OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: Approaching a Reconsideration

The proverbial definition of insanity is to engage in the same repetitive activity with the expectation of receiving a different result.  While such a definition may not provide a clinically accurate or legally acceptable formulation, it does implicate the chaotic character and the futile act of responding in a particularly fruitless manner.

For Federal and Postal employees who have attempted to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, and have received an initial denial, the process of having OPM reconsider one’s case must be approached in a 2-tier manner:  First, one must meet the “deadline” of filing for Reconsideration with OPM within thirty (30) days of the denial, or upon receipt of the denial (although, to be on the safe side, it is best to use the former date as opposed to the latter);  next, with the box checked to indicate submission of additional medical documentation, to then gather, prepare, compile and submit additional medical evidence within thirty (30) days thereafter, unless a further extension is needed and requested.

However, one should also understand that in an OPM Reconsideration case, it will not be the same Case Worker who will review the case, but it will be reviewed thoroughly by someone else as if it had never been previously reviewed. As such, there is the confounding conundrum of a dual anomaly: The First Case Worker who issued the denial based the denial upon certain specific points; yet, what the First Case Worker denied the case upon, may have no bearing upon what the Second, Reconsideration Case Worker will evaluate the case upon.

What does one do? Whatever one’s answer is to this complex conundrum, do not engage in the proverbial act of insanity; better to get some legal guidance than to spin one’s wheels in an insane world of futility.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: A Federal Issue

Most legal issues require representation by an attorney licensed in the state where the legal matter arises. Thus, divorce proceedings; accidents and torts of various kinds where the injury occurs; contracts where they are formulated and agreed upon; negligence actions where the act occurred, etc.

But for such administrative proceedings such as the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the state from which the attorney received his or her legal license becomes irrelevant precisely because the practicing of Federal Disability Retirement law crosses all state lines, and does not involve any issues which are unique to a particular state at all, but rather is entirely a “Federal” issue involving Federal statutes, regulations, administrative agencies, etc.

Further, while many individuals may still express a “comfort” zone of desiring to “see” the attorney by visiting him or her in an office, such a personalized encounter may simply be an impracticality. Agencies span the entire country, and indeed, Federal workers are stationed throughout the globe in Europe, Asia, the Philippines, etc., and representation for such Federal issues as filing for, and obtaining, Federal and USPS Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is best done by an attorney who is experienced in the administrative process of law entailing all aspects of OPM Federal Disability Retirement law.

Fortunately, with modern technology, including email, fax, phone, express delivery, etc., close contact with an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law is merely a “push-button” away. In an impractical universe, it is best to use the services of practical technology.

Federal Disability Retirement is a Federal issue, not a state one, and this should always be kept in mind when seeking representation in the matter.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Distances

Somehow, proximity often makes for comfort, and thus do we have a greater sense of security if something is nearby, and distance reflects ties of both emotional and physical detachment.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is the Federal agency which determines all issues on Federal Disability Retirement matters.  They are located in Washington, D.C. (with the intake office for the initial acceptance and computer inputting being accomplished first by an office in Boyers, Pennsylvania).

Whether the Federal or Postal employee is working in an office in California, Nevada, Illinois or Virginia; or, perhaps, somewhere overseas in Europe, Japan, etc.; all such applications for Federal Medical Retirement must be forwarded to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C.  If the Federal or Postal employee is still with the agency, or has been separated less than 31 days from the agency, then the application for Federal Disability Retirement must first be routed through one’s agency (or, for the Postal employee, through the H.R. Shared Services Center located in Greensboro, North Carolina).

This is a “Federal” matter, not a state issue, and therefore an attorney who specializes in handling Federal Disability Retirement does not need to be an attorney licensed in the state where the Federal or Postal employee resides.

Very few local attorneys specialize in such Federal Administrative matters; as such, it is likely that an attorney who is equipped to handle such matters will be located in a different state, far away, but hopefully close to the source of the matter — near Washington, D.C. , where the issue itself is adjudicated at the administrative level.

While such distance may preclude a face-to-face meeting with the attorney, there are other safeguards which can be noted, to ensure that one’s comfort zone is left intact:  reputation, accessibility, and references.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Local Lawyers and Federal Issues

Federal and Postal employees are particularly susceptible to harassment and hostile work environments, for two primary reasons:  First, agencies (as reflected in terms of organic microcosms of collective individuals forming an organized unit, but represented by individual men and women) tend to view themselves as little fiefdoms, circled and protected by a moat of Federal Laws rarely understood by laymen, and further empowered by secrecy and the pervasive presence of the Executive Branch of the Federal Government, and Second, through a maze and web of complex Federal Statutes, Executive Orders and internal regulations, with layers upon layers of bureaucratic anomalies, an entity which remains shrouded with an obtuse, obscure administration of procedures barely comprehensible by those who run the agency.

The third reason, of course, is that despite Federal Agencies popping up throughout every city in every state, local lawyers have failed to make it their business to become knowledgeable about Federal issues, Federal laws, and their impact upon the local population.

This is especially true of Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.  Fortunately, however, Federal issues are not limited to the state, county or city in which a legal issue arises; therefore, as an attorney who practices OPM Disability Retirement, representation can occur from one state in assisting the Federal or Postal employee from any other state — including Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Europe, Japan, etc.  Federal issues know no boundaries; that can be a negative thing in terms of state sovereignty; but in terms of being represented for a Federal Disability Retirement case, it has the advantage of being competently handled by those who know the system.

As deteriorating work environments often lead to an increase in medical issues, so the Federal or Postal employee must often fall back upon leaving the system by filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Being susceptible to a power-centered entity often has that sort of result:  of greater medical problems; an exponential explosion of discontent; an increase in the need for rehabilitative care.

Fortunately for the Federal and Postal employee, there is the added employment benefit of Federal Disability Retirement.  Tap into that which exists for one’s advantage; the benefit is there for a reason — not the least of which is because of the stressful environment created by the behemoth called, the Federal Agency.

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 Disability Retirement Attorney: Legal Representation

Federal and Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS often call and state that they are unable to find “local” representation; that when the issue of the Federal Agency or the Postal Service is brought up, local attorneys either do not handle such cases or they are obviously unfamiliar with the concepts involved.  

Representation of Federal and Postal employees to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a Federal matter, not a state issue, and therefore legal representation is not limited to an attorney who is licensed within a specific state.  Ultimately, the Agency which is the final “arbiter” of a Federal Disability Retirement application is located in Washington, D.C., and is the Office of Personnel Management.

Thus, whether an individual is working in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or overseas in Europe, Japan, etc., it matters not — because the application itself will ultimately end up first in Boyers, Pennsylvania, then routed to Washington, D.C.  “Local” representation becomes an irrelevancy, precisely because it is not related to any local or state issues, but rather entirely upon the Federal issue of Disability Retirement either under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Knowledge

It has often been noted that “knowledge is power”, which necessarily and logically implies, of course, that lack of knowledge leaves one with weakness.  Preparing a Federal Disability retirement application under FERS or CSRS requires a vast amount of knowledge.

After practicing in this area of law for over twenty (20) years (with my first 10 years involving not only Federal Disability Retirement law, but also including a heavy trial practice, appellate practice and employment law and general practice — with the last 10 years devoted exclusively to disability retirement law), the consistent and persistent need to keep updated on any changes; on case-law updates; on nuances of cases which I may have previously missed — one might think that the practice of law in a specialized field might get easier over the years.

I find that, to remain on top of the constant changes and shifts in the law is an ever-present, all-encompassing endeavor.  One cannot, and must not, put a “generic” case before a Merit Systems Protection Board Judge.  To do so becomes transparent and phony.  The same goes with submitting a generic application to the Office of Personnel Management.  There is no such thing — all Federal Disability Retirement applications must be tailored to fit the individual, and knowledge — and more importantly, greater knowledge — allows for such tailoring.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire