Life is often overwhelming enough. Then, when a medical condition make its initial entrance, remains for more than a fortnight and begins to impede, curtail and prevent one from doing the things one has taken for granted – the problem becomes more than just a nuisance, but a magnification and exponential exaggeration beyond that which was a burden to begin with: another problem adding to a host of problems. In life, we often know what needs to be done, and sometimes even the “how” in going about solving problems. But the capacity to prioritize and organize, to sort a jumble into a linear coherency, and to gather the necessary components into a cogent whole, is often the problem that prevents one from moving forward.
For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the condition (or multiple medical conditions) begin to prevent the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position, the normal sequence of events often take on the following incoherent pathway: An inquiry is made with the Human Resource Department; two sets of Standard Forms are presented to the Federal or Postal employee (SF 3107 series; SF 3112 series); the Federal or Postal employee is told to read through them and “fill them out” and bring the entire sets back to the H.R. Office. They will be there “to help”.
When such a development occurs, 2 issues immediately come to one’s attention, or should. First, is there a sequence and methodology one should follow, that is better and more effective? Second, if the Federal Disability Retirement application is submitted and denied at the initial stage of the process, will that same Human Resource Office or person be held accountable, and continue to “help” for the second and subsequent stages of the process?
The answer to the first question is an unequivocal “yes”; the answer to the second question is a bit more complex. There are, indeed, many helpful H.R. offices and personnel. The point of creating an H.R. Office is to guide, help and assist the employees of the agency or organization. But filing a Federal Disability Retirement application is a different “animal” from most other processes. Think about it; it is not like setting up an allotment from one’s pay, or changing the number of deductions for tax purposes. No, it is a complex administrative process that, once out of the hands of the agency’s H.R. Office, is under the direct control of a separate agency – the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Further, filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, can become a contentious issue – once a denial is issued by OPM, and even a second denial at the Reconsideration Stage, then an appeal will need to be filed with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board within 30 days. Then what? Will the Human Resource Office that was so helpful, represent you there?
Every future holds a pathway for successful maneuvering, and yes, there are sequential steps to take in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application. For that, a knowledgeable FERS Disability Lawyer who is experienced in Federal Disability Retirement law can be helpful in guiding the Federal or Postal employee onto that pathway.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire