Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Life Choices

We all have to make them; and though we may alternatively want to curl up into a fetal position and wish the blunt world to stop bothering us, the decisions we make, and take responsibility for, reflect the state of maturity which binds us to age, experience and level of moral maturity.  It is, to a great extent, a superficial and shallow connotation and reference point; for, as the inevitability of choices to be made result from living in circumstances of our own making, so to imply that there is anything “substantive” in speaking about them undermines the very relevance of implication itself.

To live is to be confronted with daily choices; only the dead remain silent and require not the paths to pick.  Thus do mundane and pithy sayings originate.  Life is full of choices; the choices we make in life determine the future course of events yet indeterminate, but somewhat foreseen and predictable. Often, we avoid them not because of consequences untold, but for knowing the folly of our decisions.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition foretells of impending signs which the Federal agency and the U.S. Postal Service have, or will, impose and initiate, the time to begin preparing one’s Federal Disability Retirement application is “now”.  Yes, the Federal and Postal employee has up to one (1) year to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in order to meet the Statute of Limitations for filing an OPM Disability Retirement; but as it often takes many, many months to prepare, submit and get an approval from OPM, so the decisions we make today will have future consequences untold but foreseen if choices are not embraced in a timely manner.

Life presents many choices, alternatives, and lists of items like entrees on a menu; but in the end, the choice made means that when the plate of food arrives, a check for payment will follow soon afterwards, and it is the expectation of the price to be satisfied which should prompt and motivate any decisions of delay for the Federal or Postal Worker who intends on procrastinating in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application through OPM, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS, or CSRS Offset.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Kierkegaard’s Either/Or

Life is often a series of disjunctions and bifurcation of choices; in mathematics and logic, such series of “either/or” options or “if and only if” algorithms provide a neat analytical explication of a problem.  But in daily living, numerical precision is replaced by a complex series of pragmatic decision-making options which rarely fit into a predetermined set of constants.

Soren Kierkegaard was a Danish philosopher of some note, whose work entitled, “Either/Or”, presented the stark choice of following a normative life governed by principles and ethics, or one of hedonism and self-interest. One might argue that there are always “middle grounds” where such choices overlap; but the clarified standards as presented allow for foundational paradigms to be followed; let life itself impart the complexities we create of our own making.

For Federal and Postal employees considering the important step of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is unfortunately a bifurcation of stark options.  For, as there are no short-term disability benefits available (unless it is a work-related injury, in which case one may file for OWCP/Department of Labor benefits; or some private disability policies), the choice is to either remain with the agency and the Federal system, and continue to deteriorate with the progressive decline of one’s health, or to file for a benefit (Federal Disability Retirement), where the medical condition must last for a minimum of 12 months and where one is separated from Federal Service upon an approval of an OPM Disability Retirement application.

The paradigms presented are clear.  The difficult part is in taking the necessary steps to choose between the disjunction of that which life presents, without getting caught up in the logical inconsistency of a world which believes itself to be rational, but acts in ways which are clearly contrary to its own normative constructs.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Social Isolation

Federal and Postal employees who contemplate filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, often feel a profound sense of isolation.

First, of course, the agency itself has a tendency to treat the medically disabled Federal or Postal employee as a pariah; that, somehow, suffering from a medical condition is within the control of the sufferer.

Then, if the agency is informed of the very intent to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, then certain consequential actions often follow:  a PIP may be imposed; leave restrictions may be enforced; an adverse action may be proposed, including a removal — often based not upon the medical condition, but all sorts of “other reasons” that have been tabulated, memorialized and recorded, by supervisors and fellow co-workers.  Yes, there is FMLA; yes, the Federal or Postal employee may file an EEO action or other potential lawsuit; but such counteractions fail to mitigate the sense of isolation and separation that the Federal or Postal employee feels, from an agency which he or she has expended one’s life and energies to advance for the cause of one’s career.

Third, when the Federal or Postal employee finally files with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, OPM’s non-responsive attitude further exacerbates the sense of isolation.  A sense of closure is what one desires; of being able to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits, then to move on with life into the next phase of a vocation, the next step beyond.

One should always remember:  It is the very act of filing which is the first step in overcoming the profound sense of isolation; for, the act itself and the decision to move beyond, is the affirmative indicator that there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The History of Agency Interaction

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is often a long history of interaction with one’s own agency, and to what extent such prior historical context is or is not relevant to a Federal Disability Retirement application depends upon the uniqueness of each case.

Some issues constitute an impact upon the Federal or Postal employee only — i.e., leave issues, whether FMLA has been invoked and how much has already been used; whether the Federal or Postal employee has been able to provide any substantiating medical documentation to the agency, etc.

Other issues are more in the province of the Agency — how patient will the agency be during the process of awaiting OPM’s decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS; has a PIP already been initiated?  Is there a security clearance issue, or an issue with retention of a medical clearance in order to perform one’s job?

Then, of course, there are issues which intersect, and where an adversarial — or at least a conflicting — relationship develops.  When the agency attempts to initiate an adverse action, or when harassment occurs, the issues which arise may need to be resolved through litigation, filing of a grievance, internal personnel procedures invoked, etc.

Ultimately, whether or not any of the various peripheral issues impact a Federal Disability Retirement application is questionable, because it is not the agency itself which determines the approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, but only the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Choices

One immediately hears it in the voice — of the frustration and desire to simply give up.  But “giving up” is simply not a choice, if one refuses to acknowledge such an option and fails to place it on the roster of listed alternatives.  Part of the human factor in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is the chasm of the unknown.

No, there is never a guarantee that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will be approved, just as there is never a certainty that one’s treating doctor will support the patient’s need to apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  It is the unknown — from whether the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is sufficient to obtain an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, to whether the doctor’s report is “strong enough”; from what steps the agency will take to try and undermine a Federal Disability Retirement case, to the long and seemingly endless wait while one’s case simply sits on the desk of some Case worker at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — the aggregate of all of these constitute and comprise the “unknown”.

There are cases where a thin sliver of medical documents result in a quick and uncomplicated approval; others, where a voluminous binding of reports, diagnostic tests and medical records result in scant attention and a denial. Often, it seems somewhat arbitrary.

It is the “unknown” and “unknowable” factors which heighten the time of anxiety.  But through the entire administrative process, the singular choice should always be clear:  to move forward.  And sometimes, to do so is to merely wait, and disregard the unknown or unknowable.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: When Should the Agency Be Informed?

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the question is often asked whether and when an Agency should be informed of the impending Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Such a question & answer is almost always a discretionary one, and there is not a “right” answer — only one which can result from the tailored responses of specific and individual circumstances.  For, on the one hand, the Agency will often already suspect that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and therefore the automatic loss of the applicant/employee, is an inevitable future certainty, and therefore such notification is merely a formality.  

The Agency is often anxious to have the backlog of work created by the employee’s non-attendance or sporadic attendance resulting from the chronic medical conditions, to be abated at some point, and therefore hiring a replacement is something which the Agency wants accomplished as soon as possible — and one might argue that informing the Agency is the “right thing” to do.  

But in representing a Federal or Postal employee in a Federal Disability Retirement case, the “right thing” always is looking after the best interests of the client, and informing the agency prior to filing is not always in the best interests of the client.  For, on the other hand, informing the Agency too soon will often result in unintended consequences — of reactions and initiated actions upon being informed of the very intention of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

While unfortunate and even perhaps “retaliatory” in nature, Agencies often act/react only upon official notification of an intention.  In other words, the proverbial “elephant in the room” is only noticed when the elephant actually stomps its feet (or is it “hooves”?).  Whether and when is a discretionary decision by the Federal or Postal employee.  

Ultimately, of course, when the Federal Disability Retirement application is filed through the Agency for further processing before being forwarded to the Office of Personnel Management, the Agency will be fully informed.  But as to “pre-informing” the Agency — that all depends upon the individual circumstances of the Federal or Postal employee, taking into account first and foremost the best interests of the client when represented by an OPM Disability Retirement attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Agency Removal & Resignation

Whether an Agency is willing to wait while a Federal or Postal employee files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, or if removal becomes the preferred action, is always a concern to the Federal or Postal employee.  

Often, no matter what medical documentation is submitted as documentary proof of one’s inability to come to work, an Agency will insist that a Federal employee is “AWOL” because of some minutiae or technicality in the paperwork provided.  Regardless (no, I will not use the grammatically incorrect non-word, “irregardless”, which is a combined double-negative of the suffix and prefix, leaving the root word “regarding” intact, thereby making irrelevant the necessity of both the prefix and the suffix) of the Agency’s actions, it is important for the Federal or Postal employee to proceed with his or her Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Attempting to predict how the agency will act or react; waiting upon an Agency’s response — ultimately, one must proceed affirmatively and not be concerned with what the Agency will or will not do.  Concurrently, however, the Federal or Postal employee should respond to an Agency’s removal actions.  

Sometimes, if in fact the Agency is able to produce sufficient “evidence” to justify an adverse removal action (lack of sufficient notice; lack of medical justification submitted in a timely manner; violation of PIP provisions; violation of previously-imposed leave restrictions, etc.), an offer of resignation in order to maintain the official personnel file “clean” of any such adverse actions, is a reasonable course to take, both for the Agency as well as for the Federal or Postal employee.  

More often than not, the Agency will be responsive to opening a discussion for a mutually beneficial removal based upon one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  Since the same medical documentation to prove one’s medical disability retirement application should be sufficient to justify such a removal, the timing of such a removal could not be better.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire