Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Automatic Pilot

Then there is the story of the individual who was driving an RV, set the acceleration mechanism on “auto”, and left the driver’s seat to go and make some coffee.  Obviously, one need not have too great an imagination as to what happened next.

“Auto pilot” is a concept which one considers in the context of comfort and alleviation of human effort; by allowing for machines and artificial intelligence to dominate and take over, such technological advances allow for human beings to engage in other pursuits.  The problem with such a perspective, however, is that most people go through life on auto-pilot to begin with; and allowing for machines and smart-technology to engage in human action merely perpetuates further thoughtless action.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one will encounter many steps and stages of the phenomena identified as “auto-pilot” — both at the Agency level, as well as the case-worker at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Whether because of being overworked, or after years of mundane administrative tasks which dull the intellectual capacities of the human brain, it is often difficult to “jolt” the worker into focusing upon one’s particular Federal Disability Retirement application.  While one can argue that, “If you have seen one, you have seen them all”, it is important to acknowledge that one’s own Federal Disability Retirement application is unique precisely because each medical condition and its impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s positional duties is identifiably singular in relevance and importance, and as such, “shaking up” the sleeping giant of auto-pilot is crucial in getting a Medical Disability Retirement claim to successful completion and approval.

To do this, it is wise to make certain that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application is well-formulated, streamlined, and presented in a coherent, comprehensible whole.  That way, if one encounters an auto-pilot, it will not end up like the driver of the RV and result in a vehicle driving over the proverbial cliff.

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: Agency Actions & OPM

The argument in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS goes as follows:  An Agency has determined that a Federal or Postal employee is medically unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; that Federal or Postal employee cannot be accommodated; the case-law states that, at a minimum, the agency conclusions have a persuasive effect upon a Federal Disability Retirement application; ergo, the Office of Personnel Management should approve the Federal or Postal employee’s Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.

The problem with such an argument, if relied upon exclusively, is threefold:  (1)  The statutory mandate as to which agency makes a determination upon a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is misplaced, (2) The Agency, whether the Flight Surgeon at the FAA who determines that an Air Traffic Controller is medically unqualified to continue in his or her job, or the Postal Service who determines pursuant to the National Reassessment Process (NRP) that there is no longer a job available at the Postal Service, or any other agency which determines that no accommodations can be provided — has not applied all of the legal criteria under the laws and statutes governing Federal Disability Retirement applications, and (3) the focus from the perspective of the agency is a “second-tier” focus — of whether an accommodation can be provided to the Federal or Postal employee to see if the efficiency of the Agency can continue, as opposed to the “first-tier” issue of whether the Federal or Postal employee has a medical condition such that it satisfies all of the criteria for a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

As such, it is the focus of the respective agencies which differentiate the possibility of an agency action being merely persuasive, as opposed to determinative, in a Federal Disability Retirement applicationunder either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Service Disability Retirement: Agency Support

Sometimes, the question comes up as to whether or not it is important to have the blessing or support of the Agency or the USPS, when filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS. My answer to such a question is fairly uniform and redundant:  this is a medical disability retirement; it is unwise to proceed to apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits on the assumption that your Supervisor or Agency will be supportive, for there is no guarantee as to what “supportive” means (they may have a completely different understanding or definition of the concept than you do — something which you probably learned over many years of working in the Federal Sector), and further, the primary focus from the perspective of the Office of Personnel Management, is upon the medical evidence presented and how the medical condition impacts one or more of the essential elements of your job.  The Supervisor’s Statement should be minimized in importance and relevance, as much as possible, by ensuring that the rest of the disability retirement application is “excellent”.  By doing this, you neutralize any undue dependence upon an Agency’s alleged “support” of your application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire