FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: To Be or …

Often, the question is asked whether or not it is advisable to “just resign” from one’s Federal or Postal employment, and whether such resignation would impact one’s ability to file for, and obtain, Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Such a question actually contains multiple sub-questions, which often need to be extrapolated, dissected and bifurcated, then answered independently.  Then, upon answering such questions separately, they can be reconstituted to provide a greater picture.  In answering any or all such questions, however, the proper context of each case — for each case is unique in their facts, circumstances, and potential impact upon future decision-making processes — must be revealed, identified, analyzed and properly addressed.  

Whether the Agency is making any “noise” of proposing to remove the Federal or Postal employee, and the basis of such removal; whether they are open to suggestions or negotiations pertaining to the basis of the removal; whether the Federal or Postal employee has already secured a doctor, a medical narrative report, and proper substantiating medical documentation which shows that, prior to such removal or resignation, the Federal or Postal employee could no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, etc. — all of these, and many more besides, are questions which must be considered before one takes the finality of the leap which determines whether to be, or not to be, a Federal or Postal employee as of a date certain, and its impact upon one’s ability to secure the benefit known as “Federal Disability Retirement” benefits under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Agency Actions and the Bruner Presumption

Agency actions separating a Federal or Postal employee from Federal Service often contain language which comes close to allowing for a Federal or Postal employee to assert the “Bruner Presumption” (that legal presumption which essentially states that the declaration and admission by the Agency triggers a legal presumption that a Federal or Postal employee is entitled to, by a matter of law, to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS), but not close enough.  

Such language will instead be couched in references to medical documentation which has been previously reviewed by the Agency; will embrace an acknowledgement that the Federal or Postal employee has a “medical condition”; and will sometimes even entertain verbiage evincing sympathy for the Federal or Postal Worker’s “situation” — but still will base the removal upon other considerations, such as “excessive absences”, “failure to maintain a regular work schedule”, etc.  

The question ultimately then becomes:  Is it important, leaving aside relevance, to fight the agency to amend or otherwise re-characterize the original proposal to remove, in order to obtain the Bruner Presumption?  

The Bruner Presumption is a legal mechanism which gains greater weight and importance when a Federal Disability Retirement application has been denied twice by the Office of Personnel Management (both at the Initial Stage of the process, than at the Reconsideration Stage), and one therefore finds one’s self before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  But such appearance before the MSPB presumably means that there are other problems with a case — most often, insufficient medical documentation.  

The Bruner Presumption aside, the Federal or Postal employee must still prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, one’s case, by submitting sufficient medical documentation.  The Bruner Presumption is simply that “extra” ingredient that may be helpful if all other factors have been met in proving a Federal Disability Retirement case.

While helpful, it is not a certainty for an approval.  While better to have than not, one must still prove one’s case.  While triggered most effectively at the MSPB, a less-than-Bruner-trigger can still be argued at all stages of the process.  Just some thoughts.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire