OPM Disability Retirement: The Process of Decision-Making

As has been previously stated in repetitive fashion, 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 to understand and acknowledge the duality of the process — for it is a process, as opposed to a singular event, both as an administrative legal issue, as well as for the individual Federal or Postal employee in a personal sense.

To clarify:  As an administrative issue, it is a process which involves multiples stages of argumentation (potentially).  Yes, it would be nice if every case was decided with an approval at the First/Initial Stage of the administrative process; however, there is a purpose and a reason why there are multiple stages.  It is precisely because it was anticipated that there would be denials and appeals to such denials, that an administrative procedure for multiple stages of review and further submissions of evidence and arguments was constructed and implemented.  It is not an entitlement pursuant to a fixed date, a fixed age, or a triggering event.  Rather, it is an administrative process which must be proven, applied for, and affirmatively shown that one is eligible.

From the personal perspective of the Federal or Postal employee, the decision of “when” to apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is also a process, as opposed to a singular event.  There are, of course, cases where a traumatic injury or life-changing accident occurred, and such an event is the triggering moment for filing.  But for most Federal or Postal employees, the medical condition suffered is a progressively deteriorating process, and it is often difficult to determine a “date certain” where one can point to on a calendar and state, this is the day and hour when I cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of my job.

This is why there is an inherent complexity to a process, as opposed to a singular event of certitude — for, it is always the unknown and the uncertain which gives rise to the anxieties of life, and a process is indeed a period of the unknown, and a chasm of uncertainty.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Waiting to Get your Federal Disability Retirement Benefits?: Well Worth It

There are many stories out there.  Indeed, as many Federal and Postal Workers who live and work throughout the United States and in Europe, Japan, and across the spectrum of the world, there is a microcosmic, personal story to be told.  That is the point of Chekhov’s short story, “Grief”, in which the father needs to relate the narrative story of the tragedy of his son’s death.  

In the impersonal world within which we live our lives, as a cocoon untouched and untouchable, there are stories and tragedies which we know not about.  Then, there are the narratives of successful outcomes; of those Federal and Postal workers who have filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, who — years later — relate tidbits of starting second vocations, of having the opportunity to rehabilitate from their medical conditions, and to start “new” lives.  

The “present” and “now” is always a time of anguish, especially if one is suffering from a medical condition, or is awaiting a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for a Federal Disability Retirement case.  

Is it worth the wait?  To ask that in the present-tense is probably not the right question.  Rather, once a Federal or Postal worker has filed, has obtained an approval, and has taken some years to move on into another stage of life, the time to ask the question is probably in a retrospective manner:  Was it worth the wait?  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee who intends on filing must understand that it can be a long and frustrating administrative process.  Hopefully, however, the hope of the future is what makes the waiting worthwhile.  For, without the hope of the future, we would all be stuck in the drudgery of the present.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Clash of Theory & Application

It is important in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, to understand, at least on a rudimentary level, the “theoretical construct” of the applicable law, before jumping into the morass of answering questions and gathering the medical documentation for submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management.  

The problem with many applications which have been prepared without the assistance of someone “in the know”, is that no effort was expended at the “front end” of the process. Such lack of expenditure at the front end of the process often leads to wasted effort and time at the “back end” of the process.  Or, in old adage verbiage, one has been “penny wise but pound foolish”.  

Theory before application is often discarded because a medical condition has progressively deteriorated one’s ability to wait any longer.  Rarely does a medical condition, whether by slow progression or by catastrophic acuity, allow for the leisure of being an armchair philosopher.  The very nature of a medical condition dictates the necessity of a person’s actions.  Federal and Postal employees don’t desire to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; the very nature of their medical conditions mandate that they do so, and to end their productive and upwardly mobile careers in a manner unwanted, undesired, and often unexpectedly.  

But theory is always of importance; understanding the law is essential to later success; reading and attempting to understand the “burden of proof”, the legal criteria and requirements, and perhaps even perusing the cases decided by the Merit Systems Protection Board — they are all “front end” helpers.

Just make sure that the “back end” of the application for one’s Federal Disability Retirement is not without support (yes, another double negative, meaning, “with support”), lest the entire process flip over.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

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