CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Stuck in Time

Each of us embraces an era, a period, a slice of time with which we relate to, have fond remembrances of, or for whatever quirky reasons, possess an affinity or attachment to.   Perhaps it is the Fifties, with its stodgy reputation for conventionalism; or the radicalization of the Sixties; via music, movements, political upheavals or cultural phenomena, certain time periods seem to have a hold upon people, depending upon personalities, upbringing, backgrounds and interests.

There is nothing wrong with such creative time travels; it is a recreational endeavor of which we all engage; of watching movies, about which we read books; or even some will don a piece of clothing, such as a bow tie or a style of shoes.   Enjoying a time period can be a soothing leisure activity, often without being conscious of the affinity and connections itself; but it is when we become stuck in time, that problems arise.

That is often how a medical condition pivots a person; unexpectedly and unpreparedly, a chronic, progressively deteriorating medical condition will freeze a person’s family, career, goals and aspirations in a period of time, unable to get unstuck or have the flexibility and options necessary for forward movement or progress.

For Federal and Postal employees, the alternative of filing for and obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, allows for the potential capacity to become unstuck again.

Imaginary time travel, for purposes of recreational activities, can be an enjoyable past time; but when one becomes stuck in time involuntarily and through unforeseen circumstances, getting stuck in time becomes a pathway of unforgiving proportions which must be maneuvered out of.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Memories

Memories induce a peculiar phenomena; by expunging them, we can perhaps sidestep sadness and loss.  With them, we are left with a lasting image of who we were, who we are, and who we have become, with a hope for recovery when we have lost our “place in society”.

Illness and disability often perverts our memories; the suffering person will often have a misplaced and skewed memory of the person he or she once was.

For the Federal or Postal Worker who is experiencing and undergoing the trauma of a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, it is often the pervasive memory of a time past, which continues to impede a necessary present course of action.  But before one gets to a critical point of crisis management, it is important to engage a realistic assessment of one’s present circumstances, and determine one’s future course of actions, and not be diverted by the memories of one’s past glory days.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit accorded to all Federal and Postal Workers who have the minimum eligibility criteria met (18 months for those under FERS; 5 years for those under CSRS), and should be looked upon as part of one’s total employment benefits, to be utilized when needed.

It is a benefit which must be ultimately submitted to, and approved by, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Consider the future; let not memories of past days confound the need to take direct and proper actions today; for, in the end, there will time to reflect and remember in future days to come.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Some Basics

Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an administrative process which one must undergo if a Federal or Postal employee is medically unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s position.

It is a benefit which is accessible only if proven; and proof must meet the legal standard of “preponderance of the evidence“, through a tripartite methodology:  Evidence of the existence of a medical condition; the nexus of that medical condition impacting upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; and that such a medical condition(s) cannot be legally accommodated by the agency such that the Federal or Postal employee can perform all of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job.

While the Federal or Postal employee has up until one (1) year from the date of separation from Federal Service to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the proof of when the nexus formed between one’s medical condition and the impact upon the position of one’s Federal Service, must have occurred during the Federal Service.

These are just some basics of Federal Disability Retirement law; the complexity, of course, resides in the details, and it is always the details which provide the fodder for an OPM denial.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Surprise in the Universe of Reconsiderations

Until the science of Physics can implement the ability of molecular and particle transference technology (i.e., “Beam me up, Scotty”), there is little potential of resolving the Cartesian mind/body dualism (i.e., that French Philosopher Rene Descartes, who bifurcated the world between the material and the spiritual). But such dualism in philosophical terms does not mean that we can be at two places at one time; or even attempt to be “objective” when the subjective “I” is the very same person who is attempting to appear objective.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, when the U.S. Office of Personnel Management issues a denial letter, the customary response by the denied OPM applicant, whether a Postal Worker or a non-Postal Federal Worker, is that he or she is “surprised” by the initial denial because of the strength, completeness, and thoroughness of one’s Disability Retirement packet.  But that should be a given.

No one who files with OPM should do so without meeting the requisite foundations of thoroughness or completeness.  But this is where the problem is:  the very person who determines that a Federal Disability Retirement application is sufficient, is the same person who suffers from the very medical conditions of which the application speaks about.

The subjective/objective coalescence makes for a difficult mind/body dualism, in that the one who suffers from the medical condition can hardly assess and evaluate, in an objective manner, the strength of the Federal Disability Retirement application.

Thus, the Cartesian mind/body dualism lives on, and until Captain Kirk can guide us otherwise, such bifurcated dualism will continue to pervade all Federal Disability Retirement applications, whether under FERS or CSRS, and the denials which follow will still have the familiar response of, “Surprise!

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Denials

Denials come with an unexpected force and impact; for, in every Federal Disability Retirement case, there is the expectation that the application itself merits close scrutiny and a belief that a proper review will persuade the OPM trier of facts that the Federal Disability Retirement application should be approved.

Indeed, from the perspective of the applicant, who is suffering from the medical condition itself on a daily basis, it is often a reaction of disbelief and anger when a denial is issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  But one must understand that this administrative process identified as “Federal Disability Retirement” is one which is not an “entitlement”, but rather, an adversarial process where proof, argumentation and persistent appellate procedures must be invoked at every step of the way.

That is why, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one needs to always prepare a case as if it will ultimately go to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Further, it is understandably disappointing to read an OPM denial and find that the OPM case worker does not even mention or refer to much of the substantive medical documentation submitted, but instead blindly (and generically) issues a template of tired old phrases, such as, “You did not meet the legal criteria“; “The evidence did not show that…”

With hundreds of cases assigned to each OPM Case Worker, one must understand that denials are rarely personal; but in responding to a denial from OPM, one must be diligent, forceful, and approach it with the use of all legal tools available.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Laws, Facts & Persuasive Argumentation

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to distinguish between laws, facts, and persuasive argumentation, as well as the targeted audience to whom such distinguishing elements are being conveyed.

For the first two “stages” of the administrative process, the Federal or Postal employee will be addressing personnel at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  This is merely at the “administrative”, or “agency” level of the process. Thus, the initial review, analysis, and application of the legal criteria will be performed by a non-lawyer, and any application of a legal criteria to determine the eligibility of the Federal Disability Retirement application will be done in a rather mechanical manner.  

By “mechanical manner” is merely meant that the criteria to be applied is merely an extrapolated generic form of interpretation, and will be applied by comparing the “list” of legal criteria against the submission of the Federal or Postal employee.  Whether there is sufficient justification in the medical report and records; whether the description of the Federal or Postal employee’s job comports with the official position description; whether the agency has offered an “accommodation”, and if so, in what form; whether a reassignment to another position at the same pay or grade was offered and declined — and other applicable criteria will be applied, analyzed and annotated by the OPM Representative.  

If the Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at this initial stage of the process, then it will again be reviewed at the Reconsideration Stage of the process — assuming that the Federal or Postal employee files a timely Request for Reconsideration with the Office of Personnel Management.  

It is at the next stage of the administrative process — an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board — that any legal argument will ultimately begin to carry significant and relevant weight.  For, at the MSPB, an Administrative Judge will review the entire file, and proceed to conduct an administrative hearing “de novo”, or “fresh” or “anew”, and weigh the evidence, the legal arguments, and determine the persuasive impact of either or both.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire