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

Federal Gov. and USPS Disability Retirement: Excessive Reliance

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 never a good idea to proceed with excessive reliance (or any at all, for that matter) upon expected or presumed actions on the part of one’s Agency.

The preponderance of the evidence in proving a Federal Disability Retirement application is always upon the Federal or Postal worker, and one should affirmatively and pro-actively proceed without regard to what the Agency will do, says it will do, or might do during the process.

Yes, the Agency has its portion to complete; yes, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management does review the entirety of the Disability Retirement packet, including the standard forms which the agency must complete, along with other personnel information that is forwarded to OPM.

But the crux and essence of a Federal Disability Retirement applications always remains the medical information gathered and submitted, along with the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, in conjunction with the asserted nexus constructed between one’s medical condition and the positional duties of one’s job.

Any other approach is merely to run a fool’s errand for a fiefdom from which one is attempting to flee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Extrapolating Carefully from “The Law”

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize the major legal cases (those “landmark cases”) from which many other cases derive their foundational basis.  Such cases form the fundamental and overriding criteria of a legal arena, and this is no different in arguing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, either for Federal or Postal employees.  Furthermore, in citing a case to argue for one’s position of eligibility and entitlement, it is equally important to have read the cases carefully, and to argue the merits of an issue persuasively and accurately.  

One of the worst things that a lay, non-lawyer applicant can do is to mis-cite a case or a statute, and its meaning and ancillary conclusions.  For, when the Office of Personnel Management reviews a case and refutes a particular issue, and further points out that a legal precedent or statutory authority has been mis-applied, one’s credibility as to the substance of the application is not only undermined, but further, the viability of one’s legal argument has been subverted.  As such, it is normally advisable to leave the law to lawyers — and in Federal Disability Retirement cases under FERS or CSRS, to leave it to lawyers who specialize in the field. For, to do little or no harm to one’s self is certainly better than to saw off the branch which one has grasped onto, no matter how tenuous the position to begin with.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Attorney: Legal Representation

Federal and Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS often call and state that they are unable to find “local” representation; that when the issue of the Federal Agency or the Postal Service is brought up, local attorneys either do not handle such cases or they are obviously unfamiliar with the concepts involved.  

Representation of Federal and Postal employees to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a Federal matter, not a state issue, and therefore legal representation is not limited to an attorney who is licensed within a specific state.  Ultimately, the Agency which is the final “arbiter” of a Federal Disability Retirement application is located in Washington, D.C., and is the Office of Personnel Management.

Thus, whether an individual is working in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or overseas in Europe, Japan, etc., it matters not — because the application itself will ultimately end up first in Boyers, Pennsylvania, then routed to Washington, D.C.  “Local” representation becomes an irrelevancy, precisely because it is not related to any local or state issues, but rather entirely upon the Federal issue of Disability Retirement either under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Correcting a Misconception

I will have to write an article entitled, ten mistakes people make in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Or, better yet, perhaps it would be helpful to point out Ten Things Federal and Postal Employees should do to prepare to file for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS.  

In either event, in speaking to multiple individuals over the past couple of days, common and recurring misconceptions have arisen, as they inevitably do, and when such mistaken notions concerning FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement benefits — the process, the benefit itself, the legal criteria for eligibility, etc. — it is necessary to immediately correct the mistake.  

Often, the mistaken idea comes in the form of, “I read somewhere that…”  Now, assuming that the mis-statement was not read on my website or in any of my related articles; and assuming that, even if it were read by something I had written, but had instead been mis-interpreted or somehow taken out of context, the only way in which to clarify or otherwise “correct the record” is to repetitively and incessantly state and restate the correct law concerning the matter.  The point of mistaken conceptual confusion was: That in order to file for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, one has to be separated from Federal service.  That is simply untrue.  In fact, for obvious economic reasons, most people continue to try and work while awaiting the approval of his or her Federal Disability Retirement application.  Furthermore, if one is separated from Federal Service, he or she has only up to one (1) year to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the time of separation.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Indicators

If your weekends are spent for the purpose of recuperating just so that you can have the energy, strength, mental acuity, and sustained focus and attention to go back to work on Monday, then it is an indicator that you may need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS; if, after each day of work, you are so profoundly fatigued that you end up spending each evening just resting, unable to have any significant recreational enjoyment or time for relaxation, time with family, etc., then it is an indicator that you may need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS; if you must take sick leave, LWOP or annual leave every few days, or after a week of work, because you need the time off to recuperate, then that is a further indicator.  Ultimately, each individual must make his or her decision as to the timing and whether one has reached a critical point where filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is necessary.  Different reasons for different people; different factors at different times of one’s life. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: The Futility of Waiting for an Agency

In Federal Disability Retirements, the general rule is as follows:  waiting for your agency to act in some way that may prove to be beneficial to your case, is an act of futility.  Whether it is to wait for a performance appraisal; whether to see if the Agency will accommodate you, or not; whether you are waiting for a response from your Supervisor to see if he or she will support your Federal Disability Retirement application, etc. — in the end, a disability retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a medical issue.  It is not an “Agency Application for Disability Retirement”; it is not a “Supervisor’s Application for Disability Retirement”.  It is a medical disability retirement, inseparable from the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for the benefit.  As such, the proper focus should be placed upon the sufficient and substantiating medical documentation.  If the medical documentation, combined with the applicant’s statement of disability, are persuasive with respect to the correlative force of being unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, then such a combined force makes all other issues essentially moot and irrelevant.  Don’t wait upon an agency to act; to act affirmatively without depending upon the agency is always the best route to follow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: FERS & SSDI

Of course one must file for SSDI (Social Security Disability benefits) when a Federal or Postal employee under FERS (the Federal Employees Retirement Systems, as opposed to CSRS, the Civil Service Retirement System) files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  If approved by Social Security, there is a 100% offset of benefits in the first year, and a 60% offset of benefits every year thereafter until age 62.  The real underlying question for most people, is how aggressively one should, or one wants to, pursue Social Security benefits.  This is often determined by what one plans to do after becoming a Federal Disability Retirement annuitant.  For, if you plan to work part or full time, and think that you will be earning more than the yearly ceiling allowable under SSDI, which is around $12,000.00 per year, then it is probably not worthwhile to pursue it very aggressively.  On the other hand, if you plan on relying exclusively on your disability annuity, it is probably a good idea to pursue it with the intent of obtaining it. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Attorney Representation

I am still often asked about whether or not, or how helpful, legal representation would be in a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement case.  To ask an attorney such a question is often unhelpful, for there is always the question as to how much “self-interest” an attorney has in answering such a question.  What I can state, however, is the following:  Remember that everyone believes that his or her case is a “sure thing” — this is natural, because the very individual who is filing for disability retirement is the one who is suffering from the medical condition, and so it is a very “personal” matter, and a sense of objectivity is difficult to maintain in these matters.  Second, remember that when you hire an attorney, you are not just hiring someone who “knows something” about FERS & CSRS disability retirement; instead, you should be hiring that lawyer for his or her reputation, his knowledge of the administrative & legal process with the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board, and how well he is “thought of” by OPM (i.e., how long has he been practicing in the field of Federal Disability Retirement law, does he know the people at OPM, and more importantly, does OPM know him/her?).  Finally, always keep in mind that, while attorneys can be expensive, you must always do a cost-benefits analysis, and look at the benefit you will be receiving (or not receiving) if you do or do not hire an attorney.  Disability retirement benefits are essentially a means of securing one’s financial future, and as such, the benefit to be secured is important enough to consider hiring an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Pre and Post

Issues revolving around the initial application stage, during the application stage, and after the approval, are often of equal importance.  This is because the approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS will ensure the financial and economic survival and viability of the Federal or Postal employee.  Thus, in the pre-approval stage of the process, it is often good to engage in some future planning:  How hard will I fight for Social Security Disability?  Will I be getting a part-time job to supplement my income?  Where will I live?  During the process of obtaining disability retirement, there is the long wait, and the ability to remain financially afloat while receiving little or no financial support.  Post-approval, there are issues of the potential for receiving a Medical Questionnaire from the Office of Personnel Management.  Whether the current doctor will continue to be supportive, or will I move and need to find another doctor?  Because getting Federal disability retirement benefits is a life-long process, it is important to get sound legal advice from a competent attorney throughout the process — pre, during, and post process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire