OPM Disability Retirement: The Problematic Loss of Confidence

Confidence is an ethereal character trait; in some ways, it is self-perpetuating, as success relies upon it, and feeds it, which in turn reinforces any lack thereof.  At once fleeting but full, the loss of it can be devastating.

For some, a mere look of doubt or suspicion from others can undermine the fullness of possession one may have had of it just a moment before; for others, whether lack of competence or never having had any reason for possession of it appears to matter not, and like self-esteem in the generation of modernity and “me”, a complete void of accomplishments seems not to overturn those who accumulate an abundance of it.  But weakness or negation from outside sources can be the final straw in undermining that sensitive sense of self, and a medical condition which attacks the body, mind and psyche of an individual can be devastating.

Thus, when the Federal or Postal employee who has confidently strode throughout a long and satisfying career, whose performance has raised eyebrows of accolades beyond mere efforts of competence, and where performance reviews have always included adjectives and superlatives searched out beyond mere templates previously applied with thoughtless automation, the introduction of a medical condition into the life of such a Federal or Postal employee can be like the Martian Chronicles revealing the strangeness of alien cultures clashing in a battle of titans heard beyond the roar of civilizations long lost and forgotten.

Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who struggle with this, resist the necessity of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, precisely because the disbelief is overwhelming that, somehow, this loss of what was once taken for granted, could possibly be.  But as “possibility” includes the building of concrete structures in thin air, whereas “probability” involves the hard computation of one’s life and “reality-living” in a harsh and uncaring universe, so the Federal or Postal employee must take into account that past foundations of accomplishments may not uphold the confidence once shared and held by a Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service.

Confidence, indeed, is like the golden dust sprinkled sparingly by the fluttering angels of yesteryear; and today is a dawn of dying expectations, where the harsh realities of a medical condition must be faced with a freshness of purpose, reserved for that fight which may require one’s presence on a day in future pasts, unforseen and as of yet unfought.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Patience During the FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement Process

It is now post-Labor Day Weekend. Summer is essentially over. The Office of Personnel Management will be back in “full force”. The inclination will be to call up OPM and impatiently — imprudently — demand that one’s disability retirement application be reviewed, because it has been sitting on Mr or Ms. X’s desk for the last 90 days. Be cautious of what you request, or demand — because you may get your wish, but with an outcome you do not desire — a denial. I often remark to my clients that if patience is a virtue, then Federal and Postal Workers must be the most virtuous people in the world, because you are the ones who must be most patient — during the years of service you have given, during the process of dealing with a demanding public, and finally, during the process when you need the Federal Government to act quickly — the disability retirement process. Be patient; thereby, be virtuous. Unfortunately, OPM does not have a statutory mandate during the administrative process. If you must call OPM, be courteous in your inquiry, and inquire only if necessary.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Petition for Full Review

The next step beyond the Merit Systems Protection Board, of course, is a choice: You can either file an immediate appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, or file a Petition for Review before the Merit Systems Protection Board, where the decision of the Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board will be reviewed by a panel of 3 Administrative Judges.

Normally, I recommend taking the latter route, only because it allows for another step to win, as opposed to putting all of one’s eggs in the proverbial “one basket”. If an individual has put on a case without being represented, by going through OPM’s procedures, then putting on a case at the MSPB, I will rarely accept a case at the Petition before the Full Board level.

My reasons are essentially as follows: First, it was not “my case”. The applicable criteria to have an MSPB case reversed by filing a Petition for Full Review, is to point out an “error of law” that the Judge made. If I put on a case before an administrative judge at the MSPB, I try and put on “my case” — one that I believe in; one that I am an advocate for; one that I am passionate about, because it is a case on behalf of a client whom I represent.

That is why I win most of my cases, both at the OPM level, as well as before the MSPB. When someone else has gone through the process, it is simply not “my case”. To nitpick for an error of law that the administrative judge had made, when it was not my case, and not the case-laws that I relied upon in putting on my case, is simply something that I have little interest in doing. That is not to say that a case cannot be won at a Petition for Full Review. I have won enough of them; it is a matter of pointing out the error of law which the administrative judge made; but a passionate argument is essential to winning such a review.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS Disability Retirement & SSA Awards

When filing for FERS Disability Retirement, one is required to file for SSA disability at some point in the process. Some Human Resources offices have declared that it must be filed prior to OPM’s acceptance of a disability retirement application; this is not true. A receipt showing that SSA has been filed can be forwarded to OPM at any time — even after approval. In the unlikely event that the SSA filing is approved prior to the FERS disability retirement being approved, it is important for the applicant to send to OPM a copy of the award notice, because under Trevan v. OPM, the Office of Personnel Management is required to consider the award of SSA disability, together with other medical documentation, in reviewing a disability retirement application.

There are other steps that need to be taken, of course, to ensure that OPM considers such an SSA award properly and in accordance with the holding in Trevan; and, in most cases, of course, it will not be an issue, because the majority of disability retirement applicants will not qualify for SSA disability; rather, it is a formality that must be satsified, simply because the law requires it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire