Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Post Disability Retirement Issues

Often, there is a collective sigh of relief once a Federal Disability Retirement application is approved, such that the newly designated and identified Federal Disability Retiree or “annuitant” forgets that, just as it was important to be scrupulously vigilant in attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits, so it is just as essential to remain attentive in maintaining and retaining the benefit itself.

Thus, the Federal Disability Retirement annuitant should presumptively expect to be selected in the future to answer a Medical Questionnaire.  Such presumption of receipt will enable the former Federal or Postal Worker to keep the necessary focus, and thus the benefit.  It will often come every 2 years or so, if at all, and will request an update of the status of the medical condition, the prognosis, and whether the annuitant has recovered sufficiently to return to one’s former job, or any similar job that the Federal Disability Retirement annuitant worked at previously.

It is therefore important to continue to foster, maintain or establish anew the doctor-patient relationship, such that if and when a Medical Questionnaire is received, the entire process does not become an unforeseen emergency.  Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits required a significant investment of one’s energy, time, savings, and attention; vigilance in continuing to retain such a benefit deserves no less.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: A Proper Sense of Objectivity

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS, one might ask the legitimate question as to why a “proper sense of objectivity” is even necessary, given the obvious fact that:  A.  The applicant is identical to the person whom the application is about and B.  

From the Merit Systems Protection Board cases touching upon the types of evidence which the Office of Personnel Management is required to accept and review, subjective evidence of pain is acceptable and must be considered.  While both of these statements (A & B) are true, the problem comes about when the focus of the discussion concerning the basis and reasons for granting of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS are without a proper discussion of the medical conditions which should be discussed in the medical reports and records themselves.

This is where the bridge between the applicant’s own narrative of the medical condition and a proper perspective and balance of a discussion concerning the medical evidence being submitted, is often lost when the applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is unrepresented, and is therefore one and the same as the person who is preparing the application.  

Some sense of emotion is never harmful; some sense of passion and strength of conviction is certainly preferable; too much of the “I” will, however, often result in the loss of the proper sense of objectivity in the formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Issue of Discretion

A Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS may also be undergoing concurrent disciplinary proceedings, or engaged in corollary grievances, EEO Complaints, or involved in a lawsuit in a separate forum, either in the Federal Circuit Courts or at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

In either event, the question often comes to the fore as to whether such collateral issues should be brought up in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) or perhaps in a legal memorandum or cover letter which argues the merits of the case, the legal basis for eligibility, etc.  The answer to the question as to whether, how and where is one of discretionary choice, and there is never a singular answer.  

A separate question to be asked of one’s self (with no obvious answer) is whether or not, if the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS does not bring up the fact of a collateral issue being litigated in a separate forum, will the Agency bring it up and discuss it in a way detrimental to the Applicant, and further, will the fact that the issues was not brought up make it appear as if the Applicant is somehow trying to hide the issue?  As with all such hypotheticals, the answer to all of the above is:  It all depends…  

Often, not mentioning a potential “red flag” until and unless it becomes a red flag is the best approach.  Sometimes, making a passing reference to the collateral issue may be appropriate.  In all instances, unless a connection can be made between the collateral issue and the issues central to a Federal Disability Retirement application — the medical basis and the impact upon one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job — it is normally best to leave it alone.  In any case, such discretionary decisions should be made with the advice of an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: It Is a Medical Issue

If a Federal or Postal Employee is still on the rolls of the Agency, or if you have not been separated from service for more than 31 days, then the disability retirement application must be routed through your agency before being forwarded to the Office of Personnel Management for processing and review.  If you have been separated from Federal Service — meaning, you have actually been taken off of the rolls of your agency (this does include being on sick leave, or on annual leave, or on leave without pay) — for 31 days or more (but not for more than 1 year, in which case you have lost your right and ability to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, because you have allowed the 1-year statute of limitations to pass by), then you must file your case directly with the Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA.  Whether routed through your agency or directly to the Office of Personnel Management, remember that a Federal Disability Retirement application is ultimately a medical issue — not a supervisor’s issue, not an agency issue; it is not determined by your agency; your eligibility is not determined by your supervisor.  It is, essentially, and at its very core, an issue between you, your doctor, and your inability to perform the essential elements of your Federal or Postal job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Standard Forms Do Not Mean “Standard Responses”

The problem with “Standard Forms” is that they often appear to solicit “standard responses”, and in a Federal Disability Retirement case under the Federal Employees Retirement Systems (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), nothing could be further from the truth.  Indeed, it is often because a Federal or Postal employee/applicant who confronts and begins to fill out SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, the very “blocked” appearance of the form, and the constricting questions themselves, makes it appear as if a “standard response” is required.  Don’t be fooled.

By way of example, take a “special animal” — that of a Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Controller who must take a disqualifying medication, loses his or her medical certification from the Flight Surgeon, and thinks that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a “slam dunk”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Or, a Customs & Border Patrol Agent who goes out on stress leave, or suffers from chronic back pain.  Are there “standard responses” in filling out an Applicant’s Statement of Disability?  There are certain standard “elements” which should be considered in responding to the questions, but don’t be constricted by an appearance of “standard responses” to a “standard form”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire