Beginning the Federal Disability Retirement Process

The Chinese proverb, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, is meant to remind us that looking at a process in its entirety can result in self-defeat even before starting, and every daunting journey must begin with the small, almost insignificant, effort of initiation.

Facing a bureaucracy and an administrative process can feel like that metaphorical journey of a thousand miles.  The multiple and complex standard forms to complete; the legal criteria to meet; the need to gather, compile and consolidate the medical documentation into a linear, coherent whole; and all of this, in the face of voluntarily reducing one’s income by applying for an annuity and having to deal with the debilitating medical condition from which one suffers.

But the successful way to approach the entire administrative process known as Federal Disability Retirement, is to bifurcate it into workable portions. The SF 3107 series (reissued in May, 2014, where previous editions are now outdated) is merely informational in nature.  It is is the SF 3112 series of forms which one must take care in preparing and formulating, and especially SF 3112A, which requests for detailed information concerning one’s medical conditions, the impact of the medical conditions upon one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; and other pertinent information needed to convey compliance with a legal criteria established through many years via legal opinions issued by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Yes, it is a difficult process, and one which can be eased by legal advice and expertise. But as with all journeys, to look upon the landscape and obstacles as mere hindrances to overcome, will serve one better, than to stand at the foothills and refuse to begin the journey at all.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Watchmaker

Artisans are scarce in existence, these days.  With the constant drone for the economic push for profits, and the incessant pressures of everyday expenses, the village watchmaker, the goldsmith who personally fashions the engagement rings for the couple whom he saw just a moment ago playing outside his shop window as two children lost in the world of make-believe; that is a world we once read about, perhaps in a Dickens novel, of characters out of an era long lost and forgotten.

But the remnants of the characteristics evidencing quality and craftsmanship must survive, lest perfection be lost as a goal and exactitude no longer an achievement worth applauding.  Of course, there will always be cheap replicas; of digital watches manufactured en masse in factories where labor is inexpensive and the worth of human creativity barely given a moment’s glance.  That is why, when one comes upon a true craftsman, observing the care and skill being put into creating a product of worth is indeed something to behold.

And so it is in every endeavor.

For the Federal and Postal employee who must find, of necessity, that filing for Federal Disability Retirement can no longer be put off, it is well to heed the warnings of those predecessors who have experienced the nightmarish administrative procedures required in attaining the benefit.  While it need not take an artisan to put together an effective case, the approach one embraces should include the characteristics of that unique watchmaker:  care in the details; slowly building from a solid foundation; bringing together all of the variegated “parts”, including the medical documentation, legal arguments, effective factual statements, etc.

The Federal and Postal employee, whether under FERS or CSRS, needs to look at the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits as not only the presentation of the case, but the lasting impact of the finished product.  For, in the end, the true artisan creates not only a timepiece, but a timeless piece of work which should last well into a bright future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and USPS Disability Retirement: First Impressions

The older generation often refers to the importance of “first impressions” — of the firmness of one’s handshake; of whether eye contact is made to betray secretiveness; the clothes one wears; tattoos and the number of body piercings; all are evidence of first impressions left for future judgment.

While such initial encounters may not reveal the true “inner” person, they nevertheless leave an indelible and lasting imprimatur upon those who rely upon such an approach.  Whether one likes it or not is besides the point; first impressions are psychological realities which one must deal with in this harsh world.

For those who prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal applicant must understanding that one’s formulation of one’s case is merely one of thousands, and the Case Worker who is assigned to the case, upon an initial review and analysis, will be left with such a first impression.

The methodology of evidentiary presentation; the conciseness of the Statement of Disability; the coordination and support of the medical evidence; all will depend upon the manner and content of the presentation.  Too many tattoos, and the grandmother-characteristic in the Case Worker may turn up a nose; not a firm enough handshake, and the old-man sense in another Case Worker may pause with concern.

First impressions; it is how one approaches a case, as much as the presentation of the evidence, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Refinements, Redux

A “refined sense of taste”; refineries which take crude oil and extract and leave out the waste; perfecting and polishing that which is roughly hewn.  What always needs to be focused upon, first and foremost, however, is the foundation which allows for such refinements, and to ensure that the “base” is solidly built, upon which such “refinements” can be made.

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to put one’s energies into building the proper foundation at the outset — and, in practical terms, that means obtaining an excellent medical report.

Federal and Postal workers inquiring about Federal Disability Retirement benefits often get sidetracked with agency and employment issues which, while having some corollary or peripheral relation to one’s medical conditions and work-related concerns which may have prompted an adverse action, or even perhaps discriminatory behavior on the part of the agency; nevertheless, the focus must be upon the foundation, with all else being recognized as secondary matters to be dealt with separately.

Thus, the story of the three piggies:  remember that it was the one with the solid foundation which survived the attacks.  By analogy and metaphor:  The agency is the Big Bad Wolf; the Federal or Postal employee is the piggy; the house to be built is the Federal Disability Retirement packet.  For that, a solid foundation must be created; window dressings can come later.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The MSPB and Beyond

An application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS should always be prepared for the “long haul“.  Thus, it should be formulated, argued and prepared as if it will be denied at each stage, and will end up before the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

Does this take any “special” preparation?  To some extent, the answer is “yes”, inasmuch as the stages beyond the Initial Application stage before the Office of Personnel Management, then the Reconsideration Stage of the process, then a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the MSPB, involves whether or not an “error of law” was made.  As such, because each of the preceding three stages of the administrative process would essentially involve foundations for a later stage of an administrative appeal, it is obviously important to know what “the law” is.  One can hardly argue in the later stages what “errors of law” were made if one is not familiar with what “the law” is comprised of in the first place.  By establishing certain key foundations, and inserting legal precedents and arguments throughout the process, one has a better chance at arguing that legal errors were made by the Administrative Judge. While a Federal or Postal worker should certainly expect that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application should be approved at any given level because it has been properly prepared, it is always wise to look beyond the present, and prepare for future contingencies.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire