Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Algorithms & Human Peculiarities

In maneuvering through the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there are potentially multiple stages that one may encounter:  The First Stage of the process — the initial filing; if denied, one has a right to have the denial “reconsidered” by filing a Request for Reconsideration within thirty (30) days of the denial; if denied by OPM a second time, then one has a right to file an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, before an Administrative Judge.

There are, beyond the three stages identified, additional appellate stages of the process, including a Petition for Full Review before a 3-Judge panel of the MSPB, as well as an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

At each stage of the process, the Federal Disability Retirement application is reviewed and evaluated for sufficiency of proof and satisfaction of the statutory criteria for eligibility; and, moreover, a different person looks at the application at each stage of the bureaucratic process.

Thus, there is no singular algorithm — no application of a computer model which is identical across the board — in the evaluation of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  Instead, a different person reviews and evaluates the Federal Disability Retirement application at each stage.  This is probably a positive approach, and one which would be deemed “fair” by any objective standard.  For, while an application of a standard algorithm may be deemed objectively impersonal and unbiased, whereas human beings, in their inherently fallible nature may indeed possess biases and inclinations; nevertheless, it is the peculiarities of human imperfections which are still the trusted traits for procedural determinations.

That is why there is such a hue and cry over the increasing use of video replays and electronic line judges in sports; for some reason, we still trust in the human perspective, as opposed to the cold hardware of computers.  Perhaps, in our collective childhoods, we all became paranoid from watching HAL 9000 in Kubrick’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  A shivering thought.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Realizing Process

By definition, a process entails multiple procedural steps.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management encapsulates procedural administrative steps, and these include denials and appeals.

Yes, it is true that a certain percentage are approved at the first stage of the process.  Yes, it is also true that not everyone must go to the Second, or Reconsideration Stage of the process, or the Third Stage, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.  But the fact that “not everyone” must be subjected to X, does not undermine, erase, or otherwise nullify the truism that it still remains a “process”, as opposed to an application for an entitlement benefit.

As a process, one’s Federal Disability Retirement application with OPM must be proven.  In order to prove a case, one must submit certain qualifying documentation.  As the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is the initial and secondary reviewer and determining agency for the first two stages of the process, so they have personnel of differing qualitative abilities — from pure incompetence, to indifference, to superior case workers who understand the full and complete application of the law, the regulatory criteria, and the statutory applicability of case-law interpretation.

Since it is the only process around, it is something we have to live with, and ultimately, follow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Initial Denial & Reconsideration

In the Animal Kingdom, there are artificial classifications superimposed by a class of individuals commonly and generically referred to as “scientists”, in which more generalized identifiers are further categorized, until you reach the “genus” classification, and within that genus, the “species” classification.  In the objective world of animals, such classifications are irrelevant and taken no notice of.  Instead, the necessity to be able to identify various species is essentially based upon the ability to recognize one’s natural predators, as well as one’s food source.  

Such anthropomorphic imposition on ordering the world for purposes of our understanding of the world was recognized by Kant in his Critique of Pure Reason, and the ability of Man to impose his a priori categories upon the objective noumenal world.  But in the world of Man, especially for the Federal or Postal employee who has prepared, formulated and filed a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand the categorized arena within which he or she finds one’s self in.  

Thus, when an initial denial is received by the Federal or Postal worker, it is important to understand that filing a “Request for Reconsideration” does not take the Federal Disability Retirement case out of the hands of the agency which made the initial denial — instead, it is within the same agency (the Office of Personnel Management), but assigned to a next “level” in order for both the Federal or Postal employee to get a “second bite at the apple“, as well as for the deciding body (OPM) to review the case afresh, along with any new or additional evidence which the Federal or Postal employee can supply to OPM.  

This methodology of a second “review” makes sense, in that it allows for the deciding Federal Agency (OPM) to have a chance at correcting itself in the event that its initial decision was made in error, before it is allowed to be appealed to an independent, separate entity, called the Merit Systems Protection Board.  Thus, that same categorization and ordering of the world, superimposed upon the Animal Kingdom, is also utilized in the world of Man.  The same agency, but different sections; if the second review fails, then it is kicked up to a different genus — before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire