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

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Inevitability

The pervasive sense of inevitability is that innate sense of foreboding which will not be shaken off, that we know beyond mere acknowledgment of a fact, and further, that no amount of self-justification will contain or diminish the knowledge of the coming event.  To recognize the irrefutable future event may be based upon several factors:  past actions; personal encounters; a coalescence of the past and the present, culminating in the certainty of the future event.

In preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, such a sense of the future is often felt by the Federal or Postal employee — of the need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

It may well be that the doctor still wants to perform additional tests or that certain other treatment modalities will be insisted upon; but the person who suffers from the medical condition is almost always the accurate gauge for the need to file.

Because medical conditions constitute a subjective state of being, where the “I” prevails in the ownership and knowledge of the medical condition, it is precisely why the Federal or Postal Worker who suffers from the medical condition is the one who best knows the extent, severity and capacity of the condition and its relation to one’s ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Inevitability is often known by the Federal or Postal Worker far in advance of the doctor, coworker, or family member; for, it is an inevitability itself that the future event known by the possessor of knowledge is the first to sense the inevitable.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Societal Complexities

For over 50 years, we have been told that our lives will be simpler, more efficient, of greater ease, resulting from the technological advancement of society at large.

With each technological innovation, some aspect of the common man’s life was supposed to be unburdened, with greater leisure time and less stress.  But a fundamental principle of human nature was ignored throughout the incremental advancement towards such sophistication:  the innate hunger to create ever more, and the desire by those at the pinnacle of civilization to play the role of master of the universe.

In legal circles, we were all doomed once the fax machine was invented; for, with such a contraption, the 3-4 days it took to send out a first class letter confirming a conversation or following up on one, became instantaneous, and the war of the who-said-what and what was settled upon became an urgent necessity with the ability to send and receive immediately.

Contrary to the great promise of our times, technology and modernization has further complicated, stressed and compounded the problems of daily living.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, the added complexity of winding one’s way through a maze of bureaucracy, of compiling an effective legal case for one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, is often “too much” because such an effort is in addition to the burden of dealing with one’s debilitating medical condition.

The key is to always streamline and simplify; but of course, that’s precisely what society has been purportedly doing all of these years, with each new gadget declaring the end of stress; and we are all the more stimulated by it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Causation Irrelevancy

Causation and the issue of causality involves the occurrence of X as a result of an action Y.  There are direct causes, intermediate causes, interceding causes, etc., which concern whether or not an immediate linkage can be established between the action Y and the effect X.

Thus, if the white billiard ball strikes the Number 7 ball, and the latter moves forward, we say that X (the white ball) caused Y (the Number 7 ball) to move.  On the other hand, if the rooster makes its traditional cry at 7 a.m. as the sun is rising, and does so only when the sun rises, we may informally say, in an imperfect sense of causation, that “because” the sun rose, the rooster crowed.  We rarely ascribe a direct cause between X and Y, however.

For OWCP/Department of Labor cases, causation is a relevant and significant aspect of proving a case — for, in a FECA case, one must prove, as one of the elements of eligibility, the fact that the injury was “caused” by the job, while on the job, while related to the job, etc.  A significant amount of time is thus expended in proving the issue of causality in a Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation claim.

For FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement cases, however, under the auspices of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, causation is not an issue.  A Federal or Postal Worker can be injured while on vacation; he or she can have the injury while at work, and concurrently (or sequentially) file for OWCP benefits and OPM Disability Retirement benefits; or the injury or medical condition can simply “occur” during his or her tenure with the Federal government.

In any and all events, it is essentially an irrelevancy.  The issue is not “how” it occurred; rather, the point is to show that, once occurred, in what manner does it impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.

While causation in a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application may be of some historical interest, it should not be a central focus of any applicant’s statement of disability.  To do so would be to make a peripheral issue a central one, and conversely, to allow for the central issue to become less focused.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Dependent Contextual Information

The historical context of one’s medical condition is an issue which is mostly irrelevant for the First and Second Stages of a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS. This is because OPM is not interested — or, more accurately, the law does not recognize as relevant in analyzing the eligibility criteria applied in a Federal Disability Retirement application — of “how” or “why”.

While such contextual information may be relevant for OWCP/FECA cases because of the issue of causality and its importance in such cases, the overriding and determining factor in a Federal Disability Retirement application is whether a Federal or Postal employee has a medical condition; how that medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; and whether the medical condition will last a minimum of 12 months.

Outside of that contextual information (actually, such information is more accurately identified as content-information), OPM in pragmatic terms has no patience for the historical background of such information.  Obviously, however, some contextual narrative should be included in any Applicant’s Statement of disability, in order to make the statement meaningful.

One last point:  While historical context may not be relevant for the Initial Stage and the Reconsideration Stage, it may be very important if one finds oneself before an Administrative Judge at the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: It Is a Retirement

Federal Disability Retirement is a retirement; it is not a temporary method of compensation, and unlike OWCP under the Federal Employee’s Compensation Act (FECA), one is actually separated from Federal Service shortly after receiving an approval from the Office of Personnel Management.

Once the Federal or Postal employee obtains a Federal Disability Retirement approval, there is no “turning back” for employment or position rights; one does not have a preemptive or superior right to go back to one’s agency, anymore than a person who applies for a Federal or Postal job as a new hire.

That is why, as part of the administrative process and requirement in the filing of Standard Forms, one must include SF 3107 (for FERS disability retirement applicants) or SF 2801 (for CSRS disability retirement applicants) — the “Immediate Application for Retirement”, where much personal information is requested, including information on one’s spouse, data on health insurance, life insurance, past military service, etc.

While it is true that the Federal Disability Retirement annuity becomes recalculated and re-characterized as “regular retirement” at age 62, based upon the number of years of total Federal Service — including those years on Federal Disability Retirement (which is why switching from OWCP to OPM Disability Retirement can be beneficial in the long run, as opposed to the lesser monetary amount for the short term) — it is nevertheless a retirement in every sense of the word:  one is separated from Federal Service; one receives an annuity; there is no future expectation of rehabilitation and return to work, etc.

It is not a short-term process of rehabilitation and compensation, and therefore when the Federal or Postal employee begins to prepare, formulate, and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one should be fully aware that in the very term, “Federal Disability Retirement”, it is a compensatory benefit based upon three (3) factors:  It is for Federal/Postal employees; it is based upon a medical condition or disability; and it is a retirement.  As the age-old adage goes:  If it walks and acts like a duck, then it must be one.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Historical Relevance

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must thoughtfully complete Standard Form 3112A — the “Applicant’s Statement of Disability“.

The questions asked on the form do not request, nor do they require, historical context — i.e., of “how” a medical condition or injury occurred, “when” it occurred (although it does ask the approximate date of the onset of disability, which is somewhat distinct from asking the question in the context of historical background; rather, it merely asks for a month and a year), or “what” happened.

History is a contextual aura, a conceptual construct which we carry with us wherever we are; of having an identity based upon one’s background, a sense of who we are, where we came from, and thereby providing a foundation of an understanding of why we are who we are in the present day.  The historicity of an individual, a culture, a society and a civilization is important in understanding the context as to the behavior, motivation, and teleological actions engaged in by an individual, a group, or a nation.

Thus, the old adage that those who fail to study history, are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past.  But in the context of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one must always keep in mind that brevity, streamlining and respect for the limited time, attention-span and workload of the OPM Representative in reviewing a particular case, is important.  To that end, historical background should be guided by the standard of direct relevance to the essence of one’s case.

Reading about history is important; understanding history can be informative; listening to one’s personal history should be left mostly to the quietude of a family gathering, when grandpa has the time to retell ancient stories of those past glory days.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire