Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Sides (Part I)

Was there a time when moral order, social propriety and conventional codes of conduct were bifurcated in such clear and identifiable demarcations, such that everyone knew the rules and roles by which to abide?  Or were there always overlapping and invidious borders which constituted conditional conundrums?  Movies of the old west are still enjoyed today, if not merely for entertainment, then for the simplicity of identifying the differentiation between good and evil, where the grey dawn of loss of certitude is rarely implied.

People take “sides” each and every day, but the lack of verifiability in determining who stands for what, and what issues are truly worth standing up for, has become a problem of infinite and exponential magnification of wide and confusing latitudes. There are some things in life where privacy must be guarded with the utmost of heightened protective instincts. “Choosing sides” is something we all learned in school; how we choose, and what titers of alarms we utilize, is all the more important when it comes to personal integrity and future security.

For Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question of who our friends are, will quickly surface during the process.  Identifying the adversary is thought to be an easy process; thinking that a supervisor or coworker is a “friend” to be relied upon, is a more daunting and dangerous endeavor.  That is where the confidentiality of an attorney can be helpful.

The beauty of old films and archaic cowboy movies, is that the black-and-white film footage clearly and unmistakably identifies the man in the white hat.  That is the “good guy”.  Within Federal agencies, such clear identification for the Federal or Postal Worker who begins the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, is a rare occasion.

Choosing sides is important.  How one chooses; whom to rely upon; what advice to follow; all are confusing conundrums within a complex world of backstabbers, betrayals, and agencies populated by those who seek to become the next Lady Macbeth.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Revisiting the Concept of “Accommodations”

Accommodation” is a legal term of art.  At least, in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is a specific term, with specific definitions, with underlying meanings that need to be fully understood in preparing a viable and successful disability retirement application.  In very loose, non-legal terms, there is never anything wrong with an Agency Supervisor “accommodating” a good and loyal Federal employee — by allowing the person to take LWOP; of instituting liberal leave policies; of lessening the workload; of allowing for temporary light duties; of minimizing travel, restricting certain physical requirements, or reassigning certain complex projects to other employees of the Agency.  Every good supervisor does this; and, indeed, sometimes everything works out for the best, and the temporary measures undertaken by the supervisor may allow for the employee to sufficiently recover and later reaffirm all of the essential elements of the position.  But the remaining question is:  Were those measures considered an “accommodation“?  The answer is:  No.  Why not?  Because such measures do not constitute and meet the definition of “accommodation” under the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement.  They may be “good” for the Agency, but they do not preclude one from filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Federal Agencies

Why do some Federal Agencies (and the Postal Service) act in non-supportive, negative ways, while others go out of their way to support their employees?  The answer to such a question essentially is as complex (or simplistic) as individuals themselves; for agencies are made up of individuals, and the reaction of an agency is often a reflection of the individuals who lead the agencies. 

When it comes to an employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement, this is often important to understand, because while Agencies (i.e., supervisors) cannot ultimately block a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, they can sometimes make the process more difficult for the applicant, by engaging in certain tactics (e.g., placing a person on AWOL as opposed to LWOP; delaying the writing of a Supervisor’s Statement; the H.R. Department being obstructionist, etc.) 

In dealing with an Agency, it is important to remain courteous, but not weak; professional, but not a “pushover”.  Further, it is important, where possible, to have an attorney deal with the Supervisor or the H.R. Department as a “buffer” between the Applicant and the Agency, to de-personalize the process.  When Agency Supervisor’s take things personally, problems arise.  It is as if all of the pent-up angers of accumulated personal slights come roaring to the forefront.  One should always try and avoid such personalization of the process, and allow for the smooth transition of the employee to becoming a Federal Disability Retiree.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Supervisors, Agencies and H.R. Personnel

I am sometimes pleasantly surprised at Supervisors — ones who actually recognize that an individual filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS does so out of necessity, and not out of any personal or professional spite against the Supervisor or the Agency, and that the proper response to convey is one of support, empathy, and cooperation, without needing to compromise the goal and mission of the Agency.  Further, I am taken aback by the unprofessional and utterly unhelpful attitude of many Human Resources personnel in the processing of a Federal Disability Retirement application. 

Too often, the H.R. person finds it his or her mission in life to be an obstacle to the smooth processing of a disability retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  Yet, the law is clear (though not to many of the H.R. Departments at various agencies):  it is the Office of Personnel Management which has the sole legal authority to make a positive or negative determination on a Federal Disability Retirement application; at the agency level, the role of the Human Resources person is to try and expedite and efficiently process the disability retirement application.  Hopefully, those who have the positional designation of “Human Resources” will come to realize what it all actually means:  he or she is supposed to be a “resource” (a positive one, for that matter) with a “human” emphasis.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire