Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Decisions by OPM

In making a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Office of Personnel Management has a policy which essentially refuses to convey the decision over the telephone, and asks that the applicant wait until the letter of approval or denial is received by the applicant.  This is probably a sound policy, despite resulting in a few more days of additional waiting, testing the patience of the Federal or Postal employee who is anxious in anticipation of a favorable decision.  

The problems which could potentially be compounded and exponentially multiplied by an erroneous or contradictory communication between what the OPM worker states over the telephone, and what the decision made by the Claims Representative who is handling the particular case of the inquiring individual, would (and potentially could) unnecessarily complicate matters.  

One assumes that what the Office of Personnel Management is attempting to avoid, aside from privacy concerns of not being able to adequately identify the person on the other end of the telephone, is the potential scenario where the Federal or Postal applicant has been denied in his or her Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, but is told over the telephone that he or she has been approved, or vice versa.  

Beyond that, however, it is a reasonable policy to have by any Federal agency — for protection of confidential information which only the Federal or Postal employee/applicant and his or her representative attorney should have access to.  While a few more days may indeed increase the anxiety level of the applicant, it is well to try and understand that such a policy of not revealing information to someone who has not been properly identified, is one which the Federal or Postal employee should not get upset with OPM about.  

There are enough issues to be upset with OPM about; protecting the privacy of confidential information is not one of them.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Don’t Count Your Chickens …

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is — as has been previously stated ad nauseum in the past — a process which, once completed and filed, requires the enduring virtue of patience.  

During the waiting period, it is natural for the Federal or Postal employee to experience the anxiety and angst of awaiting the decision from the Office of Personnel Management.  Whether continuing to work in a limited, light duty capacity; remaining and waiting it out on LWOP; using up all of one’s accrued sick leave; working at a temporary assignment; or working a job in the private sector to make ends meet; whatever one’s status, there is little one can do during the long waiting period with OPM.  

Calling them will not necessarily evoke a helpful response, but calling just to “check on the status” will often calm one’s fears and anxieties, exacerbated over time because of the sense of isolation and disquietude created by the wasteland period of waiting.  

One rule to follow, however:  when contacting the Office of Personnel Management, it is best not to try and “gauge” the response of the reviewing “specialist” or “Claims Representative” (or whatever other euphemism of self-identity the person may ascribe to), whether in tone, words or verbal references.  Whether an initial denial or an approval, the status of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application should be ascertained only upon the receipt, in hand, of the actual decision.  

Don’t count those chickens before they hatch.  Indeed, don’t even count the eggs; wait until the receipt in hand of the documentary evidence showing an approval or a denial.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Waiting upon the Office of Personnel Management

A Federal or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS must understand that the waiting portion of the entire process is probably the most difficult time, precisely because it is a time of inactivity, where one’s future plans are placed on hold because of the uncertainty of the decision.  

Everyone, of course, believes that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application has merit. Otherwise, a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, should never have been prepared, formulated, finalized and filed — but for the strong belief that one’s medical conditions prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  

Every Federal or Postal employee whom I represent believes that his or her case is a “slam dunk” case, and it is the job of an OPM Disability Attorney to present it as such, but within the limitations of what the doctor & other supporting documentation will provide.  Once a Federal Disability Retirement application has been filed with the Office of Personnel Management, then the destiny of one’s future plans is somewhat placed in the hands of the OPM benefits clerk.  

Activity often gives the appearance of progress, and inactivity presents a frustrating sense of powerlessness.  But waiting is part of the process.  As such, it is best to make plans, prepare for one’s future in other ways, and allow the Office of Personnel Management to review one’s case properly and thoroughly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Waiting

Waiting for a decision to be rendered by the Office of Personnel Management for a submitted Federal Disability Retirement application, either at the Initial Stage of the Process, or after filing additional medical documentation and legal arguments at the Reconsideration Stage of the process, can be an agonizing time.  It is easy to say, “Patience is the key“, when each day passes without a word.  A call to the Office of Personnel Management will rarely yield any positive results.  Yes, there are some supervisors and contacts which can be helpful in the process, but ultimately too much undue pressure can sometime backfire.  Is there a statutorily mandated time-frame within which OPM must respond and make a decision?  Normally, they will inform you that they try and make a decision within 90 days of whatever the beginning of the time-frame they ascribe, but it can take much longer.  The key to the entire process is to survive the time of waiting, however long that may take.  Survival is best endured if one recognizes at the beginning of the process, that this is one process which can take a long, long time.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management is taking a long time to process Federal Disability Retirement applications and benefits, at all levels of the process.  It is not something which can be corrected in the short term, except with patience and polite persistence.  From their point of view, the people working at the Office of Personnel Management are doing their best in reviewing and evaluating each Federal Disability Retirement case, and attempting to process all approved cases as expeditiously as possible.  But from the perspective of the individual applicant, whether awaiting for a decision by OPM or for payment because an application has already been approved, any delay beyond the normal, expected time-frame (and there is no timetable which is “set in stone” with OPM) is one which is unacceptable.  If an individual’s Federal Disability Retirement application has already been approved and that person is receiving interim payments, then he or she is awaiting for finalization of the case; that person, at least, is receiving some payment, and should be thankful for that, because there are many others who have gotten an application approved but has been waiting for months without any pay at all.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OWCP & OPM Future Reviews

There are horror stories:  of people on “disability” who are watched and video-taped, and after having 500 hours of taping, it is edited to show that, within a 2-minute period, it is revealed that you can indeed perform physical feats which your medical disability should restrict.

As an attorney who receives daily inquiries concerning Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, people relate such fears to me.  However, I am quick to remind such callers on two (2) matters:  First, such stories relate almost exclusively to Federal OWCP cases, which have nothing to do with Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, and Second, the people I represent have legitimate medical conditions which impact and prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

There is also an additional Third element in the issue, Federal Disability Retirement annuitants are allowed, under the law, to go out and get another job, and to work and make up to 80% of what his or her former position currently pays.

Now, obviously, any such job should be essentially different, in many ways, from the former job.  But the point is that the medical disability under FERS or CSRS is intimately wedded to a particular job, and the inability to perform the essential elements of that particular job.  That is where the difference lies between Federal Disability Retirement rules under FERS & CSRS and OWCP cases — the former allows one to continue to remain productive in the workplace; the other does not.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Process & the Office of Personnel Management

The “British Rule” is that “good manners will always get you through any and every form of trouble.”  The process at the Office of Personnel Management is a long and arduous one.  When the disability retirement packet finally arrives at Boyers, PA, it will often sit for approximately thirty (30) days, before it is finally assigned a CSA number (for CSRS employees, it will begin with the number “4”; for FERS employees, it will begin with the number “8”).  The Applicant will receive a form letter from OPM in Boyers, PA, informing you that you have been assigned a CSA number, and that it has been forwarded to the OPM office in Washington, D.C.  This is when patience and good manners must come to the fore.  Of course, there is nothing wrong with calling OPM and inquring about the status of your case.  However, always remember to be courteous; inquire as to the time-frame that the adjudicating disability specialist is expecting; and ask if it would be okay to call periodically, and to let him/her know that if any further documentation is needed, to give you a call — or, if you are represented, to call your attorney.  Whatever you do, do not get angry, and keep it professional — and courteous.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire