Federal Employee Disability Retirement: An Expectation of Disaster

Most lives are lived with an expectation of unease; if things are going smoothly, we look with suspicion at what will come from around the corner; if calm and quietude prevails, we consider it merely a precursor to a major storm; and if good fortune comes our way, there is a leeriness as to the strings attached.

Perhaps distrust is based upon justifiable historical events; or, as news is merely the compilation of tragic events gathered into a compendium of daily interests, so our skewed perspective of the world merely reinforces what our childhoods entertained.  With a foundation of such natural tendencies to see the world with suspicion, when a medical condition impacts a person, the expectation of crisis is only exponentially magnified.

Suddenly, everyone becomes the enemy, and not just the few who are known to lack heart; and actions which were previously normative, becomes a basis for paranoia.  Chronic pain diminishes tolerance for human folly; depression merely enhances the despair when others engage in actions betraying empathy; and the disaster which was suspected to be just around the corner, closes in on us when pain medications fail to palliatively alleviate.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to prevent one from performing all of the essential elements of one’s job, the bifurcation between the personal and the professional, between play and work, often comes crumbling down upon us, and signs of potential trouble portend to indicate to us that it may be time to “move on”.  That impending sense of doom?  It may be upon us.  That calm before the storm?  The reality of what the agency is contemplating may prove you right. And the potential loss of good fortune?

Agencies are not known for their patience.  For the Federal or Postal employee who is no longer one of the “good old boys” of the network of productive employees because of a medical condition which is beginning to impact one’s ability to maintain a daily work schedule, or perform at the level prior to the onset of a medical condition, consideration should be given to preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Time is often of the essence, and while most expectations of impending disasters are unfounded, the behavior of Federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service can never be relied upon, any more than the weather can be predicted a day in advance.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Sides (Part I)

Was there a time when moral order, social propriety and conventional codes of conduct were bifurcated in such clear and identifiable demarcations, such that everyone knew the rules and roles by which to abide?  Or were there always overlapping and invidious borders which constituted conditional conundrums?  Movies of the old west are still enjoyed today, if not merely for entertainment, then for the simplicity of identifying the differentiation between good and evil, where the grey dawn of loss of certitude is rarely implied.

People take “sides” each and every day, but the lack of verifiability in determining who stands for what, and what issues are truly worth standing up for, has become a problem of infinite and exponential magnification of wide and confusing latitudes. There are some things in life where privacy must be guarded with the utmost of heightened protective instincts. “Choosing sides” is something we all learned in school; how we choose, and what titers of alarms we utilize, is all the more important when it comes to personal integrity and future security.

For Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question of who our friends are, will quickly surface during the process.  Identifying the adversary is thought to be an easy process; thinking that a supervisor or coworker is a “friend” to be relied upon, is a more daunting and dangerous endeavor.  That is where the confidentiality of an attorney can be helpful.

The beauty of old films and archaic cowboy movies, is that the black-and-white film footage clearly and unmistakably identifies the man in the white hat.  That is the “good guy”.  Within Federal agencies, such clear identification for the Federal or Postal Worker who begins the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, is a rare occasion.

Choosing sides is important.  How one chooses; whom to rely upon; what advice to follow; all are confusing conundrums within a complex world of backstabbers, betrayals, and agencies populated by those who seek to become the next Lady Macbeth.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Conversely, the Roles to Perform

Speaking extemporaneously, or in an impromptu manner, can have dangerous consequences, precisely because it diverges from a prepared text or speech.  Comfort zones define most people.  For government agencies and Federal bureaucracies, there are “Standard Operating Procedures”, and in some ways, to adhere to an SOP provides for a fair application of a “one size fits all” approach, thereby preventing allegations of favoritism, actions tantamount to insider trading, or cronyism.

Agencies and organizations tend to react in predictable ways.  Because of such predictability, Federal and Postal employees who have had a “good” relationship with one’s supervisor or manager will often make the mistake that, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, such a positive relationship will continue even after informing the agency that one will, has, or intends to, file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

But the mistake in making such an assumption is that the relationship itself necessarily contains an implicitly conditional factor:  continuation of work which benefits the supervisor or manager through a positive reflection of performance, with a greater reflection of good upon the agency as a whole.  Once that conditional element is neutralized, the benefit to the supervisor and the agency is negated, and the relationship itself becomes unnecessary, null and void.  Adversity begins to appear.  Animosity, contention and suspicion abounds.

Federal Disability Retirement by the Federal or Postal employee must be viewed as a medical necessity for the individual; but for the agency, it is like the man who attempts an impromptu remark, and finds that an action outside of the bounds of a standard operating procedure has been disallowed; it’s just that no one told me so.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Clarity in the Minefield of Procedural Opposition

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, can be a daunting and intimidating process without the opposition — whether intended or not — from one’s Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.  With such “opposition”, life can be made that much more difficult unless one knows one’s rights and the legal obligations of the Agency.  Human Resources Departments of various agencies often reveal peculiar characteristics.

On the one hand, the original raison d’être (the originating reason or purpose for existing) was presumably to assist the employees of the Agency in any and all personnel matters — from payroll issues, to job classification concerns, to preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management.  However, whether it is because “Management” co-opts the personnel in the Human Resources Department; or whether the employees in an Agency Human Resources Department merely take it upon themselves to become contrary and resistant to the needs and concerns of the very employees for whom the H.R. Department’s originating reason for creation are there for; regardless, it has become a commonplace paradigm that there exists an oppositional attitude towards the Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Recognizing this “fact” is important before proceeding down the administrative morass of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Once recognized, it is important to be prepared to understand how one will, and must, maneuver through the administrative procedures in order to reach the ultimate goal — a favorable decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Lawyers and H.R. Personnel

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one of the peculiar “events” which often erupts and surfaces is the interaction between a Federal or Postal employee, his or her attorney, and the interaction with the Human Resources Department of the particular agency.  

While the reaction of the H.R. personnel is not universal by any means, and while exceptions will surprisingly occur, nevertheless the pattern of recurrences leads one to conclude that there is an undertone of antagonism between the lawyer representing the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and the Agency’s Human Resources Department.  

What is puzzling is the following:  (1)  The undersigned writer always attempts to approach all H.R. Personnel with humility and courtesy, with the view that both are working towards the same common goal of assisting the Federal or Postal employee, (2) the very existence of the Human Resources Department of the Agency is predicated upon the notion that they are there to assist the Federal or Postal employee in his or her employment endeavors, including filing for administrative benefits, and (3) since both the attorney and the H.R. Personnel are there to help the Federal or Postal employee, cooperation of efforts would be the natural course of action.  

Unfortunately, in most instances, the very opposite is true.  Whether because the H.R. Personnel believe that an attorney is antagonistic by nature, and therefore must be met with equal force; or because they believe that the attorney is somehow circumventing or undermining the role of the Human Resources’ work and role; nevertheless, it is important for the H.R. Personnel to understand and appreciate that the role of the Attorney in representing a Federal or Postal employee in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application through the Agency (first) and to the Office of Personnel Management (thereafter), needs to be a tripartite effort (the Federal or Postal employee; the Agency; and the attorney), all working together.  

If the Human Resources Department did its job, much of what the representing attorney needs to do would be diminished, and perhaps altogether unnecessary.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Agency’s Personnel Department

It is always important for each individual, worker, and organizational entity to understand the “role” of one’s position, and that is often the problem with an Agency’s Personnel Department — the “Human Resources” Department of an Agency.  

The irony of being called “Human Resources” is probably not lost to most people, but it is the classic irony of being designated as X and acting in an anti-X manner.  The role of Human Resources Personnel, one would implicitly (and explicitly) expect, is one of assistance of a Federal or Postal worker in the filing, submission and attempt to initiate administrative personnel actions, including Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS.  

Yet, too many Federal and Postal employees have a sense (and often a justified one) that in attempting to obtain the assistance of the Agency’s Personnel/Human Resources Department in the processing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, that the H.R. Department is more of a hindrance than a help.  Now, such broad generalizations are often unfair to particular Human Resources personnel who are in fact very, very helpful to the entire process — but, then, all such generalizations tend to create an unfair net and capture those who run counter to the very generalizations espoused.  That is the very definition of a generalization.  

The role of an H.R. person is (or should be) one of neutral assistance.  Yet, because “management” and those who will remain with the agency long after a person has gone out on Federal Disability Retirement will be the ones with continuing power and influence within the agency, it is often to those “others” that the Personnel Department favors and shows a continuing bias for.  This is what is called “human nature”.  When human nature and human resources collide, it is often the former which wins out, to the detriment of the latter. That is why having an attorney — an advocate for one’s position — is often an important tool to utilize.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire