Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Realizing Process

By definition, a process entails multiple procedural steps.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management encapsulates procedural administrative steps, and these include denials and appeals.

Yes, it is true that a certain percentage are approved at the first stage of the process.  Yes, it is also true that not everyone must go to the Second, or Reconsideration Stage of the process, or the Third Stage, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.  But the fact that “not everyone” must be subjected to X, does not undermine, erase, or otherwise nullify the truism that it still remains a “process”, as opposed to an application for an entitlement benefit.

As a process, one’s Federal Disability Retirement application with OPM must be proven.  In order to prove a case, one must submit certain qualifying documentation.  As the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is the initial and secondary reviewer and determining agency for the first two stages of the process, so they have personnel of differing qualitative abilities — from pure incompetence, to indifference, to superior case workers who understand the full and complete application of the law, the regulatory criteria, and the statutory applicability of case-law interpretation.

Since it is the only process around, it is something we have to live with, and ultimately, follow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Sounds Good

There are various stages of the administrative process designated and defined as “Federal Disability Retirement” — the initial application stage of the process, where one must attempt to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; if disapproved and denied, then the Reconsideration Stage of the process (where one may submit additional medical and other documentary evidence to persuade the Office of Personnel Management to reverse themselves); an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, where the Federal or Postal applicant’s Disability Retirement application is taken out of the hands of OPM and transferred to an Administrative Judge, who will hear the case anew, without regard to what OPM has decided in the past; a further appeal to the Full Board of the MSPB in the event that the Administrative Judge issues an Initial Decision which affirms and upholds OPM’s denial of the case; and a further appeal to the Federal Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Throughout this process, and especially in the administrative stages before the Office of Personnel Management, one should make a distinction between “sounding good” and “being right”.  Hopefully, the Federal or Postal employee who has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is both right and sounding good. But there is a distinction to be made.  For example, OPM will often — in their denial letter — “sound good” but be completely wrong on the law.  They will cite medical textbooks which skew the legal standard of review; creep into the discussion of a denial letter such terms as “no significant disability rating to speak of,” or that you don’t suffer from a disability which “incapacitates” you.  It all “sounds good”, but it is not true precisely because it is not the applicable standard of law to be applied.

At the initial stages of the process, OPM can get away with such nonsense, because most people don’t recognize the untrue and inapplicable standard of law being applied.  In the later stages of the process, however, when an Administrative Judge hears a case, it becomes important not only to “sound good”, but to also apply the right legal criteria.

Appearance versus reality — it is the argument of Western Civilization from the pre-Socratics onward.  As Alfred North Whitehead once observed, all of philosophy was already written by Plato and footnoted by Aristotle.  That statement both sounds good, and is indeed right on point.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Process of Eligibility

The problem with possessing power is that it must be accompanied by truth, validity and rational foundations, if it is to be effective over the long term.  

In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is the process of proving one’s eligibility by meeting the burden of proof, termed as the “preponderance of the evidence“.  A disagreement can occur during the process, in that the Representative from the Office of Personnel Management can deny the Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Such a denial can occur twice at the OPM level — at the Initial Stage of the process, then at the Reconsideration Stage of the process.  OPM possesses the power to approve or deny each Federal Disability Retirement application.  Often, however, the denial itself fails to be accompanied by a rational discourse which strives to meet the high standards that a Federal Agency should always adhere to — guided by the truth and validity of any claims made in a denial letter.  Too often, the discourse which is the basis of the denial merely regurgitates a series of template-like statements, and then the OPM denies the claim.  

Fortunately, however, OPM is not the only Agency which makes the determination during the entirety of the process.  After the second denial, it then loses its jurisdiction over a case, and an appeal can be made to the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

The integrity of the entire process depends upon the independence of the MSPB in reviewing all such cases, and indeed, the Administrative Judges at the MSPB review each case carefully, with an open mind, and with the proper application of the law.  Each Judge must render a decision which contains the rational basis of a decision, based upon precedents and statutory legal underpinnings.  To have the full benefit of the process is indeed the basis of a system with integrity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Entirety of the Process

There is a common understanding, based upon comments and statements made by people over several years, that when an individual files for Social Security Disability benefits, most such cases are denied at the initial stage.  It is almost understood as an “automatic” denial at the first stage of the process. 

Whether this is true or not or, more importantly, whether or not there are some who get it approved at the initial application stage and therefore betray the truth of such a belief, is besides the point.  What is important is the perception that it is so, and therefore, the approach which individuals take in filing for Social Security Disability benefits is altered and adapted accordingly. 

Similarly, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, whether or not most cases get approved at the Initial Stage of the Process, or at the Second, Reconsideration Stage of the process, is ultimately besides the point.  It is important to understand and approach the entirety of the administrative process with a proper frame of mind:  a denial at the Initial Stage of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is not the end of the process; rather, it is just the beginning. 

By approaching the entirety of the process with a correct frame of mind — and reference — one can maintain one’s sanity while waiting for the conclusion of the long and arduous process to unfold.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Decisions during the Process

In making decisions during the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is obviously important to make the “right decision” at each stage of the process.  Thus, for example, if a person files for Federal Disability Retirement, at the first stage it is important to determine which medical conditions to identify and base the application upon; at the Second, Reconsideration Stage, it is important to first identify what substantive concerns which the Office of Personnel Management is proposing (in any given denial of a Federal Disability Retirement case, it is often not that obvious what the OPM Representative is actually stating), and how to go about rebutting and answering the concerns (as opposed to taking a “shotgun approach” and trying to answer each and every concern expressed by the OPM Representative), and further, at the Merit Systems Protection Board, it is vitally important to place all evidence, legal precedents, arguments and objections on the record, so that if the Administrative Judge in the case denies your claim, you have a legal basis to file an appeal.  As always, it is important to see the entire application submission, from beginning to end, as a “process”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire