The “Nuclear Option” after an Illness or Injury in the Federal or Postal Workplace

It is a parliamentary procedure justified by those who invoke it because the circumstances are of such dire contextual urgencies as to necessitate extreme measures.  Such urgency of action is often characterized in a vacuum — a declarative shrill of voices that such an option could not be helped because of the counteraction (or non-action) of the opponent.

Medical conditions have a true tendency to do just that.  Insidious in their inherent nature, they persistent despite every application of treatment modalities, leaving behind confounded minds who spent years and unaccounted energies and accumulated student debt in order to attain the medical knowledge to combat such conundrums of configured confusions.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the invocation of the nuclear option is often seen as filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS.

Such a characterization is an acknowledgment that the option chosen is one of “extreme” measures, forced because of a lack of choice.  But that would be a misnomer.  For, the “extreme” measure taken would actually be the other options remaining: Stay with an agency and struggle each day while attempting to ignore the pain of progressive physical deterioration or the despondency of psychiatric turmoil, and continue to be subjected to the constant and persistent harassment by supervisors and coworkers; or resign, walk away, and have nothing to show for the years of invested sacrifices given to one’s Federal agency or Postal Service.

No — the “nuclear option” for a Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM is not the preparation and submission of a CSRS or FERS Disability Retirement application; rather, such an option is best characterized by the other options remaining.  In the end, it is how one characterizes one life, which forms the true character of the individual.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Last Minute Filings

Waiting until the very last moment in order to file a Federal Disability Retirement application is often an inevitable reflection of the medical condition itself; whether because the thought and act of filing contributes to the exacerbation of one’s condition, or because the severity of the medical condition impedes and presents an obstacle to proceeding, are somewhat irrelevant in the end; whichever may be the case, the fact is that the admixture of medical conditions, Statute of Limitations, and the need to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits, do not cohere well, and something inevitably suffers as a consequence.  But the law is impervious to excuses of filing inaction (with some narrow and specific exceptions); and society’s view is that a limit must be imposed at some point.

Thus:  For filing a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee must file the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal service.  Waiting until the last minute can have some inherent and deleterious consequences, and failing to be attuned to them can come back to haunt one at a later date.  For example: Since one has waited until the last moment to file, once a Federal Disability Retirement application is filed, there will be little to no chance of amending the application (note:  “amending” is not synonymous with “supplementing“), as one no longer has the luxury of withdrawing a Federal Disability Retirement application, amending, and refiling; for, in the meantime, the Statute of Limitations has presumably come and passed.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and waiting until the last possible moment is, unfortunately, a reality reflecting the often anxiety-filled state of affairs, both for the individual and the pressure to file on time; with that being said, it is nevertheless a reality which must be faced, and handled in the best possible manner under the given circumstances.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: When and Whether

When one should file a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is a matter of individual circumstances and needs — except in the particular situation where objective timeframes impose mandatory filing.

Whether one should file or not is a similar question based upon the medical conditions one suffers from, as well as the extent of a doctor’s support for such an administrative filing — but again, the “whether” also may be mandated by necessity if a Federal or Postal Worker is approaching the 1-year mark of having been separated from Federal Service.

The general rule concerning an impending and upcoming Statute of Limitations is the following:  If the Federal or Postal Worker fails to file within 1 year of being separated from Federal Service, the ability to file will forever be blocked (with some narrow and exceptional circumstances excepting the passing of the 1-year deadline).  As such, it is better to file than not (obviously).

Further, on most issues, one can supplement a Federal Disability Retirement application later on (this is where the Federal or Postal applicant must be very careful in completing the SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability); whereas no such additional pursuance of the Federal Disability Retirement matter can be advanced if one does not file on a timely basis to begin with.

When and whether to file are therefore matters of discretion — unless the Statute of Limitations is about to impose itself upon the when and the where

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Last-Minute Application

If one fails to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (i.e., the Statute of Limitations for all Federal and Postal employees in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, is 1-year from the time of separation from Federal Service) within the time prescribed, then one cannot make any legal arguments or supplement one’s case — precisely because the Federal or Postal (former) employee has failed to meet the minimum statutory deadline.

However, once filed, the case can be supplemented and “added to”; additional evidentiary documentation may be submitted; but amendment to the Federal Disability Retirement application will be severely limited, because you cannot withdraw the application in order to change it — if the withdrawal is effectuated after the 1-year Statute of Limitations passes.  This is because the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant is restricted by the rules governing SF 3112A, where one cannot “add to” the list of diagnosed medical conditions once it is received by OPM (although there are ways to characterize such identified conditions to somewhat circumvent the restrictions).

Sometimes, because of the medical condition itself, or for unforeseen circumstances which are beyond the physical, emotional or cognitive control of the potential applicant for Federal Disability Retirement, such procrastination is simply a fact which must be dealt with.  Whether the day before the 1-year cut-off, or 10 months before, once filed, at least the Federal or Postal employee will have the opportunity to make legal arguments, and for the most part, the ability to supplement his or her case.

It is only if it is NOT filed on a timely basis, that such additional activity will then be precluded.  Thus, the obvious rule:  File before the deadline.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Cumulative Emergency

Most emergencies need not have been; either through preventative maintenance or attending to it through troubleshooting at regular intervals; or by cautiously identifying overt signs of oncoming problems, the vast majorities of apparent emergencies turn into the status of such urgent needs because of neglect or deliberate avoidance.  

That is not to say, however, that once an event reaches a heightened status of requiring an urgent response, that it should not be treated with the appropriate manner of alarm; rather, it is merely a recognition that most emergencies need not have become so.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the best course of action is to attempt to avoid having the entire administrative process become an emergency need.  

In order to practice containment, one must recognize the medical condition, the potential impact of the medical condition; the time when the medical condition begins to impact one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; a carefully prepared plan to initiating the needed conversation with one’s treating doctor; financial planning to weather the long and arduous bureaucratic morass; and an expectation that one’s own agency will not be supportive, for the most part, throughout the process.

Such recognition of some of the bare essentials which comprise the entirety of the Federal Disability Retirement process is easier said than accomplished.  

Life rarely occurs and presents itself in neatly folded stacks of laundered clothing; instead, the more apt analogy is the pile of dirty clothes brought home in a black garbage bag by one’s college son or daughter, with the door opening, a smile on the face, and declaring, “Here, will you take care of this for me”?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: “Soft” Deadlines and Opportunities

It is exasperating to observe how unilateral and “unfair” deadlines are treated for Federal Disability Retirement applications, whether under FERS or CSRS, for Federal and Postal employees.

There are, of course, the “hard” deadlines — of filing for a Request for Reconsideration (30 days — to be on the “safe” side, from the date of the letter of denial from the Office of Personnel Management); for filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (1 year from the date of separation from Federal Service); of filing an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (again, to be on the “safe” side, within 30 days from the date of the denial from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management); and similar hard deadlines.

Then, of course, there are the “softer” deadlines, of responding to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in substantive form — of submitting additional medical documentation within 30 days, and similar such “softer” deadlines. They are “soft” deadlines only because the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will not get to one’s file and begin the process of review, evaluation and analysis until well beyond the passing of the so-called deadline.

The frustrating part of it all, of course, is that while the Federal or Postal applicant is restricted by both hard and soft deadlines, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is oblivious and unaffected by any deadlines whatsoever. However, the optimistic viewpoint is to see the “soft” deadlines as opportunities to submit additional medical documentation, arguments, and relevant evidence, any time during the process — before, or even after, either a “soft” or a “hard” deadline comes about.

There is one exception, however: the Statute of Limitations. In that event, as the undersigned has repetitively stated, unless one meets that one particular deadline in form, there is no basis to make any substantive arguments, because the Statute of Limitations is the point of essence where form and substance coincide.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Goal of Perfection

The problem with perfection is that it requires the imperfect to fail to act.  Fear of failure is a pervasive problem resulting in inaction.  The unrealistic paradigm which society imposes both in explicit ways as well as in not-so-subtle ventures, leaves the rest of us wondering whether there is any distinction anymore between the “real” world and the virtual world.

Have you ever noticed, for example, how foreign actors actually have crooked teeth?  It is doubtful that there exists an American actor with a tooth out of place, but that is the standard we are presented with, in this world of perfection.  But the need to be perfect, or the thought that X should not proceed until and unless perfection is achieved, can be both an excuse, as well as a psychological obstacle, in acting at all.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, while the goal to attempt to achieve is to put together the “best” Federal Disability Retirement application for submission to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, such a goal should not be hindered by a false concept of perfection.

If the Statute of Limitations is about to run out, it is better to submit an imperfect application, than to submit nothing at all.  A Federal Disability Retirement application can always be supplemented with additional information; and as life itself is never perfect because human beings are imperfect beings (excusing those entities in the virtual universe), it is best to accept a level of reality, and proceed to ensure that one has prepared, formulated and filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the “best” application possible, and not necessarily the “perfect” one.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Imperfect Sequence of Filing

If the Statute of Limitations is quickly approaching for a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to put aside the procrastination and delay (is that a self-contradiction — to “put aside” procrastination?) and just file the basic forms.  An imperfect filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application is better than no filing at all.  

As has been often stated and restated in previous blogs and articles, one cannot make a substantive argument for a Federal Disability Retirement case (let alone even a non-substantive argument) if one does not first meet the minimum criteria of eligibility by filing a Federal Disability Retirement application in a timely manner.  

The Office of Personnel Management will inform the Federal or Postal worker who files an imperfect Federal Disability Retirement application, of the “missing” items and forms which were not filed, and allow for thirty (30) days to correct the imperfect filing.  This is certainly preferable, however, to not filing at all, and missing the deadline and trying to argue with the Office of Personnel Management the reasons why you did not file on time (actually, there will be no “argument” per se — only silence and being ignored as irrelevant and non-existent).  

Thus, whatever the reasons might be — haven’t received all of the medical reports; the former agency has not returned the Supervisor’s Statement or SF 3112D; haven’t filed for SSDI yet and received a receipt; haven’t …   It doesn’t matter.  What matters is to file the three (3) basic forms on time (SF 3107 or 2801, Application for Immediate Retirement; Schedules A, B & C; and SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability).  

Once filed, you have the basis to argue for an approval.  Without having filed, the void, vacuity and silent nothingness of nonexistence will overwhelm the ticking clock which reminds one that the tolling of the Statute of Limitations has come and passed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Last Minute Filings

There are multiple reasons why a Federal or Postal employee might wait to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS until the last minute — waiting because __________ (anyone may fill in the blank).  Whatever the reason, if the time has come to file, and there are only a couple of weeks left, then it is time to stop looking for various reasons why any further time should be wasted in order to file for the benefit.  Yes, a Federal Disability Retirement case can be prepared within a couple of weeks and filed.  Will it be the best packet?  Probably not.  Can the packet be supplemented later on?  Yes, if it is prepared in a certain way to allow for some flexibility.  Just remember, however, that if the deadline for filing passes, then there is absolutely no chance at obtaining the benefit.  A Statute of Limitations is just that — once it has come and gone, one is legally precluded from ever filing in the future.  One must file on time; otherwise, no amount of supplementation of the original packet will be allowed.  And, by the way, do not rely upon any “exceptions” to the Statute of Limitations.  Reliance on a long-shot is rarely the wisest thing to do.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Again — Reminder as to the Statute of Limitations

I have many, many people who are on all sides of the spectrum concerning the time-line of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS — people who call me 2, 3, 5, sometimes 10 years after being separated from service, saying they were never informed about the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Obviously, such former Federal employees cannot now (except in extremely peculiar and rare circumstances) file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, under either FERS or CSRS. 

Then, there are those who are still “on the rolls” — those who have never been separated (normally because of the negligence or neglect of the Agency) from Federal Service, who call to ask whether they can file for Federal Disability Retirement now.  The answer is most often, Yes, and furthermore, once the disability retirement is approved, the annuitant can receive back-pay all the way back to the last date of pay.  Then, there are those who call me in a state of panic, saying that it has been almost a year after the injury; is it too late to file?  No, it is not too late, so long as it has not been over one year from the time of separation from service.  Thus, here is a reminder (again):  A Federal or Postal employee has up until one (1) year to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the time of being separated from Federal Service — meaning, when you have been terminated from being a Federal or Postal employee, and are off of the “rolls” of the agency.  I don’t know how to make this any clearer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire