Federal Disability Retirement: The Symbiotic Relationship

In biology, symbiosis refers to the interaction between two different organisms, often benefiting both.  It is the coexistence through the capacity to acquire greater advantage without diminishment and harm to the other, which then allows for the balance of nature to occur.

In other contexts, in differing circumstances or changed environments, perhaps the relationship and the interaction would alter, and the evolutionary forces of nature would impel each to become predator and prey; but for whatever reason, it is precisely the stability of balance in nature which allows for, and favors, such a symbiotic relationship.

By analogy, the relationship between the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the Federal and Postal worker, whether the latter is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, enjoys the symbiosis of necessity.  It is precisely for the Federal and Postal worker that the very existence of OPM is maintained; and for the Federal and Postal Worker who requires a personnel action to be processed, the existence of OPM is to the advantage of the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker.

For the Federal and Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition necessitates filing for Federal OPM Medical Retirement benefits, the enhancement and spotlight of the symbiotic relationship between OPM and the suffering Federal or Postal worker comes to the fore; it is, indeed, precisely a relationship of advantage to both entities and organisms.

Of course, just as in the universe of biological entities (of which the human species is a part of, lest we forget because of our so-called advanced state of evolutionary existence), circumstances may alter, environments may change, and contexts of interaction may convert; and a similar relationship as that between predator and prey may develop.

A denial of an initial application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits tends to do just that; for, suddenly OPM is not just a bureaucratic morass upon which one is waiting for an action to ensue; now, it is an adversary which must be countermanded.

Still, despite the change, and regardless of the alteration of the essence of the symbiotic relationship, where the Federal or Postal worker must then file a Request for Reconsideration within 30 days of the date of the denial of an OPM Disability Retirement application, the interaction must still exist, and necessity of circumstances requires the continuing relationship between the two given entities: the Federal and Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition on the one hand, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on the other.

It is by necessity of interaction that the two entities meet; it is by change of context which impels substantive alteration; but in the end, the reliance and dependence of symbiosis remains throughout.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Refinements, Redux

A “refined sense of taste”; refineries which take crude oil and extract and leave out the waste; perfecting and polishing that which is roughly hewn.  What always needs to be focused upon, first and foremost, however, is the foundation which allows for such refinements, and to ensure that the “base” is solidly built, upon which such “refinements” can be made.

Thus, 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 put one’s energies into building the proper foundation at the outset — and, in practical terms, that means obtaining an excellent medical report.

Federal and Postal workers inquiring about Federal Disability Retirement benefits often get sidetracked with agency and employment issues which, while having some corollary or peripheral relation to one’s medical conditions and work-related concerns which may have prompted an adverse action, or even perhaps discriminatory behavior on the part of the agency; nevertheless, the focus must be upon the foundation, with all else being recognized as secondary matters to be dealt with separately.

Thus, the story of the three piggies:  remember that it was the one with the solid foundation which survived the attacks.  By analogy and metaphor:  The agency is the Big Bad Wolf; the Federal or Postal employee is the piggy; the house to be built is the Federal Disability Retirement packet.  For that, a solid foundation must be created; window dressings can come later.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement Application: Complex Interdependence of the Stages

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to recite, note, identify and apply “the law” at each stage of the process, if not for the present, then always in preparation for the future.  

No one likes to think of his or her Federal Disability Retirement application as potentially being capable of being denied at any of the multiple levels of the administrative process; everyone believes that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application is a “sure thing”, a “slam dunk”, a certainty beyond question.  The latter is a natural belief, born from a subjective experience of one who personally and immediately suffers from the very medical condition which one is complaining about.  The former acknowledgement — of understanding the potential for a denial either from the Office of Personnel Management or from the Merit Systems Protection Board, or the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit — is an unavoidable reality to be confronted.  

To acknowledge reality is a mechanism of survival; to deny a potential future event is to avoid a reasonable occurrence which, if not recognized, can have unintended consequences which can result in greater devastating residual effects if not properly prepared for.  Indeed, one should reasonably expect that, with a lower-level “preponderance of the evidence” standard of proof, that if properly and carefully prepared and formulated, that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will be approved at some point in the process.  

One has many opportunities — the Initial Application Stage at OPM; the Reconsideration Stage at the Office of Personnel Management; an appeal and a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board; a Petition for Full Review at the Merit Systems Protection Board; and an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  

Each stage is independent, yet co-dependent and interdependent.  Each stage must be meticulously prepared for its own merits, yet the groundwork set for the next stage.  Each stage is the crucial stage to win; yet, to cite legal precedents for an appeal to the next.  Never underestimate the potential for a denial; for to underestimate is merely to ask for that which one is unprepared for.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Basic Elements

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important for the Federal and Postal worker who is contemplating filing for such benefits to keep in mind certain basic elements before engaging in the entire process:  

First, it is a long and arduous process, involving multiple stages (potentially) and requiring a great amount of patience.  

Second, the Federal or Postal employee should mentally expunge from one’s mind any view that Federal Disability Retirement is an entitlement — it is not.  The conceptual distinction between an “entitlement” and a “benefit” should be clear from the outset.  The former requires one to simply satisfy certain requirements in order to obtain the benefit; the latter requires that one prove all of the legal criteria, and submit evidence showing that one is eligible by a preponderance of the evidence.  The former requires nothing more than meeting certain basic requirements, which are normally automatic (age, for example); the latter mandates that one prove one’s eligibility.  

Third, there is almost never a “slam dunk” case, where one merely gathers the most recent medical records and reports, fills out the forms, and sends in the application.  Yes, there are certain limited cases, perhaps — i.e., of a Letter Carrier or a Special Agent who becomes bedridden — but these are rare and unique cases, and even then, it is still possible that the Office of Personnel Management will find a reason to deny such a case.  

Fourth, one must always prepare a case both for success at the First Stage of the Process, while at the same time laying the foundation for subsequent stages of the process.  

And Fifth, one should attempt to avoid inconsistencies, both internal and external, in the application, as OPM always targets inconsistencies as the basis for a denial, and likes to extrapolate and use such issues to base their denials.  

These are just some basic elements to keep in mind in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire