Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Questions Abound

Questions abound when first encountering the possibility of needing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and that is a natural course of events.  It is tantamount to the proverbial admissions that one’s “mouth speaks faster than one can think,” because of the sudden flood of concerns, potential problems, future-oriented probabilities and the anxieties associated with the unknown.

It is thus often important to systematically categorize the questions and concerns into that which needs to be done immediately; that which can be accomplished within the next 30 – 60 days; and that which must be considered for the long-term.

Such time-imposed trifurcation of tasks, questions, concerns, etc. to place into neat segments will help in managing the daunting task of preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application, especially when one considers that attending to the care and treatment of one’s medical condition requires time and attention as a priority.  By categorizing and pigeonholing questions into their appropriate time-slots, it will help to manage the onset of natural anxieties which are always felt by encountering the new, the complex, and the unknown.

Questions will always abound; how and when to answer them is the key to maintaining a sense of calm and competence while retaining an aura of peace.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Danger of the Sure Thing

The danger of any “sure thing” is that, aside from the potential reversal of fortune if the assumed certainty fails to come to fruition, the acceptance of the claim of certainty in and of itself undermines the motivational factor in the very process of attempting to reach a goal.

A recent article in the New York Times told of another high school basketball prodigy who was “destined” for greatness in the NBA, only to descend into the ranks of the “has-beens” and those who had “great potential” but somehow never realized and actualized such potential greatness.  Rare is the Lebron James in any walk of life; rarer still is the one who recognizes the distinction that a “sure thing” becomes a certainty only on the precondition that one must vigilantly ascertain and safeguard such certainty of outcome.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is often a misguided view that one’s own particular medical condition is so serious, and so debilitating, that it is a “sure thing” in the approval process with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Yes, there are rare cases where the identity of the medical condition is such that it warrants an automatic approval from OPM; but such cases are few, and that is why we refer to them as cases of certainty.  The problem often rests in the fact that the sufferer of the medical condition is the same person who attempts to be a proponent of the Federal Disability Retirement application.

Certainty is clouded by judgment; when it’s your own horse in the race, one wants to judge a certainty.  When that horse is not only one’s own, but moreover, the person himself/herself is in the race itself, then a clouded judgment becomes a misguided view of how the world operates.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: OWCP Independence & Instersection

When Federal and Postal employees call to inquiry about Federal Disability Retirement issues from the Office of Personnel Management, the initial part of the conversation often involves separating the distinction and differences between OPM Disability Retirement and temporary total disability benefits obtained through the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs, Department of Labor (OWCP/DOL).  

The two are distinct, independent, and do not intersect except when it comes to having both benefits approved — in which case the “intersection” between the two is comprised of choosing one benefit over the other, and allowing the other to remain in an inactive status.  The fact that each is separate, independent and non-intersecting (for the most part), however, does not mean that documentation from one entity cannot be used to prove or otherwise enhance the provability of the other (yes, the double-negative makes it more difficult to understand — but what it means is that you can use documentation from OWCP sources to help prove your OPM Disability Retirement).  

Thus, while there are two separate “language games” (to use a term coined by the 20th Century Philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein) involving usage of terms which are somewhat foreign to each other — such as “MMI”, “percentage disability ratings”, whether it is an “on-the-job” injury or not, etc., the fact that OWCP issues embrace a medical condition which impacts one’s ability or inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, can certainly be a valuable tool in the arsenal of weapons to be used in proving a Federal Disability Retirement case.  On the other hand, discretion is a tactical tool which also needs to be applied…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Complexity & Collateral Issues

The very complexity of a case can often intersect with attempting to include collateral issues which arise in the workplace.  This is true for those filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Of course a Federal or Postal employee may pursue independent but collateral issues, such as an EEOC Complaint, an independent issue governed by the Merit Systems Protection Board, a grievance issue through the agency, etc., and for the most part, such issues will be treated independently and will not directly impact a Federal Disability Retirement application, unless you choose to directly inject the issue into the application.  That would normally not be a wise decision.  It is important to keep the collateral issues as separate and apart from the Federal Disability Retirement application, unless that particular collateral issue has a direct bearing upon proving that, as a result of a medical condition, you are no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of your job.  Otherwise, you unnecessarily complicate your disability retirement case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Slam-Dunk Case

I have represented more people at the Reconsideration Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process for FERS & CSRS employees, of Federal and Postal employees who filed the initial application on his or her own because it was thought that it was a “slam dunk” case.

That is the problem with the slam dunk case — either the individual thinks that the medical evidence is so overwhelming that little or no effort needs to be expended in order to obtain an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, or if some minimal effort is engaged in, then the problem must be that the people over at the Office of Personnel Management either did not understand the seriousness of the medical conditions, or they misread X or Y, or some other such reason.

The real problem is that there are few, if any, slam dunk cases.

Inasmuch as the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits personally feels the pain, discomfort, and debilitating nature of the medical conditions from which he or she suffers, therefore it is often (wrongly) assumed that the same feelings can be imparted upon the person reviewing the Federal Disability Retirement application.

One must always keep in mind, however, that a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a paper presentation.  As such, the effort of compiling, arguing, persuading and explaining must always be engaged in.  There are no such cases as slam dunk cases.  If there are, I haven’t recently come across one.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire