FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Language Used

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a “paper presentation” which must be “proven”.  It is thus not technically an “entitlement”, but rather an accessible benefit which must meet certain legal guidelines as set forth by Statute, subsequent Regulations propounded by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and Case-laws and Court opinions as rendered over a long course of time by various courts and administrative agencies, such as the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

When one steps back and observes the entirety of the process, it is — from inception of the administrative procedure to its conclusion in receipt of payment of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity — a massive compendium and compilation of “language”.  Throughout the process, little need be spoken of or to; rather, the written word — that malleable tool of communication — is placed from mind-to-ink-upon-paper, to be presented to another receptive mind, in order to evaluate, analyze and ultimately conclude with a decision, whether as an initial approval or a denial.  If a denial, then the process continues without interruption as heretofore described.

As such, because Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is comprised by the linear, sequential and persuasive use of language, it is important to utilize the tool effectively, and to apply all of the forces of language which will make for an effective presentation:  brevity, but with emotive force; succinct, but with logical persuasiveness; comprehensible, but with descriptive expansiveness. Language is the tool to be used; as the preferred and necessary tool, it must be applied with careful choosing, in order to be effective in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Denials

Denials come with an unexpected force and impact; for, in every Federal Disability Retirement case, there is the expectation that the application itself merits close scrutiny and a belief that a proper review will persuade the OPM trier of facts that the Federal Disability Retirement application should be approved.

Indeed, from the perspective of the applicant, who is suffering from the medical condition itself on a daily basis, it is often a reaction of disbelief and anger when a denial is issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  But one must understand that this administrative process identified as “Federal Disability Retirement” is one which is not an “entitlement”, but rather, an adversarial process where proof, argumentation and persistent appellate procedures must be invoked at every step of the way.

That is why, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one needs to always prepare a case as if it will ultimately go to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Further, it is understandably disappointing to read an OPM denial and find that the OPM case worker does not even mention or refer to much of the substantive medical documentation submitted, but instead blindly (and generically) issues a template of tired old phrases, such as, “You did not meet the legal criteria“; “The evidence did not show that…”

With hundreds of cases assigned to each OPM Case Worker, one must understand that denials are rarely personal; but in responding to a denial from OPM, one must be diligent, forceful, and approach it with the use of all legal tools available.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Psychological Process

One of the reasons why the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, should view the entirety of the administrative process as just that — a “process” as opposed to an entitlement to benefits — is because (a) that is in fact what it is and (b) to fail to view it from that perspective would be to refuse to adequately prepare for the long and arduous procedural pitfalls which are inherent in each case.

This is not an entitlement where a specific trigger of an event results in the automatic calculation and issuance of compensation.  Reaching a certain age does not result in the granting of Federal Disability Retirement benefits (although it may end it and be recalculated at age 62); attaining a certain number of years of service will not qualify one for Federal disability Retirement benefits (but again, upon reaching age 62, it may result in a beneficial calculation of benefits for having a greater number of years of service).

Rather, Federal Disability Retirement is an administrative, legal process in which one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is (1) eligible, in that one meets certain minimum requirements, such as 18 months of Federal Service under FERS, or 5 years under CSRS, and (2) entitled, by proving that one has met the legal requirements under the statutes, regulations and case-law.

By having the proper psychological perspective, one is better able to prepare for the long haul before starting the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Obtaining, Maintaining and Preserving

Just as preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is an administrative process — as opposed to an “entitlement” where a simple act of filing or meeting an automatic requirement makes one eligible and entitled — where one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the Federal or Postal employee meets all of the legal criteria for eligibility; similarly, once the Federal or Postal employee obtains the Federal Disability Retirement benefits, it is a “process” which one must be prepared to embrace, in order to maintain the continuing viability of one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and further, in order to preserve the right to retain and continue to receive the Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

That is why it is important to understand the entirety of the administrative process — not only in obtaining the benefit itself, but to ensure future compliance with the statutes, regulations and case-law.  While legal and on-line resources are certainly available and abound with information, ultimately those very resources must be applied; and in order to apply them, they must be interpreted by someone who understands the entirety of the administrative process.  “Trial and error” is often not the best approach in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, if only because the “error” may outweigh the benefit of the trial itself.

As such, it is advisable to consult with an OPM Disability Retirement attorney  who can guide one through the administrative process — not only at its inception, but in its continuing maintenance and retention of this benefit called, Federal Disability Retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Necessity of Recognition

For all of the Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating preparing, formulating or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits either under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize first, the complexity of the administrative process; second, that Federal Disability Retirement benefits are not a guaranteed outcome — it is not an “entitlement” in the sense that a Federal or Postal employee can automatically qualify for the benefit — but is part of the Federal compensation package for being a Federal or Postal employee, but one which must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence in order to qualify; and third, that the challenge of proving one’s eligibility must be met in a sequential, logical, and methodological manner such that the presentation made to the Office of Personnel Management is coherent, concise and comprehensible.  

Preparation for the long administrative process  is a prerequisite; proper formulation of one’s packet must be carefully attended to; and timely filing in order to meet the statutory guidelines is a necessity.  All in all, meeting the entirety of the administrative process is a complex legal maneuver which should be considered with care, foresight, and deliberation.  Do not take anything for granted.  Seek proper and useful information; then be “effective” as opposed to “efficient” — although, obviously encapsulating both qualities concurrently would be the best of all worlds.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Subsequent Actions

Obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management is a “process” as opposed to an entitlement, and this distinction has been variously explained and expanded upon in previous blogs and articles.  

But the term “process” also needs to be applied in two different ways — it is a process applied as an administrative issue involving the Office of Personnel Management, but moreover, it should remain so for the individual Federal or Postal worker who has worked so hard to obtain the Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  By this, is meant that, just because the Federal or Postal worker has secured an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, does not (and should not) mean that the “process” ends for the Federal or Postal employee.  

Obtaining the Federal Disability Retirement annuity is one part of the process; once secured, some simple steps should be set in place, such that the Federal Disability Retirement benefit is “secured” and “protected” for the future.  

Thus, the continuation of the process should minimally and necessarily include:  Keeping in contact with one’s treating doctor or doctors; making sure that any outside employment adheres to the 80% rule for earned income; maintaining an ability to justify the conceptual distinction between any job acquired after one’s Federal Service and the job previously performed; being prepared to respond to OPM’s Medical Questionnaire in the event that one is selected to do so; and other preemptive measures.  

Surprises and emergencies occur when one fails to adequately plan for the future; future planning should be a daily maintenance project, taking only 5 minutes of one’s daily process (if that); and, after all, Poor Richard’s Almanac of 1732 was right in declaring, “A stitch in time saves nine”.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire