Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Guidance and the Void

Questions in life always abound; those who ask few, if any, questions, either retain an abundance of knowledge, are wanting of care, or merely meander through life in a muddle of marginality.

In enduring the administrative process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, questions concerning the entire bureaucratic process are never fully answered at any stage of the process.  The void of clear, concise and definitive answers are often deferred — whether because of OPM’s actions, one’s own agency actions, or because the context and timing of the question must betray the patience of an immediate answer.

Guidance throughout the process is invaluable.  Remember — ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement is a legal process; yes, it is the filing of government standard forms; yes, it is “administrative” in nature, inasmuch as the benefit applied for must be submitted through an administrative agency — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  But whenever there are rights to have a “case” reconsidered; whenever that administrative “filing” may require an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board; whenever “anything” of such a nature is or may be required — it constitutes a legal process and procedure.

For a legal process, one normally requires legal guidance.  The void of legal guidance of those who have tried it without an attorney, is palpable.  Of course, guidance is separate from wisdom; and wisdom is differentiated from the mere providing of information — often of error.  Seek the proper guidance, and keep out of the void.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Appropriate Times

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one of the issues which every Federal and Postal employee must consider is whether to hire an attorney.

“What kind” of an attorney to hire is a fairly self-evident proposition — one that specializes (exclusively) in Federal Disability Retirement law, or at the very least, whose practice involves a significant amount of Federal Disability Retirement legal practice.  Most local attorneys have no idea about Federal Disability Retirement, and indeed, the location of the attorney is irrelevant, precisely because it is a Federal issue, and not a State one, and everything must ultimately be forwarded to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, anyway — initially to Boyers, PA, then on to Washington, D.C.

“Whether” to hire an attorney is a more relevant issue.  As everyone believes that his or her own case is a slam-dunk case (because of the difficulty of bifurcating the subject of the Federal Disability Retirement application — the very “I” who is suffering from the medical condition itself — from the “object” of the Federal Disability Retirement application — the person of whom one is speaking about in medical reports, Supervisor’s Statement, etc.), it is often important to obtain a more “objective” assessment of the efficacy, objectivity, and coherence of descriptive delineation of the packet as a whole, from someone who can properly evaluate a Federal Disability Retirement application.

“When” to hire an attorney is also a crucial issue to confront; for, if one has already submitted a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is probably not a good idea to obtain the services of an attorney at that point.  It is best to put the investment in at the “front end” of a process, than to play catch-up for the remainder of the season.

That is what the Baltimore Orioles do each and every season — fail to put the necessary investment in at the beginning of each season — and that is why it is a hardship to be an Orioles fan.  Sigh.  But Spring brings new hope — only, not if you are an Orioles fan.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Waiting until the Very End

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is never a good idea to wait until the very end to obtain an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement issues.  By “the very end”, of course, is a relative term — it can mean the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, or a Petition for Full Review (PFR) before a 3-Judge panel of the Merit Systems Protection Board (upon an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, after a denial at the initial application stage before the Office of Personnel Management, then a denial at the Reconsideration Stage before OPM), or the hearing stage itself at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  The “very end” equates to “it is almost too late”.  Another relative concept is the term involving “almost”, as in “almost too late”.  

A recent reversal of a case was by a former Federal employee who attempted all of the initial stages on his own — the initial application stage with the Office of Personnel Management, then the Reconsideration Stage — then went to a Hearing at the Merit Systems Protection Board without an attorney.  This particular Federal employee then came to the undersigned attorney and asked if it could be reversed by an appeal to the 3-Judge panel at the Full Review Stage of the Merit Systems Protection Board.  As pointed out in an earlier blog, there were enough judicial/legal errors committed by the Administrative Judge to justify a Petition for Full Review, and indeed, the outcome was a positive one — fortunately, for the Petitioner/Appellant/Applicant.  However, it is always best not to wait until it is too late.  That is another relative concept — “too late”.  

Hope springs eternal, but such hope has an end in every administrative appeal process, and unless one begins to build the bridge properly from the very beginning, block by block, legal precedent by legal precedent, there is the danger that a collapse will ensue.  It is best to prepare well at the beginning of a process, lest the lack of preparation result in an irreversible tide of mistakes, mishaps, and misfortunes at the end of a long and arduous attempt.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: What to Do

Whether or not one should hire an OPM Disability Attorney at the initial stage of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, or whether to wait for a denial; such a question must be answered by each Federal or Postal employee, based upon the strength of a case, based upon the financial resources of the individual and the family, and based upon the ability of the potential applicant to organize, compile, streamline, delineate, communicate, descriptively convey, and methodologically argue the strength of a case.  Much of being able to successfully compile the multiple facets of a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application depends upon the discretionary ability to make judgments about which aspects to emphasize and magnify; which aspects to de-emphasize; and (often) most importantly, which issues to “leave alone”. 

Whatever it is that one does in preparing a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement Application under FERS or CSRS, the “What to Do” list must always include what NOT to do.  Whatever it is that one does, one should do nothing that is going to negatively impact one’s application or case.  And, above all, remember that the person who “assumes” that the Federal Disability Retirement application will be approved at the first stage, and prepares such a packet, is often the person who regrets having said “this or that”, or wishes that “x, y or z” had not been included.  This is especially true when it gets denied the first time, and then the second time, and it is now being reviewed by an Administrative Judge.  On the other hand, I have found that there are few, if any, issues which are not ultimately “correctable” or able to be “explained away”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire