Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Interruption or Interlude

Life is full of interruptions which push the pause button upon our grand designs for linear progression; how we view such events, whether as something bothersome, or as a respite and opportunity, a platform for the next stage of life, will determine the extent of character-building foundations needed to forge forward.  Taking care of aging parents is now considered a bother, and not a privilege; mentoring a young person just beginning in a chosen career is seen as a predatory challenge, as opposed to a chance to mold for the future; and revealing a fissure in the otherwise impenetrable public face of constancy is a chance to take advantage of the weakness of the opponent.

How one views a particular event; whether it is seen in the best light possible and anticipated for lessons to be learned; or instead, as a crisis point of quashing all hope for the future, never to be spoken about because of the devastation wrought, reflects both upon the present state of one’s character, as well as the potential for the future. Things are merely bothersome to us, now. Perhaps it is the result of a leisure society, where things once earned are now expected as givens; or, of greater probability, that the antiseptic isolation of our society engenders a certain aura of incomprehensible turmoil.

For Federal and Postal Workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, Federal Disability Retirement should be considered as a viable option. Filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (and available to all eligible Federal and Postal employees who meet the minimum criteria of years of Federal service), it should be considered precisely for two (or more) reasons. First, it allows for a foundational annuity in order for one to move forward with one’s life. Second, it allows for the Federal and Postal employee to embark on a second vocation, and make up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal job currently pays, on top of the base annuity.

As such, there is a built-in mechanism which recognizes that the event of a medical condition is not merely an interruption, but an interlude for the second and subsequent stages of a person’s life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Beast of Burden

The burden is undertaken by those have little choice in the matter, but who willingly submit to the responsibility and obligation.  Traditionally, the “beast of burden” (other than being a Rolling Stone song) refers to a somewhat-domesticated animal, perhaps a donkey or an ox, who must bear the weight of man’s work.

In law, the “burden” is one of proof — of the affirmative obligation to present one’s facts, persuasive argumentation based upon such facts, and the application of the relevant law which supports both the facts and the arguments.  The “other side” in the litigation has no burden at all, and can simply sit and do nothing, if he or she so chooses, and see whether or not the plaintiff, the appellant or the Federal Disability Retirement applicant has submitted sufficient proof such that he or she has met his/her burden of proof.

As the weight placed upon a beast of burden is often heavy and demanding, so in a similar vein the litigant who has the burden of proof should always expect to exceed what is “necessary” in any given case.  For the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is indeed a heavy burden to bear in order to meet the legal criteria of a Federal bureaucracy who has the unmitigated power and authority to approve or deny.

The burden of proof — it is as heavy as that which we place upon a beast of burden, and the weight of such responsibility can overwhelm us, lest we have the reserve of strength to plod onward.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Burden

Ultimately, a Federal Disability Retirement application is a paper-presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Yes, yes, we are entering into a “paperless” technological society, and that is fine; but by “paper presentation” is meant in a generic sense, that the proof necessary to obtain eligibility and entitlement to a Federal Disability Retirement benefit, must be presented in a format which is readable, comprehensible, and coherent — whether on a computer screen or in paper format.

The burden of providing such proof is upon the “applicant” — the Federal or Postal employee who is attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  That “burden” is both a legal one, as well as a regulatory one.  There are different levels or requirements of what constitutes proof, depending upon the requirements of what must be proven.

In a general sense, one can assert that all that is necessary in a Federal Disability Retirement case is to gather together one’s medical records, wrap them in a secure bundle, and forward them to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Will such an approach “prove” one’s Federal Disability Retirement application?  It might — depending upon the seriousness of one’s medical condition, and whether the Disability Retirement Specialist assigned to such a case will take the time to infer and imply.  But to make an inference, or to expect an implication to be discerned, takes an unnecessary chance at misunderstanding, failure, and the unwanted “denial”.

Instead, the better approach is to explicitly explicate.  Always remember that in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is a difference between suffering from a medical condition, and proving that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  It is the latter which is necessary to be approved for a Federal Disability Retirement benefit.  As to the former — while an unfortunate circumstance — it is not enough to suffer to prove one’s case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Planning

A common consensus among those who contemplate filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is that it is an unplanned event, and one which required decisions which shortened the career goals of the Federal or Postal employee.  Such an unplanned event, however, should not be left for lack of planning of the event itself — of preparing, formulating and filing for the Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Thus, a distinction should be made:  yes, the fact of the medical condition, and its unplanned impact upon one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, thereby cutting short the Federal or Postal career of the individual, is quite often something which is unexpected and beyond one’s control.

Once the realization that it is necessary to  file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM becomes apparent, however, one should not simply act in a manner which compounds the problems of lack of planning.  At that point, planning is essential to the entire endeavor:  the garnering of support from the medical community; the persuasive conversation which one must have with one’s treating medical provider; the decision of which medical conditions to include, how to state it, what to state; the preparation of the coordinated aspects of each of the strands of a Federal Disability Retirement application — these need to be planned for, in order to increase the chances of success at each stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Use of Percentage Designations

The Department of Veterans Affairs does it; in obtaining a scheduled award from the Officer of Workers’ Compensation Programs, administered under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), the amount determined is based upon it; and so it is understandable that confusions may arise as to its relevance, import and various applicable uses.

Disability ratings represent an attempt to quantify the extent of one’s medical condition, injury, or loss of limb or body mobility, flexion, ability to use, etc.  Such attempt at quantification, no matter what mathematical calculus or methodology employed, must by necessity involve a level of subjectivity; for any such attempt is pre-determined by the criteria which is applied, and any such criteria which purports to apply universally will be unable to accommodate the uniqueness of an individualized case.

In a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement case, the benefit provided is a flat rate, and is set by statute.  It does not increase or decrease based upon a percentage assignation of a medical disability.  Similarly, in Social Security Disability, the amount of the annuity received does not change because of an increase in percentage.

Whether one can or should use the assigned percentage rating from the VA or from OWCP, in proving or attempting to prove eligibility in FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement cases, is a matter of discretion.  The amount of the disability rating; whether the gross number is a combination of fairly insignificant fractured percentages; the substantive discussion justifying each number, etc. — all of those factors must be taken into consideration before using it in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Numbers alone rarely mean anything; 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 not the numbers, but the words which support them, which will make the difference.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Those Intersecting “Other” Determinations

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 useful to understand the impact — if any — provided by the approval of any of the “other” compensation programs available to all Federal and Postal employees.

Thus, inasmuch as a Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS must also file, sometime during the administrative and bureaucratic process, for SSDI benefits, in the off-chance that SSDI approves the application before OPM makes a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application (which, because of OPM’s extended timeframe for making decisions, is less rare these days than one may think), can it have any impact in the Federal Disability Retirement process?  And what about OWCP/FECA?  Does the fact that a Second-Opinion doctor, or what is sometimes euphemistically referred to as a “Referee doctor”, rendering a medical opinion (and therefore a narrative report) stating that the injured Federal or Postal worker is “permanently” disabled, or that he or she is unable to go back to one’s job, relevant to a Federal Disability Retirement application?  How about a VA Disability Rating?  Does the determination provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs have any relevance to the Federal Disability Retirement application?

These are all potential “tools” to be used in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and the Federal or Postal employee should be aware of the case-laws which provide for persuasive impact — not determinative — to the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Quantification v. Symptom Delineation

Different systems and processes require different standards of proof, criteria, and elements of qualifying evidence in order to be eligible and entitled.  Applying for, and getting approved, a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, requires that certain legal criteria be met. 

Quantification of a medical condition, although sometimes helpful in further expanding a descriptive narrative of a specific medical condition, is normally rather irrelevant in a Federal Disability Retirement case.  By “quantification” is meant the assigning of a number — of rating a person’s specific medical condition or relative to the “whole body”. 

Thus, in OWCP and VA Claims, there will often be a number assigned — 10% for X medical condition; a “combined” rating of 80%, etc.  One would expect that a high quantification of a medical condition would translate into a more serious appraisal of that medical condition, but various factors need to be considered when attempting to utilize such numbers in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  Thus, for instance, a 10% rating upon a person’s foot may seem relatively insignificant when applied to a sedentary job, but for a person who must be on his or her feet all day, with requirements of constant standing, walking, etc., it becomes not only “significant”, but potentially a singularly viable basis for filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS. 

One must be careful in playing the “numbers game” in formulating, preparing and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  Numbers never tell the full story, but they can be used to help describe and delineate the necessary requirements to be approved for a Federal Disability Retirement application by the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire