Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Where to Begin

One is often asked the question, “Where do I begin”?  It is the question of pervasive immediacy, combining both exasperation at a process too complicated to comprehend and requiring a sense of urgency because of the importance attached to the successful outcome, precisely because it may well determine one’s future financial security, and the present ability to continue to attend to one’s medical conditions.  Such a question, however, often needs to be reordered in order to prepare a case properly, in retrospective fashion.

Thus, to reorganize the priority of questions:  Where do I want to end up? (With an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management)  Who approves a Federal Disability Retirement application?  (Not one’s agency, but the Office of Personnel Management and, as such, be careful of promises made and statements asserted by one’s own agency)  How does one obtain an approval from OPM (By satisfying the legal criteria as applied by OPM)  What does one need to do to obtain such an approval?  (Two-part answer:  File the proper forms; complete the forms effectively)  When should I begin the process?  (Since filing for, and obtaining, Federal Disability Retirement benefits can be a long, arduous process, it is wise to file as soon as one has the support of one’s doctor)  Where does the application need to be filed?  (If one is still with one’s agency, then it must be filed through one’s agency; if one has been separated from the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service for more than 31 days, then it must be filed directly with the Office of Personnel Management).

The question of “why”, of course, need not be asked or answered, because it is a self-evident one.  It is the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “how” which require one’s attention.  For, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal and Postal employee already knows the “why” of filing.  The medical condition itself provides that answer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Crossing Lines

The question has been posed:  How can one Federal Agency make a determination of disability while another, separate Agency can deny a determination of disability? Contained within that question, of course, is an answer of disability from each Federal Agency, which was further preceded by multiple questions requesting the agency to make a determination of disability.  

A simple answer to the question posed would be:  Each Agency is independent and separate, and thus has the authority to make an independent determination.  That is what is deemed a “power” answer.  But there are further nuances of an answer which go beyond the mere authority or power of an agency to make a determination.  

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the question of another agency’s determination on disability is often asked:  How can one…?  The full answer to the question would require a complex analysis of the various laws, statutes and criteria, which would include the following:  Each Federal agency which provides a particular disability benefit is mandated by a specific statutory authority which sets out a specific set of criteria, and is different from the statutory authority defining another agency’s particular benefits; some legal criteria are based upon a determination of percentage ratings, while others are based upon employability or whether a particular kind of job can be performed.  

Given all of this, one may still “cross the lines” by making arguments utilizing statements from one agency, as persuasive authority in arguing for another agency’s disability benefits.  In crossing such lines, however, it is important to maintain the integrity of the role, the criteria, the specific citation of the law, and what Judges actually have stated concerning the extent and authority of the influence which one agency determination may have another another.  Thus, if one attempts to cross the lines, do so with knowledge and understanding of the law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Process of Eligibility

The problem with possessing power is that it must be accompanied by truth, validity and rational foundations, if it is to be effective over the long term.  

In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is the process of proving one’s eligibility by meeting the burden of proof, termed as the “preponderance of the evidence“.  A disagreement can occur during the process, in that the Representative from the Office of Personnel Management can deny the Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Such a denial can occur twice at the OPM level — at the Initial Stage of the process, then at the Reconsideration Stage of the process.  OPM possesses the power to approve or deny each Federal Disability Retirement application.  Often, however, the denial itself fails to be accompanied by a rational discourse which strives to meet the high standards that a Federal Agency should always adhere to — guided by the truth and validity of any claims made in a denial letter.  Too often, the discourse which is the basis of the denial merely regurgitates a series of template-like statements, and then the OPM denies the claim.  

Fortunately, however, OPM is not the only Agency which makes the determination during the entirety of the process.  After the second denial, it then loses its jurisdiction over a case, and an appeal can be made to the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

The integrity of the entire process depends upon the independence of the MSPB in reviewing all such cases, and indeed, the Administrative Judges at the MSPB review each case carefully, with an open mind, and with the proper application of the law.  Each Judge must render a decision which contains the rational basis of a decision, based upon precedents and statutory legal underpinnings.  To have the full benefit of the process is indeed the basis of a system with integrity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire