Federal Disability Retirement: The Necessity of Recognition

For all of the Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating preparing, formulating or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits either under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize first, the complexity of the administrative process; second, that Federal Disability Retirement benefits are not a guaranteed outcome — it is not an “entitlement” in the sense that a Federal or Postal employee can automatically qualify for the benefit — but is part of the Federal compensation package for being a Federal or Postal employee, but one which must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence in order to qualify; and third, that the challenge of proving one’s eligibility must be met in a sequential, logical, and methodological manner such that the presentation made to the Office of Personnel Management is coherent, concise and comprehensible.  

Preparation for the long administrative process  is a prerequisite; proper formulation of one’s packet must be carefully attended to; and timely filing in order to meet the statutory guidelines is a necessity.  All in all, meeting the entirety of the administrative process is a complex legal maneuver which should be considered with care, foresight, and deliberation.  Do not take anything for granted.  Seek proper and useful information; then be “effective” as opposed to “efficient” — although, obviously encapsulating both qualities concurrently would be the best of all worlds.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Inherent Complexities

It is often asked why filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is more complex, and therefor often more difficult to obtain, than (for example) Social Security Disability, or even Federal Worker’s Comp.  The simple answer is that one cannot compare apples and oranges (to quote an oft-used metaphor), but the greater inherent complexity of answering such a question involves more space than can be allotted here.

Social Security Disability, of course, has a higher standard of eligibility.  In abbreviated explanation, this means that one must essentially be “totally disabled” in order to qualify for Social Security Disability, as opposed to the “lower” legal standard of being “unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job”.  Thus, Social Security Disability cuts a wider swathe, and is generally considered to require a more onerous standard, and the resulting benefit reflects that — by allowing for restrictive ability to earn outside income, etc.  

 Worker’s Comp (OWCP, FECA/Department of Labor) is also complex in its own way, precisely because it requires a showing of occupational connection, or that the injury or medical condition was “on the job” or somehow caused by the job, the workplace, etc.  Then, its reliance upon percentage of disability, and the fact that it is not a retirement system, but a temporary mode of compensation in attempting to return the Federal or Postal Worker back to work, further contains multiple complex issues.  

Often, when a law attempts to particularize a benefit — as in Federal Disability Retirement — by focusing narrowly upon an issue (e.g., being unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s particular kind of job, or any similar job), such a narrow focus creates an inherent complexity all on its own. Complexity of an issue requires a careful and studied approach; to conquer an issue, it is important to expend a great amount of time reflecting upon and scrutinizing the issue. It is only upon understanding an issue thoroughly that the complexity begins to unravel; and only then can one begin to proceed to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Always Stick to the Basics

If one’s thoughts advance too far beyond the practical application of what one is engaged in, often the complexity initiated by the human mind will disproportionately put out of balance the reality of a requirement as opposed to the endless possibilities ventured by the human imagination.  

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, it is often counterproductive to reflect too extensively upon the various standard forms which must be completed.

Yes, the forms are confusing, create unnecessary consternation, and need correlation and cooperative coordination between them in order to produce uniformity and consistency in a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application.  

Yes, it is precisely the inconsistencies, the internal and external contradictions (whether apparent or real, substantive or peripheral) which the Office of Personnel Management focuses upon in justifying a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Nevertheless, it is more often than not the undue focus upon the potential complexities of the standard forms, the rumination upon potential consequences not yet actualized, of questioning, well, what is it that this question is really asking for?  Do they want me to include X, as opposed to Y?  Will it hurt my case if I say B, instead of including C, D & E?  Am I required to include everything, or will it be counted against me if I leave it out?  

Such questions are a natural part of preparing and formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  If such ruminations result in an inability to proceed and advance forward, it might be time to contact someone who specializes in preparing FERS & CSRS Federal Disability Retirement applications.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Basic Approaches

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is always best to begin the formulation and preparation of a case by attending to the basic approaches.

Complexity of a case should not be inherently obvious.  The ease with which the professional in any field of activity makes such an activity appear to the spectator, is merely an attestation of the time and preparation expended.  

If a case is so complex that the Federal or Postal employee is unable to convey the interactive bridge between the symptoms and diagnosed medical conditions, and the type of positional duties which one must be able to function at, then how is the Claims Representative at the Office of Personnel Management going to be able to comprehend such complexity which the Applicant himself/herself is unable to effectively delineate and describe?  

Extraneous complexities, outside issues, peripheral concerns, and intra-agency squabbles, including allegations of discrimination, unequal treatment, etc., are normally irrelevancies which must be forced from the center of a Federal Disability Retirement case, to a mere passing footnote, if that.

Remember that one does not want to be pigeonholed into asserting a “situational disability” claim, which is a valid basis to be denied in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Keep things simple. Approach the case with the basics in mind.  Formulate the nexus between one’s medical conditions and one’s positional duties.  Always keep in mind the essence of a case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Encounters, Problems, Worries…

The entire process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS should necessarily anticipate encounters with potential pitfalls, problems, and issues as they appear and erupt, which concern and impact the Federal or Postal employee at every stage of the long procedural process.  

This is a natural part of the application process, precisely because the Federal or Postal employee is suddenly making contact with a multiplicity of personnel and issues:  notification to the agency that one is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; filing for a benefit which requires the admission and revelation of the most personal of information — one’s medical condition; encounters with the Human Resources department of one’s agency, one’s treating doctor, one’s supervisor, etc.; the filling out and completing of multiple forms which may determine the outcome of the success or failure of an endeavor which will impact upon one’s financial future and plans; as well as encountering a multitude of other issues, people, and problems in the course of attempting to prove that one is eligible by a preponderance of the evidence for a benefit called, “Federal Disability Retirement”.

Throughout the process, it is important to have the guidance of knowledgeable personnel.  However, there is an important distinction to be made between knowledge and information; there is an infinite plenitude of the latter; the former is what one needs to seek.  

As the process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a long and challenging process, it is best to anticipate unexpected and unanticipated encounters, worries and problems throughout the process, and to prepare to meet, overcome, and answer each one as they appear.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Issues

The issues upon which the Office of Personnel Management denies a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS are normally rather limited.  There are recurrent themes, and some of the more prevalent ones are:  insufficient medical documentation; issues concerning accommodations and attempted accommodations by the Agency; situational disability and issues which focus upon work issues which never should have been included in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A).  

These are generic designations of the types of issues which an OPM Claims Representative may argue as the primary basis of his or her denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, and there may be multiple corollary issues which are described — but, ultimately, when all is said and done, there are limited reasons as to why an Initial Stage application for Federal Disability Retirement is denied.  

That fact, however — of the limited basis and reasons — does not mean that the issues are simple; rather, that in responding to a denial from OPM, no matter how lengthy the denial letter may appear (or how short, for that matter), the issues can be neatly “broken down” and placed into manageable categories in order to respond.  Responding to a denial properly (in addition to filing the Request for Reconsideration in a timely manner) is important; how to respond, is all the more important.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Irony of Favorable Laws

In certain areas of “the law”, statutes, regulations and case-laws have developed which tend to favor the individual seeking to obtain a benefit through such laws.  For the Federal or Postal Worker who is seeking Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one could easily argue that the laws governing the process of seeking Federal or Postal Disability benefits from the Office of Personnel Management “favor” the applicant.  

Think about it:  a Federal or Postal worker (under FERS) needs only 18 months of minimum eligibility; light duty, or modified duties, do not preclude one from obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits; one has up to a year after being separated from Federal Service to file for the benefit; a Federal or Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition only has to show that it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; one does not need to show “total disability”, but only disability as to one of the critical elements of one’s job; and so on.

The irony of such “favorable” laws governing Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is, however, that such favor often invites greater scrutiny.  Thus, the fact that the substantive laws governing a legal process may provide an advantage to the seeker, does not in any way mean that the process itself is any easier.  On the contrary, one could argue that because the substantive laws governing a legal process favor the applicant, that the process itself is made all the more difficult.  Such ironies often arise in various facets of life, and it certainly seems to be the case for Federal and Postal workers seeking to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Logic, Art & Simplicity

Logic is the pathway out of a conundrum; complexity is often the result of confusion; clarity is the consequence of simplicity.  Yes, there are complex minefields in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS.  The complexity of the entire process is often the result of layers upon layers of legal case laws and statutory refinements and interpretations which form the entirety of the “legal criteria” which surrounds each and every application for Federal Disability Retirement.  When an individual files an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, he or she is often unaware of the long history of all of the applicants who preceded the singular case being presently contemplated, formulated, and projected for filing.  Instead, that individual looks upon his or her disability retirement application without regard to what preceded it.

Perhaps it is best that most applicants are unaware of the thousands of cases which have impacted the entire process over decades; yet, when the glitch occurs — when an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is denied — then the importance of knowing the precedent-setting cases which have impacted the various and complex issues surrounding OPM Disability Retirement come into focus.  That is why it is best to be prepared beforehand, and to understand the logic behind the laws; by understanding, to realize the simplicity of the process; and by such realization, to put together an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.  Such a process is often more than logic and law; it rises to the level of an art form.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Complex Case

It goes without saying that each case of preparing and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a “complex case”.  There are multiple intervening issues, including peripheral issues encompassing OWCP filings; issues with SSDI and whether to aggressively pursue it even with the offset and the lower cap for earnings; EEOC filings and collateral issues which may or may not have a direct impact upon the issues which must be focused upon in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  It is the job of an OPM Disability Attorney to tailor the issues, such that the peripheral issues do not overwhelm and dictate the centrality of a case; and to ensure that the central focus remains like a magnifying glass upon those issues which are relevant, not only to the client and to the entire process, but most importantly, to the person reviewing the case at the Office of Personnel Management.  Whenever an inquiry begins with the statement, “Mine is a rather complex case,” I realize that the primary job is to try and simplify the complexities, and that begins with narrowing the issue down to the single focus of the reason why the caller is calling in the first place:  the medical condition, and how that medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform one’s job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Approvals & Disapprovals

The Office of Personnel Management seems to have recently issued a volume of decisions on Federal Disability Retirement applications on Federal and Postal employees under FERS & CSRS.

From the calls received from non-clients, and from clients, one sometimes wonders whether or not some sort of “quota-system” isn’t being imposed at the top levels.  Yet, statistically, the percentage of disapprovals v. approvals is not noticeably different than before; it is difficult to determine in any given period of time whether or not there is a higher rate of denials/disapprovals than approvals, in comparison to other periods.

What matters is not the general rate of approvals or disapprovals; rather, each individual case must be taken on its own merit, and responded to with the Office of Personnel Management (or, if the denial is at the Reconsideration Stage, then an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board) in a timely fashion, and in a tailored, appropriate manner.

Each case is indeed “different”.  One cannot compare one case with “war stories” about how X filed his or her application and got it approved “within a week”.  Such rumors can never be verified, and even if it could be verified, there are always individual and unique circumstances which must be taken into account.

Comparisons between different time periods, as well as between two or more independent cases, are never helpful; instead, the focus must be to take the uniqueness of any given case, and decide on the best course of action in order to obtain the one and only outcome which is acceptable for any given OPM Disability Retirement case under FERS or CSRS:  an ultimate approval.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire