CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Choices

One immediately hears it in the voice — of the frustration and desire to simply give up.  But “giving up” is simply not a choice, if one refuses to acknowledge such an option and fails to place it on the roster of listed alternatives.  Part of the human factor in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is the chasm of the unknown.

No, there is never a guarantee that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will be approved, just as there is never a certainty that one’s treating doctor will support the patient’s need to apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  It is the unknown — from whether the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is sufficient to obtain an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, to whether the doctor’s report is “strong enough”; from what steps the agency will take to try and undermine a Federal Disability Retirement case, to the long and seemingly endless wait while one’s case simply sits on the desk of some Case worker at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — the aggregate of all of these constitute and comprise the “unknown”.

There are cases where a thin sliver of medical documents result in a quick and uncomplicated approval; others, where a voluminous binding of reports, diagnostic tests and medical records result in scant attention and a denial. Often, it seems somewhat arbitrary.

It is the “unknown” and “unknowable” factors which heighten the time of anxiety.  But through the entire administrative process, the singular choice should always be clear:  to move forward.  And sometimes, to do so is to merely wait, and disregard the unknown or unknowable.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Discretion, “What Ifs”, Etc.

The anxiety and angst which accompanies the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is on the one hand understandable, and yet, because it is an administrative process which may potentially involve multiple stages, and require investment of an extraordinary amount of time, and because it is requires a rationally-based approach in meeting the legal criteria for approval, it must be viewed and approached with a quietude of professionalism.

There are obviously times when the Statute of Limitations is about to impose some restrictive encroachment of formulation, and thus one must respond appropriately.  And, much of the decision-making process involved in whether to attach X-document, or to include Y-statement, is a discretionary matter — one which should often be left to an OPM Disability Attorney who has had some prior experience in the matter.

But the “what ifs”, as in, “What if I say A” as opposed to “having said B” is something which should be avoided.  Obsessing over singular statements — even if it is true that a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application could potentially focus upon a statement, characterized in a wrong manner, or taken out of context (as OPM often does) — is normally unproductive.

While most “mistakes” in a Federal Disability Retirement application can be corrected, explained or expanded upon into obsolescence, one thing which cannot be accomplished is to put artificial blinders on OPM in the event that something is stated or submitted which otherwise should not have.  Even if one were to refile at a later date, once a CSA Number is assigned to a case, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management maintains the original documentation which was filed with their office.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Anxiety of Procrastination

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there are numerous issues, points, time-frames,etc., during the administrative process, when a Federal or Postal employee’s anxieties may become exacerbated — both because of the inherent complications resulting from the process itself, as well as because of what others do.  Many of the complexities which arise are beyond the control of one’s capabilities.  Thus, if one is accustomed to having some “control” over events and circumstances, it can quickly become a process full of anxieties, exasperation and frustration.  

Time is often beyond one’s control — the time the Agency takes to fill out their portion; the time a doctor responds to a request for a medical narrative; and, finally, the time that the Office of Personnel Management takes in reviewing and rendering a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

One point of frustration which often builds without ceasing, however, is within the control and capacity of all Federal Disability Retirement applicants — procrastination.  Procrastination merely delays the inevitable, and compounds the complexities because it merely allows for outside difficulties and problems to continue to build, without resolution.  If the need arises to begin filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, procrastination should not be part of the game plan.  This is especially true because the Office of Personnel Management is a bureaucracy which takes a long time itself, and procrastinating at the front-end of the process will only delay things further at the back-end.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Psychiatric Disabilities — Origin versus Situational

While the issue concerning “situational disability” has been previously discussed and written about in my various blogs and articles, it is helpful to keep in mind certain conceptual distinctions when preparing to file for Federal or Postal Disability retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

The concept normally applies to psychiatric disabilities, and specifically to two major areas:  Major Depression and Anxiety.  The paradigm of such a case often involves a Federal or Postal worker who has had some difficulties, conflict with, harassment by, etc., a supervisor or coworker within the agency. The Federal or Postal worker begins to manifest symptoms of anxiety, depression, panic attacks, etc.  An EEO Complaint is filed; a grievance is filed; perhaps, several such alternative venues of legal processes are utilized.  Despite fighting back, the hostile work situation fails to resolve itself.  More importantly, the psychiatric medical condition continues to worsen.  

Does this simple hypothetical constitute a basis for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, or is it precluded by the legal preclusion of “situational disability”?  As with all generic paradigms, the answer is:  It all depends.  

One must look at the chronicity of the psychiatric medical condition; whether the symptoms pervade all aspects of the life of the Federal or Postal Worker; to what extent the psychiatric medical conditions impact his or her ability to perform the essential elements of the job; and to what extent the Federal or Postal worker can perform such a job in a different environment.  It is in the details of the conceptual distinctions made, which determine the course of viability in filing for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Psychiatric Issues

For Federal and Postal workers who are filing, or contemplating filing, for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the distinction between “physical” medical conditions and “psychiatric” medical conditions are not always so clear and distinct.  While cases can be bifurcated for many clients (where the medical basis upon which a Federal Disability Retirement is based is wholly physical, or entirely psychiatric), often, cases have a “mixed” character to them, where depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc., arise or become “secondary” to a chronic medical condition.  

The complex interaction between physical pain, chronic medical conditions which impact one’s job, physical abilities, etc., can at their inception be “secondary” in the sense that they have arisen and manifested the symptomatologies “after” or “second to” the original medical conditions.  However, after some time (and this is being stated from a legal perspective reviewing many such instances in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS), such secondary Major Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and even other psychiatric medical conditions, can become the central or prominent medical condition which forms the basis of a OPM Disability Retirement application.  Thus, that which was once “secondary” does not always remain so; it can become the primary basis.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Psychiatric Disabilities

Perhaps there will always be a suspicion that a distinction is made by a governmental entity/bureaucracy, between physical medical conditions and those which are deemed “psychological“.  For Federal and Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, there are ample legal tools to point out to the Office of Personnel Management that such a distinction is not only improper, but moreover, contrary to the “law of the land“.  

The Federal Circuit Court has pointed out clearly and unequivocally that the law does not allow for OPM to make a distinction between that which is “objective” medical evidence and that which is “subjective“.  Further, beyond the conceptual distinction applying to the medical evidence, this means that the categories encompassing the two should not be distinguishable when applying the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement.  Thus, rational conclusions based upon clinical examinations, a long history with the patient, consistent symptoms as related to by the patient to the doctor — all are valid, and “as valid”, as the “objective” medical evidence purportedly revealed by an MRI or other diagnostic tools.  

Thus, the credence and credibility of Major Depression, Anxiety, Panic Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and a host of other psychiatric disabilities, hold an equal level of legal validity as the long list of physical disabilities.  Don’t ever let OPM go down an argumentation route where no law exists to support it; they may often try, but it is up to the Federal or Postal Worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS to meet them at every juncture of such sophistry.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Decision (Again)

Yes, it is a difficult decision to make — to come to terms with filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS.  It makes it all the more difficult when individuals wait until the last possible minute before calling up the attorney (me) to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  There have been a few times in the past (very few) when I simply could not take on a case with only a week left before the Statute of Limitations runs out.  The only thing I can do at that point is to identify which forms to fill out (however imperfectly), and give the fax number and the address to Boyers, PA for the individual to file. 

Remember the important point:  You can always make factual, medical and legal arguments after you have filed; you cannot make any arguments if you have failed to file on time.  Of course, it comes with the territory — as an attorney who exclusively represents Federal and Postal employees to obtain disability retirement benefits (there are many attorneys who practice Federal Disability Retirement law as one aspect of a larger practice which includes other areas of Federal Employment law), I understand how intertwining the medical condition is, with the anxiety and stress of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and how procrastination is often part and parcel of the medical condition itself.  At the same time, however, I take pride in doing a good job; I like to service my clients; I like to see the successful outcome.  As such, I am reluctant to take on cases where there is very little time to file.  I have, and will, take on cases where the Statute of Limitations is about to run out, but there must be at least some time left.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire