Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Distances

Somehow, proximity often makes for comfort, and thus do we have a greater sense of security if something is nearby, and distance reflects ties of both emotional and physical detachment.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is the Federal agency which determines all issues on Federal Disability Retirement matters.  They are located in Washington, D.C. (with the intake office for the initial acceptance and computer inputting being accomplished first by an office in Boyers, Pennsylvania).

Whether the Federal or Postal employee is working in an office in California, Nevada, Illinois or Virginia; or, perhaps, somewhere overseas in Europe, Japan, etc.; all such applications for Federal Medical Retirement must be forwarded to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C.  If the Federal or Postal employee is still with the agency, or has been separated less than 31 days from the agency, then the application for Federal Disability Retirement must first be routed through one’s agency (or, for the Postal employee, through the H.R. Shared Services Center located in Greensboro, North Carolina).

This is a “Federal” matter, not a state issue, and therefore an attorney who specializes in handling Federal Disability Retirement does not need to be an attorney licensed in the state where the Federal or Postal employee resides.

Very few local attorneys specialize in such Federal Administrative matters; as such, it is likely that an attorney who is equipped to handle such matters will be located in a different state, far away, but hopefully close to the source of the matter — near Washington, D.C. , where the issue itself is adjudicated at the administrative level.

While such distance may preclude a face-to-face meeting with the attorney, there are other safeguards which can be noted, to ensure that one’s comfort zone is left intact:  reputation, accessibility, and references.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Early Decisions, Later Consequences

Decisions engaged in early on, reap later consequences which often reflect the choices made in those initial steps.  This is true both in life generally, and in particularized ventures, endeavors and vocations.

That is precisely why we tell our kids to study hard; that the key to success is preparation and practice; that, on performance day, the ease with which the presentation appears reflects the extent of the behind-the-scenes effort which went into the show.

Such admonitions apply to every project we undertake, and it is no less different when one is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, for the Federal and Postal Worker.  The logical sequence of how a person puts together a Federal Disability Retirement application will be reflected both in the final submission, as well as in the results obtained.

Now, there may well be cases which are poorly compiled, yet approved without a glitch; just as there will be cases which are irrefutably argued, yet denied by the Federal Bureaucracy identified as OPM.

However, another adage which is also true, is that “the exception does not make the rule”.

What words are chosen; how the Statement of Disability on SF 3112A is formulated; what medical evidence is presented; which legal arguments are promulgated and highlighted; what collateral issues are preemptively brought up; collectively, they “matter”.

What we do today determines the course of tomorrow; what tomorrow brings, will reflect upon who we are today.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Advice and Guidance

The worth of advice is unique in that it is valued based up multiple facets of judgments: the source of such advice; the reputation and historical successes of that source; the soundness of the advisory statement, based upon all information available; and, ultimately, the receptiveness of such advice on the part of the person who seeks it. When advice falls upon deaf ears, of course, then the very value and effectiveness of such advice has been lost forever.

In the legal arena, there is an added component — that the attorney is unable to, for obvious ethical reasons, to render advice unless there has been established an attorney-client relationship.  The “obvious reasons”  have to do with the fact that proffering advice in particular circumstances can only come about if and when an attorney has received the confidential and specific information pertaining to a “client”.  Guidance of a general nature, without reference to individualized details, can be given in a generic sense.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, where each case is unique because of fact-specific medical conditions, position descriptions which are impacted by the particularized medical conditions of the individual case, and the nexus which must arise with the interaction between the two — because of this, legal advice must be tailored within a context of an attorney-client relationship.

General guidance can be given; but the Federal or Postal employee seeking help in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, should understand that the importance of getting good legal advice is dependent upon the value and worth the Federal or Postal employee places upon his or her unique and individualized case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Leverage

The ability to negotiate an advantageous settlement of an issue is dependent not merely upon the possession of leverage, but upon the effective use of that leverage.  Such effective usage would require, first and foremost, a dual presentation:  First, recognition of the value of such leverage, and second, the ability to have the opposing party believe that the value is exponentially exaggerated.  Once these dual components are satisfied, one can be assured that a favorable settlement can be reached.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one often finds that the Federal or Postal employee is involved in multiple facets of collateral litigation or adverse actions with the Agency.  As part of a “global settlement” of legal issues, the agency will inevitably offer the Federal or Postal employee a “disability retirement”.  Yet, the first recognition of order which the Federal or Postal employee must address, is the fact that the agency is not the entity which can grant a Federal Disability Retirement.  Only the U.S. Office of Personnel Management can grant or deny a Federal Disability Retirement application to the Federal or Postal applicant.

Can the support of the agency help?  Yes — if formulated properly.  Be aware, however, as case-law supports OPM’s contention that settlements of collateral issues should not be used as a basis for obtaining the support of an agency in an application for Federal Disability Retirement.  A balancing act must be adopted.  And, as always, Federal Disability Retirement is first and foremost an issue of one’s medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Experience & Secrets

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 no “secrets” to the pathway of success (“success” being narrowly defined as receiving an approval from the Office of Personnel Management); rather, there is only the experience of knowing the law, applying the law, stating the facts, creating the nexus between the medical condition and the positional duties which one occupies with the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, and understanding the few but important issues which can defeat a Federal Disability Retirement application.

The latter portion, of course, is just as important as the former issues — of knowing the negative consequences of entering certain arenas of issues, despite every temptation to do so. Thus, as have been more thoroughly discussed in previous articles and blogs, focusing upon collateral work-place issues of harassment, discrimination, subsequent EEOC complaints, etc.; of characterization of one’s medical conditions which comes perilously close to being described as “situational”; and some questions concerning accommodations, and especially at the first two stages of the administrative process, where the Office of Personnel Management will often fail to understand the legal distinction between temporary modified duties, and what constitutes a legally viable accommodation — all of these are able to be dealt with through experience and application of that experience.

Very few “secrets” are truly that; rather, the secret to a successful outcome turns out to be rather mundane:  experience, tempered by careful preparation, formulation, and timely filing.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Pragmatism

The practice of the philosophical school of “Pragmatism” is what many Americans associate themselves with — precisely because America was, and continues to be (as of late, anyway), a country which invents, manufactures, creates, etc., and prides itself on its technological “forward-thinking” ways.

Pragmatism is a uniquely American philosophical approach — one in which William James (an American) had an influence upon, where the methodology of determining truth consisted in the combination of the correspondence theory of truth and what he considered a “coherence” theory of truth, where not only did a given statement need to have a correspondence with the physical world, but moreover, the entirety of the statement had to “cohere” with other statements asserted.  Pragmatism is an “applied” approach.

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 always important to remember the “nuts and bolts” of putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application.  In other words, one must take a very “pragmatic” approach to the entire administrative process.

From dealing with doctors who may be skeptical about his or her ability to relate a medical condition to one’s positional duties in the Federal government or in the Postal Service; to making sure that the Human Resources department assists in processing the Federal disability retirement application; to writing an effective and compelling Applicant’s Statement of Disability — these are all considerations where the subject of the application — the very person who is suffering from the medical condition — must set aside the anxieties, frustrations and fears, and set about to pragmatically put together an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

As “pragmatism” finds its roots in the Greek word pragma, from which we get the words “practical” and “practice”, so it is important to consult with those who have the experience in the very practice of Federal Disability Retirement law.  Indeed, coherence and correspondence are two traits which the Office of Personnel Management looks for in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  William James would have been a good lawyer for Federal Disability Retirement law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Seeking an Attorney

Old methods of operating are sometimes so ingrained that accepting a different paradigm is sometimes difficult.  In normal circumstances, an individual who seeks the counsel and representation of an attorney would (and should) seek out a local attorney who is versed and experienced in the laws of one’s particular state.  Most legal issues require the counsel and representation of the state within which the legal issue arose — whether it be contractual, tort, domestic relations, or other matters — and, indeed, an attorney is generally restricted to practicing law in the state in which he or she is licensed by.  

In representing Federal and Postal employees in obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, however, the Federal or USPS Worker must understand that the issue to be litigated concerns a “Federal” issue, and not a state issue.  As such, an attorney who specializes in representing Federal or Postal employees to fight for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, will normally not be a “local” attorney.  

Because Federal Disability Retirement is a Federal issue, the fact that an attorney is licensed in a different state is irrelevant.  The attorney certainly needs to be a licensed attorney — otherwise, such an attorney who is not licensed should not hold himself or herself out to be an attorney.  For representation to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management or, if the Federal or Postal employee has already filed, or been denied and filed a Request for Reconsideration with the Office of Personnel Management and was denied again and is now in need of filing an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, the necessity of an attorney at any level of the process should focus upon the specialization and experience of the attorney in Federal Disability Retirement issues — and not on whether the attorney is “local” or not.  

Indeed, in all likelihood, one will not find a “local” attorney who has even an inkling of an idea what Federal Disability Retirement law is all about. Paradigm shifts are difficult to accept, but they are nevertheless necessary in a world of ever-changing circumstances.  While “going local” may be a great paradigm to adhere to in supporting local farms and local products, it is probably not a practical approach in attempting to secure Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

OPM Disability Retirement: Information in the Public Domain

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, there is a quantity of information which exists in the “public domain”.  Just as in the areas of social, professional and (unfortunately) personal lives, information on issues, people, concepts, etc., are plentiful, so similarly the legal arena has exploded with unending and expansive admixtures of facts, opinions and information.  That is the nature of this “information age“.  

Quantity of information, however, is not an indicator of the quality of such information.  Further, quality of information does not necessarily result in knowledge.  Knowledge is conceptually distinct from information.  The former encapsulates the application and effective usage of the former, while the former remains a vacuity of existence until it is formed and utilized.  

Proving one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS requires both knowledge and information.  For, ultimately, it is the effectiveness of the formulated application, one which persuades and meets the legal criteria at the Office of Personnel Management, which is what matters.  As such, it is important to first reach out for qualitative information, then to seek out a Federal Disability Attorney who has effectively applied such information for his or her clients.  

In the search for information, always ask questions, for questioning should always lead the comfort of mind that the source of the answers will provide an effective use of information, both in quantity and in quality.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Areas of Practice

Invisible demarcation lines exist within each area of law, and if one envisions each such area of law somewhat like circles in a Venn Diagram, one can picture an overlap (sometimes quite significant) within the various areas of law.  

Thus, while the generic designation of “Administrative Law” might represent the primary demarcation, there will be subsets of legal practices, which include Social Security benefits, OWCP/FECA (Federal, as opposed to state OWCP attorneys), Veterans Benefits, EEOC, employment disputes, Federal Civil Rights violations, etc.  Some attorneys and law firms have specialties which include and embrace multiple disciplines; others attorneys or firms specialize in a single and exclusive area of law.  

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there are very few attorneys “out there” who are either experienced or have the requisite knowledge and experience to adequately represent Federal or Postal employees in putting together a compelling Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  

It must be clearly understood that while preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS may be “similar” to other areas of legal practice, the practice of Federal Disability Retirement has its own unique sets of laws, rules, criteria and statutory authorities.  Knowing one circle in a Venn Diagram does not mean that such knowledge automatically translates and crosses over into another circle.  Beware of anyone who expresses expertise in multiple areas of law; it might be that traveling in too many circles will result in a circularity of abilities.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire