Federal Disability Retirement Lawyer blog: Meeting the Legal Criteria

Lawyers often speak about “the law” as if it has the character of a science — of established principles which are objective, without the arbitrary influences of subjective interpretive devices or nuances. But even science itself fails any pure test of universal unalterability; one need only read Kuhn’s description of shifting paradigms in the history of science (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions) to understand that objectivity is merely another word for pragmatism. For, that which “works” or is “effective” in the eyes of the greatest number of people, is what matters to most people. That is why success is an irreplaceable harbinger of general opinion.

In the Federal government, one would like to expect application of rules, regulations, etc., somewhat in an algorithmic form, where favoritism is lacking, and where everyone has a “clean shot” at everything.

Especially when it comes to a benefit such as Federal Disability Retirement, which impacts those who are most unfortunate — one beset with a medical condition such that one can no longer perform all of the essential elements of one’s job — an expectation that an objective criteria which can be met by pure factual presentation, legal magnification of relevant statutes and laws, and perhaps some modicum of argumentation for persuasion, is what should occur in a perfect world. But as the proverbial perfect world fails to materialize, we must do with what we are given; subjective interpretation, and selective analysis are merely human frailties and imperfections.

That is why legal argumentation and countering of subjectivism must be employed.

Federal Disability Retirement, whether for FERS or CSRS employees of the Federal government, must be fought for, and “won”; there is no mathematical algorithm of objective application; there is no parallel universe of perfection; there is only the human condition, which requires interpretation, knowledge, analysis, and argumentation which persuades and cajoles.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Gov. and USPS Disability Retirement: Adversity and Change

Somehow, the collective and proverbial “we” came to expect that life was easy; that comfort, good health and career advancement was part of the human deal; and that adversity was a circumstance which only people in other nations faced, and from which we would help to show the way out.

But adversity and change have always been an essential element of life; the moment expectations pushed the ‘delete’ button and erased those concepts from commonplace consent, we lost the will to hungrily pursue our dreams through achievement, hard work and purposeful drive.  At the same time, a nation which harbors a self-image of greatness will necessarily create an intelligent paradigm which fosters the collective will of those who are less fortunate, to achieve goals and maintain dreams in the midst of adversity.

That is precisely what Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, contemplates, for the Federal and Postal employee.  For, under the generous administrative annuity provided, Federal and Postal workers who cannot be fully productive, and who face adversity in all aspects of one’s life — of career stoppage, finances, and workplace animosity — can become eligible for a system of compensation into which one may continue to contribute by seeking a different, second vocation in the private sector.  Or, for those who are too disabled to work, it is tied into the Social Security system, such that SSDI is combined with FERS disability retirement benefits.

It is a progressive paradigm which allows for the collective “we” to pursue the common goals which we have all maintained — of productivity and purposefulness, wedded to compassion and caring.  That, in the end, is how the “I” become a “we” in a society which values civil intercourse.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Paradigm Shifts

One of Thomas Kuhn’s major works, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, provides an excellent historical analysis, as well as a philosophical proposal, of how science works — not in a progressive linear fashion as one would expect and anticipate, but rather in erratic paradigm shifts based upon pragmatic considerations of that which works, replacing outmoded or unworkable models of inefficiency.

The book itself is instructive on how, in a macro sense, the scientific community, with all of its fallibilities, works with fits and starts; in a micro perspective, it is profoundly revelatory on how individual human beings operate in this world.  We all carry around paradigms; of who we are; what role we play in our family, our greater community, and in the historicity of our involvement.

Often, however, the outside world, through all of its influences and mandates, will force a change of our internal paradigm; at other times, we decide in our own volition to alter and tinker with the paradigm.  For Federal or Postal employees who are forced to contemplate filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the upheaval of a sudden career change, of a self-realization that one is no longer that youthful, energetic colleague who is efficient and competent, but rather a medically disabled employee, is often a devastating shift in one’s self-image and the paradigm which one carries about within the vast world of empathetic devoid.

Yet such a paradigm shift is necessary.

The good news is that Federal Disability Retirement is itself a paradigm which contemplates future potential for a second vocation; it allows for Federal and Postal employees to obtain an annuity, then to go into the private sector and continue to work, and make up to 80% of what one’s former Federal job currently pays.  Federal Disability Retirement is not a paradigm of “total disability”; it is one based upon a slight amendment to one’s original paradigm, with a view towards a brighter future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Wait-time Extended

The time which takes from the assignment of a case number in Boyers, PA, to a decision rendered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., has been extended.

Recent articles regarding this issue have been slow to reveal the underpinnings of this growing problem, but the coalescence of multiple factors is making for a mini “perfect storm” of sorts, including:  Budget cuts which have forced disallowance of overtime and further hiring of additional workers; slow response to a progressively impending problem in the past couple of years; the threat of furloughs which restricts options available for OPM to respond; internal moving of offices within the same building at OPM.

Service is the essence of the function of government; when the essential function of government begins to disintegrate, it becomes a reflection on a growing, greater problem.  For Federal and Postal workers who have worked tirelessly towards their day of retirement, and for those Federal and Postal Workers who have been hit with a medical condition such that Federal Disability Retirement benefits is an option which must be relied upon, any extension of time in processing the application for disability retirement is an added burden which places great financial and emotional pressure upon an already-dire circumstance.

Fair or not, the reality of an administrative nightmare is steadily growing.

The good news is that there is such an option as Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and one which is a progressive paradigm for a society which understands that medical conditions may impact the Federal or Postal Worker, but that such medical conditions need not mean that a person is totally disabled — merely that there is an inconsistency between one’s position and one’s medical condition.

The bad news is that the wait-time to obtain such benefits has been somewhat extended.  The solution?  Only that filing sooner than later will place one in the proverbial line of the bureaucratic turmoil, only to slowly march forward towards the desired end.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Easter Paradigm

Paradigms which are based upon traditional, historical or religious foundations which have had their efficacy tested by time, have a clear advantage over untested social engineering experiments.

Federal Disability Retirement, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is a paradigm of recognizing the worth of human productivity, by allowing for payment of an annuity because of a medical condition which prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of a particular job; yet, concurrently, allowing for productivity in working at another job, if desired, and if capable.

Thus, the normal reaction for the public at large is often, “Why should you get anything if you can work at some other job?”  The answer is the recognition of the Easter Paradigm:  death and resurrection are not mutually exclusive concepts; similarly, the fact that one is “disabled” does not mean that one cannot continue to contribute within the context of the workforce, but in a different kind of vocation.

The recuperative period of not being forced to work at a particular kind of job allows for the redemptive result of “rising” in another job.  Worth of a human being is recognized in allowing for a “second” chance.  The historical test of a model which has worked, the Easter Paradigm is one of hope and oriented with a view to the future — however long that may be.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Shifting Paradigms

Inquiries concerning Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether a Federal or Postal worker is eligible, the eligibility criteria which is applied; the process itself; questions concerning the lengthiness of the process; leave issues; agency actions pending or already initiated; these are all legitimate questions which should be asked and answered.  

In approaching Federal Disability Retirement issues, however, and inquiring about the potential benefits and resolution of issues, often the Federal or Postal employee begins with a paradigm of understanding, and it is often difficult for the inquiring Federal or Postal employee to “shift off” of the original paradigm in order to understand the paradigm which forms the basis of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Whether it is because the information previously gathered is about the Office of Worker’s Compensation, Department of Labor benefits; or whether it is the confusion of having to file, at some point in the process, for Social Security Disability Insurance benefits; or, as more often than not, the underlying reason is based upon mis-information gathered and received from other sources which are inherently unreliable, it often takes several different answers to the same question before a paradigm shift occurs.  

The best way to approach Federal Disability Retirement questions is to first engage in some initial research.  Get on various websites which discuss the issues.  Read some of the reader’s comments and input.  Compare the information with other information from multiple sources.  Then, begin to formulate and construct a “paradigm” of facts, and make the telephone call to the source which provides the most reliable information.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: A Thoughtful Paradigm

Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a well-thought out paradigm of benefits for two primary reasons:  (1)  First, because it allows for a base annuity for those productive workers who are no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, and allows the Federal or Postal Worker who is disabled to have a period of time in which to recuperate and tend to the medical needs in order to regain his or her strength, energy, abilities, etc. — physical, emotional, cognitive or otherwise; and (2) Second, because it allows for the Federal or Postal Worker to become a productive member of society in a different, “other” job.  

While many may be concerned that, in this regressive economy, the prospect of obtaining another job may be severely limited, such an approach is short-sighted.  The economy will rebound; opportunities will arise as various economic sectors adjust to changing circumstances; and during the entire process, the Federal or Postal Worker who is on Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management will be able to receive a base annuity in order to recuperate from the medical condition.  

All said, the alternative prior to the Federal Disability Retirement benefit becoming law was bleak and short-sighted:  to terminate the unproductive Federal or Postal employee, and let him or her go out to deal with loss of job, loss of income, loss of medical insurance — on top of the medical condition which forced the Federal or Postal Worker out in the first place.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: OPM Disability & OWCP Disability (Continuing…)

A person who is on OWCP Disability payments — 3/4 of one’s gross pay if married or with dependents, or 2/3 of one’s gross pay if single without dependents – may well find the comfort of such payments and the security of such income to be relatively “safe”.  The old adage that one does not read the fine print during times of smooth sailing, and only begins to worry about issues when things go awry, is something to be kept in mind.  If a Federal or Postal employee is receiving OWCP Disability payments, and as such, one’s financial stability is somewhat assured because of it, that is precisely the time to be considering one’s future.  

OWCP Disability payments have a formal designation — it is called “Temporary Total Disability“.  The focus should be upon the first of the three terms — temporary.  It is not meant to be a permanent feature; OWCP is not a retirement system.  If placed on OWCP for over a year, the Federal Agency or the Postal Service will often separate and remove a Federal or Postal employee from the employment rolls of the Agency.  Once removed, the Federal or Postal employee has only up to one (1) year to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Once that year passes, you cannot file.  Years later, when OWCP & the Department of Labor stop those “Disability payments” for whatever reason, you cannot then start thinking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS. You will be reminded that TTD stands for just that — Temporary Total Disability. It will then be too late.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Priority and Importance

In preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to always distinguish between two conceptual paradigms:  priority of an issue, and the importance of an issue.

While gathering the proper evidence and substantiating medical documentation is of importance, it should not be the priority.  The priority — that which should precede another — should be to take care of the medical condition itself (i.e., to get the proper treatment modalities, to undergo the necessary diagnostic tests, to follow the treatment regimen of the doctor, etc.).

At some point, of course, the question will arise:  Is it time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS?  Can I continue to work at my job?  Is my job performance suffering?  At that critical juncture, then the issue of importance may arise.  While priority has to do with that which is first in a series of issues, the concept of “importance” can entail multiple issues all at once.

Once the question of “whether” is answered in the affirmative, then one must begin to approach the doctor for his or her support; to begin to annotate how the medical condition is impacting one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, etc.  All throughout, of course, the priority of getting the proper medical care is paramount.  Everything else is secondary, but other things can concurrently be of importance.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Paradigms for the Future

In attempting to decide to file for Federal Disability Retirement Benefits, it is often the case that Social Security disability benefits must be considered (not just “considered”, obviously, for FERS employees, because it is a requirement to file for it), and how seriously and vigorously; and further, whether to pursue, or to continue on, OWCP temporary total disability benefits.  These are “paradigms” that must be considered for the future.  By “paradigm”, I mean that they represent “models” of how a person wants his or her future to be based upon. 

For instance, let’s take the paradigm of Social Security disability benefits.  Because FERS employees who file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must also file for Social Security disability benefits (to see if they qualify; and, if qualified, the offsetting features will apply), one must take into consideration whether or not a Federal or Postal employee will actually want Social Security disability benefits.  This question arises because Social Security has a “cap” in which a person who receives Social Security disability benefits can make ancillary earned income (roughly no more than $10,000 per year).  Because of this, one must think of the future paradigm of one’s life:  If a person on FERS disability retirement wants to go out and get a part-time job, or start on a path for another career, where he or she makes 15, 20, 25,000 per year or more (because remember, a person can make up to 80% of what a person’s former Federal or Postal job currently pays), then he or she may not want to get Social Security disability benefits.  Most people who are on Federal disability retirement are simply disabled from performing one or more of the essential elements of the particular job; they are not “totally disabled”, and therefore are able to go out and start a second career.  This is the “paradigm” for the future which must be considered, and such a model for the future must be carefully thought through.  Next:  the OWCP paradigm.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire