OPM Disability Retirement: The Process of Decision-Making

As has been previously stated in repetitive fashion, 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 to understand and acknowledge the duality of the process — for it is a process, as opposed to a singular event, both as an administrative legal issue, as well as for the individual Federal or Postal employee in a personal sense.

To clarify:  As an administrative issue, it is a process which involves multiples stages of argumentation (potentially).  Yes, it would be nice if every case was decided with an approval at the First/Initial Stage of the administrative process; however, there is a purpose and a reason why there are multiple stages.  It is precisely because it was anticipated that there would be denials and appeals to such denials, that an administrative procedure for multiple stages of review and further submissions of evidence and arguments was constructed and implemented.  It is not an entitlement pursuant to a fixed date, a fixed age, or a triggering event.  Rather, it is an administrative process which must be proven, applied for, and affirmatively shown that one is eligible.

From the personal perspective of the Federal or Postal employee, the decision of “when” to apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is also a process, as opposed to a singular event.  There are, of course, cases where a traumatic injury or life-changing accident occurred, and such an event is the triggering moment for filing.  But for most Federal or Postal employees, the medical condition suffered is a progressively deteriorating process, and it is often difficult to determine a “date certain” where one can point to on a calendar and state, this is the day and hour when I cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of my job.

This is why there is an inherent complexity to a process, as opposed to a singular event of certitude — for, it is always the unknown and the uncertain which gives rise to the anxieties of life, and a process is indeed a period of the unknown, and a chasm of uncertainty.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Disability for Civilian Federal Employees: The Inactivity

Waiting upon a third party or entity is often the hardest thing to do.  Waiting upon a bureaucratic process is an exponential aggravation of that same hardest thing to do, because one cannot fathom a reason or rationale for such dependency of unproductive time.

If there was actual knowledge of some accounting for activity during the process, it would perhaps justify the inactivity; but merely awaiting the sequential attendance of a case file which may or may not be reviewed on any given day, is a non-activity of an unknown and unknowable non-productivity of non-action. The result: frustration.

Now, one may argue that the voluntary submission into the world of bureaucratic waiting means that one has received that which was asked for; but this merely explains the cause, and solves nothing.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an administrative process which, unfortunately, requires patience, waiting, and a resolve that there will be an ultimate end to the process, given the right amount of time.

Then, of course, the Federal or Postal employee who is subjected to the long wait, must immediately comply with the time-limitations imposed if a denial of a FERS or CSRS disability retirement application is issued by OPM.  When it is upon them, the Federal and Postal employee must be patient; when it is upon us, there are strict time limitations which must be followed, or else…

The bureaucracy moves, albeit at a pace designed to test the patience of saints; but then, the old adage applies as always, that Federal and Postal Workers are the most virtuous of human beings, given that patience is still considered a virtue.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Immediate Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Complex Simplicity

Often enough in life, the most complex of conceptual constructs is constituted by its very simple nature; and, conversely, the seemingly simplest of tasks is characterized by its concealed complexity, only to be revealed upon an attempted unraveling of its internal mechanisms.

Consider the games of basketball or golf; the concept begins with placing a round object into a similarly-shaped chasm.  From a spectator’s perspective, nothing could be simpler; for the one who has practiced the identical motion to succeed, nothing could be more frustrating.  Conversely, witness the passage of a simple law, or of the original amendments to the U.S. Constitution; words of limited complexity; yet, it is the very simplicity of the underlying principles which conceal their complex conceptual underpinnings.

For Federal and Postal employees who first encounter the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one might be tempted to “go it alone” because of the seemingly simple construct of the necessary nexus: of the connective bridge which must be established between one’s medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job.

But it should become abundantly (and quickly) clear that it is not the foundational precept of the entire process which makes for complexity, but the ancillary issues, including the required medical documentation, the agency’s attempt to accommodate, or the elements which constitute the essential duties of a position and how they are impacted by a medical condition, etc.  No, it is the coordination of all of the arms and legs which go into preparing and formulating an effective Federal Disability Retirement packet, which makes for its very complexity.

Like the boy who is “all arms and legs” when first he attempts to play the game of basketball, so the nascent encounter with a complex administrative process which has been around for many years, will require some trial and error for the Federal or Postal employee who attempts the feat without assistance.

Trials are fine; it is the errors which become of concern.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Reason for the Law’s Complexity

The growing complexity of any body of law often reflects the unintended consequences of a poorly-written statute which first created the access to a right, a benefit, or a legal assertion.  Complications and expansion of issues, clarifications of previously-obfuscated matters of law, evolve over time and begin to take on a life of its own.  

For Federal Disability Retirement law, there is the appearance of a simple process:  one only has to look at the Standard Forms which are made available to all Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, to recognize that, at least on the surface, the administrative process seems simple enough.  

The SF 3107 series (for FERS Federal and Postal employees) and SF 2801 series (for CSRS Federal and Postal employees) requests basic information of a factual nature.  The “other” series of Standard Forms — the SF 3112 series (both for FERS and CSRS Federal and Postal employees) requests information directly impacting one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  

The questions asked are quite simple, and appear somewhat innocuous; the body of law which has grown behind each question is comprised by years and decades of litigation, questioning, judicial decisions and case-law.  It is like the proverbial stranger who discovers what appears to be a tuft of hair (perhaps a mouse?) sticking out from behind a bush, reaches down and pulls, only to hear the roar of a lion for having yanked its tail.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Complexity & the Law

The complaint heard most prevalent is that the “law” is deliberately complicated for the benefit of lawyers, and to the detriment of the lay person.  That is the one of the points which Dickens makes in his work, Bleak House — a lengthy work which meticulously follows the probate of a contested will, where the lawyers involved appear to be the only beneficiaries of the central litigation. But that only tells one side of a story.  

Complexities in any issue surface because of lack of clarity; and lack of clarity manifests itself as each case brings to the forefront questions and concerns previously unspoken or uncontested.  As an example — the issue in Stephenson v. OPM, where the U.S. Office of Personnel Management refused to recalculate one’s FERS Disability Retirement annuity even though the annuitant was no longer receiving SSDI benefits, because OPM interpreted the word “entitled” in a unique and perverse manner — could have been left alone without litigation, and therefore allowed to remain a simple matter.  

This had been going on for decades.  But somebody — Mr. Stephenson in particular — decided that OPM’s actions were unfair, and that it needed to be litigated.  Did it complicate matters?  Complexity is an inherent part of the law, and as issues become contested, the evolution of a body of law can expand into a compendium of complexity.  

It is no different with Federal Disability Retirement.  Yes, Federal Disability Retirement law is a complex body of administrative issues; it requires expertise; but if it was left alone, you can be assured that OPM would step over, on, and around many more Federal and Postal Workers who are otherwise eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits. That is why complexity can go both ways — for the agency, but also for the Federal or Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Defining Complexity Down

The complexity of a Federal Disability Retirement case is made all the more so, in exponential fashion, when the inherent issues concerning the medical condition and its impact upon one or more of the essential elements of one’s job are difficult and involved.

The administrative process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is in and of itself a complex process — if only for the sheer volume of Standard government forms which must be completed — and is compounded in multiple ways when the variegated medical conditions are included.  Indeed, sometimes it is the combination of multiple medical conditions which, in the totality of interconnected and intersecting symptomatologies, constitute the entirety of the medical impact in preventing one from performing a particular kind of job.

It is the job of the applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits — the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS — who must define the complexity down to its basic, comprehensible and coherent, cogent presentation, in order for the reviewing clerks at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to analyze and ultimately approve the Federal Disability Retirement application.

A simple rule of thumb:  If you cannot explain it, how will OPM make heads or tails of it? The solution:  If you cannot do it, obtain the services of someone who can; normally, this would involve an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Basics & Complexity

Appearance versus reality; ease of effort as opposed to great physical exertional requirements; basic components which make up for a complex composite — the inverse/converse of oppositional forces may seemingly contradict each other, but in most cases, they are entirely compatible.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the initial encounter with the multiple forms which must be completed, the complexity of the questions requested to be responded to — with the underlying sense that each question contains an implicit “trickiness” where the government is attempting to either cage you into a corner you do not necessarily want to be pushed to, or otherwise to state things which cannot be answered in such simplistic format — all betray a conundrum:  Is it as simple as the questions appear?  Or is the complexity hidden in the appearance of such simplicity?

Then, of course, a partial answer will surface when a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied by OPM at the First Stage of the process:  all of a sudden, various legal criteria are cited; standards of proof heretofore unmentioned are recited like a litany from a food recipe; and by the way, if it gets denied again, you get to read through a thick legal packet concerning your “appeal rights” from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Yes, it appears simple; it’s only that the complexity remains hidden in the compendium of laws, statutes and regulations which undergird the entirety of the complex administrative procedure encapsulating Federal Disability Retirement law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: An Inherently Adversarial Process

One often hears about administrative procedures — that they are somehow distinguishable from court cases, EEOC proceedings, grievances, etc., in that they are “non-adversarial” procedures.  Really?  In designating it as such, one becomes lulled into thinking that, somehow, preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is merely a matter of completing and submitting paperwork.

In a society which enjoys the safety of linguistic euphemisms, however, such an approach to an important application for benefits can result in devastating consequences.

Does a bureaucracy which is set up exclusively to review and potentially deny a Federal Disability Retirement application have the appearance of a non-adversarial process? Does the fact that one has a right to appeal it to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, then to a panel of Administrative Judges for a “Full Review”, then to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, possess the scent of non-adversity?

A system which is set up with a specified statute of limitations, which employs procedural and substantive legal criteria set up to deal with appeals and submission of evidence; of a body of law which applies to determine the sufficiency of evidence; such a system is inherently adversarial in nature, and whatever words or string of words one might use to describe such a system, it is first and foremost, an adversarial process.

Treat it as such, or enter into its arena with caution and forewarning.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Complexity & Context

Complexities in any field, whether general, technical or mundane, possess a context which includes its history, its underlying purpose, and the years of evolving issues which have impacted the expanding compendium of rules, regulations, statutes and procedural mandates.  The previously-stated sentence is itself a paradigm of such complexity, and unless a proper context is provided, retains scant meaning except in a garbled conglomeration of independent words.

Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is somewhat akin to the context-less complexity experienced by any Federal or Postal Worker who approaches such an administrative process.  Those who have been involved in the substantive and procedural morass understand the methodology, means and minutiae which must be engaged in order to successfully maneuver through the regulatory and administrative process.  But most Federal and Postal employees have a singular contact with the entire process (and thankfully so), without a context of how, why, or when it reached a level of such complexity that it became necessary to search for some guidance to understand the very process itself.

Unfortunately, Human Resources personnel are often unhelpful or uninformed themselves.  The statutes, laws and procedural regulations which are supposed to guide the Federal or Postal employees have themselves become a conglomeration of complexities.  And the ability to discern and distinguish between information, helpful information, and errant information, has become a problem in and of itself.

Best to take some time at the front end to simply gather some facts, and determine what the central issues are.  Taking the time at the front end to tackle the complexities, and understand the context, will save some troubles down the road.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire