FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Preparation

Observing competence in action often results in the disarming effect that all endeavors are easy and effortless, and that the price to be paid, the admission fee for fame, is merely based upon luck, whom you are associated with, or what school you attended.  And while it may be true that meritocracies are fading into the oblivion and sunset of historical anachronisms, and the new and acceptable approach to societal fairness is to implement the distribution of wealth via Piketty’s proposed paradigm in his compendium work, Capital in the Twenty First-Century; nevertheless, there are some things which one must still prepare for, and formulate a road-map for a successful outcome.

GPS devices tell us what to do, where to turn, how many miles the journey will take; administrative and bureaucratic facets of life still lack any such electronic directional voices.  For Federal and Postal employees who must consider the reality of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, the reality of preparation must be faced and confronted.  Preparation must involve: obtaining effective medical reports (how does one go about doing that?); what are the legal parameters which increase the chances of a First-Stage successful filing (is this based upon the law or some other factors?); what are the procedural steps which must be adhered to (is there a sequence to be followed, or can one approach the process through multiple avenues and tentacles simultaneously?).

The fact that one pays a single admission fee to watch a symphony or ballet does not mean that players perform based upon the singularity of the fee; that would be an absurdity. Preparation constitutes multiple actions behind the curtains, far in advance of the final performance displayed for the seated audience. It is up to the Federal and Postal employee to go backstage before the performance begins, and to unravel the hidden devices, the invisible threads, and the wizard behind the proverbial curtain.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Wait-time Extended

The time which takes from the assignment of a case number in Boyers, PA, to a decision rendered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., has been extended.

Recent articles regarding this issue have been slow to reveal the underpinnings of this growing problem, but the coalescence of multiple factors is making for a mini “perfect storm” of sorts, including:  Budget cuts which have forced disallowance of overtime and further hiring of additional workers; slow response to a progressively impending problem in the past couple of years; the threat of furloughs which restricts options available for OPM to respond; internal moving of offices within the same building at OPM.

Service is the essence of the function of government; when the essential function of government begins to disintegrate, it becomes a reflection on a growing, greater problem.  For Federal and Postal workers who have worked tirelessly towards their day of retirement, and for those Federal and Postal Workers who have been hit with a medical condition such that Federal Disability Retirement benefits is an option which must be relied upon, any extension of time in processing the application for disability retirement is an added burden which places great financial and emotional pressure upon an already-dire circumstance.

Fair or not, the reality of an administrative nightmare is steadily growing.

The good news is that there is such an option as Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and one which is a progressive paradigm for a society which understands that medical conditions may impact the Federal or Postal Worker, but that such medical conditions need not mean that a person is totally disabled — merely that there is an inconsistency between one’s position and one’s medical condition.

The bad news is that the wait-time to obtain such benefits has been somewhat extended.  The solution?  Only that filing sooner than later will place one in the proverbial line of the bureaucratic turmoil, only to slowly march forward towards the desired end.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Preparing for the Process

Every endeavor or activity requires preparation — if merely a thought, but more than likely, the gathering of proper materials, a logistical and strategic plan of action, etc.  There is nothing more frustrating than to begin a project, only to find that one lacks the proper materials and tools, and must delay any further action because of such lack.

Similarly, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important for the Federal or Postal employee to understand that “having a medical condition” is not enough to endeavor to begin the administrative process (some would instead insert the term, “nightmare” for the word “process”).

While the suffering of the chronic or debilitating medical condition may “feel” like it should be enough, filing for a bureaucratic benefit requires proof which meets a set standard of evidentiary documentation.  In other words, one must establish a “nexus”, or a connection, between the medical condition which one suffers from, and the job which one is positioned for, and moreover, one must always keep in mind that this is a “medical retirement“, and as such, it must be established that one is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job from a medical standpoint.

It is indeed the preparatory phase of the journey into Federal Disability Retirement which will provide the foundation for ultimate success in the endeavor.

Just as you don’t want to build a house without first having the appropriate construction materials; so you don’t want to go down the path of Federal Disability Retirement without having the requisite medical and legal tools in hand.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: In a Perfect World & Secondary Constructs

In a perfect world, one can propose a hypothetical construct where efficiency of service occurs without thought; where administrative processes are available without glitches or unforeseen hazards; and where the workplace environment is daily supportive and sensitive to the needs of injured and disabled workers.  But of course the corollary of such a construct is that, if indeed a perfect world existed, then much of the world which is established to combat, prevent and counteract the imperfect world would have no need to exist.

It is similar to the problem of those in philosophy who attempt to argue as follows:  How do we know that the world before us is not merely a dream? The answer:  The very reason why we can distinguish between dreams and reality, is presumably because we must first acknowledge the reality of the world; dreams are secondary; the mistake we make is when we make that which is primary into a secondary construct.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal and Postal employee who is engaging the services of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management should be well aware that they are not entering a perfect world.  This is a world of administrative nightmares; of expected denials and delays; and further, a world which is neither sensitive to, nor recognizably aware of, the underlying human suffering which accompanies each and every Federal Disability Retirement packet.

Further, in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement case, it is important to keep the essential elements of a Federal Disability Retirement application in a streamlined, focused presentation; otherwise, if you present the argument as a dream-like world, you will get a return response in a nightmarish fashion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Continuing Life

Snow.  Events such as a major snowstorm tend to have a myopic effect upon individuals, towns, cities, etc.; for, as the focus is narrowly placed upon the event itself, the beauty of nature’s blanketing is lost upon the urgency of what is announced.

Language has such an effect.  One becomes more comfortable reading about an event, rather than experiencing it.  Thus, one may google about a natural occurrence in one’s own neighborhood, when all that should be needed is to open the back door and look outside.

A corollary effect occurs in a Federal Disability Retirement case.  The “event” of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits becomes the singular focus for the Federal Disability Retirement applicant, and this is understandable, because the necessity of securing one’s future often depends upon obtaining the foundational economic and financial benefit.  But other aspects of one’s continuing life must concurrently progress in a linear fashion. For, the problem with waiting upon another, is that the “other” rarely notices or even cares.

OPM’s shutdown because of the snow will have the reverberating impact of slowing things down for another day, which will echo down the line for hundreds, if now thousands.  The ones who are impacted will be the Federal and Postal employees who have a dire need to have their Federal Disability Retirement cases decided.

From the “other’s” perspective, however, this is a snow-day.  Driveways to be cleared; kids to be attended to.  The continuing life.  If only that were so for everyone, including the Federal or Postal Worker who is awaiting a decision.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Psychological Process

One of the reasons why the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, should view the entirety of the administrative process as just that — a “process” as opposed to an entitlement to benefits — is because (a) that is in fact what it is and (b) to fail to view it from that perspective would be to refuse to adequately prepare for the long and arduous procedural pitfalls which are inherent in each case.

This is not an entitlement where a specific trigger of an event results in the automatic calculation and issuance of compensation.  Reaching a certain age does not result in the granting of Federal Disability Retirement benefits (although it may end it and be recalculated at age 62); attaining a certain number of years of service will not qualify one for Federal disability Retirement benefits (but again, upon reaching age 62, it may result in a beneficial calculation of benefits for having a greater number of years of service).

Rather, Federal Disability Retirement is an administrative, legal process in which one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is (1) eligible, in that one meets certain minimum requirements, such as 18 months of Federal Service under FERS, or 5 years under CSRS, and (2) entitled, by proving that one has met the legal requirements under the statutes, regulations and case-law.

By having the proper psychological perspective, one is better able to prepare for the long haul before starting the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Filing

The actual filing of a FERS Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, can be rather anti-climactic, precisely because the prospective anticipation is merely beaten down by the long wait and the extended period of inactivity.

Thus, in the prior two phases of the administrative process — the “preparation and formulation” part of it —  the engagement in obtaining and completing the forms, presenting in written form and putting the entire Federal Disability Retirement application together, creates an appearance of progressively working towards a goal.  Once filed — if still with the agency or within thirty one (31) days of being separated from the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service —  the agency must complete their portion.

Depending upon whether it is with the local Human Resources Office or the District Human Resources Office will often determine how efficient or helpful they are.  If a Federal or Postal employee has been separated from Federal Service for over thirty one (31) days, of course, then it must be filed directly with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, Pennsylvania.

Filing a Federal Disability Retirement application is both a physical act, as well as a psychological barrier to be broken; as to the former, it is a relatively simple matter of sending it in; as to the latter, it constitutes an important step in recognizing and acknowledging the necessity of attending to one’s medical needs for recuperative purposes, whether because of physical or psychiatric medical concerns which require an alteration of employment demands.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Pre-Conditional Preparatory Steps

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether a Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, there are steps to be taken — not only at each “stage” of the administrative process, but moreover, in the weeks and months prior to the actual formulation, compilation and submission of the Standard Forms, documentary support, writing of the Applicant’s Statement, etc.

As a “process”, one may bifurcate the necessary steps into the following:  the pre-conditional stage; the preparatory stage; the time of formulation & actualization; finally, the submission of the disability retirement packet.

In the “pre-conditional” time period, one should focus upon the single most important aspect of a Federal Disability Retirement case — that of garnering, concretizing and establishing the necessary physician-patient relationship, such that there is a clear understanding of what is required of the physician; what the physician expects of the patient; and, wherever and whenever possible, a continuing mutual respect and understanding between the doctor and the patient-applicant.

This is why the Merit Systems Protection Board has explicitly, through case after case, opined upon the preference for “treating” doctors of longstanding tenure.  For, in such a relationship of long-term doctor-patient relationships, a greater ability to assess and evaluate the capabilities and limitations of the patient’s physical, emotional and psychological capacities can best be achieved.

In every “rule”, of course, there are exceptions, and sometimes more “distant” methods of evaluations can be obtained — through OWCP doctors, referee opinions, independent examinations (indeed, one can make the argument that because it is “independent”, therefore it carries greater weight), functional capacity evaluations, etc.

For the most part, however, the cultivation of an excellent physician-patient relationship will be the key to a successful Federal Disability Retirement claim, and as such, the pre-conditional stage to the entire process should be focused upon establishing that solid foundation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Decisions of the Federal and Postal Employee

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, the ultimate and deciding “first step” factor which propels the entire process, of course, is entirely within the authoritative realm of the Federal or Postal employee contemplating such a course of action.  

In making any decision, however, the trajectory of options begins to diminish when the options themselves become more and more limited and restricted by external circumstances.  Thus, when the Federal or Post employee is removed and separated from Federal Service, then the option to file becomes clearly defined:  one must file within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service, or you lose your right to file forever.  Or, if the threat of being separated from service becomes cumulatively overwhelming; or, perhaps the medical condition itself, because of its progressively deteriorating aspect, imposes the necessity to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits sooner than anticipated, rather than later.  

Additionally, there are multiple scenarios which offer refinements to those already mentioned — for example, if one has already filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and in the meantime the Federal or Postal worker has been separated from Federal Service, then the ability to either file for Reconsideration (in the event of an initial denial) or appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (in the event of a second denial from the Office of Personnel Management) — as opposed to letting a Request for Reconsideration or an appeal to the MSPB lapse and begin the process all over again —  may be restricted and limited precisely because of the separation from service “in the meantime”.

Options and the ability to make the proper decision in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, should be made with the utmost of flexibility, if possible; but such flexibility and possible decision-making become more and more limited when one waits for external circumstances to intervene — i.e., the medical condition itself; the law; work circumstances; or a combination of all of the above.  Remember, most emergencies are self-made, and the destiny of one’s choices often depends upon thoughtful preparation at the beginning of a complex process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Systematic Preparation for the Process

As has been stated many time previously, in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to view the engagement with the entirety of the application procedure as a “process“, as opposed to a singular event.  

The multiple stages of this administrative process — from the Initial Stage of the preparation and filing; to the Reconsideration Stage (in the event of an initial denial); to the appeal to an Administrative Judge with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board; to an appeal with a Petition for Full Review (PFR) with the MSPB; and finally to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals — it is a “process” because each of the forums or legal venues cannot be viewed in a vacuum.  

While it is true that a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board will receive the information, testimony, and conduct the Hearing as “de novo” — meaning, “anew” or “freshly all over again” — nevertheless, it is quite apparent that the reason why such a stage as having a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board is precisely because of the evidence filed in the prior portion of the process, and the one before that.

Thus, retrospectively, one must understand that the Federal or Postal Worker who finds himself or herself in any part of the administrative process, is there precisely because of its interdependence upon a prior, other part of the process.  Therefore, prospectively — looking forward at the start of the process — it is important to recognize this point, and to prepare and formulate one’s Federal Disability Retirement application with this in mind:  that each Stage of the administrative process identified as a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS cannot be viewed in a vacuum, but instead, must always be analyzed with a view from “on high” — meaning, preparing for the potentiality that it will be reviewed and heard before a judge.  

This often changes the perspective, and should give pause to the lay person who believes that his or her case is a mere “slam dunk” which will entail a singular event.  Systematic preparation for the entirety of the process is a perspective worth noting, and such notation may be the needed grammatical mark for a successful and persuasive presentation to the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire