Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Recesses and Misguided Perspectives

Plato’s recognition of how perceptual fallacies occur became an incentive for his philosophical quest to unravel the essence of a thing, in contrast to the accidental qualities which may present themselves in their visual appearance. But misjudgments concerning what a thing “is” can occur not just because of visual disturbances; they can also result from subconscious misconceptions working in the far recesses of the mind, through isolation and fear.

Such an addition to the general philosophical inquiry would not progress until many centuries later, with the advent of Freud, Jung, psychology, and the recognition of the complexity of the human condition.  Indeed, the turmoil of human beings, especially in their interaction with relational issues, compounded in the workplace, the stresses of finance and the inability to make self-preserving decisions, often results from isolation and lack of proper guidance.  Guidance is part of the key to a release from worry, anxiety and effective decision-making.

For Federal or Postal employees who suffer from a compendium of complex medical conditions, including physical pain, psychiatric devastation from Major Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD; from profound exhaustion and fatigue; the medical condition itself may prevent one from tapping into the far recesses of one’s psyche in order to come to a proper decision on matters of great importance.

Federal Disability Retirement is an option which allows for the Federal or Postal employee to reach a point of restorative quietude away from the requirements of employment burdens, in order to seek the medical help necessary.  It does not require a standard of “total disability”, but merely one of proving that the Federal or Postal employee can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  It must be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and thus is not a determination made by one’s own agency.

Isolation, fear, and the dangers of misguided perspectives which arise from the dark recesses of one’s mind — they must be counteracted by having a clarity of purpose, direction, and goals which provide for a brighter tomorrow.  If the rise of psychology does not accomplish this, then what good does it portend?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Gatekeeper II

The image of the gatekeeper is a powerful one — for it represents both sides of an analogously identical coin:  of an insurmountable impasse from the perspective of a third party, as well as the key to entry and deliverance when seen from the subjective “I”.

Stress is ultimately an inevitable and inherent part of any workplace environment.

Each of us represents a gatekeeper of sorts; what we allow to bother us, and what stresses we embrace and transport into the quietude of our own homes, will often depend upon each individual’s tolerance for the wide spectrum of ability to filter the stresses impacting our lives.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is also a gatekeeper of sorts.  The Agency empowered to make determinations on all Federal Disability Retirement applications can open the door to allowing for that crucial rehabilitative time in a person’s life, where granting of a Federal Disability Retirement application will secure one’s future and change the course of one’s life in order to avoid, avert and allow for an environment different from the stressful one which is impacting one’s health and well-being.

Ultimately, the gatekeeper him/herself — the Federal or Postal employee — must make the decision to open the door or not, and to take the next step in determining whether or not it is time to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS.  That decision — whether to open the door or not — is often the single most important step of one’s life, career, and future course of actions.

In the end, we determine who we are, what we want in life, and when the right time is, in overcoming the insurmountable; for the gatekeeper has the hidden key to the passageway to the Khyber Pass of our own future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Random Decisions

Waiting is indeed a requirement in the entire administrative process of preparing, formulating, then filing for Federal Disability Retirement Benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

As this author has repeatedly noted previously, if patience is a virtue, then it necessarily follows that Federal and Postal employees must be the most virtuous of individuals, for the very act of waiting for a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management mandates such a virtuous response from the Federal or Postal Worker who has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Is there a systematic and logical basis in the sequence and order of the decisions which are being made?  Perhaps.  Stories always abound, of course, of specific instances where a Federal Disability Retirement application was approved within a very short timeframe, but without knowledge of the specifics, including whether the facts included exigent circumstances beyond everyday occurrences, one cannot make a determination as to why an “exception” to the sequence of decision-making was made, if at all.

From an outsider perspective, it appears that the sequence of decisions made by OPM is rather random.  Yes, there is somewhat of a pattern of first-in, first-out, but of course that depends upon whether or not such a pattern is based upon the assignment of a CSA number from Boyers, PA or at the entry point of being assigned to a case worker in Washington, D.C.

The randomness can be troubling; waiting is a frustrating part of the process; but beyond that, virtue can be tested beyond the limits of reasonableness.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Insufficiency Test

The validity of an allegation that there is an insufficiency of X is partly determined by an objective standard, and partly (if not mostly) derived from a judgment as to the nexus between X and the standard to be applied.  

In Federal Disability Retirement cases, whether under FERS or CSRS, the basis of most Federal Disability Retirement denials is that there is an insufficiency of proof, whether as to issues of accommodation, medical opinion, medical documentation; questions about deficiency of service; and multiple other specified areas — but all will ultimately be determined to have a “lack” of something such that it fails to meet a “sufficiency” test.  But sufficiency can only be determined by comparing what exists (i.e., what has been previously submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) to what the legal standard of proof requires.  

Further, since the overriding legal standard is based upon a “preponderance of the evidence“, which requires that something be ‘more likely than not’, the narrow gap between human involvement in the judgement of sufficiency, and a truly objective basis for such insufficiency, is susceptible to human error.  Because of this, appearance of quantity in addition to quality is often what is required.  

As decisions by OPM are rendered by a wide range of people whose judgment, competence and approach in evaluating a case differ greatly, it is unfortunately necessary to take into consideration the foibles of human error.  Until a precise algorithm is invented which applies fairly and accurately in all cases across the board, we must continue to deal with human beings, the their errors of judgment.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: A Word about Approvals

It is the general policy of the Office of Personnel Management to withhold releasing of information concerning a pending Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, via telephone.  

This is a good policy, in that a potential conflict and mistake can occur between an action taken on a case (i.e., an approval or a denial) and what is inputted into the computer system; or, as has been the case in the past, where the secretary or receptionist divulges the decision over the telephone — and is mistaken.  

Generally, one must wait for the Office of Personnel Management to send the hard copy of the decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Receipt of the actually letter of approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management, constitutes the official notification of the decision on a pending Federal Disability Retirement application.  If the Federal or Postal employee’s representative or attorney receives the decision of approval or denial from the Office of Personnel Management, that also constitutes official notification.  

The problem of telephone notification of an approval is that, if what is told over the telephone differs from the actual notification and decision rendered by the Claims Representative who is handling the case, then obviously that would be an upsetting matter to the Federal or Postal employee who is anxiously awaiting the decision.  

For the Federal or Postal employee who has waited many, many months for a decision on a pending Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management, waiting a few more days in order to receive the actual approval letter (or a denial letter, whichever the case may be) is well worth the wait.  

It is better to wait a few more days to get the decision in person.  As the old adage goes, “A bird in hand is worth two in the bushes”…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Decisions of the Federal and Postal Employee

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, the ultimate and deciding “first step” factor which propels the entire process, of course, is entirely within the authoritative realm of the Federal or Postal employee contemplating such a course of action.  

In making any decision, however, the trajectory of options begins to diminish when the options themselves become more and more limited and restricted by external circumstances.  Thus, when the Federal or Post employee is removed and separated from Federal Service, then the option to file becomes clearly defined:  one must file within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service, or you lose your right to file forever.  Or, if the threat of being separated from service becomes cumulatively overwhelming; or, perhaps the medical condition itself, because of its progressively deteriorating aspect, imposes the necessity to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits sooner than anticipated, rather than later.  

Additionally, there are multiple scenarios which offer refinements to those already mentioned — for example, if one has already filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and in the meantime the Federal or Postal worker has been separated from Federal Service, then the ability to either file for Reconsideration (in the event of an initial denial) or appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (in the event of a second denial from the Office of Personnel Management) — as opposed to letting a Request for Reconsideration or an appeal to the MSPB lapse and begin the process all over again —  may be restricted and limited precisely because of the separation from service “in the meantime”.

Options and the ability to make the proper decision in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, should be made with the utmost of flexibility, if possible; but such flexibility and possible decision-making become more and more limited when one waits for external circumstances to intervene — i.e., the medical condition itself; the law; work circumstances; or a combination of all of the above.  Remember, most emergencies are self-made, and the destiny of one’s choices often depends upon thoughtful preparation at the beginning of a complex process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire