Federal Disability Retirement: Sometimes, Even Squirrels Fall from the Sky

Nature is not the penultimate paradigm of perfection.  Think about it: the entire apparatus of evolutionary advancement is based upon the theory of accidental genetic alterations of incremental imperceptibility, over great expanses of time, as opposed to the disfavor shown to sudden mutations.  Survivability of a species depends upon environmental adaptations and genetic flexibility in the hereditary accrual of alleles, favoring small and progressive steps of advancements dependent upon environmental pressures and factors of change.

Grand mutations and the fictional existence of the “missing link” are rarely successful; mistakes are successful if accomplished in small portions; but they are accidents of reliable anomalies, nonetheless. It is thus upon missteps, accidents, and mutations which we rely for advancement, and not a teleological drive towards a perfect being, like Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover.  And squirrels do sometimes misjudge a branch, and fall from the sky.

That is why it is anathema for the Federal and Postal employee to refuse to accept one’s vulnerability because of a medical condition, as if he or she did something wrong.  Youth tends to begin life with a view that upward mobility and progression is always to be expected; but the reality of life is that the principle underlying the universe favors interruptions and interludes. Having a medical condition is simply an event which is a natural part of life; and as mortality proves an organism’s existence, so a medical condition is merely its temporary reminder.

Thus, for the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, there should be no cause for embarrassment or shame in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS. Yes, filing for the benefit is an admission of one’s vulnerability and susceptibility to nature’s admonitions; but as we agreed at the outset, nature is not the penultimate paradigm of perfection, and our bodies and minds are part of the macrocosmic universe of nature. To defy the natural degeneration and imperfection of nature is to ignore reality.

Sometimes, it is only when a quiet walk through the woods is suddenly interrupted by an unexpected thud, and we turn and see a dazed squirrel looking around as it limps off in confusion, do we recognize that perfection is a fiction created by man, and refusing to file for Federal Disability Retirement is a stubbornness that borders on ignorance.

Even the squirrel knows that much.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Independence of Each Program

The disparate nature of each Federal program, with little to no intersecting coordination amongst them (with the exception of SSDI and FERS Disability Retirement benefits in the coordination of payments upon approval of each) betrays the unplanned, thoughtless creation of each program, as well as a sense that each agency wants to maintain its feudal control and assertion of independent power.

That perhaps explains, in part, why each program ignores the extent of persuasive authority the approval of another program should logically have, upon an approval and acceptance by the “other” program.  Does it make sense that being granted “unemployability” status under the Department of Veterans Affairs ascription of percentage disability ratings would only have a nominal impact upon a FERS Disability Retirement application?  Or that an SSDI approval would have, at best, a persuasive effect upon a FERS Disability Retirement?

It is somewhat more understandable that a case accepted by OWCP/Department of Labor would have minimal impact upon a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application, precisely because the former is set up as a program of rehabilitation in an effort to return the Federal or Postal employee back to his or her job.

The only true “coordination” of benefits occurs between SSDI and FERS — and that, only if both are approved, and payments are received concurrently; but even then, there are often overpayment problems, lack of the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing, etc.

Thus Coordination and intersection between departments, agencies and various programs rarely occurs.  Agencies tend to want to remain independent.

Such lack of coordination, however, does not mean that the FERS or CSRS Federal or Postal employee should not force a legal argument upon OPM when a significant finding is made by another agency or program.  For, in the end, it may not be the U.S. Office of Personnel Management which listens, but an administrative judge at the MSPB, or a 3-judge panel on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals; in which case, a precedent will have been set, for all to (hopefully) follow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Collateral Disability Determinations

The key to effectively using collateral sources of disability determinations in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is to tailor its relevance in each individual circumstance.  Thus, for example, because the focus upon percentages of disability, or the issue of causal connection to the workplace, is a focal point of importance in an OWCP/Department of Labor case, but not in cases of Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, such issues should be left alone.  However, the fact that there may be an “independent medical examination” by a Second-Opinion doctor, or a referee doctor in a Worker’s Comp case, can be used to one’s advantage.  

Often, a person who has been under the agonizing scrutiny and torture of the Worker’s Comp process will miss the point, and complain that the OWCP-appointed doctor “didn’t even exam me for 2 minutes”, or “didn’t listen to a thing I said,” but all the while missing the key ingredients in the doctor’s report:  (1) that the doctor can be effectively characterized as “independent” — not from an OWCP standpoint, but certainly from a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement standpoint, because that particular doctor has no self-interest from OPM’s viewpoint, and (2) if the doctor’s opinion is that, while the causal connection (for example) may not have been established, does he nevertheless express an opinion that the Federal or Postal employee is unable to return to perform the essential functions of his or her job?  Often, the emotional uproar in an OWCP case, or in other similar cases (SSDI & Veteran’s Department disability determinations) causes the Federal or Postal employee to miss the primary point of the process:  to use the tools effectively in getting a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS approved.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Stating the Obvious

Sometimes, stating the obvious is necessary.  In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, and in dealing with the Office of Personnel Management, “stating the obvious” becomes not only a necessity, but a truism encapsulated in profundity surrounded by a simple rule:  the greater the obviousness, the more effective the Federal Disability Retirement application.  

For the applicant under FERS or CSRS who files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, who is unrepresented, it is best not to act as a lawyer.  While case-law and statutes abound as free information on the internet (and such information and discussion is certainly available on my website at http://www.federaldisabilitylawyer.com/ and in various articles I have written on the subject), misinterpretation, misunderstanding, or mis-citation of cases, statutes, rules or regulations can easily be engaged in.  

While generally harmless, and further, since many at the Office of Personnel Management are not even aware of the laws and case-laws governing the very subject which they are supposed to rule upon, what is the point (one might ask)?  The obvious point is for the future — to always predicate a case upon the simple truism that one stage in the process may not be enough, and so building a foundation for the next stage, and the stage after that, by preserving the legal and factual arguments for an eventual appeal, is always a necessary evil one must perform.  State the obvious — and state it multiple times.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire