CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Conceptual Constraints

Within the world of biology, the distinction between an unicellular eukaryote and a prokaryote is one defined by the absence of a distinct, membrane-bound nucleus.  The latter is thus without a homunculus, constrained by a parameter and protected as the central seat of control.  One would assume that, because of this, the former would be easier to genetically manipulate, while the former would be more difficult.

Similarly, while widespread dissemination of responsibility and delegation of authority may have the positive effect of getting much work done, the corollary negative impact may also become uncontrollably representative of an organization:  loss of qualitative control.

Upon reading a denial letter from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one may begin to suspect that you are dealing with a prokaryote-type of entity:  for anything may be said, and what may be stated may not even remotely be the law of the case.

Being unconstrained by a membrane may have its advantages for survival; being unconcerned by the constraints of language will have its definite impact upon a Federal or Postal employee attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: confusion for the Federal or Postal Worker, or worse, surrender and retreat.  But there are ways to counter such an untethered approach — but one which must use all of the legal tools available to the Federal or Postal applicant.

The key is to build a membrane and change the prokaryote into an eukaryote.  In order to do this, however, one must know the law, apply the law, and force the law upon the organism — thereby effectuating the genetic modification.  Thus does science, logic and law coalesce into a unified, rational whole.  Go figure.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Misinformation Leading to Self-defeating Actions

The “I was told” phenomenon is pervasive in our society, where information is plentiful, and more dangerously, where the dissemination of such information, at no cost to the recipient (except for detrimental consequences resulting from reliance upon the purveyor of such vast knowledge of unsolicited tidbits), is promulgated without discretion or discriminating tastes.

It is the one aspect, of course, in which George Orwell was perhaps mistaken; for, in his book, 1984, Orwell conveys the notion that it is the societal limitation of words which will lead to restriction of knowledge.  In the modern world, however, it has become the unfettered expansion of any and all information, which has had the collateral effect upon society of engendering dangerous ignorance.

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 first obtain accurate information, then to determine the relevance and applicability of such information, then to act upon it.

The “I was told” phenomena should be ignored, as such nebulous sources of information, unless verifiable, should never be relied upon.  For example:  Having an active EEO matter does not extend the Statute of Limitations in being required to file a Federal Disability Retirement application within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service.  And another: One does not need to, and should not, wait for Social Security to make a determination in order to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits for OPM.

Remember always that the 1-year Statute of Limitations is a “hard” limitation; there are only a limited number of exceptional circumstances which can climb over that obstacle, and one should not try to test the strength or height of that wall.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Law

The Law is a peculiar concept:  at once, it comprises the aggregation of individual lawyers, judges, clerks; it represents the legislative branch of local, state and Federal governments; it encompasses the buildings where the concept itself is applied, argued and rendered; it is governed by the multiple statutes, regulations, court opinions, etc.

Wittgenstein’s philosophical works on language games is interesting when one views the “law” from such a perspective:  the legal systems has no corresponding anchor in the “reality” of our lives, except in the very self-contained world of our language.  We speak about “the law”, live with its consequences, discuss “rights”, “legal precedence”, “court opinions”, without ever pointing to an object in the universe (except of our own creation, such as documents, buildings, people who are involved in the law, etc.) as a corresponding feature of relevance.  But certain areas of the law have “real-world” consequences.

Indeed, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the connective relevance between the law, the individual, and the medical condition contains a corresponding reality, impact and significance.  The individual who files for such a benefit, the “I” who is the Federal or Postal employee, experiences the very real medical condition; the engagement in the world, as a Federal or Postal employee, is an encounter which occurs in the reality of the day-to-day world.

For some, the “law” is not merely a conceptual construct; it is a basis for which to plan for one’s future, and maneuvering through the morass of this confusing world of reality, virtual reality, complexity of language games, and the burdensome and onerous weight of the legal maze identified as Federal Disability Retirement, requires a reality-check on a daily basis.

Reality as defined by a person who suffers a medical condition, is often more “real” than those who have never encountered the experiential suffering of such constancy of reminders, that to be alive is not merely saying the words; it is a daily struggle through the acute sensing of one’s own frailty.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Providing Information

In every area of law, in most facets of life, and certainly in the administrative procedures of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits either under FERS or CSRS with the Office of Personnel Management, one must determine the extent, scope and substance of the information which will be provided to the requesting entity.  

Most of the time, the extent of information is pre-determined by the requirements which must be satisfied.  Similarly, the scope of the information to be submitted must meet certain criteria, but additionally, it will depend upon the question asked.  More importantly, the substance of the information one needs to provide, will be determined by the question asked, the criteria to be addressed, and the statutory and regulatory guidelines which must be met — in the case of Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, that which would meet the legal standard of “preponderance of the evidence.”  

In venturing and maneuvering through the administrative process of applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, however, there will be times when either the Agency or the Office of Personnel Management may request “additional” information, indicating that they are not satisfied with what has been submitted.  

An appraisal of what information is being asked; whether the question is properly formulated as posed, or whether it can be reformulated and still satisfied; and the harm or good in responding fully or partially to the request — these are all determinations which are best guided by the advice and counsel of an attorney who understands the laws governing the legal criteria in Federal Disability Retirement cases.  

Not every question deserves a full answer.  Sometimes, the question itself must be re-formulated and answered in the re-formulated format.  Agencies are not gods; they are not omnipotent, and certainly not omniscient.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Extrapolating Carefully from “The Law”

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize the major legal cases (those “landmark cases”) from which many other cases derive their foundational basis.  Such cases form the fundamental and overriding criteria of a legal arena, and this is no different in arguing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, either for Federal or Postal employees.  Furthermore, in citing a case to argue for one’s position of eligibility and entitlement, it is equally important to have read the cases carefully, and to argue the merits of an issue persuasively and accurately.  

One of the worst things that a lay, non-lawyer applicant can do is to mis-cite a case or a statute, and its meaning and ancillary conclusions.  For, when the Office of Personnel Management reviews a case and refutes a particular issue, and further points out that a legal precedent or statutory authority has been mis-applied, one’s credibility as to the substance of the application is not only undermined, but further, the viability of one’s legal argument has been subverted.  As such, it is normally advisable to leave the law to lawyers — and in Federal Disability Retirement cases under FERS or CSRS, to leave it to lawyers who specialize in the field. For, to do little or no harm to one’s self is certainly better than to saw off the branch which one has grasped onto, no matter how tenuous the position to begin with.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Which Medical Conditions to List

I am often asked that question — will all medical conditions be listed?  What happens if a medical condition is not listed, but later develops into something serious?  That is the essence of the problem of the unlisted medical condition, of course.  In a FERS or CSRS Federal Disability Retirement application, once the packet is submitted to the Office of Personnel Management and a CSA Number is assigned to it, you are precluded from amending the Applicant’s Statement of Disability by adding further medical conditions.

Thus, the problem in not listing a medical condition (or a symptom thereof) can have exponential significance.  In such a situation, one option would be to withdraw the Federal Disability Retirement application and resubmit it anew.

The loss of time involved, however, is one obstacle which often makes an applicant pause at such a drastic step.  Another problem — one which cannot be overcome — is if you have filed within the statutory timeframe, but the 1-year of separation occurs after you filed your application for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS.  In that hypothetical, you are “locked in”, because you cannot withdraw your application.  To do so would leave you with no avenue to “refile”, because the 1-year statute has already passed and precludes you from filing again.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Reminder on the 1-Year Statute

Just a reminder, which is given because of continuing and repetitive questions about the 1-year statute of limitations.  Remember that those who wish to file for Federal or Postal Disability retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS must do so either (A) while a Federal or Postal employee (18 months minimum under FERS; 5 years minimum under CSRS), or (B) within 1 year of being separated from Federal Service.  By “separated” it means actually being terminated from the Federal Agency, whether by resignation or by Agency action.

The 1-year statute of limitations does not begin to toll except when you are separated from Federal Service.  Thus, being on LWOP does not begin to toll the statute; being injured or on OWCP does not begin to toll the statute.  By “toll the statute”, what is meant is that the right to file for OPM Disability Retirement benefits for FERS or CSRS employees does not begin to “count down” unless and until you are actually separated from Federal Service.  This is meant as a continuing clarification of the issue, written because of the questions which have been asked of me over the past month or so.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire