Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: The Qualifying Standard

What if a group of individuals gathered to compete in a race, of sorts, and trained, engaged in strenuous preparatory work and did all of the things necessary in order to “qualify”? They all gather on the agreed-upon date and, in customary athletic clothing, run a predetermined distance where 3 individuals out of ten cross a white line in sequential fashion. There is no doubt as to who the 3 “front runners” were. Yet, when the prizes are handed out, they are given to the 10th, 7th and 5th place runners. There is an understandable uproar. A protest is filed.

Umpires and referees gather (are there such people, or is that just in baseball, football, soccer and basketball?) and discuss the situation at length. Small, hand-held rule books are consulted and the audience sits in anguished silence as the outcome is debated in a deliberative fashion. Furrowed eyebrows are mashed in faces of concerned silence; the crowd that had gathered to witness the sporting event argue vociferously over the unfairness of it all; television crews have arrived, having been tipped off that a major scandal has been scented and the sharks have gathered for the afternoon kill.

No one notices that a little old man who has stood watching the entire spectacle with a peaceful, quiet calm has slowly made his way onto the platform where a microphone has been set up. He approaches the podium, adjusts the contraption and begins thus: “Ahem”. He pauses, waiting for everyone at the event to recognize the point from where the clearing of his throat originated, and continues on: “I am Mr. X; I organized this event. If you look at the last paragraph of the rules-book, it specifically states the following: ‘Mr. X is the sole determiner of the qualifying standard’. I am, as I said, Mr. X, and I determined that runners 5, 7 and 10 are the winners. End of story”. The little old man then turns around and walks back down, and away from the event.

Now, for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition leads the Federal or Postal employee to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, this story may appear to parallel the manner in which the U.S. Office of Personnel Management acts: As a law unto itself.

Fortunately, they are not the sole arbiter of the qualifying standard and, instead, there is such a thing as “The Law”. In order to apply the law and force OPM to follow the true and only qualifying standard, however, it is necessary to “know” the law; and, in order to do that, it is best to consult with an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement Law. Otherwise, you might be subject to the same standard (or lack thereof) as the little old man who does what he wants on any given day depending on how he feels on that day, or in that moment.

Sincerely,

Robert R.McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement Appeal: Second Opportunities

In life, how often do we get a “second opportunity”?  To correct a past mistake; to avoid the consequences of an error committed; to rekindle a damaged relationship; and other acts of revitalized and redemptive scenarios rarely allowed.

Second opportunities, and the rare third ones, allow for erasures to be made, modifications to be incorporated and additional, corrective information to be inserted.  Of the following, what would one think? “Oh, a mistake was made in the contract which goes against you, but not to worry, go ahead and make the changes and we can sign everything again as if … “ Or: “Oh, your rich aunt disinherited you after you called her that horrible name and in a drunken rage knocked her over the head with vase, but not to worry, she forgives you and has placed you back in her will.”

Those are, to be sure, instances of second opportunities, but rarely to be had and more likely to occur in fictionalized accounts of redemptive fantasies otherwise unpublished because of their unlikely occurrences.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal Workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the “Second Opportunity” (and the “Third”) comes in the form of the Reconsideration Stage, and then an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Don’t let such an opportunity for corrective action slip through the “proverbial fingers” by making the same mistake twice.  It is, at either the Reconsideration Stage or the appeal to the MSPB, an opportunity to fill in any gaps (whether merely perceived by OPM or substantively existing, it doesn’t really matter); and to reinforce any lack of medical evidence by having the opportunity to supplement, and even modify, statements made or omissions allowed.

Some OPM Disability Retirement cases may be weak in their very essence, whether because of lack of medical support or because of other reasons undefinable; other cases may simply need further development, explanation or supplemental evidence to “shore up” the unpersuasive peripheral issues that have appeared in the case.  Both the Reconsideration Stage, as well as the appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, open opportunities to resolve one’s case in one’s favor — by being granted the ultimate end and goal with an approval of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

The road to attain that goal, however, must sometimes travel through multiple doors and second opportunities, and that is how one should see the Second (Reconsideration) and Third (an appeal to the MSPB) Stages of the process in trying to get one’s OPM Disability Retirement application approved.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal Employees: Broken Promises

It is a surprise that we are constantly surprised by them.  Why should we be?  Do we elevate man to such a pinnacle of virtue as the angels who look down upon us with remorseful eyes?  Are there more of them today, like shattered mirrors or destroyed lives littering the highways of hopeful futures stretching out into a path of devastated backdrops in the history of unknown commoners who lay quietly in the tombs that speak not but in haunting whispers in muted graveyards long abandoned with the silence of church bells that no longer toll?

Promises are but linguistic constructs that are controlled by the good intentions of those who make them, and restricted by the constraints of social virtues that no longer exist, have been modified, disavowed and have now been deemed archaic in this modernity of relative moral standards.

Once upon a time (or so the fairytale goes), a handshake, a nod, a single word without the written confirmation, the 10-page fax to declare a deal made, or the fine-print of agreements incomprehensible – they constituted the affirmation of man’s purity of intent, motivation and virtuous underbelly unseen but for the flight of angels touching and tugging upon our conscience when evil forces attempted to lead us astray.

Now, we have found the power of linguistic elasticity.  It is no longer a “lie”, and perhaps it was always known, just as Eve realized the cunning of justification, persuasive argumentation and methodological coercion; no, broken promises no longer exist – instead, it is a mutual “misunderstanding”, failure of minds to meet, or just plain wrong-headedness on the part of the one who relied upon a promise made.

No one really believes anyone else’s handshake, anymore – and, in any event, who shakes hands these days?  What can it mean but a mere vestige of an arcane eccentricity that needs be relegated to those rustic movies where granddad and obscure relatives and neighbors would jump from frame-to-frame in old movies where a wave to the camera was the memorabilia to preserve, now replaced by thousands of Selfies stored in electronic devices neither for posterity nor discretion of family enjoyment, but for self-aggrandizement and public display for prurient intentions.

Like granddad’s smile that once reassured as the solid Rock of Gibraltar, promises don’t mean anything, anymore.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who think that assurances of accommodating medical conditions because, somehow, laws are in place that provide for that, think about it for a moment:  Without the laws, would a promise mean anything?  Further, do the laws really protect, or are they also just linguistic modalities easily manipulated?  Fortunately, however, laws can work both ways, and Federal Disability Retirement Law operates in favor of Federal and Postal employees with a standard of proof geared towards an approval – of a preponderance of the evidence.

No, the promises made by Federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service may not amount to much, and the heap of junk piles left behind by broken promises may litter the once-beautiful landscape of arcane handshakes in years past, but the availability of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits remains a reality for those Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who find that there is now an incompatibility between one’s medical conditions and the performance of one’s essential elements of the Federal or Postal job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Medical Retirement for Federal Employees: Illness

It is the pause button rendered by the universe, often without warning, without invitation and unwelcomed by all.  Is it the gods laughing in the heavenly seclusion, as wanton children playing with the mortality of souls unrequited, as matches in the hands of mischievous hearts undisciplined by law, life or empathy?

Then comes the triteness of wisdom, yet true but too late: “Oh, what a blessing health is”; “Is there a lesson to be learned?”; “Why me?”.  Is this the crisis of life that is merely an obstacle to overcome, or the long road towards a progressive decline where mortality is not just tested, but revealed as the weak link in the proverbial chain of man-to-gods-to the theology of our own creation?

Illness comes like that unwitting thief in the dead of night, but unlike the burglar who tries to remain silent but for creaking floors and unoiled passageways, it comes without concern for being revealed.  Does the universe test – or remain impervious like Aristotle’s Unmoved Mover, where perfection attracts all towards its essence and destroys everything that attempts to escape?  Who determines the criteria of such a test?  What constitutes a “passing grade” as opposed to a failure in its mere attempt?  Is the evaluation contained within the strength of one’s own character, and what results in a declaration of “success” as opposed to the failure of everyday lives?

If it is truly a test of character, then Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers certainly get enough of it to collectively get a passing grade.  Yes, fortunately, there is the option of filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, but for almost all Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers, the reality is that such a step is the last option chosen.

It is not so much that the benefit reaped from a Federal Disability Retirement is so miserly as to not make it worthwhile; no, to a great extent, the annuity of 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of pay, then 40% every year thereafter until recalculation at age 62 is generous enough to survive upon, especially when the alternative is to remain and kill oneself, resign and walk away with nothing, or file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; and, in conjunction with the ability to go out into the private sector and be able to make (on top of the Federal Disability Retirement annuity) up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays – it can lead to an acceptable level of financial security.

Ultimately, however, it is a truism that Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers wait until the final possible moment before making the decision to file a Federal Disability Retirement, often allowing the illness to debilitate beyond the point of reasonable acceptance.  That, in and of itself, is a character test, and one that makes the illness itself of secondary concern, when one’s health should be given the highest priority, lest we allow the gods of wanton carelessness to have the last laugh.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement under FERS/CSRS: Perfect lives

Where are they?  Beyond Platonic Forms and heavenly orbs where the golden dust sparingly sprinkled from the wings of angels in flight, do perfect lives exist and, if so, where?  We can suspend disbelief and fantasize of celebrities and the lives of Wall Street wolves with their mansions, beautiful bodies and facial grimaces so tightened by plastic surgery as to make smiling an exertion of monumental phenomena; but, in the end, we all realize that the pinnacle of human achievement is but another endeavor of human fallacy, and never approaching the omniscience of an Aristotelian Unmoved Mover.

If we posit that perfect lives do not exist, then does that vanquish the argument for perfection even of relevance in conceptual or hypothetical argumentation?  If that, then why strive for betterment at all, if there is no standard to which one should attempt to reach?  If everything is merely relative, how can we compare a relativity devoid of standards upon a non-existent spectrum between good, better and best?

Perfection, of course, for the obsessed, can be paralyzing, precisely because a further amendment, another change, an additional revision, can always arguably make it “more perfect” than not, and therefore one can be left swimming amidst the toxicity of a never-ending eternity of perfecting the imperfections that can never achieve perfection.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are preparing an imperfect Federal OPM Disability Retirement application, to be submitted first through one’s agency and the Human Resource Office (if still with the agency or, even if separated, not for more than 31 days), then on to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, be wary of becoming immobilized because you are unable to reach a standard of perfection that will “guarantee” a First Stage Success.

Life never allows for guarantees, leaving aside perfection in an imperfect world.  Administrative and bureaucratic procedures mirror life itself:  OPM’s imperfect methodology of human engagement in determining the validity of a Federal Disability Retirement application is simply another component within life’s vast array of imperfection.

The key in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application is not whether the Federal Disability Retirement packet is “perfectly” compiled, but the more relevant question:  Is it an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, with the components included of a persuasive narrative, a strong legal argument, and a methodology which includes a roadmap for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to approve the Federal Disability Retirement application?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire