Medical Retirement under FERS & CSRS: Weekend Survival

The segmentation of time may be artificial; the rhythms of life, are not.  The 7-day week, 30-day month (give or take a couple here and there) and the 12-month cycle constitute human constructs that impose a rigid system of divisions based upon productivity, leisure, an admixture of both (isn’t it universal that Saturdays are spent in doing chores otherwise unattended to during the week, and Sunday is that respite and escape in total destitution of depleted dreariness?) and then a reset button pushed and the beginning of the cycle all over again.

Yet, while the system itself is based upon a conceptually artificial construct, the rhythmic underpinning of nature that glides above and beneath on a daily, quiet but consistent basis remains unperturbed.

That is why Daylight Savings Time makes grouches of us all — it is another artificial construct that jolts everyone from the natural rhythms of monotonous apathy twice a year, and breaks up that flow of biodynamic symbiosis between the planetary rotations, the daily sunrise and sunset, and the body’s reaction to a natural order within the constructs of an unnatural way of living.  The only compensation we feel grateful for is that extra hour of sleep that we are “given” in the Fall — only to have it stripped mercilessly and robbed from us in the Spring.

Thank God for the weekend — those two days of respite and leisure; of restorative rest and a quietude away from the mad dash of work and productivity; and we believe that we owe to the gods our lives and sacrifice our health for those pittance of days that are given to us.  But what are those 2 days worth?

Half of one is given up to do those things that we had no time to do during the five days of labor; the other half, spent in frozen immobility in front of a screen that blasts frightful images both from news of the “real” world as well as stories that are supposedly “entertaining”.  Then, with the one day remaining, we try and compensate for the exhaustion from the previous 5+1, only to wake up the following morning to engage the rush of the work-week that suffers and harms.

For Federal employees and Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition becomes a trial of survival during the week in order to make it to the weekend just to survive, it is worse because — not only is the “natural” rhythm interrupted by the medical condition itself — days, weeks and months all meld and melt into a singular whole of survival and consternation of life’s trials.

Preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, may be the only option remaining in order to re-order the rhythm lost in the daily struggle to reach that weekend survival where the cycle of life’s natural rhythm has been shattered by the trauma of a chronic medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement Attorney: The Quality of Input

We often forget that the quality, validity and accuracy of conclusions produced by computers will depend upon the input of information provided.  Thus, predictability of future weather forecasts are contingent upon present information selected, and the computational analysis resulting in the future paradigm is founded upon current constructs, analyzed through the cumulative data previously provided, with a dash of witch’s brew and a genuflection of hope.  In other words, the trash produced results from the trash collected; a rather self-evident tautology of sorts.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the issue of what information to provide, the amount of documentation, the precise wording selected, and the cumulative historical and current data introduced, will determine the statistical ratio of increased chance of success versus the possibility of an initial denial.

Receiving a denial from OPM is a down heartening experience, to put it mildly.  Expectations are that the subjective pain or psychiatric stresses which one experiences, will immediately be recognized and become translated into a societal benefit through a monetary annuity, especially as Federal Disability Retirement is an employment benefit offered for all FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset employees in the Federal system, and upon proof and sufficient information and documentation provided, one becomes eligible for the benefit.

The difference between preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, on the one hand, and computational analysis of information in other sectors of information processing, on the other, is that an intermediate human factor is present.

All Federal Disability Retirement applications are reviewed, scrutinized and evaluated for sufficiency by someone at OPM, and it is this very human element which remains the “X factor” in all Federal OPM Disability Retirement applications.  What can be done about it?  It is simply a reality which must be taken into account, processed and accounted for.  While bureaucratic and ultimately a rather depersonalized process, it is nevertheless an administrative system which must be faced.

It is as old as the ageless adage of yore, attributed to Isaac Newton:  What goes up must come down; or, what information is provided, is the basis of conclusions reached, and it is the quality of information in culling together a Federal Disability Retirement application which is paramount in achieving success.

 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Benefits: The Afterthought

It is perhaps best that anticipatory planning, based upon predictive analytics, is an afterthought for human intuition and predilection of priorities in life.  Otherwise, one can remain in a world of obsessive preventative maintenance of efforts, and never accomplish what needs to be done today.

Future forebodings aside, and whether an individual engages in hazardous duties which exponentially increase the statistical curve for the onset of an occupational disease or injury, or the development of a medical condition through repetitive and overuse of a particular appendage or anatomy; regardless, the bifurcation of thought from the daily aches and pains from one’s body, warning of impending and future difficulties, is ignored and banished, to be reflected upon in some future corner of pondering.

Human beings have an almost unlimited capacity for relegating present concerns to the realm of an afterthought, and the benefit of disability retirement will naturally take a backseat for those in the youthful set, precisely because disability is associated with thoughts of avoidance, sort of in the company of old age, infirmity, and early onset of dementia.  As well it should be.  But for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who find themselves with a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, and therefore becomes a threat to one’s livelihood, the afterthought becomes the primary issue, and it is then that one sounds a heavy sigh of relief in knowing that an employment benefit includes a Federal Disability Retirement packet.  But once the acknowledgment comes to the fore, the reality further hits one, that you must prove your case, and it is not merely a matter of entitlement.

Federal Disability Retirement, filed through one’s agency if you are not separated for over 31 days, must ultimately arrive at the doorstep of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.  OPM is the agency which makes the decision upon a Federal Disability Retirement application (and that’s the reason why this medical benefit is also known as ”OPM Disability Retirement”).

While there are minimum time in-service requirements (18 months under FERS and 5 years under CSRS), it is the compendium of proving one’s case under the legal standard of preponderance of the evidence, which must be submitted in order to win.  Afterthoughts are human evolutionary means of avoiding unseen dangers; but when the afterthought becomes a present danger, it is time to become aware of the surroundings, context, and content of the formidable opponent one must face.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Interaction with OWCP/DOL

I receive calls periodically as to whether it is of greater advantage to remain on Worker’s Comp (Department of Labor, Office of Workers Compensation Program — “OWCP”) as opposed to going out on OPM Disability Retirement.  My answer remains the same:  OWCP is not a retirement system; OPM disability retirement is indeed that — it is a retirement, where one is separated from Federal Service, and you go out and do what you want to with your life.  Every decision has consequences; every act which we engage in has inherent residual effects, and we have to balance such effects and consequences.  Thus, while OWCP benefits pay a higher rate (75% tax free with a dependent; 66 2/3% tax free without a dependent), there are restrictions:  You must comply with any and all requests (or demands) of the Department of Labor; you cannot go out and get another job, or start another career — because you are deemed “disabled” and are being paid for it.  On the other hand, OPM disability retirement pays less (for FERS, 60% the first year, 40% every year thereafter), but you have the freedom of retirement — you may go out and start another career, and make up to 80% of what your former position currently pays, without losing your disability annuity.  These — and many other factors — are some things to consider when weighing the differences between OPM disability retirement, and receiving OWCP/DOL benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Viewing the Office of Personnel Management

Agencies are “like” people; they are “organic” organizations (a redundancy?), and as a corporate-like entity, they respond and react as people do:  cerebrally, emotionally, reactively, angrily, etc.  If one views an agency in this way — treating the entity as one would a person — then you will often get the same or similar results as when dealing with your brother, a spouse, or a neighbor.  And, indeed, as a logical approach, this only makes sense, because agencies and organizations are made up of people. 

Thus, when filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, it is often important to think of “incentives” in approaching the Office of Personnel Management, to make every effort to have a carrot/stick approach in filing a disability retirement application.  The “stick” part of it, of course, is the law — the threat of making sure that OPM knows that you will be willing to go the full course — to the Merit Systems Protection Board, to the Full Board Appeal, to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.  If OPM denies your case and they get it reversed at the appellate level, it makes them “look bad”.  That is the stick to hold over them — the force of the law.  The carrot part of it is to streamline it and make it as easy as possible by obtaining a clear and concise medical report.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Employee's Usefulness

Federal Employees and Postal Employees should never consider or entertain the thought that filing for disability retirement benefits is a negative judgment upon his or her lengthy and productive career.  It is merely a statement of reality — that the Federal and Postal employee has had a good career; medical conditions may have shortened the first career, but this merely means that there will be opportunities to have a second career; and, in no way does it mean that there is a blemish upon the Federal career; merely that it is time to move on to something else.  And, indeed, the interruption of the Federal or Postal career as a result of impeding medical conditions merely is a statement that you are no longer a “good fit” for a particular kind of job. Further, if you are removed from the Federal sector because of your medical inability to perform your job, such a removal is a “non-adversarial” and “non-disciplinary” action, and therefore (again) should not, and cannot, be considered a “blemish” upon one’s career. And, finally, it is often the case that it is precisely because of the long and loyal hours you put into your job, that you paid a price for such loyalty — by embracing the stresses of the job, of working despite impending medical conditions.  In other words, very often I see that the stresses inherent in the position took a large and heavy toll upon the individual, such that medical conditions resulted from the long years of such heavy toll.  There is never a need to feel guilty about taking disability retirement; you’ve paid your dues; it is time to move on to another phase of your life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: OPM’s Specific Denial II

It is important to always “define”, “corner”, and “circumscribe” any denial from the Office of Personnel Management.  If you do not, then what happens at the next level is that it becomes a “de novo” process.  Now, one might argue that all disability retirement appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board are de novo, anyway.  That is true enough — meaning, that all of the evidence is looked at “anew” and without prejudice from any previous finding by the Office of Personnel Management. 

Yet, there is the “legal” definition of de novo, and the practical effect of de novo; often, the Administrative Judge at the MSPB will, at a PreHearing Conference, turn to OPM and say, Listen, OPM, it seems that the only reason why it was initially denied was because of X, Y & Z; the applicant certainly answered X & Y in his/her reconsideration answer; is the only thing you are looking for is Z?  What this does is to narrow the issue.  Often, to save time, face, aggravation and other things, OPM will concede the narrowing of such issues, and this is true if you respond to their administrative queries by defining what they are asking for, then providing it to them, then showing how it has been provided to them, so that they are “cornered”.  Thereafter, if it gets denied and it needs to go to the MSPB, the Hearing can then proceed with a narrower, streamlined and limited number of issues to prove.  Again, the reason why it is important to define what it is that OPM is asking for, is not only for the “present” case, but in preparation for the potential “future” case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire