Disability Retirement for American Federal Government Workers: Timing and Impatience

In the United States, we have come to expect efficiency and effectiveness; that is the nature of our history, and precisely why the prevailing philosophical engine has been that of “pragmatism“.  But countries evolve over time; bureaucracies become burdensome; the character of a nation may slowly, almost imperceptibly, change and alter.  Further, some actions are within the purview of one’s ability to impact; other issues are entirely outside of one’s control.

For the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to distinguish between those aspects of the administrative and procedural issues which can have some exerted control, and those which are well beyond one’s sphere of influence.  For, the test of one’s patience and growing sense of impatience will often be determined by a recognition of that which can be influenced, and that which has little to no access for such.

Timing issues can often be controlled, as in when to file; but as for the timing of OPM’s determination, that is another matter altogether.

Patience is unfortunately a virtue which is being daily tested by Federal agencies; the practical reverberating impact is upon the individual Federal and Postal employees who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (the Agency that approves and manages Disability Retirement for all Federal Employees in America)  That, too, is something which is historically inevitable — it is the individual who is impacted, while the faceless “agency” goes on about its business.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: In Life, the Pragmatic Trumps the Theoretical

In administrative and other processes, as in life generally, there are issues which on a theoretical level would seem to work; but when tested in the “real world”, somehow the perfect paradigm suddenly disintegrates.  Thus, one may ascribe a series of seemingly logical propositions, each in their independent and isolated delineations apparently stand strong and without a flaw; but somehow, in their linear progression of dependence, one upon the previous one, the linkage itself may be the determining factor.

Thus the old adage:  An X is only as strong as the weakest link.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee may lay out a plan of attack which, on its face, may appear sound and credible; but as experience in anything constitutes the crux of everything, so the first-time experience of thinking that one’s own case is a “slam-dunk” case because the “pain I feel” is so excruciating that there is no way that OPM could do otherwise than to approve my case, may be that weakest link.

Think again.  OPM deals with thousands of such cases; your particular case, as the unique case singularly known by you, is essentially a mere theoretical example of countless other such cases.  The pragmatic reality of the Federal bureaucracy is what one must ultimately face; again, as in life in general, the practical aspects of an engagement rules the day.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Owl, the Chicken, and the Anomaly of Life

In the early morning hours as the peripheral light of the sun reaches the crest of the horizon, the insidious owl glides seamlessly and noiselessly above the tips of tree lines, and upon a slight movement, flutters a wing and swoops down.

In a second, the head of the injured chicken is severed; yet, without the connecting neurotransmitters guiding the body, the headless fowl persists in running, attempting to escape from the prey which has already been encountered.

Thus, civilization develops the adage:  running around like a chicken with its head cut off.  And that often describes the Federal or Postal employee who attempts to desperately put together a Federal Disability Retirement application and submit it to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Dealing with one’s medical conditions is stressful enough; attempting to wind through a Federal bureaucracy and the administrative obstacles of proving and establishing the nexus between one’s medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job, only compounds and complicates the process.

To further the analogy, the question is:  Who represents the owl — the Office of Personnel Management, or the entire Federal bureaucracy?  Or, moreover, while the owl flies away with the head, it is often the scavengers who come and feed upon the rest of the torso.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Societal Complexities

For over 50 years, we have been told that our lives will be simpler, more efficient, of greater ease, resulting from the technological advancement of society at large.

With each technological innovation, some aspect of the common man’s life was supposed to be unburdened, with greater leisure time and less stress.  But a fundamental principle of human nature was ignored throughout the incremental advancement towards such sophistication:  the innate hunger to create ever more, and the desire by those at the pinnacle of civilization to play the role of master of the universe.

In legal circles, we were all doomed once the fax machine was invented; for, with such a contraption, the 3-4 days it took to send out a first class letter confirming a conversation or following up on one, became instantaneous, and the war of the who-said-what and what was settled upon became an urgent necessity with the ability to send and receive immediately.

Contrary to the great promise of our times, technology and modernization has further complicated, stressed and compounded the problems of daily living.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, the added complexity of winding one’s way through a maze of bureaucracy, of compiling an effective legal case for one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, is often “too much” because such an effort is in addition to the burden of dealing with one’s debilitating medical condition.

The key is to always streamline and simplify; but of course, that’s precisely what society has been purportedly doing all of these years, with each new gadget declaring the end of stress; and we are all the more stimulated by it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Administrative Process

Ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement must be viewed as a “process“, as opposed to a singular procedure whereby a triggering mechanism automatically allows for receipt of benefits.  The former requires an affirmative approach which involves submission of proof, argumentation, an expectation of resistance (in many cases), and an analysis by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as to whether or not all of the legal criteria have been met.  The latter is merely a formality of filing.

As a process, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has various steps, procedures, and Stages for appeals.  There is, first and foremost, the initial application Stage, where one has the opportunity and right to submit proof of eligibility, and make legal arguments for entitlement.  If one’s Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the first Stage of the process, then one has a right to have it “reconsidered” by filing a “Request for Reconsideration” within 30 days of the date of denial, or receipt of the letter of denial from OPM, whichever is later.  If denied a second time, then the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has a right to file an Appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

There are, in addition to the 3 stages described, two (2) additional stages of appeal, but the three main stages of filing are what have been previously described.

With such a “process” in mind, it is wise to prepare for the long haul.  An expectation of a quick and easy approval, even if obtained, should not be embraced at the outset, precisely because one must take into consideration the potential length of time which the entire process may take, and prepare accordingly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Realizing Process

By definition, a process entails multiple procedural steps.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management encapsulates procedural administrative steps, and these include denials and appeals.

Yes, it is true that a certain percentage are approved at the first stage of the process.  Yes, it is also true that not everyone must go to the Second, or Reconsideration Stage of the process, or the Third Stage, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.  But the fact that “not everyone” must be subjected to X, does not undermine, erase, or otherwise nullify the truism that it still remains a “process”, as opposed to an application for an entitlement benefit.

As a process, one’s Federal Disability Retirement application with OPM must be proven.  In order to prove a case, one must submit certain qualifying documentation.  As the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is the initial and secondary reviewer and determining agency for the first two stages of the process, so they have personnel of differing qualitative abilities — from pure incompetence, to indifference, to superior case workers who understand the full and complete application of the law, the regulatory criteria, and the statutory applicability of case-law interpretation.

Since it is the only process around, it is something we have to live with, and ultimately, follow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Psychological Process

One of the reasons why the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, should view the entirety of the administrative process as just that — a “process” as opposed to an entitlement to benefits — is because (a) that is in fact what it is and (b) to fail to view it from that perspective would be to refuse to adequately prepare for the long and arduous procedural pitfalls which are inherent in each case.

This is not an entitlement where a specific trigger of an event results in the automatic calculation and issuance of compensation.  Reaching a certain age does not result in the granting of Federal Disability Retirement benefits (although it may end it and be recalculated at age 62); attaining a certain number of years of service will not qualify one for Federal disability Retirement benefits (but again, upon reaching age 62, it may result in a beneficial calculation of benefits for having a greater number of years of service).

Rather, Federal Disability Retirement is an administrative, legal process in which one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is (1) eligible, in that one meets certain minimum requirements, such as 18 months of Federal Service under FERS, or 5 years under CSRS, and (2) entitled, by proving that one has met the legal requirements under the statutes, regulations and case-law.

By having the proper psychological perspective, one is better able to prepare for the long haul before starting the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Each Step as a Building Block for the Next

Of course, the penultimate approach would be to have the first stage of the process in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, to be the first and final step of the process.  But life in general is imperfect; particular lives are generally in disarray; and to expect any administrative process — especially one at the Federal level — to be one of attaining perfection at the First Stage, is to expect that there are no ancillary motives, purposes or quota-driven mindsets behind the decision-making process.

The very concept of a “building block” is itself an interesting one, for it is a metaphor used to convey a sense of progress.  And that would be the key.  One does not purposefully leave out any single building block in the process of constructing a foundation.  Instead, each block is an addition to the greater expanse of the structure, solidifying its base, preparing for the completion such that the end product will withstand weather, elements, unforeseen circumstances and potential challenges to the structural integrity itself.

Similarly, if the U.S. Office of Personnel Management questions an issue or aspect of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, the entire structure of the application should not be in danger of crumbling; rather, it may be a question which leads to an easy resolution, or a clarification which can be answered, challenged or expanded upon.

That is why time expended at the initial stage of the process before the filing itself — the pre-formulation part of the process, if you will — is important.  Old adages die hard, and thus to be penny wise and pound foolish is perhaps the most appropriate, wisdom-filled statement which proves itself perennially valid.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Systematic Preparation for the Process

As has been stated many time previously, in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to view the engagement with the entirety of the application procedure as a “process“, as opposed to a singular event.  

The multiple stages of this administrative process — from the Initial Stage of the preparation and filing; to the Reconsideration Stage (in the event of an initial denial); to the appeal to an Administrative Judge with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board; to an appeal with a Petition for Full Review (PFR) with the MSPB; and finally to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals — it is a “process” because each of the forums or legal venues cannot be viewed in a vacuum.  

While it is true that a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board will receive the information, testimony, and conduct the Hearing as “de novo” — meaning, “anew” or “freshly all over again” — nevertheless, it is quite apparent that the reason why such a stage as having a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board is precisely because of the evidence filed in the prior portion of the process, and the one before that.

Thus, retrospectively, one must understand that the Federal or Postal Worker who finds himself or herself in any part of the administrative process, is there precisely because of its interdependence upon a prior, other part of the process.  Therefore, prospectively — looking forward at the start of the process — it is important to recognize this point, and to prepare and formulate one’s Federal Disability Retirement application with this in mind:  that each Stage of the administrative process identified as a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS cannot be viewed in a vacuum, but instead, must always be analyzed with a view from “on high” — meaning, preparing for the potentiality that it will be reviewed and heard before a judge.  

This often changes the perspective, and should give pause to the lay person who believes that his or her case is a mere “slam dunk” which will entail a singular event.  Systematic preparation for the entirety of the process is a perspective worth noting, and such notation may be the needed grammatical mark for a successful and persuasive presentation to the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire