OPM Disability Retirement: The Process of Decision-Making

As has been previously stated in repetitive fashion, 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 understand and acknowledge the duality of the process — for it is a process, as opposed to a singular event, both as an administrative legal issue, as well as for the individual Federal or Postal employee in a personal sense.

To clarify:  As an administrative issue, it is a process which involves multiples stages of argumentation (potentially).  Yes, it would be nice if every case was decided with an approval at the First/Initial Stage of the administrative process; however, there is a purpose and a reason why there are multiple stages.  It is precisely because it was anticipated that there would be denials and appeals to such denials, that an administrative procedure for multiple stages of review and further submissions of evidence and arguments was constructed and implemented.  It is not an entitlement pursuant to a fixed date, a fixed age, or a triggering event.  Rather, it is an administrative process which must be proven, applied for, and affirmatively shown that one is eligible.

From the personal perspective of the Federal or Postal employee, the decision of “when” to apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is also a process, as opposed to a singular event.  There are, of course, cases where a traumatic injury or life-changing accident occurred, and such an event is the triggering moment for filing.  But for most Federal or Postal employees, the medical condition suffered is a progressively deteriorating process, and it is often difficult to determine a “date certain” where one can point to on a calendar and state, this is the day and hour when I cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of my job.

This is why there is an inherent complexity to a process, as opposed to a singular event of certitude — for, it is always the unknown and the uncertain which gives rise to the anxieties of life, and a process is indeed a period of the unknown, and a chasm of uncertainty.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Those Important First Steps

It is often the period of initial preparation of a process which is important in setting a solid foundation for the insurmountable security and solidity of a case. That truism is arrived at through retrospective reflection; but when one is frantically attempting to reach the end-goal, the frenzy of trying to get there is the very problem which derails a case.

When the Federal or Postal employee finds that a medical condition impacts and prevents one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, and further, that the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service is beginning to voice “grumblings” about one’s performance, to include excessive use of SL or LWOP; or, worse, one finds that a PIP has been issued, and one is thus subjected to the microscopic assessment of one’s work, including the number of times you use the restroom — panic sets in.

But quickly compiling a volume of medical records and hastily submitting a Federal Disability Retirement packet through one’s Human Resources office is the wrong approach.  For, ultimately, it is not one’s own agency which has anything to do with a Federal Disability Retirement application; rather, it is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a completely separate agency, which renders a decision on all Federal Disability Retirement applications, whether under FERS or CSRS.

That is why preparing the initial steps in compiling a persuasive Federal Disability Retirement application is crucial; it will determine the later consequences of success or failure.  Thus the age-old adage:  Penny wise but pound foolish; or more aptly, get your ducks in a row early.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Waiting to Get your Federal Disability Retirement Benefits?: Well Worth It

There are many stories out there.  Indeed, as many Federal and Postal Workers who live and work throughout the United States and in Europe, Japan, and across the spectrum of the world, there is a microcosmic, personal story to be told.  That is the point of Chekhov’s short story, “Grief”, in which the father needs to relate the narrative story of the tragedy of his son’s death.  

In the impersonal world within which we live our lives, as a cocoon untouched and untouchable, there are stories and tragedies which we know not about.  Then, there are the narratives of successful outcomes; of those Federal and Postal workers who have filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, who — years later — relate tidbits of starting second vocations, of having the opportunity to rehabilitate from their medical conditions, and to start “new” lives.  

The “present” and “now” is always a time of anguish, especially if one is suffering from a medical condition, or is awaiting a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for a Federal Disability Retirement case.  

Is it worth the wait?  To ask that in the present-tense is probably not the right question.  Rather, once a Federal or Postal worker has filed, has obtained an approval, and has taken some years to move on into another stage of life, the time to ask the question is probably in a retrospective manner:  Was it worth the wait?  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee who intends on filing must understand that it can be a long and frustrating administrative process.  Hopefully, however, the hope of the future is what makes the waiting worthwhile.  For, without the hope of the future, we would all be stuck in the drudgery of the present.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Each Step as a Building Block for the Next

Of course, the penultimate approach would be to have the first stage of the process in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, to be the first and final step of the process.  But life in general is imperfect; particular lives are generally in disarray; and to expect any administrative process — especially one at the Federal level — to be one of attaining perfection at the First Stage, is to expect that there are no ancillary motives, purposes or quota-driven mindsets behind the decision-making process.

The very concept of a “building block” is itself an interesting one, for it is a metaphor used to convey a sense of progress.  And that would be the key.  One does not purposefully leave out any single building block in the process of constructing a foundation.  Instead, each block is an addition to the greater expanse of the structure, solidifying its base, preparing for the completion such that the end product will withstand weather, elements, unforeseen circumstances and potential challenges to the structural integrity itself.

Similarly, if the U.S. Office of Personnel Management questions an issue or aspect of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, the entire structure of the application should not be in danger of crumbling; rather, it may be a question which leads to an easy resolution, or a clarification which can be answered, challenged or expanded upon.

That is why time expended at the initial stage of the process before the filing itself — the pre-formulation part of the process, if you will — is important.  Old adages die hard, and thus to be penny wise and pound foolish is perhaps the most appropriate, wisdom-filled statement which proves itself perennially valid.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Initial Application, Reconsideration & MSPB Appeals

Each Stage of the process in attempting to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS offers a distinct, yet similar, challenge.  Do not be fooled by responding to a “template” approach; while the Office of Personnel Management may respond in an indifferent, antiseptic manner, a Federal or Postal employee who must respond to OPM’s denial at each stage of the process must pinpoint what OPM is looking for, and respond appropriately.  Indeed, it is the distinction which one observes, which makes all of the difference in the case.  

Often, it is clear that OPM’s denial at the Initial Stage of the process, as well as a denial at the Reconsideration Stage of the process (which then compels an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board), is merely a regurgitation of thousands of previous denial letters, with some minor insertions which are meant to appear “as if” the denial letter has been tailored to a particular case.  

Thus, references to a particular physician’s letter, and even extrapolating a quotation from a doctor’s note or narrative (often something like, “Your doctor stated that you were recovering well from your surgery,” or “Your psychiatrist stated that the medications were working”) have the effect of personalizing a denial letter.  Yet, the remainder of the denial letter is in an antiseptic, template form, and it is clear that you are merely one of hundreds & thousands of responses written by OPM’s representative.  However, while OPM has the power to generate such template-driven denials, the individual Federal or Postal Worker must respond in an independent, individualistic manner.  It must be based upon one’s particular case, and thus the response must not be a “generic” one, but one based upon the uniqueness of the case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Point of Necessity

Just as one should purchase insurance based upon the worst-case scenario, so one should generally prepare for anything in life with unexpected consequences in mind.  This is similar to the proper approach in preparing, formulating, deciding, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS.  People will often call an attorney only when he or she “thought it necessary”.  But who determined the point of necessity?  If the individual who determines the point of necessity is the same person who finds him or herself at the point of necessity, then it is often too little too late. 

Can most cases be reversed and won even after an initial denial?  Yes.  Can most cases be reversed and won even after a second denial at the Reconsideration Stage?  Yes.  Can most cases be reversed and won even after an initial denial, a denial at the Reconsideration Stage, then an adverse Initial Decision by an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board?  Perhaps.  How about thereafter?  You are then asking if, after all of the facts have been put forth, after all of the stages of consideration by the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether an error in the application of the law can be found.  Yes, at each state of the process, a Federal Disability Retirement application can be won; however, remember the the “point of necessity” is not best determined by the one who thinks it is finally necessary; it is often best determined by an experienced OPM Disability attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Wait Seems Longer

For those waiting for their Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, pending before the Office of Personnel Management, the wait seems to be getting longer and longer.  Whether at the initial stage of the application process, or at the Reconsideration Stage, OPM is taking longer to make a decision on a pending application.  Everyone, of course, wants his or her application to be the next in line; and, indeed, it is all the more frustrating when an applicant is told that a decision will be made “within the next 2 weeks”, and after the 2-week period comes and passes, still no decision. 

What makes it worse is that, even after an approval, there seems to be longer delays in processing the approved application before payment is received.  Further, even after the “interim” payments begin, there appears to be a longer wait before a case is “finalized” for payment processing.  Each period of delay results in a ripple-effect throughout the system as a whole, and indeed, in these economic times of hardship, it  places an even greater burden upon those who need the financial benefit most — those who are disabled, and who rely upon the benefit of disability retirement payments for their very livelihood.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire