OPM Disability Retirement: The Process of Decision-Making

As has been previously stated in repetitive fashion, 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 understand and acknowledge the duality of the process — for it is a process, as opposed to a singular event, both as an administrative legal issue, as well as for the individual Federal or Postal employee in a personal sense.

To clarify:  As an administrative issue, it is a process which involves multiples stages of argumentation (potentially).  Yes, it would be nice if every case was decided with an approval at the First/Initial Stage of the administrative process; however, there is a purpose and a reason why there are multiple stages.  It is precisely because it was anticipated that there would be denials and appeals to such denials, that an administrative procedure for multiple stages of review and further submissions of evidence and arguments was constructed and implemented.  It is not an entitlement pursuant to a fixed date, a fixed age, or a triggering event.  Rather, it is an administrative process which must be proven, applied for, and affirmatively shown that one is eligible.

From the personal perspective of the Federal or Postal employee, the decision of “when” to apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is also a process, as opposed to a singular event.  There are, of course, cases where a traumatic injury or life-changing accident occurred, and such an event is the triggering moment for filing.  But for most Federal or Postal employees, the medical condition suffered is a progressively deteriorating process, and it is often difficult to determine a “date certain” where one can point to on a calendar and state, this is the day and hour when I cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of my job.

This is why there is an inherent complexity to a process, as opposed to a singular event of certitude — for, it is always the unknown and the uncertain which gives rise to the anxieties of life, and a process is indeed a period of the unknown, and a chasm of uncertainty.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Agony of Beginning

Somehow, the agony of beginning a process is the most excruciating; why that should be so is a mystery, when the prefatory phase leading up to actually starting and engaging an activity is probably the period where most people experience the greatest anxiety.  By “beginning” is often a milestone of a mental nature, as in coming to a decision to initiate an activity.

Then, the question remains of bridging the chasm between the thought and the physical action of “doing it”.  Thus, one can “decide” to perform X in one’s own mind, but never actually implement any objectively ascertainable steps to manifest any signs of having begun the process in order to reach point Y. Beginning the process must follow a sequence of steps.

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 close the gap between thinking about it, and actually doing it.  Agencies often get frustrated with mere words; they want to see some evidence, some progress; and even if it is information regarding having retained a Federal Disability Retirement attorney, or some communication concerning the process and the progress made, will often delay an administrative action or sanction contemplated.

As OPM takes an inordinate amount of time in making a decision on any given case, it is important to take the necessary initial steps, and to submit a Federal Disability Retirement packet within a reasonable period of time, and to shorten the period of agony and anguish, by initiating the administrative process of Federal OPM Disability Retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Time, Expectation & Patience

Time is the basis and essence of frustration.  Often, in becoming involved in the administrative process and procedure of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the “time factor” is the part which concerns the Federal or Postal employee most.  

During the initial stages of the process, where a certain level of activity is experienced — of requesting the medical documentation and narrative reports from the doctors; of formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A); of submitting the preliminary application through the Agency (or, if separated from Federal Service for more than 31 days, to file it directly with the Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA); and then receiving a CSA Number from the Office of Personnel Management, then…the wait.  Activity is the fodder which satisfies time; frustration with time is the chasm between expectation and reality; where there is inactivity, waiting without a specified end in sight is what frustrates most individuals. With the Office of Personnel Management, the greatest difficulty is now in gauging that “end-point”, because OPM continually falls behind in their estimate of time for decision-making.  

The process is a frustrating one; inactivity without an end only exponentially magnifies such frustration.  Ultimately, however, there is no other choice but to wait; for the Office of Personnel Management is the singular arbiter of the decision-making process in Federal Disability Retirement claims.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Psychiatric Issues

For Federal and Postal workers who are filing, or contemplating filing, for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the distinction between “physical” medical conditions and “psychiatric” medical conditions are not always so clear and distinct.  While cases can be bifurcated for many clients (where the medical basis upon which a Federal Disability Retirement is based is wholly physical, or entirely psychiatric), often, cases have a “mixed” character to them, where depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc., arise or become “secondary” to a chronic medical condition.  

The complex interaction between physical pain, chronic medical conditions which impact one’s job, physical abilities, etc., can at their inception be “secondary” in the sense that they have arisen and manifested the symptomatologies “after” or “second to” the original medical conditions.  However, after some time (and this is being stated from a legal perspective reviewing many such instances in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS), such secondary Major Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and even other psychiatric medical conditions, can become the central or prominent medical condition which forms the basis of a OPM Disability Retirement application.  Thus, that which was once “secondary” does not always remain so; it can become the primary basis.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

Federal and Postal Service Disability Retirement: Patience is a Necessity

I have said this many, many times:  If patience is a virtue, then Federal employees must be the virtuous of all people, especially those who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and waiting upon the Office of Personnel Management to make a decision.  Then, even after it is approved, it is often months and months until one’s case is finalized and taken out of the “interim” pay status to final pay status; or, if the case is denied at the First Stage and you have to file a Request for Reconsideration, submit additional medical and other evidence, file a Memorandum of Law to try and convince the Second Stage Representative that, indeed, contrary to what the First Stage Representative had argued, you have been in full compliance and meet with all of the criteria for eligibility for FERS or CSRS disability retirement benefits — which can take an additional 120 – 150 days.  Then, of course, if it is denied at the Reconsideration Stage of the process, you must file an appeal within thirty (30) days to the Merit Systems Protection Board, where the Administrative Judge is mandated by statute to conclude a case from the time of appeal within 120 days.  The entire “process”  — and this is precisely why I refer to the administrative procedure of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS as a “process” — requires and demands patience.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Decision (Again)

Yes, it is a difficult decision to make — to come to terms with filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS.  It makes it all the more difficult when individuals wait until the last possible minute before calling up the attorney (me) to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  There have been a few times in the past (very few) when I simply could not take on a case with only a week left before the Statute of Limitations runs out.  The only thing I can do at that point is to identify which forms to fill out (however imperfectly), and give the fax number and the address to Boyers, PA for the individual to file. 

Remember the important point:  You can always make factual, medical and legal arguments after you have filed; you cannot make any arguments if you have failed to file on time.  Of course, it comes with the territory — as an attorney who exclusively represents Federal and Postal employees to obtain disability retirement benefits (there are many attorneys who practice Federal Disability Retirement law as one aspect of a larger practice which includes other areas of Federal Employment law), I understand how intertwining the medical condition is, with the anxiety and stress of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and how procrastination is often part and parcel of the medical condition itself.  At the same time, however, I take pride in doing a good job; I like to service my clients; I like to see the successful outcome.  As such, I am reluctant to take on cases where there is very little time to file.  I have, and will, take on cases where the Statute of Limitations is about to run out, but there must be at least some time left.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire