CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Inside/Outside

Visiting another institution, community, neighborhood or business often evokes an initial response of envy or dismay; first impressions abound, and floods the channels of opinions based upon a comparison of one’s own life.

It is an interesting phenomena to view the perspective of an “outsider”, and it is always important to recognize that the private information known only by an “insider” is simply inaccessible to those who are not residents of a given community, or who have not been a member for a sufficiently long-enough period of time.  It is not so much that such information is a secret; rather, it is often the case that certain types of knowledge can only be gained through being a part of the whole.

On a microcosmic scale, then, the turmoil which an individual experiences because of a medical condition is a life which is rarely understood in full, and less so by certain types of predisposed personalities.   Sympathetic individuals have become a rarity; as we become more and more disconnected through virtual reality and the impersonal conduits of the internet, electronic mailing, etc., human capacity for empathy diminishes.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who must consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the problem is further exacerbated because of the nature of a large bureaucracy.  Bureaucracies are by definition impersonal; starting off as another insider (within the Federal Sector), but in essence always remaining an outsider (because of the impersonal nature of the environment itself) often portends a lack of empathetic response by supervisors, co-workers and the organization as a whole.

Having the proper perspective throughout — of effectively and persuasively proving one’s Federal Disability Retirement case to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — is the best and only course of success.  How to go about it often depends upon balancing the proper insider/outsider perspective, as is the case for all of us.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Case Development

Federal Disability Retirement is one of those areas of law where countervailing forces are always at play, and the tug-of-war against time, resistance of individuals to respond, all within a context of a hectic-pace of life, create for a havoc of systems and regularity.

Because the underlying basis of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits often involves a chronic, progressively deteriorating medical condition, it is often seen from the perspective of the Federal or Postal employee to be an emergency; from the viewpoint of the medical doctor whose support for the case is critical, because the opinion of the doctor is essential to formulating the foundation of a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is often seen as another administrative burden; from the Agency’s vantage point, the alleged patience over the years which it has shown in “dealing” with loss of time, less-than-stellar performance, etc., often results in a reactionary adversity of being entirely unsympathetic to the plight of the Federal or Postal employee; and, together, all of the strands of these multiple countervailing forces places an undue pressure upon the entire process.  Yet, once it gets to the Office of Personnel Management, the file sits…and sits.

The long-term perspective on every Federal Disability Retirement application must always be to accept the fact that case development is the most important point to ponder.  Quickly filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, may in the end prove to be pound-foolish, especially in a retrospective, Monday-night quarterbacking sense, if OPM denies the case anyway.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: OPM & the Legal Argument

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, as with all venues of applications, it is important to recognize who the “audience” is, and to appropriately tailor the submission to the targeted audience.  However, when one engages in an administrative process — which involves various levels and stages comprised of multiple administrative and governmental procedures — it is important to always look beyond the initial audience targeted, and prepare for any subsequently receiving entities.

Thus, because Federal Disability Retirement is an administrative process which involves not only multiple levels of personnel at the agency level (i.e., the Office of Personnel Management for the Initial Stage of the determination process and, if denied at the initial level, then the Reconsideration Stage of the process), possessing varying levels of sophistication with respect to recognizing the applicability of legal citations, arguments, precedents, etc., but further, it involves multiple layers of legal arenas (i.e., Administrative Judges at the Merit Systems Protection Board, both at the appeal/hearing stage, as well as potentially for a Petition for Full Review; then, beyond, to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, where one will be before a Judge of the Circuit Court of Appeals) — because of the potential involvement of many such venues, it is important to prepare the initial stage of the application with a view towards addressing the later stages of the process.  

While everyone believes that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a “sure thing,” the wise man prepares for every eventuality, and when it comes to having someone at the U.S.Office of Personnel Management review a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is best to consider the possible eventuality of an initial denial.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Added Stresses

It is a long, bureaucratic process.  Such is the state of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the Office of Personnel Management.  The funny thing about stress is that we all recognize that we are the “gatekeepers” of stress, to a great extent.  Unless a catastrophic external force is about to immediately impact our lives, the majority of stressful issues invade the essence of our conscious world only when we allow it in, and to that extent, the old adage of “ignorance is bliss” is a simplistic, but profoundly uncomplicated truism.  

Federal and Postal workers who are constantly being criticized and bombarded with the stresses of completing their daily positional duties, and now under greater stress because of the economic and political megaphonic voices shouting about the excesses of benefits for Federal and Postal employees; that, combined with the daily criticism that Federal and Postal employees constitute waste, fraud and overcompensation; that they receive excessive benefits, and undeservedly so; and, additionally, when one is medically disabled and in need of Federal Disability Retirement benefits, to be forced to wait for longer periods of time because of the bureaucratic backlog of Federal Disability Retirement cases at the Office of Personnel Management — this is, indeed, a time of stress, whether through activity or the enormous stress of inactivity.  

Waiting is a stressful activity; don’t think that inactivity is merely the art of doing nothing; if it impacts one’s conscious state, it is a stressful time.  But patience is a virtue precisely because it is one of the ultimate tests — and the conundrum is this:  to deal effectively with the stress of inactivity, it is sometimes best to engage in an alternate form of activity, whether mental or physical, such that the activity will satisfy the emotional needs of the individual.  

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a long and arduous process, whether defined by activity or inactivity, and how best to deal with the stress of the latter is often defined by the character of the former.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Entirety of the Process

There is a common understanding, based upon comments and statements made by people over several years, that when an individual files for Social Security Disability benefits, most such cases are denied at the initial stage.  It is almost understood as an “automatic” denial at the first stage of the process. 

Whether this is true or not or, more importantly, whether or not there are some who get it approved at the initial application stage and therefore betray the truth of such a belief, is besides the point.  What is important is the perception that it is so, and therefore, the approach which individuals take in filing for Social Security Disability benefits is altered and adapted accordingly. 

Similarly, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, whether or not most cases get approved at the Initial Stage of the Process, or at the Second, Reconsideration Stage of the process, is ultimately besides the point.  It is important to understand and approach the entirety of the administrative process with a proper frame of mind:  a denial at the Initial Stage of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is not the end of the process; rather, it is just the beginning. 

By approaching the entirety of the process with a correct frame of mind — and reference — one can maintain one’s sanity while waiting for the conclusion of the long and arduous process to unfold.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Weekend Illusion

The problem with relying upon weekends is the imbalance of perspective which results therefrom.  

For the universal man (or woman), work constitutes a disproportionate segment of one’s “identity“, and the weekend is often a rush of activity in order to perform those chores which “need” to get accomplished, as well as to engage in some recreational activities to “recharge” one’s battery.  This cycle of work-to-weekend-to-work is acceptable for most individuals, because it allows for some leisure activities.  

For a Federal or Postal Worker who is facing a chronic, sometimes debilitating, and often progressively deteriorating medical condition, the added factor of having a medical condition which forces one to utilize the weekends to merely recuperate and return to a level of mental or physical functionality just to be able to return to work for another week, such a cycle becomes distorted and out of balance.  Such a cycle simply cannot last for very long.  Thus, Federal Disability Retirement is an option to consider.  While the monetary return is negligible (60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years the first year; 40% every year thereafter), it is a basis upon which one can hopefully “break the vicious cycle” of using the weekends to recuperate for the work-week.  

The universal man and woman needs time for leisure, recreation and reflective thought, and weekends must allow for such time.  For Federal and Postal workers who have a medical condition which impacts one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, OPM disability retirement under FERS or CSRS must be a consideration in order to obtain that which is necessary for long-term healing, and not just for temporary periods of recuperation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The MSPB and Beyond

An application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS should always be prepared for the “long haul“.  Thus, it should be formulated, argued and prepared as if it will be denied at each stage, and will end up before the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

Does this take any “special” preparation?  To some extent, the answer is “yes”, inasmuch as the stages beyond the Initial Application stage before the Office of Personnel Management, then the Reconsideration Stage of the process, then a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the MSPB, involves whether or not an “error of law” was made.  As such, because each of the preceding three stages of the administrative process would essentially involve foundations for a later stage of an administrative appeal, it is obviously important to know what “the law” is.  One can hardly argue in the later stages what “errors of law” were made if one is not familiar with what “the law” is comprised of in the first place.  By establishing certain key foundations, and inserting legal precedents and arguments throughout the process, one has a better chance at arguing that legal errors were made by the Administrative Judge. While a Federal or Postal worker should certainly expect that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application should be approved at any given level because it has been properly prepared, it is always wise to look beyond the present, and prepare for future contingencies.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire