Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Someone Else’s Argument

Have you ever sat with company at a dinner table, and engaged in a conversation where it appears as if you are continuing someone else’s conversation?  Or your presence is merely a substitute for an extension of a previous debate or discussion?  Where a topic is brought up, and immediately a barrage of critical attacks — of arguments you have never made, and of statements you don’t recall disseminating (and where this is only 5 minutes into the salad and you’ve barely tasted the first glass of wine)?

The problem with unfinished business is that the transference of what one wanted to say is normally unloaded upon the wrong subject.  Conversations, debates, forums of intellectual exercises in linguistic battles — it is a rare person who has been able to convey the full force of one’s collective thoughts and beliefs on the matter, and it is more often the case that one leaves with the regretful remorse of, “I wish I had brought that point up…”  But rarely do second chances present themselves in a satisfactory follow-up forum; unless you are the unfortunate object for an unexpected dinner invitation.

In responding to a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the applicant — through his or her Federal Disability Retirement attorney — needs to understand that the person who issues the denial will not be the same person who will review any additional submissions or legal arguments at the Reconsideration Stage.

It will be reviewed, in legal parlance, de novo.  As such, while the basis of the denial as issued by the Caseworker at OPM at the First Level should be taken into consideration, one should approach the case in light of the following question: To what extent will the Reconsideration Branch care as to the original basis of the denial of the first caseworker?  If it is being reviewed de novo, the approach should be to go over all of the elements — and to reinforce and amend those weak points, some of which may overlap what the first caseworker pointed out, others which may not.

It may not be the best approach to argue to a dinner guest who wasn’t present at the first round of arguments; the points you are trying to make may not be heard because the bell has already rung, and the fighter in the second round has been replaced with someone upon whom you have never previously landed a punch.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Response to the Denial & Properly Reading the Signs

Responding to an OPM Disability Retirement application denial is fraught with dangers of addressing the right issue; whether such a response does so adequately; and the determination of the extent of what constitutes “adequacy” in such a response.  Properly reading the “road signs” is the key to a successful response.  For, to begin with, cogency and brevity are not characteristics which are common in an OPM Disability Retirement denial.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management utilizes multiple templates in referring to the sufficiency of legal and documentary proof, and will often shift arbitrarily in declaring why, and to what extent, a Federal or Postal disability retirement application did not meet the standard of proof required, which is governed by a “preponderance of the evidence”.  They will, of course, often cite various legal “criteria”, and number them accordingly, as in:  “You did not meet Criteria Number 4 in that…”

In responding, it is important to address the critical issues which OPM regards as central to its decision, and as all roads lead back to Rome, so it is with a response to a denial from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement case: All roads lead back to the original nexus of whether a Federal or Postal employee can perform all of the essential elements of one’s job within the context of the severity and extent of one’s medical conditions, and to the issue of whether or not a “reasonable” accommodation could have been provided by the individual’s agency.

Broken down into its foundational components, the pathways can be ultimately discerned, and the proverbial fork-in-the-road leading one to the right way back to Rome will often depend upon how the traveler interprets the signs.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire