CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Decisions of the Federal and Postal Employee

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, the ultimate and deciding “first step” factor which propels the entire process, of course, is entirely within the authoritative realm of the Federal or Postal employee contemplating such a course of action.  

In making any decision, however, the trajectory of options begins to diminish when the options themselves become more and more limited and restricted by external circumstances.  Thus, when the Federal or Post employee is removed and separated from Federal Service, then the option to file becomes clearly defined:  one must file within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service, or you lose your right to file forever.  Or, if the threat of being separated from service becomes cumulatively overwhelming; or, perhaps the medical condition itself, because of its progressively deteriorating aspect, imposes the necessity to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits sooner than anticipated, rather than later.  

Additionally, there are multiple scenarios which offer refinements to those already mentioned — for example, if one has already filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and in the meantime the Federal or Postal worker has been separated from Federal Service, then the ability to either file for Reconsideration (in the event of an initial denial) or appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (in the event of a second denial from the Office of Personnel Management) — as opposed to letting a Request for Reconsideration or an appeal to the MSPB lapse and begin the process all over again —  may be restricted and limited precisely because of the separation from service “in the meantime”.

Options and the ability to make the proper decision in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, should be made with the utmost of flexibility, if possible; but such flexibility and possible decision-making become more and more limited when one waits for external circumstances to intervene — i.e., the medical condition itself; the law; work circumstances; or a combination of all of the above.  Remember, most emergencies are self-made, and the destiny of one’s choices often depends upon thoughtful preparation at the beginning of a complex process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Always Prepare for the Eventuality

The “cut and dry”, “slam-dunk”, “no possibility of denial” case rarely exists.  In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the approaching attitude of humility, caution and scrupulous care for detail should always dominate, and any attitude that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application should be treated as a “given” will often backfire.  

Such an attitude, however, should be distinguished from one of confidence.  

If one has properly prepared one’s case, with scrutiny of detail, meticulous compilation of medical evidence, technical application of legal citations and attention to creating the nexus between one’s medical conditions and the positional duties of one’s job, then the Federal or Postal employee should be confident that the Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, will be approved, whether at the Initial Stage of the administrative process, at the Reconsideration Stage of the process (both at the Office of Personnel Management), or at the “legal” forums — the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Petition for Full Review, or the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

What is always important throughout the process — whether with an attitude of confidence, humility, or even arrogance — is to prepare the foundation for each stage, with an eye towards the next stage.

Thus, careful preparation — of thoughtful and concise legal citations and arguments — are not necessarily for the “present” stage, but always for the future.  For, everything that one does in life should always contain an ingredient of preparation for the future, and for a future eventuality; preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is no different.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: OPM & the Legal Argument

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, as with all venues of applications, it is important to recognize who the “audience” is, and to appropriately tailor the submission to the targeted audience.  However, when one engages in an administrative process — which involves various levels and stages comprised of multiple administrative and governmental procedures — it is important to always look beyond the initial audience targeted, and prepare for any subsequently receiving entities.

Thus, because Federal Disability Retirement is an administrative process which involves not only multiple levels of personnel at the agency level (i.e., the Office of Personnel Management for the Initial Stage of the determination process and, if denied at the initial level, then the Reconsideration Stage of the process), possessing varying levels of sophistication with respect to recognizing the applicability of legal citations, arguments, precedents, etc., but further, it involves multiple layers of legal arenas (i.e., Administrative Judges at the Merit Systems Protection Board, both at the appeal/hearing stage, as well as potentially for a Petition for Full Review; then, beyond, to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, where one will be before a Judge of the Circuit Court of Appeals) — because of the potential involvement of many such venues, it is important to prepare the initial stage of the application with a view towards addressing the later stages of the process.  

While everyone believes that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a “sure thing,” the wise man prepares for every eventuality, and when it comes to having someone at the U.S.Office of Personnel Management review a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is best to consider the possible eventuality of an initial denial.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Added Stresses

It is a long, bureaucratic process.  Such is the state of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the Office of Personnel Management.  The funny thing about stress is that we all recognize that we are the “gatekeepers” of stress, to a great extent.  Unless a catastrophic external force is about to immediately impact our lives, the majority of stressful issues invade the essence of our conscious world only when we allow it in, and to that extent, the old adage of “ignorance is bliss” is a simplistic, but profoundly uncomplicated truism.  

Federal and Postal workers who are constantly being criticized and bombarded with the stresses of completing their daily positional duties, and now under greater stress because of the economic and political megaphonic voices shouting about the excesses of benefits for Federal and Postal employees; that, combined with the daily criticism that Federal and Postal employees constitute waste, fraud and overcompensation; that they receive excessive benefits, and undeservedly so; and, additionally, when one is medically disabled and in need of Federal Disability Retirement benefits, to be forced to wait for longer periods of time because of the bureaucratic backlog of Federal Disability Retirement cases at the Office of Personnel Management — this is, indeed, a time of stress, whether through activity or the enormous stress of inactivity.  

Waiting is a stressful activity; don’t think that inactivity is merely the art of doing nothing; if it impacts one’s conscious state, it is a stressful time.  But patience is a virtue precisely because it is one of the ultimate tests — and the conundrum is this:  to deal effectively with the stress of inactivity, it is sometimes best to engage in an alternate form of activity, whether mental or physical, such that the activity will satisfy the emotional needs of the individual.  

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a long and arduous process, whether defined by activity or inactivity, and how best to deal with the stress of the latter is often defined by the character of the former.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Responding to a Denial

Preparing, formulating and filing for a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS must necessarily involve the preparation for a response to a denial, issued by the Office of Personnel Management.  To resist and avoid contemplating such a potential event is to disregard an inevitable probability.  

As has been acknowledged before, most Federal and Postal employees believe that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application which has been submitted to the Office of Personnel Management, is a “slam dunk” case; that, because of the severity of the medical condition experienced, and its “obvious” impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, there is simply no conceivable way in which OPM could deny the application.  But that life only presented a singular perspective on all issues; dictatorial control of all ideas would certainly simplify the world; conceptual certainty without opposing views would make irrelevant the necessity of the entire judicial system.  But that is not how life operates.  

To the question:  What can we do about conflicting ideas?  Is the answer:  That is why there is in place a procedural mechanism which often involves the need for a Judge to render a decision adjudicating the dispute.  Responding to a denial from the Office of Personnel Management is the first step to engaging in the procedural mechanism of the resolution of disputed perspectives.  OPM has their job; the Federal or Postal employee has his or her job to do.  

Whatever the substantive basis for the dispute, what is necessary is first and foremost to respond to the Office of Personnel Management, and before that, to prepare for a denial, and be ready to respond appropriately.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: The Timeline

The timeline is an extensive one.  Beyond the period from start to finish of the initial process (6 – 8 months minimum for just the First Stage of the process, assuming everything goes “right” in receiving prompt responses from the medical providers, obtaining the records; having the agency process everything in a timely manner, etc.), there is then the possibility of a glitch in the process on the part of the Office of Personnel Management.  

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management must necessarily entail an acknowledgement and recognition of being prepared for a long and arduous wait.  Then, of course, if the case is denied at the First Stage of the process, one must expect a minimum of 90 – 120 days for the Reconsideration Stage of the process; if it is denied a second time by OPM, then a minimum of 120 – 150 days at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

Further, if a Petition for Full Review is filed, it can often taken 10 months.  And an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals?  You don’t even want to consider that…  

As such, when one is preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the operative focus should be upon the first conceptual link in the sequence — “preparing”.  The first order of business in a Federal Disability Retirement application is in mentally preparing for the long haul.  I will reiterate an oft-used quip:  Patience is a virtue; ergo, Federal and Postal employees filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS must by definition be the most virtuous of people.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Entirety of the Process

There is a common understanding, based upon comments and statements made by people over several years, that when an individual files for Social Security Disability benefits, most such cases are denied at the initial stage.  It is almost understood as an “automatic” denial at the first stage of the process. 

Whether this is true or not or, more importantly, whether or not there are some who get it approved at the initial application stage and therefore betray the truth of such a belief, is besides the point.  What is important is the perception that it is so, and therefore, the approach which individuals take in filing for Social Security Disability benefits is altered and adapted accordingly. 

Similarly, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, whether or not most cases get approved at the Initial Stage of the Process, or at the Second, Reconsideration Stage of the process, is ultimately besides the point.  It is important to understand and approach the entirety of the administrative process with a proper frame of mind:  a denial at the Initial Stage of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is not the end of the process; rather, it is just the beginning. 

By approaching the entirety of the process with a correct frame of mind — and reference — one can maintain one’s sanity while waiting for the conclusion of the long and arduous process to unfold.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: OPM Disability & OWCP Disability (Continuing…)

A person who is on OWCP Disability payments — 3/4 of one’s gross pay if married or with dependents, or 2/3 of one’s gross pay if single without dependents – may well find the comfort of such payments and the security of such income to be relatively “safe”.  The old adage that one does not read the fine print during times of smooth sailing, and only begins to worry about issues when things go awry, is something to be kept in mind.  If a Federal or Postal employee is receiving OWCP Disability payments, and as such, one’s financial stability is somewhat assured because of it, that is precisely the time to be considering one’s future.  

OWCP Disability payments have a formal designation — it is called “Temporary Total Disability“.  The focus should be upon the first of the three terms — temporary.  It is not meant to be a permanent feature; OWCP is not a retirement system.  If placed on OWCP for over a year, the Federal Agency or the Postal Service will often separate and remove a Federal or Postal employee from the employment rolls of the Agency.  Once removed, the Federal or Postal employee has only up to one (1) year to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Once that year passes, you cannot file.  Years later, when OWCP & the Department of Labor stop those “Disability payments” for whatever reason, you cannot then start thinking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS. You will be reminded that TTD stands for just that — Temporary Total Disability. It will then be too late.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Preparations

In a perfect world, each of us would make preparations to confront, engage in, and lay the foundations necessary for dealing in life’s eventualities, whether such events constitute emergencies, circumstances both foreseen and unforeseen; or everyday events which are commonplace but necessary “duties” which have to be undertaken, dealt with, and completed.  For much of what we fail to prepare for, it is often an avoidance issue.  

In thinking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the fact that one must confront and acknowledge the issue is something which most Federal and Postal employees — understandably — do not want to do.  This is because, for anyone filing with the Office of Personnel Management, an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must entail three (3) essential concepts which must be recognized:  First, that one has a medical condition of a severity, such that it has or will last at least twelve months.  Second, that the medical condition is impacting one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  And third — but just as important — that the very process itself, in attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, is a process which contains pitfalls, potential setbacks, and the possibility of disapproval, as well as a long and arduous waiting period. This is because one is dealing with a Federal Agency.  But that we could prepare for this eventuality; it remains, unfortunately, one of life’s challenges, and one which most Federal and Postal employees attempt to avoid, but one which is a benefit worth fighting for.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Filing

If you believe that preparing, filing, and winning a Federal Disability Retirement case under FERS or CSRS is merely a matter of filling out forms, then don’t hire an attorney. Do it yourself.

On the other hand, if you believe that preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application involves:  gathering, reviewing, and compiling the proper and compelling medical evidence; of drafting and clearlly delineating & describing one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s job; of citing the proper legal authorities to provide the legal backing and forceful persuasion necessary; of being counseled in negotiating removal actions; of rebutting spurious arguments made by the Office of Personnel Management; of preparing the groundwork for subsequent appeals; of ultimately winning a case, as opposed to trying to squeak by with a hope and a prayer, then you might consider hiring an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire