Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Unfortunately, like a Toothache

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is analogous to having a toothache — a gnawing sense of foreboding during the entire process, especially during the long period of waiting for a decision from the Office of Personnel Management.  Then, like the extracted tooth which cures all ills, an approval from the Office of Personnel Management solves many of the problems, clears up much uncertainty for the future, and allows for a good night’s sleep for the first time in many months.

The difference between filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and having a toothache, however, is that while the latter can have a solution fairly immediately, the former will linger for many months, and it is precisely the longevity of the process which is the most disconcerting.

Further, the fact that one’s own Federal agency, or the U.S. Postal Service, and specifically the Human Resources office of many agencies (there are, of course, exceptions to the general rule, though such exceptions are rare and delightful when found — sort of like coming upon a near-extinct species and recognizing the aberration of the moment) will deliberately and with purposive intent attempt to obfuscate and create unnecessary obstacles (isn’t that precisely why such euphemistic designations like, “The Office of Human Capital” is applied?) is itself disturbing, puzzling, and infuriating.  But like the toothache, all that can be done during the long administrative process is to wait for that moment of extraction — or approval, as the case may be.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Pushing for a Decision

In these difficult economic times, when alternate or secondary employment is hard at best, waiting upon the Office of Personnel Management for a decision on one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, can be unsettling.  

There are, of course, multiple ancillary methods of “putting pressure” upon the Case Worker at OPM — contacting a supervisor; repeatedly calling and leaving multiple voicemails; sometimes, contacting a congressman/woman to initiate a “congressional inquiry” into the matter.  Whether, and to what extent, such ancillary methodologies work, is anyone’s guess.  

Hume’s argument concerning causation is probably at work here:  If an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application is received shortly after pressure is initiated, one can declare that it “worked” — that the effect of an approval followed the causal impact of such pressure.  If a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application is received shortly after such pressure is initiated, perhaps one may suspect that while the pressure may not have “worked” to one’s liking, nevertheless, the fact that a decision was made shortly after the initiation of such pressure may “prove” that the effect followed the cause.  

Or, as Hume would argue, does the fact that the rooster makes a ruckus shortly before the sun rises, mean that the former caused the latter? One will never know.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management, the Agency which reviews, evaluates and makes determinations upon all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications, whether it is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is diligently attempting to adjudicate each application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

One must understand that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) does not just handle Disability Retirement applications for Federal and Postal employees — they handle all regular retirements, early retirements, and at all levels of the process — from eligibility determinations, to benefit and annuity calculations; to ensuring that the proper offsets are put in place between Social Security and Federal annuities; and, moreover, any over-payments or errors which may have occurred in the course of establishing benefits and payments are also reviewed and handled by OPM.  

From the perspective of the individual Disability Retirement applicant or annuitant, the length of time it takes, or the lack of responsiveness, may appear as if a particular individual is being “singled out” in the long delay and lengthy wait.  From the perspectively of OPM, however, such an individual is merely one of many, many cases awaiting adjudication. Discussions with various personnel at OPM reveal that there is simply a backlog of cases, with many, many cases coming in every day.  Patience is the only solution; it is an administrative, bureaucratic process, and when one freely enters into it, one must accept the timeline of the process itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Wait Seems Longer

For those waiting for their Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, pending before the Office of Personnel Management, the wait seems to be getting longer and longer.  Whether at the initial stage of the application process, or at the Reconsideration Stage, OPM is taking longer to make a decision on a pending application.  Everyone, of course, wants his or her application to be the next in line; and, indeed, it is all the more frustrating when an applicant is told that a decision will be made “within the next 2 weeks”, and after the 2-week period comes and passes, still no decision. 

What makes it worse is that, even after an approval, there seems to be longer delays in processing the approved application before payment is received.  Further, even after the “interim” payments begin, there appears to be a longer wait before a case is “finalized” for payment processing.  Each period of delay results in a ripple-effect throughout the system as a whole, and indeed, in these economic times of hardship, it  places an even greater burden upon those who need the financial benefit most — those who are disabled, and who rely upon the benefit of disability retirement payments for their very livelihood.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Continuing Patience

It is difficult to be patient.  The Office of Personnel Management, in reviewing and evaluating each case, takes its time.  One can attempt to “read into” each day, as to whether the longer wait is more beneficial than a decision which is to be made in short order.  Calling to check on the “status” of the case can have a negative effect upon a decision, although it is not “supposed to” do so. 

Often, the response by OPM’s representative is that a decision will be made “this week” or “next week” or “by the end of the month”.  Time passes, and there is no decision.  These past couple of weeks, OPM has sent out many decisions that were long-in-waiting.  When the decision is a favorable one, then of course the burden of the wait is suddenly lifted.  When the decision is a denial, then the response is often one of anger, disbelief or discouragement.  Once the emotions are set aside, then one must accept the reality of further waiting.  Yes, patience is a virtue, and Federal and Postal employees must be the virtuous of all people.  But those are empty, vacuous and meaningless words when one must wait to see what the future holds. 

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

OPM Disability Retirement: Snow (and More Snow)

By all accounts, the amount of snow which has hit the D.C. & surrounding metropolitan area constitutes a record amount. With 25 – 30 inches already on the ground and stretching the resources of state and local governments, there is another winter weather warning, of another 10-plus inches of snow. The Federal Government has shut down today (Monday); that means that the Office of Personnel Management, Disability Retirement Section, has been shut down. While the white blanket is certainty a picture of beauty to behold, those who have Federal Disability Retirement applications awaiting a decision, and those who will be shortly filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS will have further delays because of the shut-down of the Federal government.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire