Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Step-by-step Process

Complexities abound in every field, and the solution to preventing one from become embroiled in such confounding complexities is to divide the complexities into manageable entities.  While any bifurcation may be arbitrary, it does not mean that there is not a reasonable basis for such arbitrary division of issues.  

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to identify the primary medical issues which are impacting one’s ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s life.  It is often queried as to “which one” of the multiple medical conditions should be included in preparing the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A), and further, what are the “primary essential elements” which should be described.  

Both questions pose a complexity beyond an ability to answer such a question in a generic fashion, precisely because each case is unique.  As to the former question, it all depends upon the impact of the latter question; and as to the latter question, it all depends upon the answer to the former question.  

This circularity of interdependence, of which of the major medical conditions one should include, depending upon the type of essential elements of one’s job, is the complexity which must be unraveled, and it is in the process of this unraveling that one then begins to formulate the “bridge” or the “nexus” between the type, extent and severity of one’s medical condition (or its variance of pluralities of conditions) and the multi-tasking nature of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.  

It is a complex process, but one in which the various components begin to provide for a foundation of that bridge, which must be constructed carefully, with scrutiny, and with deliberate reasoning.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Preparing the Case

As in everything in life, preparation is the key to a successful endeavor.  In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS has the affirmative burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management.  

By “affirmative” is simply meant that it is not the responsibility of the Agency, the Office of Personnel Management, or any other bureaucracy to obtain and submit the necessary evidence, documentation or forms to meet the burden.  While it is true that the Agency must complete certain forms, it is still the responsibility of the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement to request their completion.  

Further, by “burden of proof” is meant that there is a certain set of legal criteria that the Federal or Postal applicant must meet in order to become qualified for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Unlike Social Security, where the Agency itself will contact the doctors, set up medical reviews and consultative examinations with appointed doctors in order to establish the extent of one’s medical conditions, etc., under the legal criteria set up by the Office of Personnel Management, it is entirely up to the Federal or Postal employee to gather, obtain and submit the evidence to meet the burden of proof.  

That places a significant responsibility upon the potential applicant, and in order to meet that burden, it is well to take the time to prepare each and every aspect of a Federal Disability Retirement application, and not just blindly leave a form with a doctor, or anyone else, hoping for the best.  To prepare means time; expending the time at the forefront will often save time in the end.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Complexity and Tailoring

Every Federal and Postal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is unique because of the particular medical conditions which comprise the specific factual makeup of each case.  

That said, there are various “templates” out there, put out by services and attorneys, who have formulated a methodology based upon a template — often, based upon a past success or two.  While templates are fine, one must always be careful that the uniqueness of a particular case is never lost.  For, ultimately, every Federal and Postal disability retirement application under either FERS or CSRS inherently contains a uniqueness because of the particular complexity of the case.

As such, each case must be tailored to reflect the uniqueness of that case.  There are certainly recurring themes and contextual frameworks, as well as statutory references and case-laws which repetitively apply to most, if not all, cases.  But such generalized applications must nevertheless be tailored to fit and apply to the particular facts and circumstances of a case.  Beware of borrowing from, or hiring someone to apply, a “One size fits all” approach.  You may find that you went to the wrong tailor.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: OPM and the 7-Part Criteria

In any denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the Office of Personnel Management incessantly refers to their 7-part criteria of eligibility, in making their determination as to the legal viability of a case.

The criteria, as stated, can be both helpful, as well as result in a negative determination, for multiple reasons.  To the extent that it extrapolates and extracts from the relevant Code of Federal Regulations, it minimally states the fundamental legal requirements for eligibility of a Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

However, because such a basis only extracts from the originating statutory foundation for eligibility, what it completely ignores is the continually evolving cases which clarify, interpret and define the very terms which constitute the criteria.  To that extent, OPM’s adherence to the strict and narrow application of the original “law” can often result in a negative determination, precisely because such an application ignores the subsequent clarifications which have evolved and progressed from various cases which have been litigated, both in the Federal Circuit Courts as well as at the Merit Systems Protection Board level.

Beware of the 7-part criteria; if followed, it can backfire; if not followed, it can backfire.  The 7-part criteria is a Catch-22 in sheep’s clothing.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement from the Office of Personnel Management: Legal Criteria

There is “The Law” — the originating, statutory authority which is passed by Congress — then, the compendium of the entirety of the legal arena, which includes decisions handed down by Administrative and Federal Judges, which comprise the expanding and evolving interpretation, clarification and extension of “The Law”.  

Unfortunately, in making its decision on an Application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the Office of Personnel Management constrains itself (and its knowledge of the law) to a template based upon a “7-part criteria” which is extrapolated from the Code of Federal Regulations.  

This 7-part criteria is a simplistic and misleading application of the law.  It is not so much that it is an “error” on the part of the Office of Personnel Management to apply such a criteria; rather, it is that, in evaluating and determining the sufficiency, viability, and meeting of the standard of proof of “preponderance of the evidence” of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it simply does not go far enough.  Because the 7-part criteria fails to include the interpretive evolution of the entirety of the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement, it fails by excluding many Federal Disability Retirement applications which are based upon legal criteria which fall outside of the delimited circumference and parameters of what OPM has set forth. 

In short, they are “behind the times” in many instances, and so when a denial is based upon a misapplied criteria, it is important to point out to OPM that X law applies in particular case Y — where “X” is outside of the scope or knowledge of the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire