Disability Retirement for American Federal Government Workers: Timing and Impatience

In the United States, we have come to expect efficiency and effectiveness; that is the nature of our history, and precisely why the prevailing philosophical engine has been that of “pragmatism“.  But countries evolve over time; bureaucracies become burdensome; the character of a nation may slowly, almost imperceptibly, change and alter.  Further, some actions are within the purview of one’s ability to impact; other issues are entirely outside of one’s control.

For the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to distinguish between those aspects of the administrative and procedural issues which can have some exerted control, and those which are well beyond one’s sphere of influence.  For, the test of one’s patience and growing sense of impatience will often be determined by a recognition of that which can be influenced, and that which has little to no access for such.

Timing issues can often be controlled, as in when to file; but as for the timing of OPM’s determination, that is another matter altogether.

Patience is unfortunately a virtue which is being daily tested by Federal agencies; the practical reverberating impact is upon the individual Federal and Postal employees who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (the Agency that approves and manages Disability Retirement for all Federal Employees in America)  That, too, is something which is historically inevitable — it is the individual who is impacted, while the faceless “agency” goes on about its business.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Reluctance through Negation

Making mistakes is part of the entire process of going through life; receiving advice and proper counsel helps to mitigate such mistakes; the distinction between “advice” and “information” is not merely a conceptual difference, but a pragmatic one which impacts one’s actions, thoughts, and application of thoughts to actions.  

“Going it alone” in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is no longer the only viable option; there is much information “out there” on the internet, and other publication resources are available; but as has been written about previously, there is a conceptual distinction to be made between “information” and “knowledge”, where the former is merely a compilation of facts and perspectives upon those facts, whereas the latter is a filtered compendium of the latter based upon experience, reflection, and considered logical analysis.  

The Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement, who encounters the morass of information and hesitates because of the reluctance to engage in an administrative process, complex though it may be, is making a crucial mistake.  

Most “mistakes” which result in a denial from the Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS are correctable.  Such mistakes, however, must be identified, recognized, and addressed in any subsequent appeal, either at the Reconsideration Stage of the process, or in the appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

Reluctance to begin or continue the process of preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management, because of the potential negation through mistakes, while understandable, should not result in failing to file.  

The medical condition should be the determinative factor, as well as the quality of life for the Federal or Postal Worker contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Learning from Experience

The problems inherent in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS are multi-fold and multi-tiered.  Even today, after years and years of practicing in this particular area of law, there is rarely a day which goes by that I haven’t learned something new — whether a slight wrinkle in opm disability law; whether in a nuance of a description of a particular medical condition; or in simply how a doctor has described a specific condition and its particular and unique impact upon a patient.  Experience comes from making mistakes; mistakes can be human, technical, or a combination of both.

Unfortunately, for the Federal or Postal worker who is filing, or contemplating filing, for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the process itself is essentially a “one-time” endeavor.  Yes, a person can theoretically file, then refile at a later time (side-stepping the issue of res judicata, which can, in most instances, be gotten around); but for the most part, a Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is doing it once, and only once.

As such, it is NOT the time to obtain “experience” — i.e., there is little room for “learning” from “mistakes”.

There is “good experience” and “bad experience”, but both are experiences nonetheless.  In filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, however, it is the former which needs to be experienced, and not the latter, and in such a filing process, there is indeed a difference between the two.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Mistakes Made

There is obviously an assumption to be made that if a case is denied at the initial stage of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, that a “mistake” must have been made.  The mistake, then, is given an opportunity to be “corrected” at the Second, or Reconsideration Stage, of the Federal Disability Retirement process.  Further, if the mistake is not properly corrected, or corrected to the satisfaction of the Office of Personnel Management, and it is again denied — at the Reconsideration Stage of the process — then there is the cumulative assumption that further mistakes were made in the application.  Just as success distinguishes between winners and losers, the general assumption is that a denial by the Office of Personnel Management means that there was something inherently wrong with the Federal Disability Retirement application at its inception. 

Yet, if this were true at each turn, for every case, then there would never be a case where, at the Third Stage of the process, in filing an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, that the Representative from the Office of Personnel Management would not reverse a denial and grant the disability retirement after listening to the legal arguments made by the attorney for the applicant.  Many times, it is the pointing out of overlooked aspects of a case which makes the difference between an approval or a denial — and not necessarily something that is inherently wrong, or that a “mistake” was made.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Reconsiderations

There is a line to be drawn between arguing the law within a boundary of integrity, and arguing the law beyond any reasonable interpretation of the law.  This principle is no less true in administrative law, which is what Federal Disability Retirement law is considered.  I often see non-lawyers make “legal arguments” in an initial application to the Office of Personnel Management, which is then denied, and I then enter my appearance in the case at the Second, Reconsideration Stage of the process.  That is fine — some applicants want to try and save the cost of hiring an attorney, and then decide it is necessary after it has been denied. 

However, as I often explain to clients:  while most mistakes in a Federal Disability Retirement application can be amended or explained, I do not have the magical ability to place “blinders” upon the eyes of the OPM Representative for legal or other arguments or statements made to them at the First Stage of the Process.  While my website and my articles & writings provide a good bit of information on filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and anyone can use it to his or her advantage, one bit of caution:  Don’t make legal arguments if you don’t fully know what you are talking about.  To do so more often than not results in a loss of credibility, and if your case goes before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Judge may not look favorably upon a case where a spurious argument was made at the initial stage of the process.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency which reviews, approves or denies all Federal Disability Retirement applications for those who are under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), is taking an extraordinary amount of time in reviewing disability retirement applications.  This is true across the board — whether at the initial stage of the process, or at the Reconsideration Stage of the process. 

While certain individual appeals to “personal emergencies” can sometimes move an application ahead of others, the simple fact is that OPM is understaffed and overworked.  Patience is simply the only remedy, and the OPM representative will eventually get to a particular case in the order that it was received.  Now, the question as to whether a particular case is properly prepared such that it will get approved at the first review, is a separate question.  That is why it is important to prepare a disability retirement application properly, and well, at the first stage.  Because OPM is taking a long time before it is even reviewed, it is important to try and make your best case at the first stage.  However, by “best” does not necessarily mean a volume of medical records.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire