OPM Disability Retirement: In a Perfect World

Becoming distracted from the essential focus of an activity is a problem which we all face. In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, it is easy to become overly focused upon what the Agency is doing, will do, or potentially might engage in, which could somehow (it is thought) impact one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  

In a perfect world, the administrative process would proceed in a sequential, logical and methodological manner.  However, this is not a perfect world, and at each step of the long, administrative process, there are always glitches and temporary hold-ups.  The Agency often takes its time; the supervisor may make some statements which appear contrary to facts; OPM may require additional medical evidence, despite everything that needs to be filed for an approval having been submitted, etc.  

The Office of Personnel Management is a paradigm of an imperfect world.  It is an agency which has the power to be the sole arbiter of a Federal Disability Retirement application, for all Federal and Postal employees, and that power is indeed one which can determine the economic future of thousands of Federal and Postal employees.  

Making the distinction between peripheral and ancillary issues, and separating them from the essential components of what constitutes the important aspects of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS will help in the process.  Recognizing that this is far from a perfect world will help to ease the strain of the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Sufficiency of Medical Evidence

In meeting the eligibility criteria for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one must obtain the proper medical documentation, meeting a “preponderance of the evidence” burden of proof, such that it is more likely than not that you are entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

Whether a medical report and supporting documentation satisfies the eligibility criteria is based upon the subjective interpretation of the evidence presented.  By “subjective” is meant the following:  The reviewing Claims Representative at the Office of Personnel Management, while allegedly applying a 7-part legal criteria in making a determination of eligibility for each FERS or CSRS Federal Disability Retirement application, must nevertheless make an interpretive determination based upon the sufficiency of the medical evidence, and taking into account all other evidence.  

Indeed, often the interpretation of the statutory meaning which governs all Federal Disability Retirement applications is misunderstood and misinterpreted by OPM.  That being the case, how can one expect that OPM will “get it right” when reviewing and interpreting complex medical documentation?  For example, OPM will often cite as necessary that the medical evidence was not “compelling” enough; or, that the medical evidence presented did not show that it warranted the applicant’s “total exclusion from the workplace” — despite the fact that neither of these standards are required by law.  

The sufficiency of the medical documentation is the linchpin of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  As such, it must be prepared by the treating doctor by pulling together a compendium of multiple factors.  While it need not be compelling, one thing is for certain:  quantity versus quality will not meet the sufficiency test, and it is always better to have one excellent medical report, than numerous mediocre ones.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire