for a year, or even for many months, in order to begin the process of preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire