Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Life After

At first, it begins with survival for another day; then, upon a realization that “another day” will merely bring forth a multitude of subsequent such days, the goalposts are moved to allow for several months.  Once the realization hits you that the medical condition will not merely subside or disappear, and continuation in a present mode of existence is simply not a feasible option, then the perspective as to one’s career must by necessity change.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, finally becomes an option.

Thereafter, the goal is to outlast the waiting line at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — to get through the First Stage of the process, and if necessary (and a denial is obtained instead of the approval at the initial stage), the second, Reconsideration Stage.  There are multiple stages beyond the administrative stages, of course, but whatever are the administrative and bureaucratic procedures which must be undergone, the goal is to get the approval letter from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

And what happens when that goal is achieved?

One finally recognizes that all such goals were merely intermediate in nature, and it is at that point that one realizes that, upon an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the true goal is to live one’s life after separation from the Federal agency — separation in an administrative sense, certainly, but more importantly, in terms of time and medical recuperation.

Health, some financial security; a peace of mind; and a time of recuperative peace; there is indeed a life after.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: A Sudden Awareness

One often muddles through life, so long as nothing extraordinary occurs.

A medical condition may begin to impact the Federal or Postal employee, perhaps in a peripheral, non-threatening manner, at first; then, over time, a series of events occurs; perhaps, like the domino effect we witness in a causal calamity of sequential occurrences, to wit:  the medical condition; a second condition, this time requiring a new medication regimen; side effects; further manifestations of symptoms; a new diagnosis; missing more work than usual; sidelong glances from supervisors and coworkers; and before one realizes the full import of what has happened, one suddenly becomes aware that no longer is one considered that “star employee” by the agency, but a malingerer, a problem-child, and one who is teated in a fashion as in the old remnants of leper colonies.

When such a time erupts, and at a moment of such awareness, it is time to consider preparing, formulating and filing for Federal disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

While not offering the perfect solution, it does allow for the Federal or Postal employee suffering from a medical condition, a way out of an otherwise untenable position:  a time for recuperation; a level of financial security; a potential for engaging a second vocation and earning additional money above and beyond the disability annuity.  That sudden awareness is an indicator; in a similar manner to the revelation of symptoms, which is a signal of the body trying to warn a person of an impending medical crisis, so the awareness that one’s peers, coworkers and supervisors are viewing you in a different light is a triggering mechanism which should be heeded.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: A Hypothetical

The case-law opinions from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, upholds the statement added onto Question 4 of Standard Form 3112A, the form which specifically requests the Applicant’s statement of disability, which asserts:  “We consider only the disease and/or injuries you discuss in this application”.

Failure to identify a particular medical condition can have an adverse impact upon one’s application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Take the following hypothetical: a Federal or Postal employee is terminated from Federal Service; he or she files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from service.  While the Statute of Limitations has already been met because the filing has occurred within the 1-year timeframe, during the process of awaiting a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the treating doctor has diagnosed with greater specificity the primary and underlying cause of the medical condition.

In his or her haste to file, the (now former) Federal employee quickly noted the diagnosed medical conditions in response to question 4, but nowhere is there an indication of the newly-diagnosed medical condition.  During the wait, it is now more than 1 year from the time of separation.  The quandary:  The Federal Disability Retirement application cannot be withdrawn, because the 1-year Statute of Limitations has already passed, and so he or she is no longer able to re-file.  No additional medical conditions can be added onto the SF 3112A.

Is there a problem? The answer:  Under this hypothetical, potentially yes.

Even if OPM approves the case, there may be future difficulties if OPM approves the Disability Retirement application based upon a medical condition listed, but resolved.  Care in identifying and properly annotating the medical conditions must be taken in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Medical Conditions & OPM

Clearly, there are certain medical conditions which the Office of Personnel Management “dislikes” or has a negative, suspicious view towards, in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  One may attempt to rationally comprehend the innate bias towards certain groupings of medical conditions, but to do so would expend energy which, ultimately, results in an act of futility.

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, nowhere in the statute which provides for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is there notification or indication of a distinction between medical conditions.  As such, any pattern of hostility towards a particular medical condition, or a “type” of medical condition, must have evolved over time.  

The peculiar thing, of course, is the consistency in which all of the Claims Representatives at OPM have developed — of a similar pattern of reaction and behavior towards the “undesirable” medical conditions, as if they all work from a single template and have discussed, in conspiratorial hushed tones, a concerted effort to deny certain cases which are primarily based upon X medical conditions.  

That all said — and put aside as a note of interest but ultimately irrelevant — the way to rebut and overcome the inherent bias towards such medical conditions is to systematically reinforce the statutory requirements for eligibility, by explaining to the treating doctor(s) what is needed in order to overcome such bias.  Ignorance of the law is one thing; misapplication of the law is another.  Both must be overcome by guiding the treating doctor in how to meet the legal criteria, no matter what the medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Those Chronic Medical Conditions

Often, in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is the concern that because a particular medical condition has had a “chronic” nature to it (whatever the particular diagnosis is, to include Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Failed Back Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, etc.), that somehow it will impact the chances of being approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

The argument and concern goes somewhat as follows:  X Federal or Postal employee has been able to work for Y number of years for the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service; the medical condition has not prevented the Federal or Postal employee from performing the essential elements of the job all these years, because the Federal or Postal employee has simply endured the chronic nature of the pain; therefore, the medical condition (it is feared) cannot be cited as a basis for an approval from the Office of Personnel Management.  

However, the mere rationale that a particular medical condition is chronic, inherently or otherwise, is not a basis for being concerned about a denial.  The fact is that a particular Federal or Postal employee was able to perform the essential elements of his or particular job for many years; the chronicity of the medical condition is often the case; but at some point, the constant, chronic pain comes to a point where the Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to physically, emotionally or mentally tolerate the extent, duration and severity of the pain.  At such a critical point, it is time to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Priority and Importance

In preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to always distinguish between two conceptual paradigms:  priority of an issue, and the importance of an issue.

While gathering the proper evidence and substantiating medical documentation is of importance, it should not be the priority.  The priority — that which should precede another — should be to take care of the medical condition itself (i.e., to get the proper treatment modalities, to undergo the necessary diagnostic tests, to follow the treatment regimen of the doctor, etc.).

At some point, of course, the question will arise:  Is it time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS?  Can I continue to work at my job?  Is my job performance suffering?  At that critical juncture, then the issue of importance may arise.  While priority has to do with that which is first in a series of issues, the concept of “importance” can entail multiple issues all at once.

Once the question of “whether” is answered in the affirmative, then one must begin to approach the doctor for his or her support; to begin to annotate how the medical condition is impacting one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, etc.  All throughout, of course, the priority of getting the proper medical care is paramount.  Everything else is secondary, but other things can concurrently be of importance.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: How to Handle those “Second-Class” Medical Conditions

Attitudes toward various medical conditions change over time.  This has certainly been the case with psychiatric medical conditions:  Major Depression, Anxiety, panic attacks, Bipolar Disorder, Agoraphobia, PTSD, OCD, etc.  At one time in our society, the heavy stigma placed upon such medical conditions essentially made them unacceptable.  Over time, however, as greater numbers of such conditions came to the forefront, and greater success at treatment of such conditions became evident, the validity and acceptance of such conditions have resulted in other medical conditions taking their place. 

Thus, certain conditions such as Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Chronic Pain, Chemical Sensitivity cases, etc., have become the psychiatric conditions of a prior age.  Perhaps it is because the medical profession treats such conditions as afterthoughts — where, through a process of elimination of saying that the medical condition is not X, Y or Z, therefore it is A. 

Whatever the reasons, in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, a Federal or Postal employee who is applying for such benefits who is suffering from any of the Second-Class medical conditions must formulate and compile his or her case in a thoughtful, deliberate and forceful manner.  Such an application must include adequate medical support; a clear and concise bridge between the symptomatologies experienced and the type of job which one must perform; and legal arguments which support the basis for an approval.  To some extent, this approach is no different than with any other medical condition; it is merely a reminder that one must cross all “T’s” and dot all “I’s” with that much more care.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire