Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Where to Begin

The captain of a ship docked in a harbor knows three things:  Where the ship came from; where it is; where it will be going next. If any of the three are missing from the thought-processes of the one who intends to navigate the waters, the ship should remain where it is.  For, it is the orientation and coalescence of the past, the present, and the future course of action which should determine the efficacy of whether to act now, or delay for the future.

Unfortunately, in a Federal Disability Retirement case, whether under FERS or CSRS, because of the exigent circumstances which often surrounds the debilitating nature of a medical condition, the emergency situation of the present state of affairs will often dictate, without guidance, the future course of events.

The future cannot be thought of or contemplated with any sense of purpose, because the exigency of the “now” makes all else irrelevant.  But how we formulate the “now” may well determine the future course of events. As such, in preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to approach the administrative process and procedure in a systematic, logical manner, if only to ensure the best chances of success at the First Stage of the process.

Culling together a disjointed disability retirement packet just to get it filed immediately (unless, of course, the Statute of Limitations is about to come upon one) is normally not a plan for a captain’s log for charting a ship’s future course; especially when one becomes aware of the stormy seas ahead.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Experience & Secrets

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there are no “secrets” to the pathway of success (“success” being narrowly defined as receiving an approval from the Office of Personnel Management); rather, there is only the experience of knowing the law, applying the law, stating the facts, creating the nexus between the medical condition and the positional duties which one occupies with the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, and understanding the few but important issues which can defeat a Federal Disability Retirement application.

The latter portion, of course, is just as important as the former issues — of knowing the negative consequences of entering certain arenas of issues, despite every temptation to do so. Thus, as have been more thoroughly discussed in previous articles and blogs, focusing upon collateral work-place issues of harassment, discrimination, subsequent EEOC complaints, etc.; of characterization of one’s medical conditions which comes perilously close to being described as “situational”; and some questions concerning accommodations, and especially at the first two stages of the administrative process, where the Office of Personnel Management will often fail to understand the legal distinction between temporary modified duties, and what constitutes a legally viable accommodation — all of these are able to be dealt with through experience and application of that experience.

Very few “secrets” are truly that; rather, the secret to a successful outcome turns out to be rather mundane:  experience, tempered by careful preparation, formulation, and timely filing.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Prospective Affirmation versus Retrospective Correction

Moving forward with the right tools is generally more effective than looking back and trying to correct deficiencies; thus, the age-old adage of being penny wise, pound foolish applies; and in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to make a determination early on to clearly assess the strength of a case, the needs required to optimize such strengths, and to obtain assistance where necessary.

As to an objective assessment of a case:  one is normally not the best evaluator in analyzing the strength or weakness of one’s own Federal Disability retirement case.  This is because of a self-evident principle operating in each such Federal Disability Retirement case:  the subject who suffers from the medical condition cannot objectively evaluate from a third-party’s perspective the viability of a case in terms of proving by a preponderance of the evidence the coherence and compelling nature of the evidence to be presented.

Most believe that his or her case is a “slam-dunk”; few in actual reality ever are.  To get denied by OPM at the First Stage; then at the Reconsideration Stage; then to go pro se before the Merit Systems Protection Board; then to obtain a lawyer — while it is good to get a lawyer at any stage of the process — is it wise to attempt a retrospective correction of one’s mistakes?  At what stage does it become too late?  Where in the process does “correction” override “mistakes”?  Compare that to a prospective affirmation of one’s inadequacies — that it is difficult, if not impossible, to objectively evaluate one’s own case; that an effective compilation and presentation of a Federal Disability Retirement case is necessary in order to win in a Federal Disability Retirement case; and that providing a legal citationin support of one’s case is an essential element of a compelling case:  combining it all, it would seem that being wise for the pound is preferable than being foolish for the penny (to make an inverse adage applicable).

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Wrong Approach of Not Losing

Both in sports and in politics, the sure-fire way of ensuring a negative outcome is to play not to lose.  Similarly, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there is a logical sequence of events and issues to tackle.

While it is important to become “informed”, and to have a peripheral eye towards potential future problems (indeed, the undersigned author has written numerous articles about building foundational blocks to prevent future issues from becoming obstacles; and of concretizing potential red flags and addressing them before they become actual roadblocks to a successful outcome, etc.), it is also important to maintain a “present” perspective, and to keep the logical sequence of the mechanical aspects of preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement case at hand.

Once the decision is made to go forward, the multiplicity of complex components of putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application can derail an attempt if every inch of minutiae is ruminated over. Move forward with what one has, and do it with a goal of a successful outcome.

Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS needs to be approached, first and foremost, in its most basic components:  A medical condition (the doctor’s narrative report); the applicant’s statement of disability; the bridge between the two.  Everything else is a complexity which encapsulates details which, while important, must remain on the periphery and lend supportive contact to the central issues of the case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire