Federal Government Disability Retirement: Another Year Passing

Because the administrative process of preparing, formulating, and filing — then waiting for a decision — a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, can take several months for the Initial Stage of the bureaucratic procedure alone, it is important to plan ahead for the future.  

New Year’s eve, for Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, is merely a reminder that another year has passed.  For those waiting for a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is another indicator of the frustrating wait which the potential Federal or Postal annuitant has been through, is going through, and must still endure.  And this is only for the “First Stage” of the process.  

The waiting time is extended if the Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage, and must be appealed to the Second Stage of the process, or what is identified as the Reconsideration Stage of the process.  Then, of course, if it is denied by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management at the Second Stage, one has a right to appeal the case to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.  

Waiting is a necessary part of the administrative, bureaucratic process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Filing soon after one has recognized that one’s medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, is the only “cure” for the long wait. As with everything else, it is better to get in ahead of the line, and have someone help you with the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Time

Attempting to order life in accordance with a schedule which one has manufactured is often an impossible task to perform; when dealing with a Federal bureaucracy, it is moreover an unwise thing to attempt.  

Preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS necessarily and inherently takes time.  In addition to time, it requires foresight into possible delays, both predictable as well as unintended.  While a general timeline of 8 – 10 months from the start of the process (meaning, the initial gather of the medical documentation and narrative reports, compiling the evidentiary documentation necessary to prepare a case; formulation of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, etc.) to the time when an approval letter is issued by the Office of Personnel Management in response to the First or Initial Stage of the Process, is a realistic assessment of the time involved, there are multiple events, issues and intervening pitfalls which can interrupt and disrupt such a generalization.  

A cushion of time should always be considered.  More than that, however, the Federal or Postal employee who becomes frustrated with the lengthy process avoids thinking about the months and months of delay and procrastination which was engaged in at the “front end” of the entire process — where, for months and months, the Federal or Postal employee kept putting off starting the process to begin with.  

Remember that preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a process involving a Federal bureaucracy and, as such, the inevitable virtue of patience must be stored in plentiful quantities, to be harvested during the waiting time.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Delays

Often, the answer to a question posed depends upon how accurately the question is presented.  Such are the tools of the trade of an attorney, and it is often necessary to rephrase, reassemble and rearrange a question in order to suit an answer.  

In a Federal Disability Retirement case under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, the question posed is:  How long does the process take?  This all depends upon a number of factors — how quickly the treating doctor will respond; how long will the Agency take in completing their portion; what is the “wait time” at the Office of Personnel Management.

Unspoken within the original question, however, is how many months of delay has already occurred on the part of the potential applicant prior to coming to a point of determining that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a necessary event.  Unfortunately, the very emergency nature of having to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS results quite often because the Federal or Postal worker has continued to delay for months and months — and sometimes years — prior to coming to a decision that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a necessity.  

Such delays and procrastination are often part of the medical condition itself, and cannot be helped.  But during such delays, it is important to make an assessment as to whether the procrastination has a detrimental effect, or is it for positive reasons?  If it is irrefutable that one’s medical condition is progressively and irreversibly deteriorating; if delaying is simply dwindling finances needed to endure the long administrative process of waiting for an approval from the Office of Personnel Management; if putting off the inevitable is simply a result of not wanting to face the event; such reasons for delay constitute a self-defeating action.  If, on the other hand, delaying has meant securing one’s financial future, or because it has had positive psychological benefits, then that is a different matter entirely.  

To delay is not necessarily a negative decision, but each individual must bear the personal responsibility of his or her part in such an act, by making a forthright assessment of the underlying reasons and justifications.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Agency, FMLA and LWOP

Because filing for Federal Disability Retirement is a process which may take 6 – 8 months, and sometimes longer, there is always the question of what the Agency will do during this time.  Of course, a Federal or Postal employee will often continue to work for as long as possible, and for as many days during each enduring week as possible, in order to survive economically during the process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  The medical condition itself, however, will often dictate the feasibility of attempting to continue to work. 

During this period, a Federal or Postal employee may have limited options — especially when Sick Leave and Annual Leave have been exhausted.  Protection by filing under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) will accord temporary protection and a buffer against a demanding agency.  A further request to be placed on LWOP beyond the 12 weeks which FMLA will allow for, will often be granted at the discretion of the Agency. 

If an agency places one in AWOL status, such an action by the Agency should be countered with documentation from one’s doctor which justifies the continued absence of the Federal or Postal employee.  Unfortunately, there is often no clear answer to the question, “What if my agency fails to cooperate while I am filing for Federal Disability Retirement?”  There are only responsive steps to take in order to protect the ultimate goal — that of obtaining an approval from the Office of Personnel Management.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Best Indicator

When is the right time to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS?  Because the process can be a rather lengthy one (6- 8 months minimum from the beginning of the process of gathering the necessary medical documentation, etc., to receipt of an approval letter from the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C.), the question of when to begin the preparation, formulation, and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application may depend upon several factors.  Obviously, a frank discussion with one’s treating doctor is a good starting point.  

As for indicators, only the Federal or Postal employee who is suffering from the particular medical condition can know — either explicitly because of something that happened in the workplace or because of a medical emergency, or implicitly/intuitively.  As for the latter, if a Federal or Postal employee is exhausting his or her Sick Leave and Annual Leave, and is taking LWOP; has filed for FMLA; has been placed on a PIP; or, as is more often the case, is using the evenings and weekends as mere “recovery times” in order to drag one’s self to work, only to continue and perpetuate the vicious cycle of work, deteriorating condition, exhaustion, sleep, work, deteriorating condition … ad nauseum and ad infinitum (or so it would appear), then such an unacceptable condition of existence may be an indicator that it is time to consider formulating, preparing, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Repetitive Reminder

Remember that a FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement application must be filed within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service.  For some odd reason, there is still some prevailing misconception that the 1-year Statute of Limitations begins from either (a) the date of the onset of an injury, (b) from the date one goes out on LWOP, Sick Leave, or some other administrative leave, or (c) from the date that one is no longer able to perform the essential elements of one’s job — or (d) some combination of the three previous dates.

Whether from confusion, misinformation from the Agency, misinterpretation of what information is “out there” or some combination of all three, the Statute of Limitations in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is one (1) year from the date that a Federal or Postal employee is separated from his or her agency, or from the Postal Service.  Inasmuch as a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRs will often taken 6 – 8 months (minimum) to get a decision from the First Stage of the process, it is a good idea to get started earlier, rather than later.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Waiting

It is summertime.  The Office of Personnel Management continues to remain backlogged. The waiting time for approvals continues to be “longer than usual”, but the “usual” in this case seems to be a minimum of 90 – 120 days from the time it is assigned, and it is almost as long for any decision on a Reconsideration decision.  While a periodic call may be made to the Office of Personnel Management, calls of an incessant nature are normally not helpful in obtaining a favorable decision.  Yes, lives are on hold until the Office of Personnel Management makes a decision on a case; yes, the time frame seems arbitrary.  Each case is important; it is better that a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS is properly reviewed; and always remember that it is more beneficial for an approval to emerge from a long wait at the Initial Stage of the process, than for a denial to be issued — which will only mean that one will have to wait through another full stage of the process.  It is this time period — the wait for the decision by the Office of Personnel Management — that is the greatest time of anxiety. And the fact that it is summertime, where temperatures are exceeding 100 degrees in Washington, D.C., doesn’t help matters.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire