CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: A Hypothetical

The case-law opinions from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, upholds the statement added onto Question 4 of Standard Form 3112A, the form which specifically requests the Applicant’s statement of disability, which asserts:  “We consider only the disease and/or injuries you discuss in this application”.

Failure to identify a particular medical condition can have an adverse impact upon one’s application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Take the following hypothetical: a Federal or Postal employee is terminated from Federal Service; he or she files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from service.  While the Statute of Limitations has already been met because the filing has occurred within the 1-year timeframe, during the process of awaiting a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the treating doctor has diagnosed with greater specificity the primary and underlying cause of the medical condition.

In his or her haste to file, the (now former) Federal employee quickly noted the diagnosed medical conditions in response to question 4, but nowhere is there an indication of the newly-diagnosed medical condition.  During the wait, it is now more than 1 year from the time of separation.  The quandary:  The Federal Disability Retirement application cannot be withdrawn, because the 1-year Statute of Limitations has already passed, and so he or she is no longer able to re-file.  No additional medical conditions can be added onto the SF 3112A.

Is there a problem? The answer:  Under this hypothetical, potentially yes.

Even if OPM approves the case, there may be future difficulties if OPM approves the Disability Retirement application based upon a medical condition listed, but resolved.  Care in identifying and properly annotating the medical conditions must be taken in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Encounters, Problems, Worries…

The entire process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS should necessarily anticipate encounters with potential pitfalls, problems, and issues as they appear and erupt, which concern and impact the Federal or Postal employee at every stage of the long procedural process.  

This is a natural part of the application process, precisely because the Federal or Postal employee is suddenly making contact with a multiplicity of personnel and issues:  notification to the agency that one is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; filing for a benefit which requires the admission and revelation of the most personal of information — one’s medical condition; encounters with the Human Resources department of one’s agency, one’s treating doctor, one’s supervisor, etc.; the filling out and completing of multiple forms which may determine the outcome of the success or failure of an endeavor which will impact upon one’s financial future and plans; as well as encountering a multitude of other issues, people, and problems in the course of attempting to prove that one is eligible by a preponderance of the evidence for a benefit called, “Federal Disability Retirement”.

Throughout the process, it is important to have the guidance of knowledgeable personnel.  However, there is an important distinction to be made between knowledge and information; there is an infinite plenitude of the latter; the former is what one needs to seek.  

As the process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a long and challenging process, it is best to anticipate unexpected and unanticipated encounters, worries and problems throughout the process, and to prepare to meet, overcome, and answer each one as they appear.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Issues

The issues upon which the Office of Personnel Management denies a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS are normally rather limited.  There are recurrent themes, and some of the more prevalent ones are:  insufficient medical documentation; issues concerning accommodations and attempted accommodations by the Agency; situational disability and issues which focus upon work issues which never should have been included in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A).  

These are generic designations of the types of issues which an OPM Claims Representative may argue as the primary basis of his or her denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, and there may be multiple corollary issues which are described — but, ultimately, when all is said and done, there are limited reasons as to why an Initial Stage application for Federal Disability Retirement is denied.  

That fact, however — of the limited basis and reasons — does not mean that the issues are simple; rather, that in responding to a denial from OPM, no matter how lengthy the denial letter may appear (or how short, for that matter), the issues can be neatly “broken down” and placed into manageable categories in order to respond.  Responding to a denial properly (in addition to filing the Request for Reconsideration in a timely manner) is important; how to respond, is all the more important.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Procrastination

Someone once said that procrastination is a wonderful thing — it allows for a lag-time between the future (for those things which need to get accomplished at some point), the present (those things which require attention immediately), and the past (those things which needed to get done, but whose time has passed, and with each passing moment, the urgency of which is diminishing because it doesn’t matter, anyway).  But procrastination has a way of “catching up” — where the piling up of past non-action combined with the present need to act, finally explodes when there is no future left to wait for. 

Preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS should not be compiled based upon a paradigm of procrastination.  Waiting for the last moment, or simply putting together a voluminous box of medical records and quickly filling out an SF 3112A by listing a compendium of known or suspected medical conditions, then quickly concluding that they impact one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, will only further raise the chances of a denial from the Office of Personnel Management

When a medical condition impacts a Federal or Postal employee and his or her ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, there is certainly a sense of urgency.  However, the urgency to quickly file a case must be weighed and balanced against the future likelihood of success.  This is a long, long, process, and the extra time it may take — weeks or months — to properly prepare, formulate and file a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, will help to prevent the problems of procrastination.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Potential Drawback

One of the potential drawbacks in pursuing collateral employment issues concomitantly with a Federal Disability Retirement application is that, as such employment issues are active and clearly in the collective consciousness of the Agency, the Supervisor, and all involved, the issue itself often gets sneaked into a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS via the back door.  

This is not necessarily a negative thing, but can be a potential drawback if the Supervisor insists upon inserting the details of the collateral action in the Supervisor’s Statement.  Whether such insertion and accompaniment with a Federal Disability Retirement application is “proper” or not, is a separate matter.  From the perspective of the applicant who is awaiting a decision from the Office of Personnel Management, it matters not as to the proper actions of the Agency.  What such actions by the rogue supervisor does, is to deflect the focus away from the medical issue, and redirects the reviewing official/representative at OPM that the “reason” for one’s early retirement is not one based upon a medical issue, but rather, is because of stresses or other factors caused by a hostile work environment, harassment issues, etc.  This is normally a proposition which can be easily sidestepped, by arguing to OPM that whether or not such workplace issues have any basis or not, the treating doctor has nevertheless stated X, Y & Z.  However, it can still be problematic, and that is why collateral workplace issues should be avoided, if at all possible.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire