Identifying the Right Bridge to Reach Your Destination: Federal Employee Disability Retirement

When considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, the natural inclination is to ask the seemingly primary question of: Does medical condition-X qualify as a disability? But such a question is in actuality secondary; it is the reverse-order and counterintuitive process which is often confusing for the Federal and Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The primary question, making the previously-stated questions secondary, is to ask: Does medical condition-X prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job?  By inverting the primary-secondary sequence, one can then attain a better level of understanding as to the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Further, such a switch in sequence of questions-to-answers allows for an important paradigm shift.  For, in the very asking of the proper question, one can reach a level of understanding to such a stage of comprehension that the question almost answers itself.

Medical conditions in and of themselves do not necessarily qualify the Federal or Postal Worker who is otherwise age or service-eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; it is the nexus which must be established between one’s position and the medical conditions one suffers from.  It is the crossing of that bridge which will reveal the extent of success or failure in attempting to go down this path; but first, the Federal or Postal Worker must correctly identify which bridge to cross, before even starting the long and arduous trek of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Unknown Resulting from a Partial Answer

If a question is not fully answered, is it a lie or a mere oversight?  If one places reliance upon a partial answer, was it because the question was not properly posed, or the answer only fragmentally provided, or as a result of a deliberate attempt to mislead?

Everyone has experienced the process of “switch-and-bait“, where the sales pitch is declared as one never matched in the history of the world; but upon arrival, the original declaration of the event was merely the “bait” in order to complete the “switch” to persuade the attendee to accept another product.  In such circumstances, it is indeed fortunate if the only real consequence was a wasted trip, and one can turn around and walk out.

In law, knowing only the “partial answer”, or the incomplete set of facts, can lead to irreversible consequences.  For Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS or CSRS, who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, it is important to receive full answers — from all sources — in order to make the right decision for one’s future.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a serious step for the Federal or the Postal employee’s future. As such, the information which one relies upon in making that important decision — from what the process entails, to the consequential interplay between FERS & SSDI and a multitude of other questions and answers — should be fully understood.

If a source of information seems incomplete, there is often a reason, and sometimes an underlying motive. Beware the buyer; always seek an authenticating source.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Circle of Questions and Answers

The tragedies befall frequently enough to make some correlative conclusions; of the athlete who fell short of the finish line; of the one who wanted to just make it one last time, only to become severely injured prior to completing the task; and others who become debilitated within the last 50 yards, or within the parameters of being “within reach” of the end.  This is likened to the Federal or Postal employee who has only a couple of years before full retirement.

Inasmuch as Federal Disability Retirement takes on average 8 – 10 months to obtain (from the start of the process of gathering the medical reports, records, etc., until a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management), the question often becomes whether it is worthwhile filing for Federal Disability Retirement when one has come so close to the finish line.

Each case must be assessed and evaluated with the particular facts peculiar and unique to it; but questions of intelligent assessment should be applied, in order to reach an algorithm of rational conclusions:  When I reach the end (or, “if I…”), will my health be preserved enough such that I can enjoy retirement?  Is the reason why I am contemplating Federal Disability Retirement now, because I have in fact already reached the crucial flashpoint where I am no longer able to continue performing the essential elements of my job?  Is there a possibility that I will not in fact be able to endure the remaining X-number of years left before I reach full retirement?

Questions prompt answers; answers, even if preliminary and tentative, begin the process of further questioning; and so the circle of questions and answers begin to guide and resolve the issues which trouble the soul.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Where to Begin

One is often asked the question, “Where do I begin”?  It is the question of pervasive immediacy, combining both exasperation at a process too complicated to comprehend and requiring a sense of urgency because of the importance attached to the successful outcome, precisely because it may well determine one’s future financial security, and the present ability to continue to attend to one’s medical conditions.  Such a question, however, often needs to be reordered in order to prepare a case properly, in retrospective fashion.

Thus, to reorganize the priority of questions:  Where do I want to end up? (With an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management)  Who approves a Federal Disability Retirement application?  (Not one’s agency, but the Office of Personnel Management and, as such, be careful of promises made and statements asserted by one’s own agency)  How does one obtain an approval from OPM (By satisfying the legal criteria as applied by OPM)  What does one need to do to obtain such an approval?  (Two-part answer:  File the proper forms; complete the forms effectively)  When should I begin the process?  (Since filing for, and obtaining, Federal Disability Retirement benefits can be a long, arduous process, it is wise to file as soon as one has the support of one’s doctor)  Where does the application need to be filed?  (If one is still with one’s agency, then it must be filed through one’s agency; if one has been separated from the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service for more than 31 days, then it must be filed directly with the Office of Personnel Management).

The question of “why”, of course, need not be asked or answered, because it is a self-evident one.  It is the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “how” which require one’s attention.  For, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal and Postal employee already knows the “why” of filing.  The medical condition itself provides that answer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: When Should the Agency Be Informed?

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the question is often asked whether and when an Agency should be informed of the impending Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Such a question & answer is almost always a discretionary one, and there is not a “right” answer — only one which can result from the tailored responses of specific and individual circumstances.  For, on the one hand, the Agency will often already suspect that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and therefore the automatic loss of the applicant/employee, is an inevitable future certainty, and therefore such notification is merely a formality.  

The Agency is often anxious to have the backlog of work created by the employee’s non-attendance or sporadic attendance resulting from the chronic medical conditions, to be abated at some point, and therefore hiring a replacement is something which the Agency wants accomplished as soon as possible — and one might argue that informing the Agency is the “right thing” to do.  

But in representing a Federal or Postal employee in a Federal Disability Retirement case, the “right thing” always is looking after the best interests of the client, and informing the agency prior to filing is not always in the best interests of the client.  For, on the other hand, informing the Agency too soon will often result in unintended consequences — of reactions and initiated actions upon being informed of the very intention of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

While unfortunate and even perhaps “retaliatory” in nature, Agencies often act/react only upon official notification of an intention.  In other words, the proverbial “elephant in the room” is only noticed when the elephant actually stomps its feet (or is it “hooves”?).  Whether and when is a discretionary decision by the Federal or Postal employee.  

Ultimately, of course, when the Federal Disability Retirement application is filed through the Agency for further processing before being forwarded to the Office of Personnel Management, the Agency will be fully informed.  But as to “pre-informing” the Agency — that all depends upon the individual circumstances of the Federal or Postal employee, taking into account first and foremost the best interests of the client when represented by an OPM Disability Retirement attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire