CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Muddle of a Myopic Focus

Focusing upon a singular aspect of an issue, and failing to comprehend its limited import and relevance within the greater context, is a pitfall which many fall into.  It is tantamount to having a myopic condition — where one’s nearsightedness prevents one from having the capacity to focus upon anything beyond those within one’s easy reach.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application, filed through one’s agency (if one is still a Federal or Postal employee, or if separated, such separation has not occurred more than 31 days) and ultimately forwarded to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (or, if separated from one’s agency for more than 31 days, directly to the Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA), whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to approach the preparation, formulation and filing of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application with a larger view than to discuss issues of limited relevance.

For example, when a Federal or Postal employee is embroiled in an adversarial and contentious process with one’s own agency, or a supervisor, it is often reflected in the Federal Disability Retirement application via a tirade of specific descriptions concerning harassment, workplace hostility, etc.  While such descriptions may be relevant for purposes of an  EEOC claim, it has very little significance for one’s Federal Disability Retirement claim.

Keep the essence of a case at the forefront:  Medical issues; impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.

All myopic conditions need correction; properly prescribed glasses to keep one’s focus may be a necessary expense.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Staying within the Acceptable Construct

Perspectives are funny matters:  everyone has them; some are more valid than others; in certain circumstances, the wrong perspective, however, can result in negative unintended consequences.

Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee who insists upon filing collateral actions against the Agency, while concurrently filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, can have different and differing perspectives for each legal venue filed.  

In an EEOC action, the Federal or Postal employee can allege the multiple incidents of the workplace environment and the hostility, discriminatory actions perpetrated, etc., and the resulting damages incurred (including medical conditions suffered); in a grievance procedure, the Federal or Postal employee can assert the wrongful actions of the agency; and in a Federal Court case, claims of Agency and Supervisor misconduct and their deleterious impact upon one’s career — all of these can be filed, asserted and claimed for, while at the same time have a pending Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management.  

Each can have its own unique perspective; each can assert a different quadrant of one’s mouth.  However, be aware of the danger that, if a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the initial stage of the process, and again at the Reconsideration Stage of the process, and is appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, the Office of Personnel Management is entitled to “Discovery” of such collateral procedures.  

Such evidence of collateral procedures may well lead to a potential conclusion that one’s medical condition can be characterized as “situational” — and that is a perspective which may well defeat a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Medical & Legal Issues

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, sometimes there is an inevitable intersection between the Medical Issues involving the patient and doctor, and the Legal Issue embracing the Client-Lawyer-Doctor.  

Often, in terms of filing for FMLA protection, or taking too much sick leave, being placed on leave-restriction by the Agency, etc., or in the very question as to whether it will reflect negatively upon a Federal Disability Retirement application if one continues to work without taking any sick leave — these “mixed questions” will intersect between the medical and legal arenas.  

The conceptual distinction and bifurcation of the two issues is important to maintain.  First and foremost, one’s medical condition should always be considered as the primacy of concern.  Obtaining the proper medical care and taking care of one’s health and medical needs should be absolute and inviolate.  The secondary question of how it will reflect upon a Federal Disability Retirement application, inasmuch as it is a “paper presentation” to the Office of Personnel Management, should be an afterthought.  For, after all, the whole purpose of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is to take care of the primary consideration — that of one’s health and medical needs.  If one takes care of “first things first”, then the “second” things will naturally fall into place.  

Now, having said that, how an Agency attempts to characterize a Federal or Postal employee’s attempt to attend to one’s medical conditions can of course sometimes impact a Federal Disability Retirement application, and should be responded to aggressively and in a timely manner.  But the substance of any such response, if it is based upon the medical condition, will always “correct” any such agency mis-statement.  

Integrity in a situation always prevails, and that is the whole purpose of having Federal Disability Retirement benefits and the laws which govern such benefits, in order for the Federal or Postal employee to attend to one’s medical conditions first, and then to “move on” in life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Proper Balance

The Office of Personnel Management has sent out a number of denials in recent weeks, and the undersigned attorney has had multiple opportunities to review many of the cases which have been submitted at the Initial Stage of the process, by Federal and Postal workers who are or were unrepresented by an attorney.  

The spectrum of the quality of the applications vary; some have obviously engaged in some research, and attempted to put together a Federal Disability Retirement application by following some guidelines which have been put forth.  But in most cases, there is still the problem of an “imbalance” — of not reaching the correct median between the subjective and the objective; of an inability to stay away from the workplace issues, of harassment, of complaints about the Agency, etc.  

Remember that this is first and foremost a medical disability retirement application, and the operative term which should always be focused upon and emphasized is the “medical” aspect of the formulation.  While there is ultimately no formulaic Federal Disability Retirement packet (precisely because the particular medical condition which is unique to each individual resists any such attempt to package a Federal Disability Retirement application in a generic sort of way), nevertheless, there are certain key points which should be addressed and emphasized, while other “non-key points” should be avoided.  

Put in a different way, in proving that a medical condition prevents a Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, one must include multiple “essential elements” in meeting the burden of proof.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Peripheral Issues

The reason why it is important to keep the peripheral issues where they belong — outside of the primary focus of a Federal Disability Retirement application, and not inject such issues, complaints or narratives — is because they can have multiple unintended consequences.

If a Federal or Postal employee is engaged in collateral litigation, complaints, grievances or other outstanding administrative filings, including EEOC Complaints, lawsuits, formal grievances, MSPB appeals, etc., while for the most part such collateral filings will not directly or indirectly impact a Federal Disability Retirement application, they can if you directly inject such issues into the application for Federal Disability Retirement.

In other words, if in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) , you refer directly to an outstanding EEOC Complaint, then it may spring forth a red flag that your case is one of “situational disability“.  Just a thought.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Supervisor's Statements for FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement

I am often asked my opinion on the impact a Supervisor’s Statement has upon a disability retirement application. Unfortunately, not all supervisor’s are created equal — and, while in theory, a supervisor should be completely professional in filling out the SF 3112B — meaning that the supervisor should answer the questions in an ‘objective’ manner in filling out the form; should be attuned to the medical conditions of the employee; and should be able to set aside any personal or vindictive animosity towards the employee; the truth of the matter is that the disability retirement applicant has absolutely no control over what the supervisor will say in the Supervisor’s Statement.

Wisdom informs us to never worry about those things which are outside of one’s control; and indeed, this is good advice. I always advise my client’s not to be concerned with the Supervisor’s Statement; remember, this is a medical disability retirement application, not a “Supervisor’s application”, and while the Office of Personnel Management will take into consideration what a Supervisor has written, the way to ensure that it is given little or no weight, is by focusing upon having your treating doctor write an excellent, irrefutable and unequivocal medical narrative. Disability retirement is about a medical issue, not a personality issue. If you present valid and strong medical documentation in support of your case, it makes all other documentation a mere irrelevancy.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney