Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Where to Begin

Many phone calls admit defeat before the process begins, and this, because the complex process itself is an obstacle of daunting proportions, preventing the Federal or Postal employee from envisioning a time in the future when a Federal Disability Retirement application will have been approved.  

Does a defeatist attitude impact a Federal Disability Retirement application?  Does the U.S. Office of Personnel Management “read into” a Federal Disability Retirement application, somewhat like a mental telepathist, and “know” that the Federal or Postal employee expects a denial? No.  But certainly the approach of how one compiles the evidence, guides the Office of Personnel Management in the roadmap of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application (by narrating a cover letter which is broad in scope, coherent in logical structure, and specific in discussing the attachments and their relevance, etc.), and provides a justifying legal basis for granting an approval — in a comprehensive compendium which provides a foundation to OPM to approve the case — is how one averts a defeatist attitude, and instead replaces it with a confident compilation of a catalogue of clarity (yes, one can get carried away with engaging in alliteration).

Remember that, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the important thing is to always begin with clarity; then, sift through and between that which is central as opposed to peripheral; and in the end, don’t act like an amateur — let the professionals handle it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Chance of Winning

To characterize the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in terms of the percentage chances of “winning” is a natural occurrence.  While not strictly or metaphorically similar to a sports event, or a duel or challenge between two opponents, nevertheless, to obtain an approval is considered a “win” and to be denied throughout the entire administrative process is considered a “loss”.

Thus, attorneys also view their careers in such terms — of placing each case either in the “win” column, or its only polar opposite, the “loss” column.  This is a competitive society; one in which most things are characterized in such a way, and to bemoan the reality of viewing it that way would be a waste of energy, time and focus.

To win, then, is the ultimate goal (obviously), and therefore one must attempt to quantitatively increase one’s chances that the Federal or Postal employee will “win” a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  Yet, the approach and methodology of too many Federal and Postal employees who prepare, formulate and compile his or her Federal Disability Retirement application, reflects the very opposite approach.  To “win”, as in every other competitive arena of life, requires preparation, planning and purposeful strategies.

For a Federal Disability Retirement application, it requires proper and effective medical documentation; a narrative stated in “connecting the dots“; and a readiness to reply to the legal challenges which are likely to be forthcoming.  If the Federal or Postal employee is going to characterize a Federal Disability Retirement application in terms of being a competitive activity, then it needs to be approached as such.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Basic Approaches

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is always best to begin the formulation and preparation of a case by attending to the basic approaches.

Complexity of a case should not be inherently obvious.  The ease with which the professional in any field of activity makes such an activity appear to the spectator, is merely an attestation of the time and preparation expended.  

If a case is so complex that the Federal or Postal employee is unable to convey the interactive bridge between the symptoms and diagnosed medical conditions, and the type of positional duties which one must be able to function at, then how is the Claims Representative at the Office of Personnel Management going to be able to comprehend such complexity which the Applicant himself/herself is unable to effectively delineate and describe?  

Extraneous complexities, outside issues, peripheral concerns, and intra-agency squabbles, including allegations of discrimination, unequal treatment, etc., are normally irrelevancies which must be forced from the center of a Federal Disability Retirement case, to a mere passing footnote, if that.

Remember that one does not want to be pigeonholed into asserting a “situational disability” claim, which is a valid basis to be denied in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Keep things simple. Approach the case with the basics in mind.  Formulate the nexus between one’s medical conditions and one’s positional duties.  Always keep in mind the essence of a case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Bruner Revisited

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one should never pause or hesitate from affirmatively going forward in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application based upon what the Agency will or will not do; is expected or not expected to do; or is predicted or not predicted to do.  One should simply move forward based upon one’s personal and professional circumstances, the extent of the medical condition, the impact of one’s medical condition upon one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, etc.  

Thus, for instance, where a Federal or Postal employee has informed the Agency of one’s medical condition, or one has filed for FMLA and submitted substantiating medical documentation, if the plan is to “wait” for the Agency to remove the Federal or Postal employee in order to obtain the advantage of what is generally known as the “Bruner Presumption,” such a plan is normally not the best course of action, for various reasons.  

First, the Agency may take an extraordinary amount of time, and in the end, may attempt to remove the Federal or Postal employee for “other reasons” (performance issues, for instance).  Second, whether or not one “gets” the Bruner Presumption in a case, that legal advantage is really for the Third Stage of the process — at the Merit Systems Protection Board — inasmuch as most of the Claims Reviewers at the Office of Personnel Management are not legally informed enough to know such a legal presumption from a nearby neighbor named John Doe Bruner.  And Third, one must affirmatively prove by a preponderance of the evidence, anyway, that one cannot perform the essential elements of one’s job because of a medical condition.  The Bruner Presumption, while a great thing to have, does not override the medical condition and evidence which must be presented.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Right Timing

Timing the preparation and submission, and ultimate separation/retirement from Federal Service in getting Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is rarely a method of precision; it is closer to art than it is to science.  That is because there is the “human” element involved — of when does the medical condition reach its critical point where one cannot withstand the daily and chronic pain; is the doctor ready to support the Federal Disability Retirement application; is the Agency sympathetic or suspicious; can the reduced finances be worked out for a livable standard of living; will the future allow for all of the elements to coalesce? 

There are many, many such human elements which must come into play.  All too often, however, the “right time” for contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is simply determined by external circumstances, such as reaching a critical point in one’s medical condition such that there is simply no other choice left, as opposed to being able to rationally and calmly make an affirmative decision for one’s future.  Whatever may be the particular and peculiar circumstances of a given Federal or Postal employee, the time to consider preparing a Federal disability retirement application must be a decision made by each individual, based upon that individual’s unique circumstances.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Day after Christmas, and Beyond

Unfortunately, we tend to focus up specific days and events, and overlook the “greater picture” in our daily lives; and so it is with Christmas, and New Years, etc.  Christmas is a day of great importance; it represents a day marking the beginning of one’s faith; and the “New Year” often marks a dividing point where resolutions and “new beginnings” are contemplated.

But for Federal and Postal employees contemplating Federal Disability Retirement under FERS & CSRS, the underlying and chronic medical condition continues to persist with or without any specific date.  And so, when the focus upon a specific date comes and goes, and one realizes that the time with family and friends has not solved the underlying problem of medical condition, work, the future and what to do, then the problem of procrastination — of ascribing another “future” date to look forward to, without attending to the immediacy of the problem at hand, continues indefinitely.

It is always important to affirmatively take hold of one’s situation, and begin to systematically make decisions, and to segregate the multiple and complex problems surrounding medical disabilities and their attendant problems, and to make decisions on one problem at a time.  It begins with making the first decision.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Decision

I have often spoken about the “process” of filing, but that mostly concerns the administrative ordeal of filing:  of preparing, of gathering the medical documentation, of writing up the proper applicant’s statement, of putting together the legal arguments in support thereof, etc.  Then, of course, I have spoken about the “human” side of things — of the difficult human ordeal of going through the process.  There is the initial psychological barrier — of starting the administrative process, which is somewhat of an implicit acknowledgment that a person is indeed “disabled”, as if that concept or label has some sort of a “stigma” attached thereto. 

One would think that in the 21st Century, all such stigmas would have been extinguished and extinct; and, indeed, most such stigmas are merely self-imposed.  Often, we are our own worst enemy; there is the barrier of ourselves in the process, of actually starting the process.  This is often why an attorney is the best person to handle a Federal Disability Retirement application — because it allows for the process to begin, without it being so intimately and personal a matter to the applicant.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire