Medical Retirement under FERS & CSRS: The Gathering

They come from afar, and wide across the expanse of multiple cities, towns, and whether from rural areas or suburban neighborhoods, the criss-crossing of America is a tradition reserved for those special holidays where families gather, friends reminisce and relations pick up where old memories had left off.  “The Gathering” may be a once-yearly event, or perhaps a couple of times, and only once in a decade moment; however often, whatever the occasion, it is a time of recollection, reminiscence, restoration and rejuvenation.

Sometimes, even a gathering with people you hardly knew, or didn’t particularly like, is enjoyable enough, and though you might in the middle of the chatter say to yourself, “Why am I even here?” —yet, it is the mere presence of belonging that harkens one back to the lanes of memories that will not let go, like the dog that has locked its jaws onto your pant-leg and will not release you until you have finally relented.

Of course, there are other “types” of gatherings that are not so enjoyable or which bring a sense of warmth and joy — as in the “gathering” of Supervisors or Managers in conjunction with Human Resource Personnel who attempt to subvert, initiate adverse actions and conspire to make the life of a Federal or Postal employee a “hell on earth”.

Federal employees and Postal workers who suffer form a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job are at a stark disadvantage when it comes to filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits: Often, the Human Resource Office of one’s own agency is neither helpful nor mindful of the confidentiality of even asking a casual question.

A simple question like, “What forms need to be completed in order to file for Federal Disability Retirement?” — may suddenly lead to a wildfire of rumors and innuendoes concerning one’s motive, intention and future plans, and suddenly the “point-person” becomes the pariah and a gathering of managers and supervisors suddenly materializes like a an unexpected dust storm in the middle of the Gobi Desert.

Not all gatherings are equal; some are for the happiness of memories recollected; others, a conspiracy to initiate adverse actions and to undermine the future plans of a well-intended act.  For the Federal employee or Postal worker who must begin to prepare, formulate and file an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, “The Gathering” one should be most concerned about is the one to which you were never invited, so beware of the things you say, to whom you say it, and when you make the query.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Independence of Each Program

The disparate nature of each Federal program, with little to no intersecting coordination amongst them (with the exception of SSDI and FERS Disability Retirement benefits in the coordination of payments upon approval of each) betrays the unplanned, thoughtless creation of each program, as well as a sense that each agency wants to maintain its feudal control and assertion of independent power.

That perhaps explains, in part, why each program ignores the extent of persuasive authority the approval of another program should logically have, upon an approval and acceptance by the “other” program.  Does it make sense that being granted “unemployability” status under the Department of Veterans Affairs ascription of percentage disability ratings would only have a nominal impact upon a FERS Disability Retirement application?  Or that an SSDI approval would have, at best, a persuasive effect upon a FERS Disability Retirement?

It is somewhat more understandable that a case accepted by OWCP/Department of Labor would have minimal impact upon a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application, precisely because the former is set up as a program of rehabilitation in an effort to return the Federal or Postal employee back to his or her job.

The only true “coordination” of benefits occurs between SSDI and FERS — and that, only if both are approved, and payments are received concurrently; but even then, there are often overpayment problems, lack of the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing, etc.

Thus Coordination and intersection between departments, agencies and various programs rarely occurs.  Agencies tend to want to remain independent.

Such lack of coordination, however, does not mean that the FERS or CSRS Federal or Postal employee should not force a legal argument upon OPM when a significant finding is made by another agency or program.  For, in the end, it may not be the U.S. Office of Personnel Management which listens, but an administrative judge at the MSPB, or a 3-judge panel on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals; in which case, a precedent will have been set, for all to (hopefully) follow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Details

Ultimately, it is not the “devil” which is in the details; rather, the details of a Federal Disability Retirement application often determine the success or failure of a case.  

Attention to the details — of coordinating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability with the submitted medical reports and the legal/analytical arguments to be made; of distinguishing between “facts” and “arguments”; of anticipating any issues which an Agency might bring up; of making the determination as to which anticipated issues should be focused upon and preempted (if at all); of whether to utilize collateral sources of documentation, whether they be statements from a denied SSDI application or the ascription and allocation of a Veterans Administration disability rating; whether, if a concurrent OWCP case has generated a Second Opinion or Referee Medical Report; which medical reports to request and submit; which legal and analytical arguments to engage in at the outset; whether or not additional, non-medical but (potentially) supportive documentation should be attached — these are the details which make up for a devilish time.  

In preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is not a question of whether the details make any difference; for the most part, they constitute all the difference.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: After Separation from Service (Part 2)

Of course, it is always the separation from service based upon reasons delineated other than medically-based reasons which give rise to concerns in a federal disability retirement case.  Understand, however, that the “Bruner Presumption” is essentially a “scale-tipper” for the Office of Personnel Management (supposedly) and for the Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board (of somewhat greater certainty).  By this, I mean merely that, with or without the Bruner Presumption, a Federal Disability Retirement applicant under FERS or CSRS must still prove by a preponderance of the evidence that he or she is eligible and entitled to federal disability retirement benefits. “Preponderance of the evidence” is essentially proof such that it is “more likely the case than not”.  Thus, when all things are equal, the Bruner Presumption is supposed to tip the scale in favor of the federal disability retirement applicant. 

On the other hand, if an individual was removed for reasons other than medically-based reasons — i.e., as a hypothetical, let’s say he was removed “for cause” — an act of dishonesty; failure to follow certain agency procedures; or whatever the case may be.  Does such a removal tip the scale the other way?  Not necessarily; however, it makes gathering the proper medical evidence that much more important, and what I often do is to try and tie in the underlying behavior which resulted in the removal “for cause”, with the medical basis — if at all possible.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire