Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Case Development

Federal Disability Retirement is one of those areas of law where countervailing forces are always at play, and the tug-of-war against time, resistance of individuals to respond, all within a context of a hectic-pace of life, create for a havoc of systems and regularity.

Because the underlying basis of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits often involves a chronic, progressively deteriorating medical condition, it is often seen from the perspective of the Federal or Postal employee to be an emergency; from the viewpoint of the medical doctor whose support for the case is critical, because the opinion of the doctor is essential to formulating the foundation of a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is often seen as another administrative burden; from the Agency’s vantage point, the alleged patience over the years which it has shown in “dealing” with loss of time, less-than-stellar performance, etc., often results in a reactionary adversity of being entirely unsympathetic to the plight of the Federal or Postal employee; and, together, all of the strands of these multiple countervailing forces places an undue pressure upon the entire process.  Yet, once it gets to the Office of Personnel Management, the file sits…and sits.

The long-term perspective on every Federal Disability Retirement application must always be to accept the fact that case development is the most important point to ponder.  Quickly filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, may in the end prove to be pound-foolish, especially in a retrospective, Monday-night quarterbacking sense, if OPM denies the case anyway.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Understanding a Differing Perspective

Sometimes, all that one can do is scratch one’s head.  That common statement — to “scratch one’s head” — is meant to convey puzzlement or disbelief over an action, statement, or occurrence which belies rational explanation.  As rationality has been the foundation of thoughtfulness and considered formulations of explainable actions, so logic and reason have been the joists which provide the bridging support for acceptable discourse.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one assumes that there will be a fair and reasoned review of each Federal Disability Retirement application.

If a Federal Disability Retirement application is approved, then of course the level of rational discourse need not be extensive — for, implicit in the approval itself is an acknowledgement that the legal nexus between the medical conditions described and the statutory criteria required to be met, have been adequately constructed.  But in a denial, one would expect a well-reasoned discourse of “why”, as opposed to a standard template of identifying various documents submitted, and multiple declarative statements (with barely a rational explanation) of, “You do not meet criteria No. X”.

Often, it is a waste of time to try and understand the perspective of OPM.  The Office of Personnel Management is an agency which is busy and overwhelmed with a volume of cases.  Time constraints often betray the proper application of the law.  It is well that the old saying did not refer to scratching one’s back; for, there are many places where one simply cannot reach in order to scratch, and that is the sense one is left with in reading some of OPM’s denials.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Sometimes, It’s “The Law”

An assumption is often made that the “Disability Specialist” at the Office of Personnel Management who reviews the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application understands, comprehends, and applies the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement applications.  Now, such an assumption may be logical and reasonable, to the extent that one thinks (A) that those who aspire to working in a specific specialty have some knowledge or understanding of the specialty, and (B) if a decision is made which involves discussing “the law”, one presumes that the mere discussion of it proves some knowledge of it.  

The problem with such reasoning, however (apart from the popular tripartite acronym which originates from the word “********-u-me”), is that it betrays the facts:  often, from reviewing the denial letters generated from the Office of Personnel Management, it is painfully clear that the administrative specialist, the legal specialist, or whatever other “specialist” designation has been embraced by the worker at the Office of Personnel Management, simply fails to apply all of the applicable laws which govern Federal Disability Retirement applications.  This is understandable, to this extent:  OPM representatives (other than those representing OPM at the MSPB level) are not lawyers, and as such, do not keep up with the latest evolution of the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement issues.  Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing, is another matter altogether.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management, the Agency which reviews, evaluates and makes determinations upon all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications, whether it is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is diligently attempting to adjudicate each application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

One must understand that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) does not just handle Disability Retirement applications for Federal and Postal employees — they handle all regular retirements, early retirements, and at all levels of the process — from eligibility determinations, to benefit and annuity calculations; to ensuring that the proper offsets are put in place between Social Security and Federal annuities; and, moreover, any over-payments or errors which may have occurred in the course of establishing benefits and payments are also reviewed and handled by OPM.  

From the perspective of the individual Disability Retirement applicant or annuitant, the length of time it takes, or the lack of responsiveness, may appear as if a particular individual is being “singled out” in the long delay and lengthy wait.  From the perspectively of OPM, however, such an individual is merely one of many, many cases awaiting adjudication. Discussions with various personnel at OPM reveal that there is simply a backlog of cases, with many, many cases coming in every day.  Patience is the only solution; it is an administrative, bureaucratic process, and when one freely enters into it, one must accept the timeline of the process itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Content & Substance

Form, Content & Substance.  Form is the appearance and the general approach & methodology of a Federal Disability Retirement packet; Content is the essence of that which makes up the materials in the packet; and Substance (hopefully) is the “meat” of the packet itself.  Make sure that what is stated is substantive.  

OPM Representatives have multiple cases.  From the perspective of the Federal Disability Retirement applicant, it is a singular case, because it is one’s own case, and the personal nature of such a case makes it of paramount importance.  From the perspective of the OPM Representative, however, it is one of multiple cases, and it is part of his or her job.  If one has to wade through a generous amount of fluff before getting to the content of the Federal Disability Retirement application, the energy expended may be a distraction from a serious review of the substantive content.  A descriptive narrative bridging the medical condition with the type of job one performs is a necessary component; but as between a concise short story and a novella, the former is to be preferred in preparing and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire