Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: August, Vacations, & OPM

August is traditionally a time of vacations; a period of respite, before the onset of school and the busy schedules of parents.  Government offices slow down, and with the coinciding impact of furloughs mandated through automatic imposition, delays in work and accomplishment of cases become incrementally evident, like reverberations from the slow moan of an earthquake.

The lazy slapping waves mixed with the taste of sea salt may lull the vacationer into an isolated sense of calm and quietude; but for the Federal or Postal worker suffering from a medical condition, who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, or who is in the midst of the process of formulating one’s case, or for those who have already filed and are merely anxiously awaiting a decision — that time of temporary rejuvenation is a needed escape, despite never being able to fully separate oneself from the medical condition which impacts one’s life.

That is the strange phenomena of a medical condition — unless it has been a lifelong condition, it is a part of one’s existence and being which only constitutes a minor percentage of the entirety of one’s lifetime; yet, it often consumes the greater portion of one’s thoughts, actions and ruminations, and undermines that time of leisure known popularly as a “vacation“.

Medical conditions are a reality to be dealt with; vacations are optional times of leisure; and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a choice which allows for a combination of the two:  a time of respite in order to become rehabilitated, and to recuperate in order to deal with the reality of a medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Seasons

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is often the seasonal rhythm of individuals, which present a collective sense of predicatability as an Agency because agencies are comprised of individuals.

Thus, for instance, the month of August is predictably slower for the Office of Personnel Management than the other months of the summer, precisely because so many Federal employees take their vacation. Christmas, New Years, the Easter break, and the Memorial and Labor Day holidays all provide a rhythm of seasonal slowdowns. Such seasonal pauses, however, should be a time to utilize and increase productivity for the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS. Indeed, when the pace of work is slower and agencies temporarily wind down because of the seasonal slowdown, it is an opportune time for the Federal or Postal worker to attend to the medical needs by resting or recuperating and, if the critical decision-making point has arrived in terms of making a decision to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is a time to begin to gather the necessary information as a preliminary matter.

While certain components which comprise the entire packet of a Federal Disability Retirement application may be delayed because of the seasonal slowdown (e.g., the Supervisor may be on vacation because of the season; or the doctor may be away, etc.), nevertheless, the foundational groundwork of preparing the request to the doctor or the supervisor, or submitting the request for medical records, etc., may be initiated.

Slowdowns are seasonal opportunities for preparation; preparation is the key to a successful outcome; and while a slower pace is often a time of frustratingly slow response time, it is the meticulous care that is taken in the slower period which results in the success of a venture.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Cycle of Patience

It is a common element, now, in a Federal Disability Retirement case to require patience in surviving the bureaucratic process, and while recognizing the cycle of the process does not make it any easier, understanding the entirety of the process can help one to prepare.  

There is initially the preparatory process, which is almost exclusively within the purview of one’s control — of preparing and formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A); of obtaining the proper medical narratives and documentation (although, here, the time frame is obviously dependent upon the availability of the treating doctor to prepare the narrative reports) and any introduction of legal argumentation in support of the Federal Disability Retirement packet, etc.

Then, submission to the Agency takes it partially out of the control of the individual Federal or Postal applicant — although, because of the obvious employment connection to the Agency, the Federal or Postal employee can often make phone calls or other contact to attempt to persuade the expediting of the secondary bureaucratic process.  

Once it leaves the Agency Human Resources Department, or the greater Civilian Personnel Office, then it is out of the hands and control of the Federal or Postal employee entirely, and must wind itself through the bureaucratic maze and morass of the National Finance Office and the Office of Personnel Management.  OPM, like any other agency, is subject to seasonal delays based upon Federal workers who take vacations and time off — Christmas, New Years, Easter, and Memorial Day weekend/week, and throughout the months of June, July and August.  A week’s delay in a Case Worker’s assigned cases can exponentially quantify the delay-time, because upon return of the worker, there are other administrative functions which must be attended to which further compounds the ability to take up where he or she left off.  

Patience is a virtue; as such, Federal and Postal Workers must be the most virtuous of human beings.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Waiting

It is summertime.  The Office of Personnel Management continues to remain backlogged. The waiting time for approvals continues to be “longer than usual”, but the “usual” in this case seems to be a minimum of 90 – 120 days from the time it is assigned, and it is almost as long for any decision on a Reconsideration decision.  While a periodic call may be made to the Office of Personnel Management, calls of an incessant nature are normally not helpful in obtaining a favorable decision.  Yes, lives are on hold until the Office of Personnel Management makes a decision on a case; yes, the time frame seems arbitrary.  Each case is important; it is better that a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS is properly reviewed; and always remember that it is more beneficial for an approval to emerge from a long wait at the Initial Stage of the process, than for a denial to be issued — which will only mean that one will have to wait through another full stage of the process.  It is this time period — the wait for the decision by the Office of Personnel Management — that is the greatest time of anxiety. And the fact that it is summertime, where temperatures are exceeding 100 degrees in Washington, D.C., doesn’t help matters.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Summer Doldrums & the Physician’s Statement

I have often pointed out in past blogs and articles that I do not have my clients sign the Physicians Statement (SF 3112C), for multiple and various reasons, not the least of which is that it is a confusing form, and in smaller print than necessary, leaving the impression to the doctor that what is requested is far more complex than what is actually required.  In its place, for my clients, I write a 4 – 5 page letter outlining the type of medical narrative report which I need.  This is the summer months; everyone from OPM representatives to lawyers, to doctors and Federal and Postal employees, take time off to recover from the hard work throughout the rest of the year.  When doctors take off for some “summer fun”, it just means that they have less time to spend on administrative matters — such as writing up a medical narrative report for their patients.  Because of this, it is important to try and simplify the matter as much as possible, and a blanket submission of the SF 3112C without some explanatory guidance, is not the best course of action.  Doctors need guidance, and in this busy world, it is best to streamline the process for them as much as possible.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill

OPM Disability Retirement: Summer Waiting

I have written previously about the long and arduous waiting process & period in trying to obtain CSRS & FERS Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management. Remember that, in your calculation in attempting to survive financially, economically, emotionally, medically, physically, mentally — and in all other ways, keep in mind that the summer months from July to August often represent a “dead zone” when many Federal employees take time off for vacation, time for family, and time for relaxation.  While it is understandable that this makes the Federal disability retirement applicant nervous and anxious to be placed “on hold” when such an important decision may be held in abeyance, it is simply a reality which must be taken into account.  Don’t get frustrated; be patient.  The summer months will come and go, and the important point is to keep looking forward to the future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability retirement: End of Summer and Postal VER

Summer is almost at an end. The Postal Service, through the auspices of the Office of Personnel Management, is offering Voluntary Early Retirement (VER). For many, this is a positive thing; the decision to take the VER should be a financial decision. An analysis comparing the monetary return should be made between what an employee would receive under the VER and under disability retirement; if the financial difference is great, then obviously the employee should consider filing for disability retirement after the VER has been approved.

Remember that the employee would have one (1) year to file for disability retirement benefits, after the individual has been separated from service. Steps should be taken now, however, before accepting/filing for the VER, to establish the medical condition and disability prior to separation from service. This can be done by discussing the medical condition with one’s treating doctor, before the VER is applied for. Such early steps will help ensure the success of a future filing for disability retirement benefits — because the employee must establish that the medical condition impacted one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job prior to separation from Federal Service.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire