Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Misinformation Center

When a government agency provides wrong information, should one be surprised?  Reliance upon a source of information is always a problematic issue; further, there is always a presumption that information issued by the original source should on its face be reliable.

Information obtain from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on issues of retirement, disability retirement, collateral issues of survivor’s benefits, etc., should by its very nature be reliable because that is precisely the very agency which mandates the regulations and handles all matters concerning Federal retirement, disability or otherwise.  But more and more, phone calls to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management have resulted in misinformation being provided.

There is, of course, always the possibility that the caller misinterpreted what was stated over the telephone; but when such occurrences become regular encounters, one begins to wonder if such a simplistic explanation can adequately satisfy the curious mind.  Unfortunately, there may be a better explanation:  in an agency which is overworked and understaffed, replies to inquiries may come from unreliable sources who are either inadequately trained, lack the necessary information, or simply are discourteous enough to give any answer thought of to get rid of the caller.

Ultimately, the best answer one may rely upon is that which may be subject to accountability — the written word.  For, if information provided in written format on a website — whether on the official agency website, or on an attorney’s website — is relied upon, such reliance cannot later be retracted or dismissed with, “I never said that”, when it shows plainly as the day is bright that the organization or entity is the responsible agent for the information provided.  In the end, a source of information must always be verified based upon multiple elements:  Reliability of the agent; motivation for the information; longevity of accuracy; reputation for having expertise in an area; and multiple other checks and balances.

Making a phone call is a dangerous venture to begin with; for, the voice on the other end is merely that — a faceless voice with no accountability — and the source of information may be coming from a parallel universe of the absurd, called the “Misinformation Center“.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Simplicity of the Case

The initial telephone inquiry often involves an apologetic explanation that one’s particular Federal Disability Retirement case “is a very complicated one which involves…”  Then, of course, there is an extensive history of events.  But complexity is often made so because of the lack of understanding of what direction the Federal or Postal employee must pursue in order to obtain an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and it is assumed that the reason why the Federal or Postal employee contacts an attorney is to unravel and unscramble the complications which were created precisely because of such lack of understanding.

Remember that in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the bundle of complexities was created, more often than not, because of an admixture of agency issues, a history of adverse contact between the agency and the Federal or Postal employee, coupled with the rise of medical issues and their impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform all of the essential functions of one’s job.  As such, it is the job of the attorney to focus the Federal or Postal employee upon the foundational “essence” of a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Whether it is to “cut to the chase”, or strip away any peripheral issues to get to the “heart of the matter”, or whatever other pithy niceties which may be applicable, it is the job of the attorney to set aside the complexities, and simplify the process in order to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement approval for the Federal or Postal worker suffering from a medical condition which prevents him or her from performing one or more of the essential elements of his or her job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: A Word about Approvals

It is the general policy of the Office of Personnel Management to withhold releasing of information concerning a pending Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, via telephone.  

This is a good policy, in that a potential conflict and mistake can occur between an action taken on a case (i.e., an approval or a denial) and what is inputted into the computer system; or, as has been the case in the past, where the secretary or receptionist divulges the decision over the telephone — and is mistaken.  

Generally, one must wait for the Office of Personnel Management to send the hard copy of the decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Receipt of the actually letter of approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management, constitutes the official notification of the decision on a pending Federal Disability Retirement application.  If the Federal or Postal employee’s representative or attorney receives the decision of approval or denial from the Office of Personnel Management, that also constitutes official notification.  

The problem of telephone notification of an approval is that, if what is told over the telephone differs from the actual notification and decision rendered by the Claims Representative who is handling the case, then obviously that would be an upsetting matter to the Federal or Postal employee who is anxiously awaiting the decision.  

For the Federal or Postal employee who has waited many, many months for a decision on a pending Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management, waiting a few more days in order to receive the actual approval letter (or a denial letter, whichever the case may be) is well worth the wait.  

It is better to wait a few more days to get the decision in person.  As the old adage goes, “A bird in hand is worth two in the bushes”…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: OWCP Disability

Periodically, a telephone call will begin with the statement that the Federal or Postal worker has been on “Disability” for the past _____ years.  The first question that must be asked is, “Are you speaking about OPM Disability Retirement?”  If the answer is one of confusion or lack of clarity, then a further query must be made, trying to establish whether or not the Federal or Postal worker is speaking about receiving payments from the Department of Labor, Office of Worker’s Compensation.

As it turns out, most people who refer to being on “Disability” often mean that they are receiving Worker’s Compensation.  Once this is established, then it becomes important to know whether or not the Federal or Postal Worker has been separated from Federal Service; and if so, when was he or she separated (because if it has been over 1 year, then it is too late to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management).  

Receiving “disability” is often confusing to the Federal or Postal employee.  A revealing fact is when the individual states that the “Agency put me on disability”.  This normally means that the person is on OWCP.  Or, if you are receiving 75% of one’s pay.  Remember that there is a distinction and a difference between OWCP and OPM Disability Retirement.  The former pays well, but may not last forever.  Indeed, if the latter is not applied for within the time-frame allowed, you will be barred from ever applying for it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Service Disability Retirement: Don’t Act with Haste

This time of year can result in Federal and Postal employees acting “in haste” — of resigning; of receiving a denial on a disability retirement application and not properly making a decision for one’s future or self-interest; of responding to Agency actions in ways which will not benefit one’s future.  The “Holidays” can be a trying time; those considering filing for disability retirement under FERS & CSRS should take the time to consult with an attorney to review all of the options open, before making any hasty decisions which may impact one’s future and career with the Federal Government.  Remember, even if the Agency is making noises to file an adverse action during this time, or is about to place you on a PIP, or is calling you in for an “investigative interview”, there is always time to respond, and in most cases, a request for an extension of time to respond should, and will, be granted.  Retaliatory agencies and supervisors love to use this Holiday Season, when time is shortened, to file all sorts of adverse actions.  Don’t respond in an inappropriate way; consult an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: When & How to Act

When people call me to ask if they need legal representation in filing for disability retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, I try and provide as “objective” an opinion on the matter as possible. I represent hundreds of people in filing for, and obtaining, disability retirement benefits; it is my specialty, and it is how I make a living. At the same time, however, I believe that I can be completely honest in providing guidance as to whether an individual should obtain legal representation, or needs to obtain representation.

For instance, for individuals who have already sent in their disability retirement packets to OPM (via the Agency for those still on the rolls; directly to Boyers, PA for those who have been separated from service for 31 days or more), I normally advise the applicant to wait — wait until a decision has been rendered, and hopefully the individual will not have to expend the funds for attorneys fees, and an approval will be in the mail. On the other hand, every now and then, an applicant who is waiting for a decision from the Office of Personnel Management, will describe the content and substantive materials comprising the disability retirement packet, and certain statements — during a telephone consultation with me — concerning what is stated in the applicant’s Statement of Disability, will give rise to concern, and in those instances, it may be wise to either withdraw the application, or immediately take steps to supplement the disability retirement packet.

Each FERS or CSRS disability retirement packet is unique, because each individual & individual’s medical condition is unique. That’s what makes the practice of law in the field of representing Federal and Postal disability retirement applicants so interesting, and so professionally satisfying.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire