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

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Wind Chime

Wind chimes are interesting objects; at once created to provide a soothing, mellifluous sound, they are often the product of artificiality attempting to mimic nature, and normally presented in the guise of nature’s own pleasantries.  Because the world has become a composite of artifice, we attempt to recreate that which we have destroyed or lost.  It attempts to “sound like” the real thing.  But it is the very mimicking which fails to meet the standard of the original, no matter how hard we try.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, if the Federal or Postal worker is attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits without the assistance or expertise of an attorney, then the one caveat which should be applied is as follows:  Do it as a layman, not as an attorney.  In the end, the paper presentation to the Office of Personnel Management should be decided based upon the merits of the case.  However, when a Federal or Postal employee, unrepresented, attempts to “sound like” a Federal Disability Attorney, it creates an impression — sometimes of comical proportions — of bluster and lack of credibility, which detracts from the merits of the case.

In reviewing cases which have been denied at the First or Second Stages of the process, there are Disability Retirement filings which have attempted to follow certain “templates” based upon information provided, and which purport to cite legal authorities.  Obviously, the denial itself is proof enough that such attempts at “sounding like” fell on deaf ears.  Take the time to listen to the original; as in art, paintings, music and human contact, the “real thing” is almost always irreplaceable.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Waiting until the Very End

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is never a good idea to wait until the very end to obtain an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement issues.  By “the very end”, of course, is a relative term — it can mean the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, or a Petition for Full Review (PFR) before a 3-Judge panel of the Merit Systems Protection Board (upon an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, after a denial at the initial application stage before the Office of Personnel Management, then a denial at the Reconsideration Stage before OPM), or the hearing stage itself at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  The “very end” equates to “it is almost too late”.  Another relative concept is the term involving “almost”, as in “almost too late”.  

A recent reversal of a case was by a former Federal employee who attempted all of the initial stages on his own — the initial application stage with the Office of Personnel Management, then the Reconsideration Stage — then went to a Hearing at the Merit Systems Protection Board without an attorney.  This particular Federal employee then came to the undersigned attorney and asked if it could be reversed by an appeal to the 3-Judge panel at the Full Review Stage of the Merit Systems Protection Board.  As pointed out in an earlier blog, there were enough judicial/legal errors committed by the Administrative Judge to justify a Petition for Full Review, and indeed, the outcome was a positive one — fortunately, for the Petitioner/Appellant/Applicant.  However, it is always best not to wait until it is too late.  That is another relative concept — “too late”.  

Hope springs eternal, but such hope has an end in every administrative appeal process, and unless one begins to build the bridge properly from the very beginning, block by block, legal precedent by legal precedent, there is the danger that a collapse will ensue.  It is best to prepare well at the beginning of a process, lest the lack of preparation result in an irreversible tide of mistakes, mishaps, and misfortunes at the end of a long and arduous attempt.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Long Road

The bureaucratic process identified as “Federal Disability Retirement” with the Office of Personnel Management is indeed a long, and often frustrating, endeavor to undertake.  

From the long wait at the initial stages of preparation and formulation; to the waiting wasteland once it gets to the Office of Personnel Management — including first the period of waiting merely to have it assigned to a case worker, then the long period of uncertainty while it has been assigned but pending an actual review by the OPM Caseworker; then, of course, if it is approved, the lengthy period of receiving interim (partial) pay before it gets “finalized” and calculated — this, all on the assumption that the Office of Personnel Management will perform the monetary calculations of backpay, interim pay and final pay in a correct, indisputable manner; and further, if it gets denied at the First Stage of the process, then the further period of waiting at the Reconsideration Stage of the process; and further, if it gets denied at the Reconsideration Stage of the process, then an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

A recent case — indeed, just decided a couple of days ago — where the client went through the First Stage, the Reconsideration Stage, then a Hearing at the Merit Systems Protection Board, all without an attorney, and came to the undersigned attorney to file a Petition for Full Review at the Merit Systems Protection Board where, fortunately, there were enough legal mis-steps on the part of the Administrative Judge that the collective “we” were able to get it reversed and obtain an approval for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management — all told, took about 2 and a half years from the start of the process to the final decision.  By any standard, that is a very, very long time.  

Caution:  It is not recommended that an individual wait until after an MSPB decision to obtain the services of an attorney.  The wait for a Full Review by the MSPB 3-member Board alone took about 10 months, and moreover, it is very difficult to reverse the decision of a Merit Systems Protection Board’s decision.  It can be done (and has been done), but it is obviously a better idea to win at the MSPB Hearing level, and not try and reverse an AJ’s decision based upon an “error of law“.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire