Federal Disability Retirement Representation: Substance and Process

In any bureaucratic, lengthy administrative process, one can become embroiled in the procedural aspects of an endeavor, and overlook the substantive elements which form the foundation of any case.  Conversely, one can make the mistake of approaching a case and declare to one’s self, “This is so obviously a good case,” and take shortcuts in the process of putting together an effective and persuasive case.

Either approach is one fraught with grave errors, and for Federal employees and Postal workers who are beginning the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Medical benefits, first through one’s own agency (if still on the rolls of the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service or, if separated, for not more than 31 days), and ultimately submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, Pennsylvania (directly, if the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker has been separated from Federal service for more than 31 days), it is important to keep the balance between the substance of a case, and the process of the case.

Substantive issues involve everything from the factual, informational content required on all standard forms (SF 3107, along with Schedules A, B & C, and the required attachment of one’s DD 214 showing prior active military service; SF 2801 for CSRS employees; and the substantive content of the description of one’s medical conditions to be considered, as required in SF 3112A, etc.), as well as the medical documentation needed to provide the evidentiary support for one’s case.

“Process” issues involve the timeframe in filing a case, the administrative procedures of where the disability application must be submitted through, as well as the myriad of sequential steps required for satisfaction of accommodation issues with one’s agency.

Substance and process — they are the necessary sides of a single, inseparable currency of an administrative reality known as Federal OPM Disability Retirement, and both must be attended to in order to reach the heights of efficacy mandated for a successful outcome in the preparation, formulation and submission of an OPM Medical Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Preparation

Observing competence in action often results in the disarming effect that all endeavors are easy and effortless, and that the price to be paid, the admission fee for fame, is merely based upon luck, whom you are associated with, or what school you attended.  And while it may be true that meritocracies are fading into the oblivion and sunset of historical anachronisms, and the new and acceptable approach to societal fairness is to implement the distribution of wealth via Piketty’s proposed paradigm in his compendium work, Capital in the Twenty First-Century; nevertheless, there are some things which one must still prepare for, and formulate a road-map for a successful outcome.

GPS devices tell us what to do, where to turn, how many miles the journey will take; administrative and bureaucratic facets of life still lack any such electronic directional voices.  For Federal and Postal employees who must consider the reality of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, the reality of preparation must be faced and confronted.  Preparation must involve: obtaining effective medical reports (how does one go about doing that?); what are the legal parameters which increase the chances of a First-Stage successful filing (is this based upon the law or some other factors?); what are the procedural steps which must be adhered to (is there a sequence to be followed, or can one approach the process through multiple avenues and tentacles simultaneously?).

The fact that one pays a single admission fee to watch a symphony or ballet does not mean that players perform based upon the singularity of the fee; that would be an absurdity. Preparation constitutes multiple actions behind the curtains, far in advance of the final performance displayed for the seated audience. It is up to the Federal and Postal employee to go backstage before the performance begins, and to unravel the hidden devices, the invisible threads, and the wizard behind the proverbial curtain.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Preparing for the Process

Every endeavor or activity requires preparation — if merely a thought, but more than likely, the gathering of proper materials, a logistical and strategic plan of action, etc.  There is nothing more frustrating than to begin a project, only to find that one lacks the proper materials and tools, and must delay any further action because of such lack.

Similarly, 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 for the Federal or Postal employee to understand that “having a medical condition” is not enough to endeavor to begin the administrative process (some would instead insert the term, “nightmare” for the word “process”).

While the suffering of the chronic or debilitating medical condition may “feel” like it should be enough, filing for a bureaucratic benefit requires proof which meets a set standard of evidentiary documentation.  In other words, one must establish a “nexus”, or a connection, between the medical condition which one suffers from, and the job which one is positioned for, and moreover, one must always keep in mind that this is a “medical retirement“, and as such, it must be established that one is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job from a medical standpoint.

It is indeed the preparatory phase of the journey into Federal Disability Retirement which will provide the foundation for ultimate success in the endeavor.

Just as you don’t want to build a house without first having the appropriate construction materials; so you don’t want to go down the path of Federal Disability Retirement without having the requisite medical and legal tools in hand.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Where to Begin

The captain of a ship docked in a harbor knows three things:  Where the ship came from; where it is; where it will be going next. If any of the three are missing from the thought-processes of the one who intends to navigate the waters, the ship should remain where it is.  For, it is the orientation and coalescence of the past, the present, and the future course of action which should determine the efficacy of whether to act now, or delay for the future.

Unfortunately, in a Federal Disability Retirement case, whether under FERS or CSRS, because of the exigent circumstances which often surrounds the debilitating nature of a medical condition, the emergency situation of the present state of affairs will often dictate, without guidance, the future course of events.

The future cannot be thought of or contemplated with any sense of purpose, because the exigency of the “now” makes all else irrelevant.  But how we formulate the “now” may well determine the future course of events. As such, in preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to approach the administrative process and procedure in a systematic, logical manner, if only to ensure the best chances of success at the First Stage of the process.

Culling together a disjointed disability retirement packet just to get it filed immediately (unless, of course, the Statute of Limitations is about to come upon one) is normally not a plan for a captain’s log for charting a ship’s future course; especially when one becomes aware of the stormy seas ahead.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Substance versus Process

In every endeavor, there is the substance of activity, as distinguishable from the process which surrounds the activity (which is further differentiated by the issue of appearance versus substance).  The former encapsulates the essence of what the activity involves; the latter is characterized by the entirety of preparation, formulation and engagement in participating in the activity.

Thus, as there is the “actual activity” of the sport which one engages in; there is also the “process” part of it, such as paying a participant’s fee, negotiating a contract, submitting proper forms in a timely manner, etc.

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 unfortunately both aspects which the Federal or Postal worker must contend with.

There is the substantive activity of preparing the application itself, with all of its attendant responsibilities of obtaining the proper medical documentation, preparing one’s statement of disability (SF 3112A); completing the Application for Immediate Retirement (SF 3107 & Schedules A, B & C for the FERS employee; SF 2801 & Schedules A, B & C for CSRS employees), as well as a multitude of other such substantive issues to be addressed.

Then, there is the “process” activity, of the long wait while the Federal Disability Retirement application winds its way through the bureaucratic maze, first through the agency, then the finance office, then to Boyers, PA for the intake processing part of it; then, forwarding it to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, inasmuch as filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is something which is voluntarily engaged, it is seen as a necessary evil to be subjected to both the substantive, as well as the procedural (or “process” aspect) portions of the administrative filing.  In many ways, substance and process cannot be separated or identifiably bifurcated; they come together as inseparable twins, and must be dealt with as such.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: How We Go about Preparing a Case

The end product of a case — how it reads; the coordination of the facts, statements, allegations, and citation of law, etc. — reflects the process in which one has undertaken in order to arrive at that endpoint.  

Some cases present themselves like a compilation of bumps and potholes; others, as if a roadmap was never consulted and the wide expanse of the universe became a meandering and directionless compass.  Maps and compasses serve a purpose; they provide the traveler with a focused direction and purpose, and a sense that there is a straight line between two points — where to start, and where to go.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to have a sense of direction — a purposive roadmap in which the preparer of the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits knows, understands, and implements a plan to reach the stated goal:  an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Yet, even the best of such preparers can never guarantee the successful outcome sought.  

What the “best of them” can do, however, is to take the terrain of the road, put forth a plan for the best route, then guide the “traveler” in the most efficient and effective manner possible.  One must work with the facts, and even if the facts are not always favorable, to give the best chance by avoiding dangerous pitfalls, and to present the safest route to the destination, all of which will provide the greatest opportunity for success.

How one gets from point A to destination B is the key to a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Administrative Process

Ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement must be viewed as a “process“, as opposed to a singular procedure whereby a triggering mechanism automatically allows for receipt of benefits.  The former requires an affirmative approach which involves submission of proof, argumentation, an expectation of resistance (in many cases), and an analysis by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as to whether or not all of the legal criteria have been met.  The latter is merely a formality of filing.

As a process, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has various steps, procedures, and Stages for appeals.  There is, first and foremost, the initial application Stage, where one has the opportunity and right to submit proof of eligibility, and make legal arguments for entitlement.  If one’s Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the first Stage of the process, then one has a right to have it “reconsidered” by filing a “Request for Reconsideration” within 30 days of the date of denial, or receipt of the letter of denial from OPM, whichever is later.  If denied a second time, then the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has a right to file an Appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

There are, in addition to the 3 stages described, two (2) additional stages of appeal, but the three main stages of filing are what have been previously described.

With such a “process” in mind, it is wise to prepare for the long haul.  An expectation of a quick and easy approval, even if obtained, should not be embraced at the outset, precisely because one must take into consideration the potential length of time which the entire process may take, and prepare accordingly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Pre-Conditional Preparatory Steps

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether a Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, there are steps to be taken — not only at each “stage” of the administrative process, but moreover, in the weeks and months prior to the actual formulation, compilation and submission of the Standard Forms, documentary support, writing of the Applicant’s Statement, etc.

As a “process”, one may bifurcate the necessary steps into the following:  the pre-conditional stage; the preparatory stage; the time of formulation & actualization; finally, the submission of the disability retirement packet.

In the “pre-conditional” time period, one should focus upon the single most important aspect of a Federal Disability Retirement case — that of garnering, concretizing and establishing the necessary physician-patient relationship, such that there is a clear understanding of what is required of the physician; what the physician expects of the patient; and, wherever and whenever possible, a continuing mutual respect and understanding between the doctor and the patient-applicant.

This is why the Merit Systems Protection Board has explicitly, through case after case, opined upon the preference for “treating” doctors of longstanding tenure.  For, in such a relationship of long-term doctor-patient relationships, a greater ability to assess and evaluate the capabilities and limitations of the patient’s physical, emotional and psychological capacities can best be achieved.

In every “rule”, of course, there are exceptions, and sometimes more “distant” methods of evaluations can be obtained — through OWCP doctors, referee opinions, independent examinations (indeed, one can make the argument that because it is “independent”, therefore it carries greater weight), functional capacity evaluations, etc.

For the most part, however, the cultivation of an excellent physician-patient relationship will be the key to a successful Federal Disability Retirement claim, and as such, the pre-conditional stage to the entire process should be focused upon establishing that solid foundation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Contemplative Action

Contemplation for the sake of “in and of itself” can be activity without purpose or end, and can lead to inertia; for the living of modern life inherently has demands of actions — of “making” a living, of “producing” results, and “accomplishing” set goals and purposeful ends.  But contemplation for the sake of an end is in and of itself a useful activity.  

Part of the “preparation” of the oft-used phrase (used repeatedly in these blogs), “In preparing, formulating and filing…” is the very act of contemplation — of formulating a plan of action for the securing of one’s future.  For, the Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing, as some future event, a Federal Disability Retirement application either under FERS or CSRS, with the Office of Personnel Management, must contemplate the emotional, financial, and future impact of such an action, and there is indeed much to contemplate in the very pre-preparatory stage of the administrative action.  

Can one endure the long wait of the administrative process?  Does one have a supportive medical community to provide the documentary support necessary to be successful?  Will one’s family, friends, etc., understand and empathize?  What will be the reaction of those who will be informed — family, coworkers, supervisors, doctors, etc.?  

I often state that the “Holidays” should not be a time to iron out differences within the family, but instead should be a time of “coming together” and enjoying the time and life away from the daily comedies of the modern life style; that such “ironing out” should be done during those other periods of the year.  But such respites as the “Holidays” can and should be used to contemplate and formulate a plan of action for the future; and in the quietude of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it may be time to huddle around a contemplative time of gathering, in order to secure a brighter future.  

Remember, preparation is the key to success, and wise and good counsel should always be a part of that preparation.  In dealing with the Office of Personnel Management in preparing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, it is often a good idea to have a contemplative phase, and to rely upon good advice and counsel.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire