Federal Disability Retirement: Returning to the Boredom of Health

Everyone desires to attain a path of certainties, where life has a rhythm of regularity, predictability and consistency.  We often complain of a life of boredom, but there is a distinction to be made between “being bored” and having what some would consider a “boring existence”.

One need only encounter a life-threatening emergency, or a crisis impacting self, family members or friends — or a serious medical condition.  Then, one yearns for those “boring” days of yore, when living a daily existence of merely being pain-free, when one could bend, reach, turn, twist, pick up a cup of coffee — without a thought of invasive and excruciating pain; of a time when focusing upon a task did not require one’s utmost energy and stamina; where the intrusion of nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks did not paralyze one’s totality of being.  Living a boring life for those encountering the “excitement” of a medical condition, as opposed to “being bored”, found a consistency of a rhythm of certainty.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is the goal of the Federal or Postal employee to enter into a period of a recuperative universe, in order to get back to the days of a boring existence.  Boredom is not necessarily a negative thing; indeed, when one is beset with a medical condition which prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s job, the very notion that one’s prior existence of health was somehow less than exciting, is a puzzle to those who have lost their health.

Federal Disability Retirement is a chance to attain the boring life of yore; preparing properly the application for submission; formulating it effectively; and filing it to attain the goal of returning to that former self, is a consideration worth making.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: When a Mistake is Made

Mistakes made in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, are usually correctable, and for a number of reasons:  most mistakes merely require additional clarifications; some “mistakes” are only apparently so, but substantively valid otherwise; and ancillary mistakes of an innocuous nature can reflect the inconsistencies of reality, as opposed to a direct contradiction between two or more persons.

While blinders cannot be placed upon the Case Worker at the Office of Personnel Management once a Federal Disability Retirement application has been submitted, nor does it usually require such drastic measures.

The question to be asked, of course, is whether or not the alleged “mistake” should be addressed, to what extent, and how prominently?  For, the old Shakespearean adage that “thou protesteth too much” can apply in a Federal Disability Retirement application, where too much emphasis upon a particular issue can unduly magnify the issue itself, as opposed to dealing with the issue in a passing manner.

Thus, a statement made in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, or by a treating doctor, which indicates an undermining of meeting the legal criteria of eligibility in a Federal Disability Retirement application, should probably be addressed.

A direct statement made in a Supervisor’s Statement may or may not be relevant.  Often, such statements are merely opinions meant to undermine a Federal Disability Retirement application, but whether it is worth addressing is a discretionary issue.  The real issue concerning discrepancies or mistakes have to do with who is making it into a loud noise; and the one who makes the loudest noise, is often the one who attracts the greatest attention.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Medical Disability Retirement and Agency Promises

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is often easy to confuse the varying roles of the individual and agency entities which are involved in the process.

First and foremost, the Agency for which the individual works, has certain administrative obligations which must be met — of completing certain forms, such as the Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) and the Agency Efforts for Reassignment and Accommodation (SF 3112D).  The Office of Personnel Management, on the other hand, is the ultimate arbiter and deciding entity determining the viability of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, as to meeting the legal criteria for eligibility for the benefit.

The agency cannot make promises to the Federal employee, or the Postal employee (if the case happens to be the U.S. Postal Service), as to “getting” the individual Federal employee or Postal employee, a Federal Disability Retirement.

There can certainly be actions taken by the agency, or the representative of the agency, which may help to “enhance” the chances of an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement.  However, enhancing the chances of an approval is quite different from promising to “give” or to “get” a Federal or Postal employee a Federal Disability Retirement from the Office of Personnel Management.  Only the latter entity can accomplish that.

As for any promises by the agency that “he said X” or “he promised Y” — get it in writing.  It may only be worth the paper it is written on, but at least by asking, you can determine the truth or falsity of such a promise.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Compounding Medical Condition

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the concern often revolves around the compounding effect of a medical condition, when a Federal or Postal employee continues to persevere in performing duties which clearly exacerbate and exponentially magnify the originating medical condition and the manifesting symptomatologies.

Whether as secondary depressive symptoms, or as increasing anxiety, uncontrollable panic attacks; chest pains; radiculopathy; sedation which occurs from medication or lack of sleep over weeks and weeks, resulting in profound and overwhelming fatigue; the problems of unmitigated and unaccommodated medical conditions become worse, and begin to attain a “hump-back” effect, where the Federal or Postal worker attempts to increase the productivity output by working that much harder, ignoring the originating medical condition yet, concurrently, becoming more and more suspicious that the Supervisor, the coworker, the “others” in the Agency, are recognizing and quietly commenting upon the deteriorating work ethic of the Federal or Postal employee.  

Most medical conditions, precisely because of the inherent nature of the medical condition itself, cannot be accommodated.  What medical conditions need most are the self-evident and obvious, but which society lacks the patience for:  treatment, time for recuperation, and space away from the daily stresses of the multi-tasking workplace.  

Disability Retirement criteria under FERS & CSRS requires that a medical condition last for a minimum of 12 months.  Such a requirement is rarely difficult to meet.  For, in this world of stress-work-productivity-result-orientation, one rarely has time to pause for a medical condition.  Such lack of pause, however, only increases the likelihood of the compounding effect of a once-singular medical condition, which over a short period of time, progressively deteriorates into a “hump-back” of multiple conditions, exacerbated by stress, magnified by an environment which has little or no time for such blips as the sorrow of the human condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Agency Collateral Actions

Often, in the preceding years before preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is a “history” of events between an Agency and the Federal or Postal employee.  Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and such a trite adage is certainly true for the Federal and Postal employee.  

Whether in the form of an EEOC complaint or a response to an adverse action which promulgates an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, or multiple other legal forums and responses, actions, etc., there may be a settlement of the issue, and the settlement of such collateral issues may involve a provision concerning Federal Disability Retirement.  

If in fact there is a reference concerning Federal Disability Retirement by the Agency as part of a “global settlement” of collateral issues, it is important to make sure that there is enough specificity in the language to make it worth one’s while to have the provision inserted in a settlement agreement to begin with.  Thus, a generic statement such as, “Agency endeavors to assist the employee in filing for Federal Disability Retirement” would not be very helpful, precisely because the term “assist” can be interpreted in multiple ways, and normally the way that an Agency will interpret the term will not in the least be helpful to the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Language is a tool which must be used carefully; the effectiveness of language, as with any tool, depends upon the competence of the user.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Proper Balance

The Office of Personnel Management has sent out a number of denials in recent weeks, and the undersigned attorney has had multiple opportunities to review many of the cases which have been submitted at the Initial Stage of the process, by Federal and Postal workers who are or were unrepresented by an attorney.  

The spectrum of the quality of the applications vary; some have obviously engaged in some research, and attempted to put together a Federal Disability Retirement application by following some guidelines which have been put forth.  But in most cases, there is still the problem of an “imbalance” — of not reaching the correct median between the subjective and the objective; of an inability to stay away from the workplace issues, of harassment, of complaints about the Agency, etc.  

Remember that this is first and foremost a medical disability retirement application, and the operative term which should always be focused upon and emphasized is the “medical” aspect of the formulation.  While there is ultimately no formulaic Federal Disability Retirement packet (precisely because the particular medical condition which is unique to each individual resists any such attempt to package a Federal Disability Retirement application in a generic sort of way), nevertheless, there are certain key points which should be addressed and emphasized, while other “non-key points” should be avoided.  

Put in a different way, in proving that a medical condition prevents a Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, one must include multiple “essential elements” in meeting the burden of proof.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Stress

“Stress” is always the “problem child” in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  If a Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job because of an intolerance to a certain level of stress, then certainly it should be considered as a basis for preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, either under FERS or CSRS.  However, treatment modalities must be engaged — normally, via a psychiatrist or psychotherapy.

Further, there are always issues which will come about in basing the primary medical condition as “stress” — aside from the fact that it is a generic designation which will often have corollary designations, such as Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, etc.  For example, can one define “tolerance to stress” as an essential element of one’s job?  It is certainly an inherent element, implicit in many multi-tasking jobs and ones which require a high level of responsibilities or is subject to timeliness in quotas and work production.  But when issues concerning stresses which arise as a result of “personnel issues” (i.e., interaction with supervisors, coworkers, etc.), then it becomes a “problem-child” which is best avoided, for numerous reasons, including the possibility and danger of having one’s Federal Disability Retirement application denied based upon a “situational disability“.  Concepts and thoughts to ponder, when preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire