OPM Disability Retirement: The History of Agency Interaction

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is often a long history of interaction with one’s own agency, and to what extent such prior historical context is or is not relevant to a Federal Disability Retirement application depends upon the uniqueness of each case.

Some issues constitute an impact upon the Federal or Postal employee only — i.e., leave issues, whether FMLA has been invoked and how much has already been used; whether the Federal or Postal employee has been able to provide any substantiating medical documentation to the agency, etc.

Other issues are more in the province of the Agency — how patient will the agency be during the process of awaiting OPM’s decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS; has a PIP already been initiated?  Is there a security clearance issue, or an issue with retention of a medical clearance in order to perform one’s job?

Then, of course, there are issues which intersect, and where an adversarial — or at least a conflicting — relationship develops.  When the agency attempts to initiate an adverse action, or when harassment occurs, the issues which arise may need to be resolved through litigation, filing of a grievance, internal personnel procedures invoked, etc.

Ultimately, whether or not any of the various peripheral issues impact a Federal Disability Retirement application is questionable, because it is not the agency itself which determines the approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, but only the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Words, Actions and Comparative Analysis in Federal Disability Retirement

The test of sincerity is determined by the actions which follow upon words.  Words themselves are merely malleable vehicles, subject to linguistic gymnastics, and can have interpretive chameleon-like characteristics.  Thus, a declarative statement issued by an individual, in the form of, “I will take care of it!” seemingly solves a problem — immediately, by the mere force of the statement, and in the very usage of the words chosen.

Indeed, in this world of Facebook, websites and technology-based apparatus of endless statements without the need to act, but merely to speak it; where words constitute the substance of an entity; and where a person can appear to be X merely by declaring X; a comparative analysis of sincerity is necessary.  It is ultimately the action which follows, which determines the sincerity of the words stated.

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 that the documentary evidence provided to OPM in support of the Federal Disability Retirement application, reveals a comparative consistency with the Applicant’s Statement of Disability as declaratively issued in response to Standard Form 3112A.  For, that is the primary basis of a denial by the case worker at OPM in evaluating and reviewing a Federal Disability Retirement application — by comparing the statements made, and the medical reports, records, office notes, etc., which are provided.  That is why merely having the doctor send the records to one’s Agency, then forwarded to OPM, without first having an opportunity to see what is being sent, is tantamount to malpractice.

Words and actions — the test of sincerity, and the comparative basis for an approval in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Gaps & Chasms

For those following the blogs of the undersigned attorney, some may have noticed a slight gap between the last time one was posted, and the present one; one may attribute the gap of time to one of the proverbial “technical difficulties” which are beyond one’s control, leaving aside the issue of sanity.

The problem with a “gap” in time is that it has the insidious nature of eventually turning into a chasm; for, again, the slow, incremental nature of time allows us to overlook the slow progression, until you look at it from a distance.  One day turns into a week; a week, into a month; and so the incremental progression of a slight gap widens into a chasm of separability.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the difference between a “gap” and a “chasm” is often what the OPM Case Worker will often review and focus upon.  There is always an optimal time-sequence for every event.  Gaps between medical appointments; between the last diagnostic test; more subtle gaps of an inverse order — of how long one has been able to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job despite a particular sort of injury or medical condition.

Gaps tend to become chasms when one is too busy “living life” and trying to attend to all of the responsibilities of a single day.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement, however, it is best to prioritize the issues confronting one’s life, and to attend to the issue of one’s medical condition as aggressively as possible.  For, in the end, the issue of one’s health tends to impact all other aspects of life, and the one gap which should not become a chasm, concerns the health of the individual.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Precision of Terms

Tools and weapons can be interchangeably and effectively utilized, and often with appropriate results; however, normally the intended usage is the preferred application, especially if one desires a result of precision and craftsmanship.  Thus, while using a shotgun to hunt pheasant is entirely appropriate, it may not be the best weapon of choice to kill a squirrel (although, again, it may still be quite effective).  Or, using a corkscrew to make a hole in the drywall may be effective, but perhaps messy.  While adaptation may be a sign of higher intelligence, it may also be indicative of a lack of appropriate knowledge.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the “shotgun” approach used by many Federal or Postal applicants is often indicative of a misunderstanding of the applicable and relevant laws which must be addressed in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Or, there are Federal Disability Retirement applications where repetitive “name-dropping” occurs — implying some knowledge, but to a dangerously limited extent.  “Bracey”, “Trevan”, “Bruner”, and multiple other names are inserted, often in contextually inappropriate ways (including, one hesitates to add, by lawyers and law firms), as if they are characters in a mystery novel, or perhaps in an HBO detective series.  Or, general terms such as “causality”, “rating”, “maximum medical improvement”, while appropriate in other types of compensatory filings, are almost entirely meaningless for purposes of obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Precision of terms is necessary in the endeavor of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; for, in the end, the effective tool is the one chosen for its intended purpose, just as man without a teleological essence, is merely a wandering ape in a jungle of arbitrary appearances.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Always the Basics Matter

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 always instructive to remind one’s self that the focus of any application should be placed upon the basic components of a Federal Disability Retirement application, and once that focal point is embraced, to reiterate and reinforce that aspect of the Disability Retirement application.

Often, when one requests and receives a blank packet of information, including all of the Standard Forms, instructions, financial forms and life insurance forms, etc., to fill out and complete, the sense of being overwhelmed can easily defeat a Federal Disability Retirement application at the outset.

There are multiple personal questions; information requested on military service, on receipt of OWCP benefits; then the complexity of the queries focuses upon those rather simple but “tricky” questions concerning Agency actions, about whether one has “requested” an accommodation; to describe one’s medical conditions, etc.  How a question should be answered is indeed crucial in the successful filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application; whether the answers given should be consistently coordinated with other answers provided is equally of importance.

Ultimately, the basic components of a Federal Disability Retirement application embrace the relationship between the medical condition suffered, and the impact upon one’s positional duties required to be performed.  But, inasmuch as it is not the Agency of the Federal or Postal employee who makes the decision concerning an OPM Disability Retirement application, but the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to understand that while the answers given involve the actions of the relationship between a Federal and Postal employee and one’s agency, it is ultimately people outside of the agency to whom such answers must be directed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Clarification of Options

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 often necessary to perform a methodological analysis similar to a “risk-benefits” evaluation before proceeding down the path in attempting to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The risks versus benefits analysis should already have been performed:  the necessity of filing because of one’s medical conditions should have answered any such issues arising from such a concern.  The “other” analytical approach, however, often revolves around the ever-prevalent and uniquely human ability to endlessly ruminate:  the “What if” syndrome.  What if I don’t get the disability retirement?  What if my agency terminates me before I get approved?  What if…

Such questions, while important to consider, should be first preceded by the overarching “what-if” question of all, which generally answers all subsequent similar questions:  “What if I don’t file?”  Presumably, one comes to a point in deciding to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits because of a medical condition which has progressively or suddenly come to a point where it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Given that, the options to be clarified are quite simple:  If one does not file, then one will either have to continue working in the same or similar capacity; or one can resign and walk away, perhaps with a deferred retirement at age 65.  Are any of those options truly viable?  Ergo, many — if not all — of the other “what if” questions resolve themselves by first clarifying the penultimate what-if question.

Sequential clarification of one’s options is an important step in the reflective process of decision-making; take the time to consider the options; clarify the options; then, when the decision to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefitsbecomes a matter of necessity, move forward with the view that one will be approved precisely because the facts prove the case, without engaging in the self-defeating, very-human endeavor of self-doubt and questioning.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Reminding the Agency of the Administrative Process

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under the Federal Employee’s Retirement System (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), a reminder is often necessary to the agency which retains the Federal or Postal employee on the active rolls, that it is an administrative process, and not a singular event representing an entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Of course, the Agency itself has a self-interested motive in the outcome of the Federal Disability Retirement application, especially if the Federal or Postal employee continues to occupy the positional slot of the agency.  For, so long as the Federal or Postal employee continues to remain on the rolls, it cannot officially fill the empty slot.

Thus, what often happens if a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage of the administrative process, is that the Agency will immediately attempt to threaten the individual and demand that the Federal or Postal employee return to work by a date certain, or justify the medical basis upon which the continuing absence occurs.  By then, all FMLA rights may have been exhausted; sick leave may be depleted, etc.

At this point, the Agency Human Resources Office needs to be reminded that, as an administrative process, there are multiple levels of appeals, and the mere fact that a Federal Disability Retirement application has been denied at the First Stage is not a basis for the Agency’s demand to return to work.

Agencies tend to be hard of hearing, however, and a law unto themselves.  That’s not surprising for most Federal employees and Postal workers; indeed, you have had to endure such a perspective of self-centered attitude throughout your Federal or Postal careers, and this information is merely reinforcement of what you already knew.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Complexity & Context

Complexities in any field, whether general, technical or mundane, possess a context which includes its history, its underlying purpose, and the years of evolving issues which have impacted the expanding compendium of rules, regulations, statutes and procedural mandates.  The previously-stated sentence is itself a paradigm of such complexity, and unless a proper context is provided, retains scant meaning except in a garbled conglomeration of independent words.

Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is somewhat akin to the context-less complexity experienced by any Federal or Postal Worker who approaches such an administrative process.  Those who have been involved in the substantive and procedural morass understand the methodology, means and minutiae which must be engaged in order to successfully maneuver through the regulatory and administrative process.  But most Federal and Postal employees have a singular contact with the entire process (and thankfully so), without a context of how, why, or when it reached a level of such complexity that it became necessary to search for some guidance to understand the very process itself.

Unfortunately, Human Resources personnel are often unhelpful or uninformed themselves.  The statutes, laws and procedural regulations which are supposed to guide the Federal or Postal employees have themselves become a conglomeration of complexities.  And the ability to discern and distinguish between information, helpful information, and errant information, has become a problem in and of itself.

Best to take some time at the front end to simply gather some facts, and determine what the central issues are.  Taking the time at the front end to tackle the complexities, and understand the context, will save some troubles down the road.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: SSDI, FERS & Persuasive Impact

As part of the process in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one must file for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) — if the Federal or Postal worker filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is under the FERS programs (CSRS employees are exempted because it is not tied to the Social Security component as part of the retirement system).

A small percentage of cases actually get approved by Social Security prior to a decision being made by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  When that happens (and yes, it is fairly rare, if only because most Federal and Postal employees filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits do so with a recognition that (A) they cannot do a particular kind of job, and (B) with a view towards working at another job, career, vocation, etc., whether part-time or full-time), then the question becomes:  What does one do with an SSDI approval letter?  Trevan v. OPM and subsequent cases, of course, comprise the rule on the matter; but such court cases essentially state that the decision of the Social Security Administration, as well as other Federal entities, are merely persuasive, as opposed to determinative.  But how persuasive?  Persuasive is a relative term.

To an unsuspecting innocent bystander, a person of reprehensible intensions may “persuade” quite easily; to the cynic and man of suspicious nature, “persuasion” may take the full effort of a team of con artists.  For the OPM Case Manager in the OPM Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals division, a decision by the Social Security Administration will take a 3-legged approach to have any impact at all:  (A)  the decision itself, (B) the case-law which makes the Federal Agency’s decision relevant to an OPM Disability Retirement case, and (C) accompanying medical evidence.  And, of course, the 4th component in all of this would be the methodological argumentation by the Applicant or the Federal Disability Attorney who argues effectively the previously-cited 3 components.

Persuasion is a “relative” term — indeed, relatives tend to be more familiar and therefore easily persuaded; strangers to the process need not apply.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire