Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management, the Agency which reviews, evaluates and makes determinations upon all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications, whether it is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is diligently attempting to adjudicate each application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

One must understand that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) does not just handle Disability Retirement applications for Federal and Postal employees — they handle all regular retirements, early retirements, and at all levels of the process — from eligibility determinations, to benefit and annuity calculations; to ensuring that the proper offsets are put in place between Social Security and Federal annuities; and, moreover, any over-payments or errors which may have occurred in the course of establishing benefits and payments are also reviewed and handled by OPM.  

From the perspective of the individual Disability Retirement applicant or annuitant, the length of time it takes, or the lack of responsiveness, may appear as if a particular individual is being “singled out” in the long delay and lengthy wait.  From the perspectively of OPM, however, such an individual is merely one of many, many cases awaiting adjudication. Discussions with various personnel at OPM reveal that there is simply a backlog of cases, with many, many cases coming in every day.  Patience is the only solution; it is an administrative, bureaucratic process, and when one freely enters into it, one must accept the timeline of the process itself.

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

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Waiting

Waiting for a decision to be rendered by the Office of Personnel Management for a submitted Federal Disability Retirement application, either at the Initial Stage of the Process, or after filing additional medical documentation and legal arguments at the Reconsideration Stage of the process, can be an agonizing time.  It is easy to say, “Patience is the key“, when each day passes without a word.  A call to the Office of Personnel Management will rarely yield any positive results.  Yes, there are some supervisors and contacts which can be helpful in the process, but ultimately too much undue pressure can sometime backfire.  Is there a statutorily mandated time-frame within which OPM must respond and make a decision?  Normally, they will inform you that they try and make a decision within 90 days of whatever the beginning of the time-frame they ascribe, but it can take much longer.  The key to the entire process is to survive the time of waiting, however long that may take.  Survival is best endured if one recognizes at the beginning of the process, that this is one process which can take a long, long time.

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

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: All Things Equal

Of course, in life, all things are NOT equal.  Some cases get approved within a couple of weeks; others, seemingly for months sit on an OPM Representative’s desk, with not even a glance or a reason for the extensive delay.

As night approaches, and this area gleams with the white of snow, a virtual dreamland of snow piled feet upon feet; whether Washington, D.C. will even open this week, or enter the week with the “liberal leave” policy; and, yes, of course there is tele-commuting, but the effectiveness of that is also based upon people ultimately coming in for files, additional information, etc.

This week, all things are not equal; Washington, D.C. is frozen in time, in weather, and in a beauty of sheer whiteness; in the quietude of nightfall, only the dreams of children and the shrills and shrieks of sleds and snowballs matter; for those who have Federal Disability Retirement applications waiting to be approved by the Office of Personnel Management, patience must still remain a virtue to be sought after.

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: OPM and a Delicate Balance

The Office of Personnel Management, as a Federal Agency, always maintains a “public face” of stating that they welcome inquiries and telephone calls to check on the status of a pending Disability Retirement application.  Yet, we all know that Agencies, Departments and the personnel and offices which comprise all Federal entities, are made up of “people”, and people are complex bundles made up of different and differing personalities.  There is a fine and delicate balance to be maintained between an “inquiry” and a “bugging”, and further, between an acceptable level of “bugging” and one which crosses the line into annoyance.  It is good to recognize and know when and if the lines are crossed.  A power struggle is a fine thing to get into, where there are two camps of equal power.  Where there is an imbalance of power, however, it is often unwise to insist upon the tug-and-pull of such a struggle. A word to the wise:  in dealing with any Federal Agency, be it the Office of Personnel Management or a Supervisor at a given Agency X, maintain a voice and tone of professionalism; the person on the other end of the telephone, no matter how friendly, is not your next-of-kin; be courteous, always, even if you want to insist upon something.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Service Disability Retirement: Patience is a Necessity

I have said this many, many times:  If patience is a virtue, then Federal employees must be the virtuous of all people, especially those who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and waiting upon the Office of Personnel Management to make a decision.  Then, even after it is approved, it is often months and months until one’s case is finalized and taken out of the “interim” pay status to final pay status; or, if the case is denied at the First Stage and you have to file a Request for Reconsideration, submit additional medical and other evidence, file a Memorandum of Law to try and convince the Second Stage Representative that, indeed, contrary to what the First Stage Representative had argued, you have been in full compliance and meet with all of the criteria for eligibility for FERS or CSRS disability retirement benefits — which can take an additional 120 – 150 days.  Then, of course, if it is denied at the Reconsideration Stage of the process, you must file an appeal within thirty (30) days to the Merit Systems Protection Board, where the Administrative Judge is mandated by statute to conclude a case from the time of appeal within 120 days.  The entire “process”  — and this is precisely why I refer to the administrative procedure of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS as a “process” — requires and demands patience.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire