Federal Disability Retirement Representation: Substance and Process

In any bureaucratic, lengthy administrative process, one can become embroiled in the procedural aspects of an endeavor, and overlook the substantive elements which form the foundation of any case.  Conversely, one can make the mistake of approaching a case and declare to one’s self, “This is so obviously a good case,” and take shortcuts in the process of putting together an effective and persuasive case.

Either approach is one fraught with grave errors, and for Federal employees and Postal workers who are beginning the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Medical benefits, first through one’s own agency (if still on the rolls of the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service or, if separated, for not more than 31 days), and ultimately submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, Pennsylvania (directly, if the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker has been separated from Federal service for more than 31 days), it is important to keep the balance between the substance of a case, and the process of the case.

Substantive issues involve everything from the factual, informational content required on all standard forms (SF 3107, along with Schedules A, B & C, and the required attachment of one’s DD 214 showing prior active military service; SF 2801 for CSRS employees; and the substantive content of the description of one’s medical conditions to be considered, as required in SF 3112A, etc.), as well as the medical documentation needed to provide the evidentiary support for one’s case.

“Process” issues involve the timeframe in filing a case, the administrative procedures of where the disability application must be submitted through, as well as the myriad of sequential steps required for satisfaction of accommodation issues with one’s agency.

Substance and process — they are the necessary sides of a single, inseparable currency of an administrative reality known as Federal OPM Disability Retirement, and both must be attended to in order to reach the heights of efficacy mandated for a successful outcome in the preparation, formulation and submission of an OPM Medical Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Beginning the Federal Disability Retirement Process

The Chinese proverb, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, is meant to remind us that looking at a process in its entirety can result in self-defeat even before starting, and every daunting journey must begin with the small, almost insignificant, effort of initiation.

Facing a bureaucracy and an administrative process can feel like that metaphorical journey of a thousand miles.  The multiple and complex standard forms to complete; the legal criteria to meet; the need to gather, compile and consolidate the medical documentation into a linear, coherent whole; and all of this, in the face of voluntarily reducing one’s income by applying for an annuity and having to deal with the debilitating medical condition from which one suffers.

But the successful way to approach the entire administrative process known as Federal Disability Retirement, is to bifurcate it into workable portions. The SF 3107 series (reissued in May, 2014, where previous editions are now outdated) is merely informational in nature.  It is is the SF 3112 series of forms which one must take care in preparing and formulating, and especially SF 3112A, which requests for detailed information concerning one’s medical conditions, the impact of the medical conditions upon one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; and other pertinent information needed to convey compliance with a legal criteria established through many years via legal opinions issued by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Yes, it is a difficult process, and one which can be eased by legal advice and expertise. But as with all journeys, to look upon the landscape and obstacles as mere hindrances to overcome, will serve one better, than to stand at the foothills and refuse to begin the journey at all.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Concurrent Actions

Idioms often convey an underlying truth recognized and identified by a specific culture or population; they are statements from an experiential aggregation of similitude, based upon a shared set of values.  The phrase, “When it rains, it pours”, is easily a recognizable idiom; that when things go wrong, multiple wrong things tend to occur altogether, all at once.  It is somewhat of a tautology, as when “X is Y, X are Ys”.  But it is in the very pluralization of the outcome which makes the differentiation significant.

For Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, the engagement of the administrative and bureaucratic process of preparing, formulating and filing for FERS Disability Retirement benefits rarely results in a vacuum.

Often (or perhaps one is forced to begin with the prefatory clause, “All too often”), the long and complex history of harassment, complaints, formal complaints, grievances, lawsuits, EEO filings, etc., precede the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, thereby complicating one’s Federal Disability Retirement application with much baggage, historical aggregation of enmity and acrimony, and creating a simple set of causal facts into a convoluted compendium of complexities.  All of a sudden, the soft sounds of rain turn into a downpour of ferocious flooding.

In such cases, in formulating one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, it is important to bifurcate the compounded complexities, and to simplify, streamline and segregate.  From the viewpoint of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the very agency which receives and decides upon all Federal Disability Retirement applications, the mixing of concurrent actions and issues merely complicates matters.

As we all do, we would prefer to hear the soft patter of rain, and not the thunderous mess of a downpour.  Even the plants in the garden recognize that.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Simplicity of Presentation

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to maintain and manage the entire process in as simplified a form as possible, in presenting one’s case to each segment of the process — i.e., to the doctors who will be supporting one’s case; in the formulation and articulation of one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability; in the compilation of the supporting medical documentation; in the entirety of the presentation submitted to the Office of Personnel Management.

Thus, while the process itself may involve multiple complexities because of the bureaucratic morass from which it originates, it is nevertheless the job of the Federal or Postal worker who is preparing and formulating the Federal Disability Retirement packet to keep it within manageable and understandable, coherent and comprehensible limits.  

The art of simplifying the complex is the key to a successful outcome.  By “simplification”, however, does not mean that one should exclude or otherwise deliberately leave out complex aspects of a medical disability retirement case; rather, it means that it is the job of the Federal or Postal employee, or his or her attorney and legal representative, to articulate, convey, and delineate such complexity into an understandable format.  

As the true artist makes his artwork appear simple in its very beauty, so the Federal or Postal employee must present his or her case before the Office of Personnel Management, and potentially before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board, in a format which evinces a response of, “Of course!”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement Application: Complex Interdependence of the Stages

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to recite, note, identify and apply “the law” at each stage of the process, if not for the present, then always in preparation for the future.  

No one likes to think of his or her Federal Disability Retirement application as potentially being capable of being denied at any of the multiple levels of the administrative process; everyone believes that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application is a “sure thing”, a “slam dunk”, a certainty beyond question.  The latter is a natural belief, born from a subjective experience of one who personally and immediately suffers from the very medical condition which one is complaining about.  The former acknowledgement — of understanding the potential for a denial either from the Office of Personnel Management or from the Merit Systems Protection Board, or the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit — is an unavoidable reality to be confronted.  

To acknowledge reality is a mechanism of survival; to deny a potential future event is to avoid a reasonable occurrence which, if not recognized, can have unintended consequences which can result in greater devastating residual effects if not properly prepared for.  Indeed, one should reasonably expect that, with a lower-level “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof, that if properly and carefully prepared and formulated, that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will be approved at some point in the process.  

One has many opportunities — the Initial Application Stage at OPM; the Reconsideration Stage at the Office of Personnel Management; an appeal and a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board; a Petition for Full Review at the Merit Systems Protection Board; and an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  

Each stage is independent, yet co-dependent and interdependent.  Each stage must be meticulously prepared for its own merits, yet the groundwork set for the next stage.  Each stage is the crucial stage to win; yet, to cite legal precedents for an appeal to the next.  Never underestimate the potential for a denial; for to underestimate is merely to ask for that which one is unprepared for.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire