Federal Disability Retirement Process: The Farcical Foray

It is the complexity of the absurd which tends to amaze; whether, in this day and age, we have lost the subtlety of the ludicrous, is sometimes to be held with awe.

Shakespeare’s Court jesters, clowns and fools all had that capacity to meander with linguistic pointedness; and it was in the very contrast between a character taking absurdity too seriously, and the juxtaposition of seriously expressing the absurd, that truth of circumstances often emerge. Within the context of such satire, there is a seriousness of purpose, and though we often become lost in the travails of life’s challenges, were we able to step back and consider the farcical, the foray would transcend between the mundane and the heavenly.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who engage the bureaucratic process of preparing, formulating and filing 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 patience shown is a tribute in and of itself.

Yes, the bureaucratic process can often be likened to a farce; and yes, the lengthy administrative procedures and legal maneuverings reflect a complex process of the absurd; and — but for the medical condition which is the foundation of it all — the encounters with life’s obstacles throughout the administrative process would often make for laughter and mirth.

Be not distracted, however; filing for, and obtaining, Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM, is neither a satire nor a pleasurable play to witness; rather, it is a serious endeavor which must be taken seriously; and though King Lear was a serious play whose Court Jester revealed the absurdity beneath, preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits should be approached and engaged with the full comprehension that behind the curtains of life, the foundation of every Federal Disability Retirement application stands a human being waiting upon the human folly of man-made bureaucracy and administrative turmoil.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement Application and Process: The Foreign Menu

Certain processes and endeavors in life are tantamount to a foreign menu; one knows that, within the undecipherable and incomprehensible letters and symbols presented before one, amidst the evocative smells and provocative sounds emanating from the kitchen in the back, and behind the sounds and voices formed and learned in another land in distant places beyond the horizon of one’s familiarity, there is a dish of choice which one would, if one could identify it, choose for the occasion before us.  But the menu is in another language; the words and symbols are undecipherable; and the waiters, waitresses, cooks and managers speak not a word of one’s own; and all attempts at describing the wants and desires of the moment have failed, because food is an appetite of desire, and not one which finds its core in the rational basis of words and conceptual constructs.

Can such a scenario occur?  Can one find oneself in a restaurant unable to relate or communicate?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who find themselves unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, and who must therefore engage the process of filing 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 similarity to the scenario described, and the familiarity of the circumstances conveyed, can be frighteningly reflective of the reality experienced.

Perhaps it should not be such a complicated process.  Considering the circumstances — of an injured or medically debilitated Federal or Postal worker who must concurrently contend with both the complexity of the bureaucratic process as well as the confounding and discomforting issues of the medical conditions themselves — one would think that the gathering of evidentiary sufficiency, the legal pitfalls to be maneuvered, the standard forms to be completed, etc., would all be simplified to fit the onerous circumstances requiring submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  But the fact is that Federal Disability Retirement is a complicated and complex administrative process with no “short cuts” to fruition.

It is a bureaucratic procedure which much be endured — much like the untenable situation of the man who walks into a restaurant thinking only of the satisfying meal to be ordered, only to find that the menu set upon the table is in a foreign language, undecipherable and incomprehensible, except to the proprietors and those who prepare the dishes of choice, in a clattering kitchen far in the background where echoes abound but confusion compounds.

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

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Responding to OPM

As different Stages in the process of preparing, formulating, and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits require a different response, so there is a reason why it is important to recognize and understand the procedural differences and distinctions between each stage.

Each stage in the entirety of the process is not just a difference of departments — of different “sections” of the Office of Personnel Management reviewing the Federal Disability Retirement application based upon the identical paradigm of review.  Yes, the first two stages of the process (the “Initial Stage” of the application, then the “Reconsideration Stage” of the process) involves the same agency (the Office of Personnel Management), but the underlying reviewing needs of the distinct departments are identifiably different).  

That is why it is important to understanding the underlying procedural requirements, thereby gaining an insight into the substantive needs and requests of the separate departments.  Thus, at the initial stage of the application, a Federal or Postal employee is attempting to meet, by a preponderance of the evidence, all of the criteria necessary in obtaining a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  

If it is denied at the First Stage, then the Office of Personnel Management will normally indicate the deficiencies they have “discovered” in the application.  Whether true or not, whether right or wrong, it is often necessary to address — at least in part — some of the issues brought up by the initial denial.  

Then, of course, if it is denied a second time and one must file an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, a response for the Third Stage of the process will require another, completely different set of responses.  Paradigm shifts occur not only in science; they occur in the administrative procedures of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Complexity and Tailoring

Every Federal and Postal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is unique because of the particular medical conditions which comprise the specific factual makeup of each case.  

That said, there are various “templates” out there, put out by services and attorneys, who have formulated a methodology based upon a template — often, based upon a past success or two.  While templates are fine, one must always be careful that the uniqueness of a particular case is never lost.  For, ultimately, every Federal and Postal disability retirement application under either FERS or CSRS inherently contains a uniqueness because of the particular complexity of the case.

As such, each case must be tailored to reflect the uniqueness of that case.  There are certainly recurring themes and contextual frameworks, as well as statutory references and case-laws which repetitively apply to most, if not all, cases.  But such generalized applications must nevertheless be tailored to fit and apply to the particular facts and circumstances of a case.  Beware of borrowing from, or hiring someone to apply, a “One size fits all” approach.  You may find that you went to the wrong tailor.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney