CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Muddle of a Myopic Focus

Focusing upon a singular aspect of an issue, and failing to comprehend its limited import and relevance within the greater context, is a pitfall which many fall into.  It is tantamount to having a myopic condition — where one’s nearsightedness prevents one from having the capacity to focus upon anything beyond those within one’s easy reach.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application, filed through one’s agency (if one is still a Federal or Postal employee, or if separated, such separation has not occurred more than 31 days) and ultimately forwarded to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (or, if separated from one’s agency for more than 31 days, directly to the Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA), whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to approach the preparation, formulation and filing of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application with a larger view than to discuss issues of limited relevance.

For example, when a Federal or Postal employee is embroiled in an adversarial and contentious process with one’s own agency, or a supervisor, it is often reflected in the Federal Disability Retirement application via a tirade of specific descriptions concerning harassment, workplace hostility, etc.  While such descriptions may be relevant for purposes of an  EEOC claim, it has very little significance for one’s Federal Disability Retirement claim.

Keep the essence of a case at the forefront:  Medical issues; impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.

All myopic conditions need correction; properly prescribed glasses to keep one’s focus may be a necessary expense.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Different Approaches

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there are different approaches which one can take within the limited universe of available time which each Federal and Postal Worker possesses.

One approach is to fight every wording and each action which the agency undertakes or engages in.  A different approach is to ensure that the core and central foundation of one’s case is effective and — whether explicitly or implicitly — answers any of the collateral issues which may be brought up by the agency.

Thus, for example, if a medical narrative report effectively addresses all of the essential questions concerning a Federal Disability Retirement application, then whatever the agency attempts to argue or infer in an argument, concerning accommodations, light duty, or even adverse actions which have previously been imposed, will all become essentially irrelevant and immaterial, precisely because this is fundamentally a medical issue, and not an issue concerning who did what or tried what.

Much of what is within the purview and control of the Federal or Postal employee putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application is lost when the focus is unduly placed upon trying to correct, attack, or explain what the agency is doing.

By creating an excellent firewall of that which is within one’s own control,  the Federal Disability Retirement application that is prepared, formulated and filed by the Federal or Postal employee effectively answers anything and everything which the Agency may attempt to insert with a subversive motive.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Getting Lost in a Morass

At each step in the administrative process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, including any responses to denials from OPM in order to qualify for the subsequent stage of the process (i.e., a Request for Reconsideration must be filed within thirty (30) days of the denial; an appeal must be filed with the Merit Systems Protection Board, etc.), there is always the danger of becoming lost in the morass of peripheral issues, often resulting from a sense of panic upon an initial reading of correspondence received.  

Thus, whether it is a letter from the Office of Personnel Management for additional medical documentation; a decision of denial at the Initial Stage of the Process; a second denial from the Office of Personnel Management — it is important to have a sense of how one must extract the essential points which must be addressed, and refuse to respond in a reactionary, ineffective manner.

Compiling an immediate response based upon an initial reading is normally a waste of time.  Verbiage which takes up space on a page of paper does not in and of itself mean that it requires a substantive response.  Much of what the Office of Personnel Management states can be summarized in a couple of sentences, once all of the ancillary issues are set aside.  

Further, it is more often the case than not, that what the Office of Personnel Management states as the requirements of “the law” is simply wrong.  OPM is rarely up-to-date on the current case-law as handed down by the Merit Systems Protection Board or the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals. Compliance with the law is one thing; compliance with the wrong law and an erroneous interpretation of legal requirements is quite another.  

To panic is to remain in a morass; to re-review the legal requirements in the administrative process of applying for, and becoming eligible for, Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, is essential to the road to success.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Continuing Issues with Collateral Impact

It is sometimes asked whether or not other issues which are concurrently and concomitantly filed can, and to what extent, impact the viability of a Federal Disability Retirement application submitted for approval to the Office of Personnel Management.

In order to comprehend such a question, it is important to view the answer from the various perspective of the parties.  First, from the viewpoint of the Office of Personnel Management — unless they are specifically made aware of such collateral issues — such peripheral “other issues” would have no bearing upon a Federal Disability Retirement application unless it concerned the potential offset questions of Social Security Disability.  

Whether a court filing which concerns a discrimination issue; or an EEOC filing, or perhaps a grievance procedure; all such collateral issues, from the viewpoint of the Office of Personnel Management, would have no relevance.  Then, of course, there is the perspective of the “other” forum — perhaps there is an ongoing case at the Merit Systems Protection Board, or with the EEOC, or even a Federal Court case.  

Whether, from the “other” forum, there may be an interest as to whether the Federal or Postal employee has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the Office of Personnel Management, is a question which only the other forum can answer.  

If a claim is made in the alternate forum where the requested relief involves getting one’s job back, and at the same time, one has declared by the mere filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS with the Office of Personnel Management, that one is no longer able to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, then from the “other” perspective, what has been filed with the Office of Personnel Management may be of some interest to the other forum.  However, remember that seemingly contradictory concurrent filings are not necessarily negatively viewed, especially if such actions are engaged in order to preserve one’s right to assert a legal standing.  

Ultimately, however, it is a rare case indeed that an alternate, concurrent, concomitant filing with another forum has any relevance or impact upon a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Central v. Peripheral Issues

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), it has been variously pointed out by the undersigned author at different times, that it is a self-defeating proposition to focus upon workplace issues which may be the originating and/or continuing impetus, cause or exacerbating trigger of a medical condition which has resulted in the necessity of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Just as the problem of an ad hominem attack detracts from the centrality of a point to be made, and instead focuses one’s attention upon an issue which may or may not have any relevance at all upon the original proposition; similarly, to unduly focus upon workplace issues such as harassment, hostile work environment, unfair treatment, mean supervisors, personalities of coworkers, policies which are applied in a discriminatory manner, etc. — all of these issues, while of interest perhaps in another context, forum or jurisdiction, deflects the central and substantive focus of what is necessary in order to obtain an approval for a Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management.

Moreover, such focus upon peripheral issues may actually defeat a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application, by pointing out the “red flag” of what is termed a “situational disability” (those disabilities which can be reasonably said to confine themselves within the context of a specific work environment).  Treat the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application before the Office of Personnel Management as one’s opportunity for 15 minutes of fame — within that short time span, make the best of it, and don’t meander into areas of irrelevancies.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Issue of Discretion

A Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS may also be undergoing concurrent disciplinary proceedings, or engaged in corollary grievances, EEO Complaints, or involved in a lawsuit in a separate forum, either in the Federal Circuit Courts or at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

In either event, the question often comes to the fore as to whether such collateral issues should be brought up in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) or perhaps in a legal memorandum or cover letter which argues the merits of the case, the legal basis for eligibility, etc.  The answer to the question as to whether, how and where is one of discretionary choice, and there is never a singular answer.  

A separate question to be asked of one’s self (with no obvious answer) is whether or not, if the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS does not bring up the fact of a collateral issue being litigated in a separate forum, will the Agency bring it up and discuss it in a way detrimental to the Applicant, and further, will the fact that the issues was not brought up make it appear as if the Applicant is somehow trying to hide the issue?  As with all such hypotheticals, the answer to all of the above is:  It all depends…  

Often, not mentioning a potential “red flag” until and unless it becomes a red flag is the best approach.  Sometimes, making a passing reference to the collateral issue may be appropriate.  In all instances, unless a connection can be made between the collateral issue and the issues central to a Federal Disability Retirement application — the medical basis and the impact upon one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job — it is normally best to leave it alone.  In any case, such discretionary decisions should be made with the advice of an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Exaggerated Focus

Often, in preparing and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, the distractions of collateral issues can be heightened to a level of exaggerated focus, such that it formulates and creates a perception which is beyond the proper perspective which it should be accorded.

Thus, for instance, the issue of whether or not a Supervisor’s support in a Federal Disability Retirement application is important, and to what extent. The issue of whether the Agency can undermine or subvert the Federal Disability Retirement application, etc. — these can be mere distractions which, if allowed to expand in an exaggerated vacuum, can derail a Federal Disability Retirement application unnecessarily.

On the other hand, certain issues and obstacles can indeed be exaggerated, and still maintain a perspective of “reality” — such as the support and importance of one’s treating doctor.

It is important to make the conceptual distinction between the core essentials which make up a Federal Disability Retirement application, and those which are secondary, and further, those which are peripheral to the process.

The ultimate goal is to formulate an approach, prepare an effective presentation to the Office of Personnel Management, and not get distracted from the multiple obstacles and seeming-obstacles which can divert one’s attention, and maintain a reasoned perspective throughout.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire