Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Memories

Memories induce a peculiar phenomena; by expunging them, we can perhaps sidestep sadness and loss.  With them, we are left with a lasting image of who we were, who we are, and who we have become, with a hope for recovery when we have lost our “place in society”.

Illness and disability often perverts our memories; the suffering person will often have a misplaced and skewed memory of the person he or she once was.

For the Federal or Postal Worker who is experiencing and undergoing the trauma of a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, it is often the pervasive memory of a time past, which continues to impede a necessary present course of action.  But before one gets to a critical point of crisis management, it is important to engage a realistic assessment of one’s present circumstances, and determine one’s future course of actions, and not be diverted by the memories of one’s past glory days.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit accorded to all Federal and Postal Workers who have the minimum eligibility criteria met (18 months for those under FERS; 5 years for those under CSRS), and should be looked upon as part of one’s total employment benefits, to be utilized when needed.

It is a benefit which must be ultimately submitted to, and approved by, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Consider the future; let not memories of past days confound the need to take direct and proper actions today; for, in the end, there will time to reflect and remember in future days to come.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Targeted Use of Collateral Evidence

Case-law from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as judicial opinions rendered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, maintain the standard of acceptable proof for a Federal Disability Retirement case submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, for Federal and Postal employees under either FERS or CSRS.

The primary basis for a Federal Disability Retirement application is clear:  A medical condition which exists, which prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing at least one, if not more, of the essential elements of one’s job; that a legally viable accommodation is not possible; that reassignment to another position at the same pay or grade is not reasonably feasible; that the medical condition will last a minimum of 12 months; and that the Federal or Postal employee must file for such benefits during the tenure of one’s employment as a Federal or Postal Employee, or within 1 year of being separated from Federal employment.

The core of one’s proof is generally based upon the treatment and opinion of one’s treating doctor.

Every now and again, however, there are “collateral” sources of proof which should be considered, and for various reasons, which must be relied upon for establishment of one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Such proof may include: opinions rendered by Second-opinion or “referee” doctors in an OWCP case; percentage ratings provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs; SSDI approval determinations; separation from the Agency based upon one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; medical notes for FMLA; and even (sometimes, but rarely) a decision granting disability benefits by a private insurer; and other such collateral sources of proof.

Such proof, of course, should never replace the centrality of one’s own treating doctor, and further, should always be targeted and submitted with discretionary judgment.  Sometimes, it can be the “other evidence” which makes the difference in a case; other times, if used indiscriminately, can be an indicator of the weakness of one’s case.

Be careful; be targeted; use discretion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Persuading with Persuasive Arguments

The question is often asked concerning whether or not and to what extent other collateral agency decisions can impact a Federal Disability Retirement application filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), whether under FERS or CSRS.

The only answer which can be provided is the standard, “It depends…”  The reason why “it depends” is precisely because utilization of any persuasive information or evidence is primarily dependent upon the persuasive efficacy of the evidence itself.

There is certainly legal case-law support for collateral evidentiary submissions, including SSDI, Department of Veterans Affairs ratings, Military Board findings, and DOL/OWCP second opinion and “referee” findings, etc.  Thus, the issue is not whether or not there is a basis for using such third-hand sources to support the primary evidentiary foundation of a Federal Disability Retirement application; rather, the issue becomes one of how effectively should one use such evidence.  Such a question, of course, can only depend upon the particular and unique circumstances of each case, by analyzing and reviewing the strength, applicability, and relevance of the documented information.

Sometimes, use of such collateral evidence can somewhat backfire, in that OPM will actually point to such evidence and discuss it in a way which supports a denial.  Care and discretion must always be taken in using collateral information; it is always the primacy of the primary information which must be used, and used effectively.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Undue Focus upon Minutiae

It is like the story of the man who rushes in breathlessly and declaratively warns others of the impending tornado, and with only minutes to spare, he is stopped and asked, “But will we still be able to watch our evening shows?”  The focus upon relevant details; of the “larger picture“; of logical and sequential sets of facts, as opposed to getting irrelevant information correctly stated, is often a problem in writing effectively.

The ability to use discretionary choices in separating factually important descriptions from those which are tertiary at best — will result in having the reader focus upon the essential aspects of one’s presentation, in any context or forum.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is vitally important to separate and bifurcate that which is primary in importance, that which is secondarily of relevance, and those factual minutiae which, even if left out, will make little or no difference to the substantive content of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Often, Federal and Postal employees who suffer from severe psychiatric conditions will unduly focus upon minutiae which, in the context of their medical conditions, are exponentially quantified in magnified importance beyond reason or rationale.  One must understand that such is the very nature of the psychiatric condition itself; but recognizing it as such, and trusting in the wise counsel and advice of one’s attorney, is the best first step in making sure that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will have a fighting chance for an approval.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Discretionary Extraction

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is often the question of whether X should be included, or Y should be left out.  Whether certain elements, issues, substantive descriptions, etc., should be included, excluded, extracted or otherwise inserted, largely falls into discretionary decision-making; sometimes, however, personal or professional discretion should not be the guiding criteria; rather, the compelling necessity directed by the legal requirements should dictate the decision itself.

Making such decisions often fall into three basic categories:  Substantive; ancillary; an admixture of the first and second.  Obviously, “which” medical conditions should be included will normally fall into the substantive category; the “history” of the medical condition, the circumstances under which the medical condition came about, and certain medical conditions which one might suffer from, but which have little or no impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, might be considered ancillary; and lastly, the admixture of the two — of agency-induced issues which may have resulted in an EEO action; stress-related conditions from a hostile work environment:  these must be considered carefully, and should rarely be included in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Ultimately, the guiding principle should be:  Don’t muddy the waters.  But the true guide should always be “the law”, and what purports to uphold that which proves by a preponderance of the evidence a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Collateral Work Issues

There is often, and inevitably (it would appear), collateral work issues which appear in parallel form, along with the impact of a medical condition upon a Federal or Postal worker.  Such issues can take multiple and varied forms — from actions on the part of the Federal or Postal employee which impact upon the performance of the job itself; to behavioral issues at work; to issues concerning actions by the Federal or Postal employee outside of the workplace, but which leads to legal issues which are brought to the attention of the agency.  Whether such collateral issues directly influence or have a peripheral reverberation upon a Federal Disability Retirement application is anyone’s guess.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, however, it is best to assume that (A) the Office of Personnel Management will know, or will somehow find out, about the collateral issues, via being informed by the agency or through some non-pertinent document which mentions or otherwise touches upon the issue, and (B) that OPM will use it as a basis for an argument that there was an underlying motive for filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, aside from the medical issue itself.

There are ways to counter such selective attempts by OPM to use a collateral issue to defeat a Federal Disability Retirement application, and it is best to have both a paper-trail as well as a clear time-line of events, to show that the collateral issue existed in a parallel, but separate, universe than the central issue of one’s medical condition.  OPM searches to defeat; it is the job of the Federal or Postal employee to rebut the search, and to destroy the effort in order to force the issue, and obtain an approval from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Impact of Collateral Problems & Advice

The problem with not being guided in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is that there are multiple collateral, and often unexpected, issues which come up in the course of preparing and filing for the eventuality, which may or may not impact the central issue of Federal Disability Retirement.

Whether a particular agency’s offer of an given action impacting one’s job can be used by the Office of Personnel Management in denying a Federal Disability Retirement application; whether a particular issue is relevant, significant, or of sufficient applicability to warrant immediate attention or a response, can only be determined by having a handle on the larger context of issues.

Much of disability retirement law and the issues which appear to intersect with the legal criteria for eligibility, are discretionary in nature; some have no impact at all; still others, have sufficient impact and possible reverberations such that they should be addressed in a legally appropriate and sufficient manner.  But the greater issue is whether the Federal or Postal employee should simply operate in the dark and hope that such seemingly collateral issues will not come back to haunt one at a later time.  That is the bliss of ignorance; unfortunately, that which one does not know, can indeed come back to hurt one.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire