Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Unresponsive Agency

The complaints abound, and continue to exponentially increase; the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is way behind on its evaluation, review and decision-making process for all characters of retirements, disability retirements included.

It is a given that filing for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement, whether under FERS or CSRS, with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, must necessarily have an expectation of a time-consuming administrative process, precisely because of the encounter with a Federal bureaucracy.  But it seems that each year — nay, each month and week — the delays continue to expand.

At each step of the way, OPM has become more and more unresponsive, and with new cases coming in, the length of time at every stage, and “between” stages, has been extended.  The process itself contains inherent milestones of delay: from filing the entire disability retirement application to a facility in Boyers, Pennsylvania, which merely annotates the receipt of the case and inputs the case into the computer system; to thereafter sending the disability retirement application, with all of its evidentiary submissions and attachments down to Washington, D.C., where it must first await assignment to a caseworker; then, upon assignment, for the caseworker to even get to the applicant’s submission for review and evaluation.  Then, of course, there is the possibility that the entire packet will be selected to be sent out for review by a contract doctor.

The delays are beyond the control of the applicant, his or her OPM Disability attorney, or the agency for whom the applicant worked.  It is, ultimately, an administrative process which can be tedious, time-consuming, and fraught with delays and extended periods of silence.

Patience may well be a virtue, but the unresponsive manner in which the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has handled the delays, fails to engender much confidence in a system which should be most responsive to those in greater need.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Decisions by OPM

In making a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Office of Personnel Management has a policy which essentially refuses to convey the decision over the telephone, and asks that the applicant wait until the letter of approval or denial is received by the applicant.  This is probably a sound policy, despite resulting in a few more days of additional waiting, testing the patience of the Federal or Postal employee who is anxious in anticipation of a favorable decision.  

The problems which could potentially be compounded and exponentially multiplied by an erroneous or contradictory communication between what the OPM worker states over the telephone, and what the decision made by the Claims Representative who is handling the particular case of the inquiring individual, would (and potentially could) unnecessarily complicate matters.  

One assumes that what the Office of Personnel Management is attempting to avoid, aside from privacy concerns of not being able to adequately identify the person on the other end of the telephone, is the potential scenario where the Federal or Postal applicant has been denied in his or her Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, but is told over the telephone that he or she has been approved, or vice versa.  

Beyond that, however, it is a reasonable policy to have by any Federal agency — for protection of confidential information which only the Federal or Postal employee/applicant and his or her representative attorney should have access to.  While a few more days may indeed increase the anxiety level of the applicant, it is well to try and understand that such a policy of not revealing information to someone who has not been properly identified, is one which the Federal or Postal employee should not get upset with OPM about.  

There are enough issues to be upset with OPM about; protecting the privacy of confidential information is not one of them.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Waiting upon the Office of Personnel Management

A Federal or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS must understand that the waiting portion of the entire process is probably the most difficult time, precisely because it is a time of inactivity, where one’s future plans are placed on hold because of the uncertainty of the decision.  

Everyone, of course, believes that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application has merit. Otherwise, a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, should never have been prepared, formulated, finalized and filed — but for the strong belief that one’s medical conditions prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  

Every Federal or Postal employee whom I represent believes that his or her case is a “slam dunk” case, and it is the job of an OPM Disability Attorney to present it as such, but within the limitations of what the doctor & other supporting documentation will provide.  Once a Federal Disability Retirement application has been filed with the Office of Personnel Management, then the destiny of one’s future plans is somewhat placed in the hands of the OPM benefits clerk.  

Activity often gives the appearance of progress, and inactivity presents a frustrating sense of powerlessness.  But waiting is part of the process.  As such, it is best to make plans, prepare for one’s future in other ways, and allow the Office of Personnel Management to review one’s case properly and thoroughly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management is taking a long time to process Federal Disability Retirement applications and benefits, at all levels of the process.  It is not something which can be corrected in the short term, except with patience and polite persistence.  From their point of view, the people working at the Office of Personnel Management are doing their best in reviewing and evaluating each Federal Disability Retirement case, and attempting to process all approved cases as expeditiously as possible.  But from the perspective of the individual applicant, whether awaiting for a decision by OPM or for payment because an application has already been approved, any delay beyond the normal, expected time-frame (and there is no timetable which is “set in stone” with OPM) is one which is unacceptable.  If an individual’s Federal Disability Retirement application has already been approved and that person is receiving interim payments, then he or she is awaiting for finalization of the case; that person, at least, is receiving some payment, and should be thankful for that, because there are many others who have gotten an application approved but has been waiting for months without any pay at all.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Reconsiderations

The Office of Personnel Management does not give a decision over the telephone.  At least, that is their stated policy.  They ask that you instead wait for their written decision, which will be “sent in the mail shortly”.  Sometimes, of course, either by the tone of the conversation or by some slip of the tongue, one can discern whether or not a Federal Disability Retirement application has been approved or denied.  But such “guessing” can be a dangerous endeavor to engage in, and as such, I follow the very policy of OPM and will not convey to my client any “internal thoughts” following upon any discussions with an OPM representative. 

First of all, I find that calling an OPM representative too often is counter-productive; they are overworked as it is, and repeatedly inquiring about the “status” of one of my cases only irritates them further, and there is always the danger of having it denied simply to get rid of it (aghast — can this possible ever happen?).  Second, I made the mistake many, many years ago of once telling my client that his/her case had been approved, when in fact it had been denied.  I learn from my mistakes.  Hopefully, my experiences gained from such mistakes have made me wiser today.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire