Disability Retirement from Federal Employment: The Methodological Approach

Many call in a frenzy of confusion, admitting openly of being lost and not knowing where to begin.  That is always the starting point, as even Socrates conceded — of the hope of knowledge beginning upon a recognition of not knowing (though, if one looked carefully and scrutinized the face and eyes of the old sage, one probably gleaned a twinkle of sly naughtiness).

Philosophy began in ignorance, and from there, attempted to ascertain a methodology of approaching problems in a systematic way, in order to overcome the shortcomings of man’s frenetic inclinations.  Identifying and ascertaining a knowledge of a criteria, a system of approaching problems, and an applied methodology of solving, is the preferable way than that of plugging holes where leaks appear.

Thus, for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, it is often necessary to formulate a sequential strategy at the outset, before embarking upon the dark abyss of preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Should certain information be gathered prior to completing the standard forms?  Yes.  What forms are “central” to a Federal Disability Retirement application?  Certainly, all of them, but if timeliness is an issue and the 1-year Statute of Limitations is suddenly upon the Federal or Postal employee attempting to file, then the SF 3107, Application for Immediate Retirement, including Schedules A, B & C, as well as SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, must all concurrently be prepared for immediate submission.

Identification of the essential as opposed to the bifurcated peripheral must be realized; compilation of the proper information, and the laws governing supplementing a Federal Disability Retirement application is essential for a successful outcome.

In the end, as it turns out, Socrates knew much more than he revealed; but the sly sage was wise enough not to engage in the solipsism of later years, like Descartes and the French Existentialists, and by recognizing that lack of knowledge and the admission of such vacuity is the first step towards wisdom, he was able to initiate the prefatory questions in the quest for knowledge in a world devoid of both.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Appropriate Times

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one of the issues which every Federal and Postal employee must consider is whether to hire an attorney.

“What kind” of an attorney to hire is a fairly self-evident proposition — one that specializes (exclusively) in Federal Disability Retirement law, or at the very least, whose practice involves a significant amount of Federal Disability Retirement legal practice.  Most local attorneys have no idea about Federal Disability Retirement, and indeed, the location of the attorney is irrelevant, precisely because it is a Federal issue, and not a State one, and everything must ultimately be forwarded to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, anyway — initially to Boyers, PA, then on to Washington, D.C.

“Whether” to hire an attorney is a more relevant issue.  As everyone believes that his or her own case is a slam-dunk case (because of the difficulty of bifurcating the subject of the Federal Disability Retirement application — the very “I” who is suffering from the medical condition itself — from the “object” of the Federal Disability Retirement application — the person of whom one is speaking about in medical reports, Supervisor’s Statement, etc.), it is often important to obtain a more “objective” assessment of the efficacy, objectivity, and coherence of descriptive delineation of the packet as a whole, from someone who can properly evaluate a Federal Disability Retirement application.

“When” to hire an attorney is also a crucial issue to confront; for, if one has already submitted a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is probably not a good idea to obtain the services of an attorney at that point.  It is best to put the investment in at the “front end” of a process, than to play catch-up for the remainder of the season.

That is what the Baltimore Orioles do each and every season — fail to put the necessary investment in at the beginning of each season — and that is why it is a hardship to be an Orioles fan.  Sigh.  But Spring brings new hope — only, not if you are an Orioles fan.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Difficulty of Making the Decision

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, it is often the mental act of deciding to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits which is the most difficult to make.  

For, while the actual mechanics of the entire process — of obtaining an attorney (if that has been decided), gathering the necessary medical narratives and supporting documentation; of facing the harsh reality of writing the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (following the format of Standard Form 3112A) and reading about the impact of one’s medical conditions and the direct nexus to one’s inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job — of actually outlining and delineating the symptomatologies resulting from the singular or multiple diagnosed medical conditions; of approaching and having the supervisor complete a Supervisor’s Statement; of essentially declaring to the Agency that you are no longer capable or able to perform one or more of the essential elements of the job, thereby confirming what many at the Agency probably already suspected — all of these “mechanical” aspects of the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, while difficult, pale in comparison to the singular act which propels and initiates the entire process:  that of deciding to move forward.  For, as an old proverb states:  To lift a finger without thought is merely an act; to move with thought only a conscious event; to think, to plan, and then to engage in action, is the essence of man’s strength.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Areas of Practice

Invisible demarcation lines exist within each area of law, and if one envisions each such area of law somewhat like circles in a Venn Diagram, one can picture an overlap (sometimes quite significant) within the various areas of law.  

Thus, while the generic designation of “Administrative Law” might represent the primary demarcation, there will be subsets of legal practices, which include Social Security benefits, OWCP/FECA (Federal, as opposed to state OWCP attorneys), Veterans Benefits, EEOC, employment disputes, Federal Civil Rights violations, etc.  Some attorneys and law firms have specialties which include and embrace multiple disciplines; others attorneys or firms specialize in a single and exclusive area of law.  

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there are very few attorneys “out there” who are either experienced or have the requisite knowledge and experience to adequately represent Federal or Postal employees in putting together a compelling Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  

It must be clearly understood that while preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS may be “similar” to other areas of legal practice, the practice of Federal Disability Retirement has its own unique sets of laws, rules, criteria and statutory authorities.  Knowing one circle in a Venn Diagram does not mean that such knowledge automatically translates and crosses over into another circle.  Beware of anyone who expresses expertise in multiple areas of law; it might be that traveling in too many circles will result in a circularity of abilities.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Approaches & Decisions

With each case, a story must be told.  If the case gets denied, normally my approach is not so much that a “narrative” must be retold, but rather, I tend to view the Reconsideration Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement application process more as the “battle” to set the proper stage — to either win at the Reconsideration Stage, or to win at the Merit Systems Protection Board stage.  What is interesting is that, within the three stages of the process (excluding the appellate stages of the Full Board Review and the appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals), the need to tell a coherent, empathetic, sympathetic and compelling story of a dedicated and loyal Federal employee who suffers from a medical condition such that it impacts him or her from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, comes “full circle”. 

I approach the “Reconsideration Stage” of the Federal Disability Retirement process under FERS & CSRS as the “center point” of battle, in many ways, precisely because it is the step just before taking it before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  It is the place to give the Office of Personnel Management a subtle warning:  This is your last chance before the destiny of the Disability Retirement Application is taken completely out of your hands and control, and placed into the hands of an Administrative Judge.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Service Disability Retirement: Right Questions (Part 2)

Beyond asking questions of one’s self (financial; employment; future; whether one will last until regular retirement, etc.), it is also important to take a two-step process in preparing for a disability retirement application:  First, to do your own, independent research (in this day and age, internet research is the obvious first step), and Second, to contact an attorney.  By the time you contact an attorney concerning disability retirement issues, you should already have an idea as to what your intentions are. 

Hopefully, the attorney you contact will be experienced and knowledgeable concerning all aspects of Federal Disability Retirement laws under FERS & CSRS.  There are many attorneys “out there”; some attorneys do work in Social Security, Federal Worker’s Comp, etc.  Other attorneys perform work in various Federal labor matters; and still others perform work in State and private disability insurance issues.  Remember, Federal Disability Retirement is a specific, specialized field of law; it is best to retain an attorney who specializes and focuses upon your specific area of concern.  Finally, in speaking with an attorney, you should come to a point of becoming “comfortable” with that attorney:  and “comfort” comes only as a result of competent and confident advice — advice that is consistent with the facts you have gather from your prior research on the matter.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire