Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Back to Fundamentals

In any endeavor, concern or current focus of attention, one can become embroiled in the morass of complexities which comprise the peripheral penumbras of the issue, and disregard the fundamental essence of the matter.  In proverbial terms, it is to overlook the individual trees while viewing the generality of the forest.  So, back to basics.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application, a person who is under FERS (Federal Employees Retirement System — normally those who entered into the Federal Workforce sometime after 1985, and who have a Thrift Savings Plan and contribute to Social Security) or under CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System — pre-1985, with no TSP) may become eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, but must have the following minimum eligibility criteria met: under FERS, you must have at least 18 months of creditable service; under CSRS, you must have at least 5 years of creditable service.

There is a hybrid status applicable for some, called CSRS-Offset, also.  Once that eligibility criteria is met, then the Federal or Postal Worker can take the next step in determining whether one may want to proceed, by asking the following questions: Do I have a medical condition? Does that medical condition prevent me from performing one, if not more, of the essential elements of my position? What are some of the essential elements of my position which I cannot perform? Do I have a treating doctor who will be supportive of my case (remember, this is a medical disability retirement; as such, one must be able to establish through proof of medical documentation, that the medical condition impacts one or more of the essential elements of one’s job)?

These are some of the preliminary, basic questions which should be asked and answered, in order to begin the process of determining whether Federal Disability Retirement is the best pathway for the Federal or Postal employee suffering from a medical condition, in order to manage and maneuver one’s way through the thick forest of a bureaucracy known as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which is the agency which ultimately receives and reviews all Federal Disability Retirement applications, whether you are under FERS, CSRS, or CSRS-Offset.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Muddle of a Myopic Focus

Focusing upon a singular aspect of an issue, and failing to comprehend its limited import and relevance within the greater context, is a pitfall which many fall into.  It is tantamount to having a myopic condition — where one’s nearsightedness prevents one from having the capacity to focus upon anything beyond those within one’s easy reach.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application, filed through one’s agency (if one is still a Federal or Postal employee, or if separated, such separation has not occurred more than 31 days) and ultimately forwarded to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (or, if separated from one’s agency for more than 31 days, directly to the Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA), whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to approach the preparation, formulation and filing of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application with a larger view than to discuss issues of limited relevance.

For example, when a Federal or Postal employee is embroiled in an adversarial and contentious process with one’s own agency, or a supervisor, it is often reflected in the Federal Disability Retirement application via a tirade of specific descriptions concerning harassment, workplace hostility, etc.  While such descriptions may be relevant for purposes of an  EEOC claim, it has very little significance for one’s Federal Disability Retirement claim.

Keep the essence of a case at the forefront:  Medical issues; impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.

All myopic conditions need correction; properly prescribed glasses to keep one’s focus may be a necessary expense.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Federal Disability Retirement: Reviewing the Position Description

There may be a wide chasm between what one’s position description states, and what one actually does in the position of the Federal or Postal job slot which one occupies.

Further, the fact that there may be a radical modification to one’s official duties in practical and real terms, does not obviate the fact that one may be required, at any time, to fulfill those duties and responsibilities as described in the official configuration of the position.

Finally, since the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in making a determination on a Federal Disability Retirement application, will never personally assess or observe what a Federal or Postal employee is actually doing in one’s office, out in the field, at the work station, etc., you must therefore always envision the process as one of bureaucratic administration — i.e., of looking at the paper presentation of the position description, and being restricted and constrained by what is contained therein.

That being said, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is often a good idea to review the official position description when beginning to formulate one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A).  Some position descriptions are so generic in nature that it may required more “filling in the blanks” for purposes of describing the pragmatic essential elements which one must work; other descriptions may enlighten the Federal or Postal Worker and make the entire administrative process easier because of the onerous requirements as delineated in the official position description.

In either event, one must always remember that it is from the Federal or Postal position which one is medically retiring from and not what one may actually be doing.  Thus, recognition of the wide chasm which exists between what one ought to be doing, and what one actually does, may be one of the keys to a successful formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Larger Process

There is, of course, the limited process of issues impacting a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS — of the actual paperwork; of obtaining and completing the forms which are required by the Office of Personnel Management, etc.

Then, there is the larger, more expansive issues which directly impact the Federal or Postal worker who is undergoing the multitude of life’s curve balls — the medical condition itself, along with enduring and attempting to overcome the symptoms; the reaction of the Agency to attendance problems, FMLA issues, PIP actions, potential (or actual) removal issues; OWCP issues which arise in the course of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; suspension and adverse actions by the Agency; potential termination of health benefits; whether such health benefits will be reinstated after a Federal Disability Retirement application has been approved; and all of the ancillary issues which come up in the course of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Then, there is the long wait in all phases of the application — in the preparatory stage; while in the hands of the Agency; then, even after it arrives at the Office of Personnel Management, there are multiple stages of waiting periods before a decision is finally made.

Can all of the questions concerning all of the multiple issues be answered and satisfactorily attended to?  Many of the questions, of course, are ancillary to a Federal Disability Retirement.  Not every question can be answered immediately; some must run its course and be allowed to resolve itself.

Throughout the more expansive process, the focus must be upon getting the Federal Disability Retirement application approved.  Otherwise, if the focus keeps getting sidetracked by the ancillary issues, the central issue will never be resolved.

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