Disability Retirement for American Federal Government Workers: Timing and Impatience

In the United States, we have come to expect efficiency and effectiveness; that is the nature of our history, and precisely why the prevailing philosophical engine has been that of “pragmatism“.  But countries evolve over time; bureaucracies become burdensome; the character of a nation may slowly, almost imperceptibly, change and alter.  Further, some actions are within the purview of one’s ability to impact; other issues are entirely outside of one’s control.

For the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to distinguish between those aspects of the administrative and procedural issues which can have some exerted control, and those which are well beyond one’s sphere of influence.  For, the test of one’s patience and growing sense of impatience will often be determined by a recognition of that which can be influenced, and that which has little to no access for such.

Timing issues can often be controlled, as in when to file; but as for the timing of OPM’s determination, that is another matter altogether.

Patience is unfortunately a virtue which is being daily tested by Federal agencies; the practical reverberating impact is upon the individual Federal and Postal employees who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (the Agency that approves and manages Disability Retirement for all Federal Employees in America)  That, too, is something which is historically inevitable — it is the individual who is impacted, while the faceless “agency” goes on about its business.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for U.S. Federal Workers: The Second Bite at the Apple

Rarely in life does one have a second chance; in important matters, an opportunity will often present itself, and depending upon the option chosen, one must live with the consequences of such a choice, or live the remainder of one’s life with grumblings of quiet regret and remorse.

In the legal arena, the process of what the public views as “endless appeals and procedural maneuvers” allows for the litigant to have multiple chances, and not just a “second bite at the apple”, but often a third, fourth…and seemingly infinite opportunities.

For Federal and Postal employees filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there are multiple chances at filing for and obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The only obstacle is if the Statute of Limitations has come and gone — the filing deadline of 1 year from the date of separation from Federal Service.  Even that hurdle contains some exceptions — as in a Federal or Postal employee being deemed incompetent by a psychiatrist to file within the timeframe.

For those who have filed and been denied, and for some reason failed to file for Reconsideration or an appeal to the MSPB — you can refile.  For those who filed and were denied at every level — you can refile. Does OPM still keep your previous file?  Yes. Will they review your old file along with the new filing?  Yes.  But if the new filing is stronger and better prepared, you stand the same chance as a Federal or Postal employee who has just submitted an initial application.

Rarely does one get a second bite at the apple; fortunately, under our system of legal procedures, the taste of the fruit is within reach for another time, and often the taste is more satisfying than the first encounter.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Algorithms & Human Peculiarities

In maneuvering through the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there are potentially multiple stages that one may encounter:  The First Stage of the process — the initial filing; if denied, one has a right to have the denial “reconsidered” by filing a Request for Reconsideration within thirty (30) days of the denial; if denied by OPM a second time, then one has a right to file an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, before an Administrative Judge.

There are, beyond the three stages identified, additional appellate stages of the process, including a Petition for Full Review before a 3-Judge panel of the MSPB, as well as an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

At each stage of the process, the Federal Disability Retirement application is reviewed and evaluated for sufficiency of proof and satisfaction of the statutory criteria for eligibility; and, moreover, a different person looks at the application at each stage of the bureaucratic process.

Thus, there is no singular algorithm — no application of a computer model which is identical across the board — in the evaluation of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  Instead, a different person reviews and evaluates the Federal Disability Retirement application at each stage.  This is probably a positive approach, and one which would be deemed “fair” by any objective standard.  For, while an application of a standard algorithm may be deemed objectively impersonal and unbiased, whereas human beings, in their inherently fallible nature may indeed possess biases and inclinations; nevertheless, it is the peculiarities of human imperfections which are still the trusted traits for procedural determinations.

That is why there is such a hue and cry over the increasing use of video replays and electronic line judges in sports; for some reason, we still trust in the human perspective, as opposed to the cold hardware of computers.  Perhaps, in our collective childhoods, we all became paranoid from watching HAL 9000 in Kubrick’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  A shivering thought.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Certainties and Presumptions

Life presents conundrums of certainties and presumptions; the former in order to retain sanity; the latter in order to appear sane.  A certain event is one which is expected to occur because of a natural law, a habitual repetition of reliance, or because the daily routine has engrained it upon our consciousness.  A presumption is a wish for certainty which may not even be rationally-based, but one in which we conclude will likely occur because of past events, contextual probabilities, and a sense that the present should reflect the historicity of the past.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is best to establish the strict bifurcation between certainties which are clearly so, and avoid presumptions.

It is certain that Federal Disability Retirement is a process which will likely require multiple stages to obtain; it is certain that the Office of Personnel Management will scrutinize each Federal and Postal employee’s application and find it deficient or inadequate; it is certain that one’s agency will likely be two-faced and feign loyalty and support but act in ways which defy such declarative embracing of the Federal or Postal employee.  Conversely, one should never presume that one’s case is a “slam-dunk”; nor that OPM will make a decision sooner than later; nor that OPM will provide a rationally-based reasoning for denying a case.

Hume and Berkeley aside, we live in a world where cause-and-effect are relied upon, and where the world does not merely depend upon our perceiving it; but certainties should always be tempered with an understanding that Federal Disability Retirement is an administrative process which must be fought for, then protected, and presuming an easy path with any Federal agency is to defy the logic which both Hume and Berkeley took to the extreme.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: As a Process

It is often a necessity to be reminded that the preparation, formulation, and ultimately the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is an administrative process.

By “process” is meant that it involves multiple levels of time frames and stages, and is not merely constituted by a single “filing” of paperwork.  It is not a defined “right” to a benefit which is triggered by a certain event — such as age, filing of a form, etc.  Rather, it is a benefit which is determined by an administrative process of eligibility.

One must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is “eligible” for the benefits.  In order to do that, one must, of course, meet each of the legal and regulatory criteria as set out by statutory authority, regulations propounded by the Office of Personnel Management, and case-law authorities handed down by the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

As such, time frames for issuing determinations are made by the agency granted such authority — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  And, further, the process will often necessarily involve multiple stages — the Initial Stage, the Reconsideration Stage, an appeal to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, then a Petition for Full Review, and if necessary, an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

Time frames, stages, applicability of the law, meeting each of the statutory requirements — they all constitute a long and complex “process”, and one which must be dealt with whether one agrees with it, wants to, or is somehow unprepared to do so.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement Application: Complex Interdependence of the Stages

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to recite, note, identify and apply “the law” at each stage of the process, if not for the present, then always in preparation for the future.  

No one likes to think of his or her Federal Disability Retirement application as potentially being capable of being denied at any of the multiple levels of the administrative process; everyone believes that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application is a “sure thing”, a “slam dunk”, a certainty beyond question.  The latter is a natural belief, born from a subjective experience of one who personally and immediately suffers from the very medical condition which one is complaining about.  The former acknowledgement — of understanding the potential for a denial either from the Office of Personnel Management or from the Merit Systems Protection Board, or the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit — is an unavoidable reality to be confronted.  

To acknowledge reality is a mechanism of survival; to deny a potential future event is to avoid a reasonable occurrence which, if not recognized, can have unintended consequences which can result in greater devastating residual effects if not properly prepared for.  Indeed, one should reasonably expect that, with a lower-level “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof, that if properly and carefully prepared and formulated, that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will be approved at some point in the process.  

One has many opportunities — the Initial Application Stage at OPM; the Reconsideration Stage at the Office of Personnel Management; an appeal and a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board; a Petition for Full Review at the Merit Systems Protection Board; and an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  

Each stage is independent, yet co-dependent and interdependent.  Each stage must be meticulously prepared for its own merits, yet the groundwork set for the next stage.  Each stage is the crucial stage to win; yet, to cite legal precedents for an appeal to the next.  Never underestimate the potential for a denial; for to underestimate is merely to ask for that which one is unprepared for.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire