Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Distances

Somehow, proximity often makes for comfort, and thus do we have a greater sense of security if something is nearby, and distance reflects ties of both emotional and physical detachment.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is the Federal agency which determines all issues on Federal Disability Retirement matters.  They are located in Washington, D.C. (with the intake office for the initial acceptance and computer inputting being accomplished first by an office in Boyers, Pennsylvania).

Whether the Federal or Postal employee is working in an office in California, Nevada, Illinois or Virginia; or, perhaps, somewhere overseas in Europe, Japan, etc.; all such applications for Federal Medical Retirement must be forwarded to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C.  If the Federal or Postal employee is still with the agency, or has been separated less than 31 days from the agency, then the application for Federal Disability Retirement must first be routed through one’s agency (or, for the Postal employee, through the H.R. Shared Services Center located in Greensboro, North Carolina).

This is a “Federal” matter, not a state issue, and therefore an attorney who specializes in handling Federal Disability Retirement does not need to be an attorney licensed in the state where the Federal or Postal employee resides.

Very few local attorneys specialize in such Federal Administrative matters; as such, it is likely that an attorney who is equipped to handle such matters will be located in a different state, far away, but hopefully close to the source of the matter — near Washington, D.C. , where the issue itself is adjudicated at the administrative level.

While such distance may preclude a face-to-face meeting with the attorney, there are other safeguards which can be noted, to ensure that one’s comfort zone is left intact:  reputation, accessibility, and references.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal OPM Disability Retirement: Answering the Question Is Merely the Beginning

The question itself is obviously the starting point; however, whether answering the question is enough, presents a greater problem.

In any arena of law, the wider context of legal requirements will include the statutory authority upon which regulations and standard governmental forms are based upon; then, there are case-law opinions of judges — in the area of Federal Disability Retirement, this would include the administrative opinions of the Merit Systems Protection Board, both at the Hearing level, as well as from a Petition for Full Review; and further, Court opinions from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must obviously complete multiple Standard Forms. Chief among the forms is the “Applicant’s Statement of Disability“, or otherwise identified as SF 3112A.  There are multiple questions requesting information about one’s medical condition and the impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  The questions may seem straightforward enough; the answers can be; but the greater conundrum is whether completion of answers to such questions will be adequate in proving, by a preponderance of the evidence (which is the legal standard in meeting the adequacy of proof in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS) one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

It is precisely because there is a greater context of legal expansion in the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement, that merely answering the questions represents a beginning point.  In other words, we meet head-on the age-old distinction between that which is necessary, as opposed to what constitutes sufficiency in order to satisfy the criteria.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: As a Process

It is often a necessity to be reminded that the preparation, formulation, and ultimately the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is an administrative process.

By “process” is meant that it involves multiple levels of time frames and stages, and is not merely constituted by a single “filing” of paperwork.  It is not a defined “right” to a benefit which is triggered by a certain event — such as age, filing of a form, etc.  Rather, it is a benefit which is determined by an administrative process of eligibility.

One must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is “eligible” for the benefits.  In order to do that, one must, of course, meet each of the legal and regulatory criteria as set out by statutory authority, regulations propounded by the Office of Personnel Management, and case-law authorities handed down by the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

As such, time frames for issuing determinations are made by the agency granted such authority — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  And, further, the process will often necessarily involve multiple stages — the Initial Stage, the Reconsideration Stage, an appeal to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, then a Petition for Full Review, and if necessary, an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

Time frames, stages, applicability of the law, meeting each of the statutory requirements — they all constitute a long and complex “process”, and one which must be dealt with whether one agrees with it, wants to, or is somehow unprepared to do so.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Attorney: Legal Representation

Federal and Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS often call and state that they are unable to find “local” representation; that when the issue of the Federal Agency or the Postal Service is brought up, local attorneys either do not handle such cases or they are obviously unfamiliar with the concepts involved.  

Representation of Federal and Postal employees to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a Federal matter, not a state issue, and therefore legal representation is not limited to an attorney who is licensed within a specific state.  Ultimately, the Agency which is the final “arbiter” of a Federal Disability Retirement application is located in Washington, D.C., and is the Office of Personnel Management.

Thus, whether an individual is working in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or overseas in Europe, Japan, etc., it matters not — because the application itself will ultimately end up first in Boyers, Pennsylvania, then routed to Washington, D.C.  “Local” representation becomes an irrelevancy, precisely because it is not related to any local or state issues, but rather entirely upon the Federal issue of Disability Retirement either under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: The MSPB & Beyond, a Retrospective View

Assume the following hypotethical:  a Federal or Postal employee has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and has been denied twice by the Office of Personnel Management, has gone before an Administrative Judge for a Hearing at the Merit Systems Protection Board, and now a decision has been made to file a Petition for Review.  

What is the MSPB looking for at a PFR?  

The arguments to be made will focus upon whether or not the Administrative Judge applied “the law” (collectively known for all of the statutes, rules, regulations and prior cases which have touched upon, defined, or otherwise decided upon, any and all issues concerning Federal Disability Retirement) correctly, or whether he/she made an “error of law”.  As such, from a retrospective viewpoint, what should have been done during the Hearing of the matter before the MSPB & the Administrative Judge?  The answer:  where possible, a citation of the applicable cases showing at each juncture of the evidence submitted, that it complied with a specific case and holding of a case.  With that “on the record”, it constrains the Administrative Judge from ruling against the Appellant, but more importantly for purposes of the Petition for Full Review, it establishes the errors of law which the Administrative Judge committed, for purposes of showing reversible errors at the PFR.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire