Attorney Representation in Federal Disability Claims: Directions

The crude form of the proverbial image formulated is:  Up the creek without a paddle, but normally with an epithet inserted.  It portrays a vivid scene of being in a symbolic state, directionless and without a means of guiding or maneuvering.  One is thus subject to the winds of time, the vicissitudes of circumstances beyond one’s control, immediate or otherwise, and where a growing storm of unforeseen proportions and magnitude is coming at a rate of ferocity uncontrollable and unable to be prepared for.

People with medical conditions have that sense of progressive disintegration, where the things that one has worked and strived so hard to achieve, are now in danger of loss and ruination. For the disabled Federal employee or the injured Postal worker who suffers from an accident or other health condition, such that the medical condition is impacting the capacity and ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, the growing fear of being swept aside by slow, insidious and deliberative steps by the agency — of a poor performance review; of initiating a “Performance Improvement Plan“, or a PIP; of threats of separation and termination because of one’s absenteeism and exhaustive use of LWOP; all point towards an inevitable direction which is far from the destination that the Federal or Postal employee wants to arrive at.

Lifeboats are funny things; they may save the life, but without a paddle, one may drift and yet fail to survive for lack of food or water.  Sustenance is the key to a life worthy of living.

For the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS, when a medical condition begins to threaten one’s employment with the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, it may be time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Filed through one’s agency if one is still employed or separated from Federal Service but not for more than thirty one (31) days, the application is ultimately processed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for a determination of eligibility and entitlement.  It is a benefit which, in and of itself, provides for a basic annuity such that the sustenance of a livelihood is provided for, in order for the Federal employee or the Postal worker to attend to one’s health, and continue to look to a brighter future in the years ahead.

Thus, in that sense, Federal Disability Retirement is the needed oar for the man or woman in the proverbial boat, stranded up the mythological creek, waiting for the means to direct the drifting dictation of life’s daring demands.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The title reference, of course, is to the old Spielberg film concerning contact with an alien being; but such a remote, rare and unique experience need not be with an entity from another galaxy or planet, but can be closer to home.

Most people will never need to experience engagement with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, OPM Division of Disability, Reconsiderations and Appeals, in order to apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits (whether under FERS or CSRS), leaving aside having to file an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

But when the Federal or Postal employee finds him/herself in such a unique situation such that contact with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management or the MSPB becomes necessary, such an experience will be as peculiar and strange an an encounter of the “third kind”.  Moreover, the experience itself may be an unwanted and unpleasant one, because it is something accomplished and pursued while experiencing a personal crisis involving a medical condition.

The encounter itself — however strange, unpleasant or unwanted — nevertheless is a reality which must be dealt with, and in so doing, it should be done in as efficient a manner as possible.

In an initial encounter with an alien being, one would assume that there might be some trepidation and reluctance, mixed with a great amount of suspicion.  That would be natural.  In a similar encounter with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is best to also have a healthy dose of skepticism; better yet, you might want to contact an expert who has had some past experience in dealing with the entity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Refinements

One often hears of a “refined” or “cultured” person; such a description often provokes an image of one who has had the leisure time in order to engage in the arts and of higher society; and the word itself leaves connotations of perfecting the rough edges of a person, thing or work.  But if the focus of one’s efforts is upon refinement at the outset, then there is the danger that the core of the focus will not have been adequately worked upon.

Refinements should come only after the essence of a work has been produced, just as leisure time should be enjoyed only after one has completed the necessary work.  Refinements should not be the focus of one’s attention if the centrality and essence of the issue is not first attended to; and so it is with all things in life.

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 focus upon creating, formulating and producing an excellent Statement of Disability; expending the effort to obtain an effective medical report; promulgating the applicable legal arguments which support the substantive underpinning one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

Refinements can be made; but such a focus should only be engaged once the core essence of a case has been formulated.  Leisure time is just that — only after the essence of a case has been attended to.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Runt of the Litter

It is interesting watching the behavior and interaction between the runt of a litter and the rest of the “healthy” puppies.  The runt is cast aside; the others, for no apparent reason other than because he is a runt, will focus upon the weakling and mercilessly attack him and take advantage of the vulnerabilities and weak spots.  For the runt’s part, it is a test of endurance and survival, and perhaps it is the very isolation and aggressiveness from others which tests the prospects for survival.

We humans like to think of ourselves as (to paraphrase Shakespeare), far above such animalistic behavior, and closer to the angels of heaven in our demeanor and virtues.  But in engaging the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is clear that we are not far from the “runt-behavior” and the target of Federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service.

Loyalty and camaraderie prevails on the surface so long as everyone is healthy; once a medical condition is revealed, the behavior of the aggressors manifests to the forefront.  Agencies comprise a collective and organic whole in their behavior and treatment of employees who exhibit a medical condition requiring the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Once the medical condition becomes apparent, and begins to impact one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, the test of survival begins.  Empathy, a somewhat human quality, rarely prevails; and laws and rights must be invoked.

Think about it this way:  Do angels need laws to regulate their behavior?  Yet, human beings must have laws, and a vast abundance of them in order to ensure the protection of disabled individuals.  FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement is fortunately a compensatory system which provides some protection for Federal and Postal employees; and it is a system based upon laws — ones which are necessary to protect the runts of the world.

Far from being angels, we are closer than we think to the pack of dogs who wait patiently to see who the next runt is, and which one can be attacked.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Representation Is Not Limited

When calls of a repetitive nature occur, it is time to provide some clarification.  Often, from the very nature of a question, it becomes clear that some extent of confusion or puzzlement underlies the very question itself.

For “Federal matters” — i.e., in cases where representation by an attorney occurs before a Federal administrative body, such as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., which is the Federal Agency which receives, evaluates, and determines all Federal Disability Retirement applications for Federal and Postal employees who are under FERS or CSRS — the attorney who represents the Federal or Postal employee can be licensed from a state which is different from the state in which the Federal or Postal employee resides.

This is why it is not necessary for the Federal or Postal employee who lives in, for example, the State of Arizona, to be represented by an attorney licensed in Arizona, for representation before the Office of Personnel Management.  Indeed, because Federal Disability Retirement Law is a very particularized field, it may simply be impractical to find a “local” attorney to represent the Federal or Postal employee in the very state in which the Federal or Postal employee resides.

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a Federal issue, not a State issue, and as such, national representation is accordingly performed by those who engage in such practice of law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Trust

Words have become increasingly malleable.  They can be reformed, restated, interpreted in multiple ways, and ultimately made to conform to what an individual desires it to mean.  Trust is based upon the mutual understanding of words.  As such, the breach of trust can come about quite rapidly, as the deterioration of such mutual understanding becomes apparent.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there is often an issue of “trust” between the Agency from which the Federal or Postal employee is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and the Federal or Postal employee him/her self.  The extent to which an agency is informed of the process; issues of confidentiality and whether privacy concerns are breached — all involve an issue of trust.

Unfortunately, trust is also an issue which, for whatever reason, is instilled as a desire in human beings.  Most people “want” to trust another individual, and because of this desire, it can be used as a predatory bait for those who may have motivations and reasons other than the best interests of the Federal or Postal employee.

Finally, what this author has always believed, is the following:  The test of sincerity is represented by past actions, not the mere speaking of words.  Yet, even actions do not constitute a complete source of reliability.  In the end, discretion calls for limited revelation of information.  An “only need-to-know, when necessary” rule should always be applied to confidential, private information.  And what can be more confidential and private, than one’s own medical condition in the preparation, formulation and filing of Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Leverage

The ability to negotiate an advantageous settlement of an issue is dependent not merely upon the possession of leverage, but upon the effective use of that leverage.  Such effective usage would require, first and foremost, a dual presentation:  First, recognition of the value of such leverage, and second, the ability to have the opposing party believe that the value is exponentially exaggerated.  Once these dual components are satisfied, one can be assured that a favorable settlement can be reached.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one often finds that the Federal or Postal employee is involved in multiple facets of collateral litigation or adverse actions with the Agency.  As part of a “global settlement” of legal issues, the agency will inevitably offer the Federal or Postal employee a “disability retirement”.  Yet, the first recognition of order which the Federal or Postal employee must address, is the fact that the agency is not the entity which can grant a Federal Disability Retirement.  Only the U.S. Office of Personnel Management can grant or deny a Federal Disability Retirement application to the Federal or Postal applicant.

Can the support of the agency help?  Yes — if formulated properly.  Be aware, however, as case-law supports OPM’s contention that settlements of collateral issues should not be used as a basis for obtaining the support of an agency in an application for Federal Disability Retirement.  A balancing act must be adopted.  And, as always, Federal Disability Retirement is first and foremost an issue of one’s medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire