OPM Disability Retirement: The Process of Decision-Making

As has been previously stated in repetitive fashion, 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 to understand and acknowledge the duality of the process — for it is a process, as opposed to a singular event, both as an administrative legal issue, as well as for the individual Federal or Postal employee in a personal sense.

To clarify:  As an administrative issue, it is a process which involves multiples stages of argumentation (potentially).  Yes, it would be nice if every case was decided with an approval at the First/Initial Stage of the administrative process; however, there is a purpose and a reason why there are multiple stages.  It is precisely because it was anticipated that there would be denials and appeals to such denials, that an administrative procedure for multiple stages of review and further submissions of evidence and arguments was constructed and implemented.  It is not an entitlement pursuant to a fixed date, a fixed age, or a triggering event.  Rather, it is an administrative process which must be proven, applied for, and affirmatively shown that one is eligible.

From the personal perspective of the Federal or Postal employee, the decision of “when” to apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is also a process, as opposed to a singular event.  There are, of course, cases where a traumatic injury or life-changing accident occurred, and such an event is the triggering moment for filing.  But for most Federal or Postal employees, the medical condition suffered is a progressively deteriorating process, and it is often difficult to determine a “date certain” where one can point to on a calendar and state, this is the day and hour when I cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of my job.

This is why there is an inherent complexity to a process, as opposed to a singular event of certitude — for, it is always the unknown and the uncertain which gives rise to the anxieties of life, and a process is indeed a period of the unknown, and a chasm of uncertainty.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Waiting

We wait in lines and on telephones; we wait for the mail and to be served in restaurants and supermarkets; waiting is a necessity, based upon a closely-held belief that the end-product for which we expend such virtues as patience is worthy of the investment of time. There is always a quick calculation which must be engaged before the waiting can begin; of weighing the importance of the service or product to be received, in conjunction with the time it will take to attain the goal of receipt, and in further consideration of the comparative value of other things “to do”.

For the Federal or Postal Worker who is filing for Federal disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal Worker is under FERS or CSRS, the worth of waiting must always be balanced with the proverbial question, “For what?”

Waiting for a Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service to initiate an action which may or may not impact a Federal Disability Retirement application is normally not “worth” it, for such a wait may never produce anything fruitful. Waiting because to do otherwise — to act — will incur efforts of cognitive or physical exhaustion is something which will only delay an inevitable need, and is therefore unwise to engage, is something that must be often countered by sheer force of will.

On the other hand, once a Federal Disability Retirement application is filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the real game of waiting begins, and one which no one has very little and limited control over. For, ultimately, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — the agency which has the authority to approve or deny a Federal Disability Retirement case — has the cards which count, and the requested product of the goal to attain: a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application filed by the Federal or Postal Worker.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Banners and Slogans

It is indicative of a society, its values and ethical underpinnings, reflected in accepted public slogans and banners.  Habits are formed by repetitive acts performed first with some thought, then subsequently on automatic pilot.

Each of us walks around with a complex web of intricate belief systems developed over many years; rarely can we penetrate beyond the veil of slogans and banners, for they make up the majority of our consciousness.  That is why it is rarely fruitful to engage in debate; our preset ideas are intractable and unable to be altered; we remain who we are, what we believe, and why we stand for things as they are.

When was the last time you witnessed a debate or discussion resulting in the admission of one or the other of the participants with a declaration of a changed outlook?  To hold fast to an opinion is somehow a virtue, even if one is frightfully wrong.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition may necessitate filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the obstacle preventing one from initiating the necessary steps will often be the very psychological barrier which is deemed to be a virtue.

Hard work and sacrifice at the expense of one’s health is held up to be a virtue to applaud; but at some point, such an intractable outlook becomes merely nothing more than stubbornness, and even the grandest slogan of bureaucratic thoughtlessness would admit that stubbornness is not an attractive character trait to retain.  At some point, the world of sloganeering and banners tooted about the “mission of the agency” must be overcome with the self-understanding that one’s mental and physical health is paramount; otherwise, automatic piloting will negate the need for human control.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a necessary component for self-preservation for those Federal and Postal employees who are suffering from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal job.

Setting aside the societal banners and slogans which impede good judgment may be the first step in the process, and is often the greatest obstacle to overcome.  For, one’s education is often comprised of being soiled with the residues of social experimentation, and in that sense, we are mere guinea pigs in service to others.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Linguistic World of Mirrors

Mirrors are peculiar human inventions; they play to the vanity of men and women, while at the same time revealing the cosmetic warts and boils which remain unhidden and starkly open on display.  But linguistic mirrors take away that disadvantage of visual perception; instead, through the vehicle of words, one can create reflections of a fantasy world of make-believe, without ever having to confront the ugliness of reality.  Thus can we go through the day by surrounding ourselves with platitudes:  “It’s not that bad”; “You look good, today”; “Things will get better tomorrow”.  Linguistic mirrors avoid the direct reality of one’s reflection, and instead create a mythical world of statements bouncing back to the bearer of siphoned and filtered news.

Further, the one who surrounds himself with sycophants and yes-men can continue to live in a surreal world of compliments and make-believe for countless years, without suffering the consequences of objective reality.  And we can do that with medical conditions, too.  One can survive through years and years by avoiding the signals of progressive physical and cognitive deterioration.

Federal and Postal workers are quite good at this game of mirrors — that is why it often comes to a crisis point before Federal and Postal Workers consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS; and that is why Supervisors and Managers are surprised; and, moreover, at least one of the reasons why performance appraisals reflect “outstanding” throughout the years of pain and debilitating conditions.  But in the end, mirrors fade, crack, and reveal the ugliness beneath the cosmetic surface; and even words begin to fail.  Pain in the human body is an innate alert system that is fail-safe, and when the medical condition begins to manifest itself to the point where one can no longer mask the symptoms, the seriousness of it all becomes apparent.

Federal Disability Retirement is at least an option for Federal and Postal Workers to consider, in order to be released from the “true picture” of one’s conditions.  There are legal criteria to meet; medical statements to obtain; narrative statements to write; but all in good time, as we see the reflection in the mirror, and apply more cosmetic means to hide the reality of our true condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Gov. and USPS Disability Retirement: Expectations

Expectations are peculiar anticipatory states of being; based upon an accurate assessment of factual considerations, they can comport with a true sense of reality; dependent upon an unrealistic foundation of pure desire and want, it can lead to a devastating loss of trust.  In order to avoid unrealistic expectations, it is necessary to evaluate and assess, as much as possible, facts from past experience, objective present circumstances, and projection of fairly accurate intuitions for the future.

For Federal and Postal workers contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, a realistic expectation as to all aspects and corridors of the benefit itself is necessary in order to survive the entirety of the administrative and bureaucratic ordeal.

From evaluating the strength of one’s medical support, to the ability to convey a persuasive argument and case to an agency which reviews tens of thousands of Federal Disability Retirement cases; from a realistic timeframe of the entire process from start to finish; to financial considerations and future earnings potential and whether one can work in another job or vocation.  All such considerations should be evaluated and discussed.

In the end, however, the Federal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits often is confronted with limited choices: to continue working under the same conditions, that is, doing with the same tasks in the same Federal occupation (normally not an option, and that is why Federal Disability Retirement is considered in the first place); to walk away without filing for disability retirement benefits (almost never an option — self-evidently so); or filing for disability retirement benefits (the necessary option, and why it is being considered in the first place).

It is the expectations which often dismay, however, and it is a good idea to keep that animal in a cage of realistic assessments.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Algorithms & Human Peculiarities

In maneuvering through the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there are potentially multiple stages that one may encounter:  The First Stage of the process — the initial filing; if denied, one has a right to have the denial “reconsidered” by filing a Request for Reconsideration within thirty (30) days of the denial; if denied by OPM a second time, then one has a right to file an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, before an Administrative Judge.

There are, beyond the three stages identified, additional appellate stages of the process, including a Petition for Full Review before a 3-Judge panel of the MSPB, as well as an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

At each stage of the process, the Federal Disability Retirement application is reviewed and evaluated for sufficiency of proof and satisfaction of the statutory criteria for eligibility; and, moreover, a different person looks at the application at each stage of the bureaucratic process.

Thus, there is no singular algorithm — no application of a computer model which is identical across the board — in the evaluation of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  Instead, a different person reviews and evaluates the Federal Disability Retirement application at each stage.  This is probably a positive approach, and one which would be deemed “fair” by any objective standard.  For, while an application of a standard algorithm may be deemed objectively impersonal and unbiased, whereas human beings, in their inherently fallible nature may indeed possess biases and inclinations; nevertheless, it is the peculiarities of human imperfections which are still the trusted traits for procedural determinations.

That is why there is such a hue and cry over the increasing use of video replays and electronic line judges in sports; for some reason, we still trust in the human perspective, as opposed to the cold hardware of computers.  Perhaps, in our collective childhoods, we all became paranoid from watching HAL 9000 in Kubrick’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  A shivering thought.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Basic Elements

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important for the Federal and Postal worker who is contemplating filing for such benefits to keep in mind certain basic elements before engaging in the entire process:  

First, it is a long and arduous process, involving multiple stages (potentially) and requiring a great amount of patience.  

Second, the Federal or Postal employee should mentally expunge from one’s mind any view that Federal Disability Retirement is an entitlement — it is not.  The conceptual distinction between an “entitlement” and a “benefit” should be clear from the outset.  The former requires one to simply satisfy certain requirements in order to obtain the benefit; the latter requires that one prove all of the legal criteria, and submit evidence showing that one is eligible by a preponderance of the evidence.  The former requires nothing more than meeting certain basic requirements, which are normally automatic (age, for example); the latter mandates that one prove one’s eligibility.  

Third, there is almost never a “slam dunk” case, where one merely gathers the most recent medical records and reports, fills out the forms, and sends in the application.  Yes, there are certain limited cases, perhaps — i.e., of a Letter Carrier or a Special Agent who becomes bedridden — but these are rare and unique cases, and even then, it is still possible that the Office of Personnel Management will find a reason to deny such a case.  

Fourth, one must always prepare a case both for success at the First Stage of the Process, while at the same time laying the foundation for subsequent stages of the process.  

And Fifth, one should attempt to avoid inconsistencies, both internal and external, in the application, as OPM always targets inconsistencies as the basis for a denial, and likes to extrapolate and use such issues to base their denials.  

These are just some basic elements to keep in mind in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire