Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Beyond Rationality

In preparing, formulating, and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the goal is to compile and compose the “best possible” disability retirement packet.

Such a goal is a foundational one — that which is self-evident.  Indeed, to have a contrary goal is anathema to the entire administrative process.  Concluding that one has achieved that goal, however, leaves room for discretion.  Indeed, often the best that one can do is to accept those things which are outside of one’s control, and focus exclusively upon achieving excellence of that which is within the confined arena of what one can control.

Thus, for instance, to try and predict and preclude a denial at the First Stage of the process — while a goal which every attorney who practices Federal Disability Retirement law attempts to achieve — is almost an act of futility, because such an attempt inherently requires that the Office of Personnel Management systematically engages in a rational approach in deciding its cases.  On the contrary, much of what the Office of Personnel Management does is to “fill in the blanks” of a template.  Denial letters are mostly form letters which then have a concluding paragraph, which itself is often a formatted conclusion.  That is not to say that the evidence presented was not reviewed; rather, the evidence reviewed was determined to fit — or not fit — a template.

How does one counter that which is beyond rationality?  By focusing upon those things which are within one’s control — by compiling the best possible presentation, for the best will normally fit any template; unless, of course, the template itself is beyond rationality.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Legal Arguments

Legal precedents are a necessary part of any process, and this is no less true when filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.  Some argue that legal citations and references to legal precedents are less important at the Initial Stage of the process, but such a viewpoint ignores the fact that preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a “process” — not merely a one-time filing.  

Indeed, the distinction is important to note, because that is precisely why the entire administrative procedure of having an Initial Stage, a Reconsideration Stage, then an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, then further appeals, is available for all Federal and Postal employees.  As a “process”, while each stage is considered in a “de novo” fashion (meaning, looked at “anew” without consideration of the prior decision), the legal precedents and citations which one refers to in order to establish one’s eligibility and entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS provide the foundational justification, no matter what stage of the process one is at.  

Thus, a legal citation argued for at the Initial Stage is valid for the Reconsideration Stage; a precedential legal reference made and argued at the Reconsideration Stage is valid for the MSPB, and so on.  As such, legal arguments provide for a continuum of arguing for one’s entitlement to a benefit which the Office of Personnel Management must justify in any denial it renders.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: OPM May Say So, But…

I often wonder how many unrepresented disability retirement applicants there are who, having received a denial letter at the First Stage of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, never file a Request for Reconsideration because they believe what the Office of Personnel Management stated in the Denial Letter.  Sometimes, I will get telephone calls from people who want to file, and during the course of the conversation, it will come out that they had filed a few years previously, and had been denied.  “Did you file a Request for Reconsideration, at the time?” I ask.  “No,” is the answer.  “Why not?” I ask.  The typical answer?  “Because I just thought there was no way to fight them on it.” 

I used to be amazed at such answers, but after some thought, it makes sense.  As an attorney, my first instinct (both trained and natural) is to always take something to the next level, with the firm belief that I will prevail just by pure persistence, and by using the law as “a sword” in the process of fighting for my clients.  But most people are not lawyers (some would say, thank goodness for that, we have enough lawyers in the world), and when the Office of Personnel Management writes up a denial letter, then allegedly cites “the law”, and makes bold conclusions such as, “You do not meet the eligibility criteria under the laws governing disability retirement…”  It all sounds convincing.  It all sounds like any further action will be an act of futility.  But just because OPM “says so” doesn’t make it true, doesn’t make it right, and certainly doesn’t make it unwinnable.  They may say you don’t meet the eligbility criteria; I would argue otherwise.

Sincerely,
Robert R. McGill, Esquire