Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Entrenchment versus Fidelity to a Promise

People often have a general sense of obligations and duties, and remain steadfast in fidelity to promises made.  Ultimately, it is actions which confirm the sincerity of words, and not an abundance of additional verbiage.  But fidelity to a course of action can constitute an entrenchment of actions without regard to changing circumstances or the vicissitudes which accompany a career or a course of events.  Intersecting issues will often require a changing response; a change in plans does not necessarily constitute a violation of a promise; rather, it may in fact be the very fulfillment of a promise.

And so it is with Federal and Postal employees who confront and must deal with a medical issue; those projects which were spearheaded by a particular person; those mission statements and goals intended — suddenly, multi-tasking must be pared down to a single duty; time must be taken to attend to one’s medical conditions; the course of action intended must be altered, modified, and sometimes abandoned.

If the essence of X becomes damaged, do its attributes remain untouched, also?  Or must the dependencies be transformed in order to preserve the essence? Staying on a course when the context has encountered dramatic alterations, can be viewed as either foolhardy, stubborn, or valiant.

When a Federal or Postal Worker who is suffering from a medical condition such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, it is time to evaluate and review the course of one’s career.  Opting to preserve one’s health and to prepare and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is not an abandonment of purpose; rather, it is a recognition that life’s unexpected turn has forced a change of course — honorable in intent, and necessary in preservation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Legal Responses

There is of course the old adage that “good fences make good neighbors“.  It is meant to magnify the importance of demarcations, and how societal mores, rules, and accepted dictates of common etiquette provide for social boundaries without which the breakdown of common decency occurs.

Fences and boundaries not only contain; they provide markings which restrain others.  The white powder placed on a football field; the painted lines on a basketball court; the pitcher’s mound from which the pitcher must throw the ball; these are all accepted boundaries — symbols of containment as well as of restraining devices to the “others”.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, imagine what the outcome would be for the Federal or Postal Worker if all that existed were the originating statutes governing the criteria for a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Imagine a world in which OPM was the sole arbiter of its own statutes — of having the right to interpret the dictates of its own mandates.

Look at the recent case of Stephenson v. OPM, in which OPM interpreted the statutes of another agency (the Social Security Administration) and decided that an offset of SSDI benefits against a FERS Disability annuity could still be perpetrated even though no actual receipt of funds was received.

Laws are like fences and boundaries; they are to be used both as a shield, as well as a sword.  Use of legal arguments not only restrains a Federal Agency from acting and stepping out “too far”; they can also be used to attack and force a retreat.  But remember that, just as the fence-building should be left to the carpenter, so the sword should be used by a warrior.  In today’s parlance, don’t think that anyone and everyone can be a courtroom lawyer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Attorney’s blog: The Importance of Coordination

Logic and coordination do not necessarily occur naturally.  The fact that a systematic and logical sequence of events would present themselves in a coordinated manner, does not imply that such coordination was pre-planned.  Rather, it is normally the case that, because X occurs in a logically sequential manner, that therefore a semblance of coordination is implied.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Employee Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to coordinate the various standard government forms — or, at least, the information which is provided in completing such forms.  

There are those forms which the Federal or Postal employee has no direct control over — i.e., the Supervisor’s Statement and the Agency’s Efforts for Reassignment and Accommodation (SF 3112B and SF 3112D).  Then, there are the “superfluous” forms, which merely constitute a checklist of information (e.g., SF 3112E).  But those forms which the Federal or Postal employee are directly responsible for — SF 3107 & Schedules A, B & C for FERS employees; SF 2801 and Schedules A, B & C for CSRS employees; and SF 3112A for both FERS & CSRS employees — should be coordinated with medical reports and records, and any additional documentary support which may be submitted.  

The analyzing agency (in this case, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) should never be able to use a case against itself by finding inherent contradictions to attack itself.  As such, coordination should — unlike that found in “nature” — be artificially imposed within the logical sequencing of submissions in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Unplanned Event

One always likes to think of the present state of affairs as one resulting from the systematic planning put in place years ago — as in the proverbial “comfortable retirement” that was set in motion through wise investments and retrospective prognostications which were presumably based upon sage advice.

But life rarely works that way.

Yes, the analogy of the treadmill, or of taking one step forward and two steps back, all apply.  There is a famous line in a British rendition of “Emma”, in which the father mumbles beautifully, “Life is like going from one bowl of gruel to another”.

Those who come to a point of contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, often find themselves in a similar situation.  One works tirelessly, thinking that such hard work will reward itself by growing one’s nest egg, where savings develop over time; where within-step-increases come because of meritorious behavior; and where loyalty to, and from, one’s agency is strengthened and established because of the time, effort, and hard work one has, and will, put in.

But then the unplanned event surfaces.

In the beginning, one can fool one’s self and say that it is merely temporary, that it will all go away, and that one needs only to survive for the next coming day.  But the unplanned event can be just as effectively destructive as the planned one, and the results just as final.

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 best to see the neutrality of one’s circumstances — for, it matters not whether one “planned” for a medical condition; rather, the point is that, once accepted as a fact, it is the extent and effort of planning after the revelation of an unplanned event, which will make all the difference in one’s life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Periodic Clarifications

Periodically, despite multiple prior blogs addressing certain issues, it becomes clear that confusions continue to abound, and a clarification is in order.

In many ways, such necessity for periodic clarifications only emphasizes the inherent complexities in Federal Disability Retirement law, despite the foundational simplicity of what needs to be proven.

Indeed, while the substantive law requires the primary basis of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, the nexus between one’s official positional duties, and the medical conditions which prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; nevertheless, there are numerous procedural issues and hurdles which must concurrently be met in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Thus, for instance:  the Federal or Postal employee must file an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service — not 1 year from the date of being placed on LWOP, or from the “date of injury”, etc.

Further, SSDI must be filed by FERS employees, but of course Social Security will not even consider a filing for purposes of evaluating eligibility until a person has stopped working — nevertheless, for FERS Disability Retirement purposes, all that is necessary is a receipt showing that one has filed for Social Security Disability benefits.

And one more:  never wait for one’s agency to act in a Disability Retirement case; such waiting merely constitutes an act of futility, and one which almost always results with an adverse effect upon the Federal or Postal employee.

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 Employee Medical Retirement: The Pilot

It is actually a misnomer to connect the terms “automatic” and “pilot” , precisely because the former term completely and unilaterally undermines the latter.  Think about it:  the entire concept of the term “pilot” denotes and encompasses the ability of an individual to control the destiny, direction and distance of that which he is maneuvering; once it is turned over to an engineering phenomenon which performs the activity with data already inputted by others, such control is lost, and the fullness of what it means to pilot a vehicle becomes meaningless.

It is, ultimately, a question of who controls the destiny.

For Federal and Postal employees contemplating preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question is often one of being pulled and controlled by one’s circumstances, or becoming the pilot of one’s destiny and proceeding to dictate the terms and timing of one’s future.

Agencies by nature like to have control; whether it is in hiring, promoting, separating or engaging in adverse actions, agencies enjoy being the determining entity in all aspects of a Federal or Postal employee’s life.  One can wait for an agency to make a determination on one’s career or future; and, to that extent, they become the “automatic pilot” of one’s destiny.

It is up to the Federal or Postal employee to make a decision as to whether or not one should erase the former term, leaving one with the unmistakable role of being the pilot who determines one’s own destiny.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire