Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Process versus Substance

The emphasis and magnified focus upon process-issues as opposed to the underlying substance of an endeavor is often misplaced; yet, the problem is, if one ignores the former, the latter may never reach fruition because it may never arrive at its intended destination.  The question of balance between the two is an important one; for, the greatest of ideas may have historically vanished not because the idea itself was one lacking in value, but rather because it never received the sales pitch which effectively presented itself into the stream of commerce.

Similarly, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, while it is important to understand the administrative process of the “nuts and bolts” of filing (i.e., who does it go to; which form is completed by whom; how long does it take at point X; what happens after destination Y, etc.), it is preliminarily of relevance to get the substance of the application in order (i.e., the proper medical report with all of the essential elements in place; one’s statement of disability which addresses the issues of concern to OPM; any legal arguments and invocation of precedent-setting arguments, etc.).

Process gets us there; substance is the “that” which gets there.  If there is no “that”, it will be no use for the “there”; and, conversely, if it never gets there, it will not make a difference.  Ultimately, however, while both are of importance, it is the substance of the case which makes the difference, and the focus should be upon that substance before one’s attention is placed upon the vehicle of delivery.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Coordinating the Elements of Success

Coordination is something taken for granted; it is only when there is a visible lack of coordination that one comes to appreciate that which has been taken for granted.  Thus, when a disjointed presentation is viewed; a play or a movie without a coherent theme; an unskilled person attempting a skill-based sport; a person trying to “wing it” when such an endeavor cannot be accomplished without prior practice and perseverance:  it is the bad play which brings to the fore the importance of coordination.

Thus, for the Federal and Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is the disjointed application, the one without a coherent structure or lacking of the necessary connections between the primary three (3) elements:  the law, the personal narrative, and the medical foundation; that is when a Federal Disability Retirement application is in trouble at the outset.

Coordinating the necessary elements will greatly enhance the chances of a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.  It is when there is a lack of such coordination that the inherent inconsistencies and lack of evidentiary substantiveness will become apparent; sort of like the minor leaguer who tries to reenact the play of a major league type, only to find that it isn’t quite the same.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Targeted Use of Collateral Evidence

Case-law from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as judicial opinions rendered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, maintain the standard of acceptable proof for a Federal Disability Retirement case submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, for Federal and Postal employees under either FERS or CSRS.

The primary basis for a Federal Disability Retirement application is clear:  A medical condition which exists, which prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing at least one, if not more, of the essential elements of one’s job; that a legally viable accommodation is not possible; that reassignment to another position at the same pay or grade is not reasonably feasible; that the medical condition will last a minimum of 12 months; and that the Federal or Postal employee must file for such benefits during the tenure of one’s employment as a Federal or Postal Employee, or within 1 year of being separated from Federal employment.

The core of one’s proof is generally based upon the treatment and opinion of one’s treating doctor.

Every now and again, however, there are “collateral” sources of proof which should be considered, and for various reasons, which must be relied upon for establishment of one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Such proof may include: opinions rendered by Second-opinion or “referee” doctors in an OWCP case; percentage ratings provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs; SSDI approval determinations; separation from the Agency based upon one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; medical notes for FMLA; and even (sometimes, but rarely) a decision granting disability benefits by a private insurer; and other such collateral sources of proof.

Such proof, of course, should never replace the centrality of one’s own treating doctor, and further, should always be targeted and submitted with discretionary judgment.  Sometimes, it can be the “other evidence” which makes the difference in a case; other times, if used indiscriminately, can be an indicator of the weakness of one’s case.

Be careful; be targeted; use discretion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Settlement of Collateral Lawsuits

Appearance versus reality has been an ongoing philosophical issue within the Western Classical Tradition for centuries; it involves the very essence of the culture and heritage of the West, beginning with the Pre-Socratics (e.g., Parmenides), and continuing with Plato, Aristotle…to Heidegger; and until the dawn of modern Philosophy, where linguistic hermeneutics began to prevail, constituted the dominant foundation of philosophical inquiry. How a thing is presented, or “looks”, as opposed to what a thing “really is”, or the “essence” of being, forms the fundamental philosophical inquiry.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is often the case that the Federal or Postal employee is involved in some collateral lawsuit or adversarial process — often directly with the agency itself, in an EEO forum, MSPB or U.S. District Court.  

Inevitably, settlement negotiations will often occur, and the issue of whether a Federal or Postal employee can be retroactively “separated” for his or her medical inability to perform one’s job may be offered.  How the settlement is formulated; what is stated in the settlement agreement; what promises are made, etc., are all important in order for such agreements to effectively assist in the Federal or Postal employee being able to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  OPM objects to the Federal Retirement fund being used as a tool for settlement of collateral lawsuits.  

Any settlement agreement must not “look” like it is merely a carrot for enticement to medically retire.  The reality of the situation is important.  As always, we go back to our Western roots — appearance versus reality.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire