Federal Employee’s Disability Retirement: The Non-standard Approach to Standard Forms

Standard Forms are created, produced and promulgated precisely for their stated and intended purpose:  to streamline and conventionalize (yes, that is really a proper word, and spellcheck did not put a red line beneath it) the formatted receipt of information by an agency of the Federal Government.  Without Standard Forms, there would be no confining methodology of what to say, how to say it, and how much to say it.

The theory behind standard government forms is simple:  By providing the space, the questions and the apparent limitations, ease of processing will be expedited.

Of course, in pragmatic terms, the reality behind the theory is that Standard Forms create an intended limitation on space, as well as the content of what a person states or desires to state.  Yet, by self-confining the answers and information provided, the applicant for Federal Disability Retirement is essentially depending upon government lawyers to properly interpret what the statute for eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement requires.

While staying somewhat within the confines of what the Standard Forms request is a “good” thing (for Federal Disability Retirement purposes, SF 3107 series for FERS applicants; SF 2801 series for CSRS applicants; SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, SF 3112D, and SF 3112E for both FERS and CSRS applicants), it should not limit or otherwise prevent the submission of relevant information.  “Relevancy”, of course, is a relative term, and should be noted and applied by those who understand the statutory underpinnings of the legal requirements for a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.

Ultimately, one should approach the standardization of the administrative process called “Federal Disability Retirement” as merely a piece of the larger puzzle, and not be precluded from submitting non-standardized information in an effort to prevail in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Process

The engagement of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a “process” both on a macro as well as a micro level.

On a macro level, the ability to consolidate the variety and complexity of information; of understanding that there are multiple levels in the administrative labyrinth of a Federal Disability Retirement application, beginning with the initial stage of the process; then, if denied, the Second, or Reconsideration Stage of the process; then, if denied a second time, an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board; then a potential filing of a Petition for Full Review; and, finally, an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; all told, the aggregate of all of the procedural hurdles can be characterized as a “process”, precisely because of the complexity of each stage building upon the previous one.

On a micro level, it is similarly a process, but in a different sense.  The “pieces of the puzzle” must be gathered, and the best way to do so is in a methodologically sequential manner, one which reflects a logical structure, as opposed to a haphazard compilation of facts, tidbits, arguments and rants strung together into a barely coherent whole.

Remember that putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application must reflect an argument with a purpose — of proving one’s case by a preponderance of the evidence.  As such, understanding the “process” of such an endeavor is important in the very preparation of one’s case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: An Inherently Adversarial Process

One often hears about administrative procedures — that they are somehow distinguishable from court cases, EEOC proceedings, grievances, etc., in that they are “non-adversarial” procedures.  Really?  In designating it as such, one becomes lulled into thinking that, somehow, preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is merely a matter of completing and submitting paperwork.

In a society which enjoys the safety of linguistic euphemisms, however, such an approach to an important application for benefits can result in devastating consequences.

Does a bureaucracy which is set up exclusively to review and potentially deny a Federal Disability Retirement application have the appearance of a non-adversarial process? Does the fact that one has a right to appeal it to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, then to a panel of Administrative Judges for a “Full Review”, then to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, possess the scent of non-adversity?

A system which is set up with a specified statute of limitations, which employs procedural and substantive legal criteria set up to deal with appeals and submission of evidence; of a body of law which applies to determine the sufficiency of evidence; such a system is inherently adversarial in nature, and whatever words or string of words one might use to describe such a system, it is first and foremost, an adversarial process.

Treat it as such, or enter into its arena with caution and forewarning.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Adversarial Structure

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, has inherently an adversarial structure built into the entire administrative process.  This is ultimately unavoidable, but one should not be persuaded into complacency about the bureaucratic side of things, merely because a Human Resources office describes it as procedural in nature, and merely an “administrative” matter.

That is precisely why there are appellate stages built into the system — first, within the administrative procedure itself, of filing a “Request for Reconsideration” within the same agency which denies the Federal Disability Retirement application, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, then the ability to appeal the case to a separate, independent body, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board; and further to a 3-Judge panel of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, which is identified as a “Petition for Full Review” (PFR).  Beyond that, there is an oversight mechanism provided via further review, by the ability to file an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which reviews the legal application and its sufficiency through overview of the laws applied.

Indeed, one need only look at the structural mechanisms in place to understand that, far from being merely an “administrative” process, it is adversarial in nature, and should be treated at the outset as such.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Danger of the Sure Thing

The danger of any “sure thing” is that, aside from the potential reversal of fortune if the assumed certainty fails to come to fruition, the acceptance of the claim of certainty in and of itself undermines the motivational factor in the very process of attempting to reach a goal.

A recent article in the New York Times told of another high school basketball prodigy who was “destined” for greatness in the NBA, only to descend into the ranks of the “has-beens” and those who had “great potential” but somehow never realized and actualized such potential greatness.  Rare is the Lebron James in any walk of life; rarer still is the one who recognizes the distinction that a “sure thing” becomes a certainty only on the precondition that one must vigilantly ascertain and safeguard such certainty of outcome.

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 misguided view that one’s own particular medical condition is so serious, and so debilitating, that it is a “sure thing” in the approval process with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Yes, there are rare cases where the identity of the medical condition is such that it warrants an automatic approval from OPM; but such cases are few, and that is why we refer to them as cases of certainty.  The problem often rests in the fact that the sufferer of the medical condition is the same person who attempts to be a proponent of the Federal Disability Retirement application.

Certainty is clouded by judgment; when it’s your own horse in the race, one wants to judge a certainty.  When that horse is not only one’s own, but moreover, the person himself/herself is in the race itself, then a clouded judgment becomes a misguided view of how the world operates.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: As a Process

It is often a necessity to be reminded that the preparation, formulation, and ultimately the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is an administrative process.

By “process” is meant that it involves multiple levels of time frames and stages, and is not merely constituted by a single “filing” of paperwork.  It is not a defined “right” to a benefit which is triggered by a certain event — such as age, filing of a form, etc.  Rather, it is a benefit which is determined by an administrative process of eligibility.

One must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is “eligible” for the benefits.  In order to do that, one must, of course, meet each of the legal and regulatory criteria as set out by statutory authority, regulations propounded by the Office of Personnel Management, and case-law authorities handed down by the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

As such, time frames for issuing determinations are made by the agency granted such authority — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  And, further, the process will often necessarily involve multiple stages — the Initial Stage, the Reconsideration Stage, an appeal to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, then a Petition for Full Review, and if necessary, an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

Time frames, stages, applicability of the law, meeting each of the statutory requirements — they all constitute a long and complex “process”, and one which must be dealt with whether one agrees with it, wants to, or is somehow unprepared to do so.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Respites

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management — if one is a current employee of one’s agency or the U.S. Postal Service or, if separated but it has been less than thirty one (31) days since the separation, then the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must be processed through one’s agency; if, on the other hand, you have been separated for more than 31 days, then you must file the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits directly to the OPM intake office in Boyers, Pennsylvania, which will then be processed and forwarded to the main U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. — is a process which one should expect will require considerable energy, involving one’s emotional physical, and mental fortitude.  

Filing for the benefit and involving one’s self in the process of the administrative procedure, is rarely — if ever — merely a matter of “filling out forms“.  Yes, there are Standard Forms to be completed (the SF 3107 series for FERS employees; for CSRS employees, SF 2801 series; and the SF 3112 series for both FERS and CSRS employees) — but it is the “connecting of dots” between preparing one’s narrative in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, the gathering of the medical documentation sufficient to meet the burden of proof of “preponderance of the evidence”, and all of the attendant actions which accompany the creation of the nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional requirements of one’s duties — all of the cumulative aggregation taken as a whole, constitute an imposing, formidable process.  

Fortunately, the Holidays, the weekends, etc., provide a brief respite from such challenges.  But the problem with such periodic and temporary respites, are that they merely serve to remind us that the hurdle still exists, and the process is still to be encountered, and the procrastination of the inevitable must be confronted at some point; and that, in and of itself, is an exhausting thought.  Medical Disability Retirement from OPM is precisely there is provide a long-lasting respite. Delaying by periodic respites only prolongs the time when the true respite, of meaningful duration, may be embraced.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Legal Arguments

Legal precedents are a necessary part of any process, and this is no less true when filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.  Some argue that legal citations and references to legal precedents are less important at the Initial Stage of the process, but such a viewpoint ignores the fact that preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a “process” — not merely a one-time filing.  

Indeed, the distinction is important to note, because that is precisely why the entire administrative procedure of having an Initial Stage, a Reconsideration Stage, then an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, then further appeals, is available for all Federal and Postal employees.  As a “process”, while each stage is considered in a “de novo” fashion (meaning, looked at “anew” without consideration of the prior decision), the legal precedents and citations which one refers to in order to establish one’s eligibility and entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS provide the foundational justification, no matter what stage of the process one is at.  

Thus, a legal citation argued for at the Initial Stage is valid for the Reconsideration Stage; a precedential legal reference made and argued at the Reconsideration Stage is valid for the MSPB, and so on.  As such, legal arguments provide for a continuum of arguing for one’s entitlement to a benefit which the Office of Personnel Management must justify in any denial it renders.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Forms

In preparing, formulating & filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one must fill out the various “forms“:  SF 3107 with schedules A, B & C under FERS (for CSRS, SF 2801 with schedules A, B & C); as well as SF 3112 A – D.  These forms are necessary in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application (as well as some which are not listed here). Along with these Standard Forms (thus, the “SF”), one must attach supporting documentation to be eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  However, all applicants must be fully aware that the Standard Forms neither explain, nor necessarily “follow”, the expansive laws which govern Federal Disability Retirement.  

Forms are created and published by bureaucrats who are neither aware of, nor are informed about, statutes, regulations or cases which define, refine or otherwise expand upon the complex laws which govern Federal Disability Retirement law.  As such, they are the “bare bones”, skeletal requirements.  In filling out such forms, therefore, one does so without any guidance or knowledge by the mere reading of the “instructions” on the forms.  As such, one should “beware” in trying to complete any of the Standard Forms when preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Slam-Dunk Case

I have represented more people at the Reconsideration Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process for FERS & CSRS employees, of Federal and Postal employees who filed the initial application on his or her own because it was thought that it was a “slam dunk” case.

That is the problem with the slam dunk case — either the individual thinks that the medical evidence is so overwhelming that little or no effort needs to be expended in order to obtain an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, or if some minimal effort is engaged in, then the problem must be that the people over at the Office of Personnel Management either did not understand the seriousness of the medical conditions, or they misread X or Y, or some other such reason.

The real problem is that there are few, if any, slam dunk cases.

Inasmuch as the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits personally feels the pain, discomfort, and debilitating nature of the medical conditions from which he or she suffers, therefore it is often (wrongly) assumed that the same feelings can be imparted upon the person reviewing the Federal Disability Retirement application.

One must always keep in mind, however, that a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a paper presentation.  As such, the effort of compiling, arguing, persuading and explaining must always be engaged in.  There are no such cases as slam dunk cases.  If there are, I haven’t recently come across one.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire