OPM Medical Retirement Law: The Time In-Between, Afterwards

That time, as a historical event, is quite different from the retrospective vantage point of what we perceive today; and that is good to keep in mind.  After the event itself, the followers were not waiting around for the next event; rather, they were likely scrambling to determine what to do next, as they had no foresight of the coming circumstances, and thus did not consider themselves to be “in-between” two major historical pillars awaiting the next condition for completion.

In the aftermath, we can look upon it as a continuum, and view the time in between as one of anticipation and waiting; but from the real-time moment of the figures involved, the past trauma had already occurred; what was to come next could not have been known.  That is similar to how we live a life today.

For Federal and Postal employees who are anticipating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, it is a good lesson to view things in the “now”, as in-between, or afterwards, and from a later perspective.

Waiting upon a behemoth of a bureaucracy as that of OPM is never a pleasant experience, and one often feels like being in a suspended mode of administrative purgatory; and yes, there can be contingencies which must be first established before the next “move” in life can occur; but in the end, one should not wait upon the approval of a Federal OPM Disability application, but rather continue to pursue and build upon one’s life as in the aftermath of the occurrence. That is sometimes difficult to do, but necessary.

Waiting is often the hardest part; once the “happening” occurs, the tumult is released, and the Federal or Postal employee often feels that he or she is “set free” from the bonds of suspended time. But then, think about those followers of the fisherman who waited from that Friday until the morning when a seeming disaster turned into a triumph of historical proportions untold and unknown, at the time.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Shutdown

It is always the unassuming worker who becomes impacted by the larger geopolitical decisions made by the power brokers of the world.  While the short term impact of the current government shut down will apparently not interrupt the flow of disability pension checks, we must wait to see whether a protracted stalemate will reverberate with negative consequences.

For Federal and Postal Workers who are facing the unwanted challenges of a medical condition, and who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the current state of affairs will likely mean further delays in the processing of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

As personnel offices in agencies across the United States shut down, so the magnitude of interrupted processing of disability retirement packets will exponentially increase over time.  But Federal and Postal workers who file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits have no real alternative options than to move forward; the sooner one files, the sooner one is able to find a place in line; and though the line may move at a slower pace, it will ultimately move nonetheless.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Looming Crisis

Whether the Federal government temporarily shuts down, and for how long, is ultimately besides the point; the essence of the problem concerns the long-term viability of government operations, and the ability to sustain benefits promised, or to refine and reform, to what extent, and in what manner.

For Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the medical and work challenges already faced have created an unstable atmosphere, and so the potential looming crisis is merely a further problem to be dealt with.

The fact that the Federal government is unable to agree upon a budget process which has been impending for quite some time, is just another testament to the cold and indifferent attitude of a bureaucracy which fails to account for the daily needs of its citizens.  There have been government shutdowns in the past; and there will be more in the future.

For the Federal and Postal employee, what impact will be felt as a result of the contentious legislative process, will have to be seen.  In the meantime, however, what the Federal and Postal employee must do is to pursue the process, regardless of what Washington does, in order to stand in the proverbial line of the Federal bureaucracy, hoping for a favorable outcome.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Tidbits

The term itself is an interesting one; for, unlike its corollary, it refers to the “choice” or “pleasing” morsel of food, as opposed to “leftovers” or “crumbs”, which imply food which has either been rejected or left behind after the table sitter has made the prime decision.  “Tidbits” in its secondary meaning, of course, implies information; the conceptual applicability has transferred from one within the exclusive context of foods, to include information, facts, statements, etc.

Thus, a tidbit:  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to understand and recognize that, while most mistakes in the preparation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application are “correctable” (what an ugly word — both in appearance and in phonetic structure), what one cannot do is to put “blinders” on the eyes of OPM or before an Administrative Judge, once certain information has been submitted to OPM.

Thus, if an individual wants to attempt the First Stage of the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement on his or her own, without the assistance of an OPM Disability Attorney, thinking that it is an “easy” case, that is all well and good, but while the tools of representation for an attorney include use of the malleability of language, such that “linguistic gymnastics” will be engaged in as the primary sport of the attorney; nevertheless, elasticity of language does have its limits.

Facts, once exposed, can be explained and amended, but the essence of the fact or statement remains in the hands of OPM.  This constitutes and comprises the tidbit of the day; a choice and pleasing morsel?  Perhaps not in consequential substance, but hopefully in terms of informational relevance.  Ah, but to have been offered instead a morsel of apple pie!

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Key to a Case

Often, when dignitaries or celebrities visit a particular city, they are recognized, applauded and sometimes “given the keys” to a city — metaphorically meaning that they are provided with certain benefits and access to such benefits.  It would be nice if, in every circumstance involving the necessity of identifying a key to an access, that we could figure out which key fits, in order to open the door to that previously-inaccessible entranceway.

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 important to identify, recognize, and implement the “keys” to a successful outcome.  If one metaphorically views a Federal Disability Retirement application, then the application itself would be the key; the doorway which prevents access is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; and the opening of the door is the successful approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

The “key”, then, is that which opens the doorway, and leads to eligibility of one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The focus of the Federal and Postal employee must be upon choosing the right key; crafting the proper implement; then ensuring that the instrument fits properly the lock which bars the entrance to the gateway of success.

Such formulation and compilation of the proper key in order to obtain access, is — to put it in trite form — the key to one’s success.  As such, it is important to put one’s effort in the timeline just before putting the key into the lock — i.e., in the formulation and preparation, of compiling the right data, arguments and documents, in order to possess and apply an effective application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Affirmative Proof

It is a single agency — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and specifically the Disability, Reconsideration and Appeals Division — which makes the determination on all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications.

It is not the agency (although the agency can provide some nominal assistance on some peripheral issues); it is not the U.S. Postal Service; it is not the Human Resources Department of the agency (the personnel of whom will often claim that they have processed “thousands” of such submissions and never had one rejected); and it is certainly not the H.R. Shared Services office of the U.S. Postal Service in Greensboro, N.C. — these are not the Federal or Postal entities which make a determination upon a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS, it is the affirmative duty of the applicant — the Federal worker employed by a Federal agency; or the U.S. Postal Worker — who must prepare the case, formulate the content of the proof and arguments to be used; and ultimately file the case, either through the agency if the Federal or Postal employee is still employed or any separation from Federal or Postal Service has been less than thirty one (31) days; or, if the Federal or Postal worker has been separated from Federal Service for more than thirty one (31) days, then to file it directly with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and to do so within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service.

The proof to submit must be affirmative — meaning, thereby, that it addresses each of the legal criteria necessary to be found “eligible” for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  You cannot rely upon the agency, third parties or other entities to do this; it must be done by the particular “you”, or if the referential point is reversed, by the “I”, as in the Federal or Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Agency Stubbornness

The quality and characteristic of “stubbornness” encompasses a refusal to be persuaded by logic, reason, or any other similarly acceptable criteria of linguistic methodology normally employed in discourse, conversation or discussion on a matter.  Federal Agencies and the U.S. Postal Service are both equally notorious for retaining, maintaining and adhering to such a characteristic, and that is true in circumstances involving termination, medical disability, and agency actions governing administrative actions and sanctions, whether neutral or punitive.  

Often, because a Federal or Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition will need to begin the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, a parallel set of circumstances begins to develop —  more absences; more need to file paperwork requesting leave, whether Sick Leave, Annual Leave or Leave without Pay; and the concurrent events which begin to coalesce involve the conflicting needs of the Federal or Postal employee and the requirements of the Agency to continue to meet and accomplish the goals of Federal Service.  

The result is often one of adversarial clashing:  a removal action by the Agency; potential loss of Health benefits (more often than not temporary, but nevertheless of concern) for the Federal or Postal employee; a rush to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; a sense of “emergency”; a stubbornness on the part of the Agency in its adherence to remove the Federal or Postal employee once its heels have been “dug in”.  

It is important to try and address such issues and attempt to head them off in as predictable a fashion as possible.  However, when such a clash between Agency interests and Federal or Postal employee needs come to an inevitable confrontation, it is important to at least establish a “paper trail” for future use.  Annotating the facts is an important tool to utilize — in shorthand, it is called “evidence“.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Affirmation, Communication & Support

Once a Federal Disability Retirement application has been thoughtfully prepared, formulated and filed with the Office of Personnel Management, it is a long engagement in something similar to trench warfare, where the long wait for the decision-making process must begin, endure, and come to fruition.  

In days prior to public access to the internet, Federal and Postal employees had very little, if any, access to the public domain of communicating to other Federal or Postal employees to get a sense of the successes or failures of others in the same or similar endeavors.  Access to other people’s experiences on public web domains, blog posts and other means of internet communication has allowed for interaction and communication within a wider community of Federal and Postal employees, in contrast to the pre-computer days (and yes, I am old enough to remember those days, when college term papers were written on an electric typewriter and space had to be calculated at the bottom of each page to allow for footnotes, as opposed to the ease of present-day cut-and-paste and automatic spacing by the computer program) when Federal and Postal employees were essentially isolated and unable to have access, let alone communicate, with others to attain a sense of affirmation by the experiences of others.  

Having that sense of isolation is one of those greater difficulties during the waiting wasteland period of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Moreover, especially in times of greater stagnation — summer months of people’s vacations; Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years, etc. — the sense of isolation is exponentially magnified.  Reach out on the web and read about other people’s experiences in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  While each case is unique and different, one may gain a sense of affirmation by learning about the experiential factors of other Federal and Postal employees.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: OPM’s Specific Denial II

It is important to always “define”, “corner”, and “circumscribe” any denial from the Office of Personnel Management.  If you do not, then what happens at the next level is that it becomes a “de novo” process.  Now, one might argue that all disability retirement appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board are de novo, anyway.  That is true enough — meaning, that all of the evidence is looked at “anew” and without prejudice from any previous finding by the Office of Personnel Management. 

Yet, there is the “legal” definition of de novo, and the practical effect of de novo; often, the Administrative Judge at the MSPB will, at a PreHearing Conference, turn to OPM and say, Listen, OPM, it seems that the only reason why it was initially denied was because of X, Y & Z; the applicant certainly answered X & Y in his/her reconsideration answer; is the only thing you are looking for is Z?  What this does is to narrow the issue.  Often, to save time, face, aggravation and other things, OPM will concede the narrowing of such issues, and this is true if you respond to their administrative queries by defining what they are asking for, then providing it to them, then showing how it has been provided to them, so that they are “cornered”.  Thereafter, if it gets denied and it needs to go to the MSPB, the Hearing can then proceed with a narrower, streamlined and limited number of issues to prove.  Again, the reason why it is important to define what it is that OPM is asking for, is not only for the “present” case, but in preparation for the potential “future” case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Case of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is one of those medical conditions that the Office of Personnel Management systematically “targets” as a condition which is prima facie “suspect”. This is despite the fact that there are cases which implicitly “admonish” OPM from engaging in the type of arbitrary reasoning of denying a disability retirement application because they “believe” that “no objective medical evidence” has been submitted, or that the “pain” experienced (diffuse as it might be) is merely “subjective”, or that the chronicity of the pain merely “waxes and wanes”, and a host of multiple other unfounded reasonings. Yet, cases have already placed a clear boundary around such arbitrary and capricious reasonings.

A case in point, of course, is Vanieken-Ryals v. OPM, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit case, decided on November 26, 2007. In that case, it clearly circumscribes the fact that OPM can no longer make the argument that an Applicant’s disability retirement application contains “insufficient medical evidence” because of its lack of “objective medical evidence”. This is because there is no statute or regulation which “imposes such a requirement” that “objective” medical evidence is required to prove disability. As long as the treating doctor of the disability retirement applicant utilizes “established diagnostic criteria” and applies modalities of treatment which are “consistent with ‘generally accepted professional standards'”, then the application is eligible for consideration. Further, the Court went on to state that it is “legal error for either agency (OPM or the MSPB) to reject submitted medical evidence as entitled to no probative weight at all solely because it lacks so-called ‘objective’ measures such as laboratory tests.” Statues are passed for a reason: to be followed by agencies. Judges render decisions for a reason: for agencies to follow. Often, however, agencies lag behind statutes and judicial decisions. It is up the an applicant — and his or her attorney — to make sure that OPM follows the law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire