Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: August, Vacations, & OPM

August is traditionally a time of vacations; a period of respite, before the onset of school and the busy schedules of parents.  Government offices slow down, and with the coinciding impact of furloughs mandated through automatic imposition, delays in work and accomplishment of cases become incrementally evident, like reverberations from the slow moan of an earthquake.

The lazy slapping waves mixed with the taste of sea salt may lull the vacationer into an isolated sense of calm and quietude; but for the Federal or Postal worker suffering from a medical condition, who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, or who is in the midst of the process of formulating one’s case, or for those who have already filed and are merely anxiously awaiting a decision — that time of temporary rejuvenation is a needed escape, despite never being able to fully separate oneself from the medical condition which impacts one’s life.

That is the strange phenomena of a medical condition — unless it has been a lifelong condition, it is a part of one’s existence and being which only constitutes a minor percentage of the entirety of one’s lifetime; yet, it often consumes the greater portion of one’s thoughts, actions and ruminations, and undermines that time of leisure known popularly as a “vacation“.

Medical conditions are a reality to be dealt with; vacations are optional times of leisure; and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a choice which allows for a combination of the two:  a time of respite in order to become rehabilitated, and to recuperate in order to deal with the reality of a medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Waiting

It is summertime.  The Office of Personnel Management continues to remain backlogged. The waiting time for approvals continues to be “longer than usual”, but the “usual” in this case seems to be a minimum of 90 – 120 days from the time it is assigned, and it is almost as long for any decision on a Reconsideration decision.  While a periodic call may be made to the Office of Personnel Management, calls of an incessant nature are normally not helpful in obtaining a favorable decision.  Yes, lives are on hold until the Office of Personnel Management makes a decision on a case; yes, the time frame seems arbitrary.  Each case is important; it is better that a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS is properly reviewed; and always remember that it is more beneficial for an approval to emerge from a long wait at the Initial Stage of the process, than for a denial to be issued — which will only mean that one will have to wait through another full stage of the process.  It is this time period — the wait for the decision by the Office of Personnel Management — that is the greatest time of anxiety. And the fact that it is summertime, where temperatures are exceeding 100 degrees in Washington, D.C., doesn’t help matters.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Continuing Patience

It is difficult to be patient.  The Office of Personnel Management, in reviewing and evaluating each case, takes its time.  One can attempt to “read into” each day, as to whether the longer wait is more beneficial than a decision which is to be made in short order.  Calling to check on the “status” of the case can have a negative effect upon a decision, although it is not “supposed to” do so. 

Often, the response by OPM’s representative is that a decision will be made “this week” or “next week” or “by the end of the month”.  Time passes, and there is no decision.  These past couple of weeks, OPM has sent out many decisions that were long-in-waiting.  When the decision is a favorable one, then of course the burden of the wait is suddenly lifted.  When the decision is a denial, then the response is often one of anger, disbelief or discouragement.  Once the emotions are set aside, then one must accept the reality of further waiting.  Yes, patience is a virtue, and Federal and Postal employees must be the virtuous of all people.  But those are empty, vacuous and meaningless words when one must wait to see what the future holds. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency which reviews, approves or denies all Federal Disability Retirement applications for those who are under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), is taking an extraordinary amount of time in reviewing disability retirement applications.  This is true across the board — whether at the initial stage of the process, or at the Reconsideration Stage of the process. 

While certain individual appeals to “personal emergencies” can sometimes move an application ahead of others, the simple fact is that OPM is understaffed and overworked.  Patience is simply the only remedy, and the OPM representative will eventually get to a particular case in the order that it was received.  Now, the question as to whether a particular case is properly prepared such that it will get approved at the first review, is a separate question.  That is why it is important to prepare a disability retirement application properly, and well, at the first stage.  Because OPM is taking a long time before it is even reviewed, it is important to try and make your best case at the first stage.  However, by “best” does not necessarily mean a volume of medical records.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Time It Takes For the "Process"

Because it is a “process” as opposed to an application to obtain an automatic service, commodity or benefit, a Federal Disability Retirement application necessarily takes time.  It takes time to properly prepare the application; it takes time to have the treating doctors properly address the multiple issues needed in order to meet the legal standards of eligibility; it takes time for the applicant’s statement of disability to be thoughtfully and in a cohesive, coordinated manner be presented in a persuasively descriptive narrative; it takes time for the H.R. office of the Agency, or the H.R. Shared Services in Greensboro, North Carolina, to complete their part; it takes time for the finance office to complete their part; it takes time for Boyers, PA to process and prep the application; then, finally, it takes time once it is sent down to the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., to receive, review and evaluate the entire packet. 

Further, right now, it just so happens that OPM seems to be “backed up” and, concurrently, has a shortage of personnel, and is taking an inordinate amount of time getting to each case.  As I often tell my clients:  If patience is a virtue, then Federal and Postal employees who file for Federal Disability Retirement must be the most virtuous people in the universe.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire