Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Those Important First Steps

It is often the period of initial preparation of a process which is important in setting a solid foundation for the insurmountable security and solidity of a case. That truism is arrived at through retrospective reflection; but when one is frantically attempting to reach the end-goal, the frenzy of trying to get there is the very problem which derails a case.

When the Federal or Postal employee finds that a medical condition impacts and prevents one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, and further, that the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service is beginning to voice “grumblings” about one’s performance, to include excessive use of SL or LWOP; or, worse, one finds that a PIP has been issued, and one is thus subjected to the microscopic assessment of one’s work, including the number of times you use the restroom — panic sets in.

But quickly compiling a volume of medical records and hastily submitting a Federal Disability Retirement packet through one’s Human Resources office is the wrong approach.  For, ultimately, it is not one’s own agency which has anything to do with a Federal Disability Retirement application; rather, it is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a completely separate agency, which renders a decision on all Federal Disability Retirement applications, whether under FERS or CSRS.

That is why preparing the initial steps in compiling a persuasive Federal Disability Retirement application is crucial; it will determine the later consequences of success or failure.  Thus the age-old adage:  Penny wise but pound foolish; or more aptly, get your ducks in a row early.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Wait-time Extended

The time which takes from the assignment of a case number in Boyers, PA, to a decision rendered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., has been extended.

Recent articles regarding this issue have been slow to reveal the underpinnings of this growing problem, but the coalescence of multiple factors is making for a mini “perfect storm” of sorts, including:  Budget cuts which have forced disallowance of overtime and further hiring of additional workers; slow response to a progressively impending problem in the past couple of years; the threat of furloughs which restricts options available for OPM to respond; internal moving of offices within the same building at OPM.

Service is the essence of the function of government; when the essential function of government begins to disintegrate, it becomes a reflection on a growing, greater problem.  For Federal and Postal workers who have worked tirelessly towards their day of retirement, and for those Federal and Postal Workers who have been hit with a medical condition such that Federal Disability Retirement benefits is an option which must be relied upon, any extension of time in processing the application for disability retirement is an added burden which places great financial and emotional pressure upon an already-dire circumstance.

Fair or not, the reality of an administrative nightmare is steadily growing.

The good news is that there is such an option as Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and one which is a progressive paradigm for a society which understands that medical conditions may impact the Federal or Postal Worker, but that such medical conditions need not mean that a person is totally disabled — merely that there is an inconsistency between one’s position and one’s medical condition.

The bad news is that the wait-time to obtain such benefits has been somewhat extended.  The solution?  Only that filing sooner than later will place one in the proverbial line of the bureaucratic turmoil, only to slowly march forward towards the desired end.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Preparing for the Process

Every endeavor or activity requires preparation — if merely a thought, but more than likely, the gathering of proper materials, a logistical and strategic plan of action, etc.  There is nothing more frustrating than to begin a project, only to find that one lacks the proper materials and tools, and must delay any further action because of such lack.

Similarly, 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 for the Federal or Postal employee to understand that “having a medical condition” is not enough to endeavor to begin the administrative process (some would instead insert the term, “nightmare” for the word “process”).

While the suffering of the chronic or debilitating medical condition may “feel” like it should be enough, filing for a bureaucratic benefit requires proof which meets a set standard of evidentiary documentation.  In other words, one must establish a “nexus”, or a connection, between the medical condition which one suffers from, and the job which one is positioned for, and moreover, one must always keep in mind that this is a “medical retirement“, and as such, it must be established that one is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job from a medical standpoint.

It is indeed the preparatory phase of the journey into Federal Disability Retirement which will provide the foundation for ultimate success in the endeavor.

Just as you don’t want to build a house without first having the appropriate construction materials; so you don’t want to go down the path of Federal Disability Retirement without having the requisite medical and legal tools in hand.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Blindly Forging Forward

The success of every endeavor encompasses a wide and vast array of preparation not seen, rarely apparent, and never obvious.  It is the time of engagement “behind the scenes” which then, upon the revelation on public display, makes it appear as if it is accomplished with ease and effortlessness.  But the hours of preparation, the extent of effort expended, and the research and study employed — all coalesce to bring about the appearance of ease.

So it is with every activity; it is no different in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under the FERS or CSRS Government Employee Retirement programs, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  To blindly forge forward in preparing and submitting a Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is to court disaster; it takes time, preparation, thoughtful deliberation, and careful compilation of the evidence and proof needed to present a persuasive case.

Never let the rumors of someone else’s success disrobe one’s natural instinct to be on guard; you never know what effort such stories entailed, or how true, or the full narrative picture; and such rumors should be left behind on the trash heap of rumor mills, where many a Federal or Postal employee discovered that success results not in following what someone else said, but rather, is attained through accepting the advice of those who truly know.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Government Disability Retirement: Another Year Passing

Because the administrative process of preparing, formulating, and filing — then waiting for a decision — a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, can take several months for the Initial Stage of the bureaucratic procedure alone, it is important to plan ahead for the future.  

New Year’s eve, for Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, is merely a reminder that another year has passed.  For those waiting for a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is another indicator of the frustrating wait which the potential Federal or Postal annuitant has been through, is going through, and must still endure.  And this is only for the “First Stage” of the process.  

The waiting time is extended if the Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage, and must be appealed to the Second Stage of the process, or what is identified as the Reconsideration Stage of the process.  Then, of course, if it is denied by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management at the Second Stage, one has a right to appeal the case to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.  

Waiting is a necessary part of the administrative, bureaucratic process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Filing soon after one has recognized that one’s medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, is the only “cure” for the long wait. As with everything else, it is better to get in ahead of the line, and have someone help you with the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Planning

A common consensus among those who contemplate filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is that it is an unplanned event, and one which required decisions which shortened the career goals of the Federal or Postal employee.  Such an unplanned event, however, should not be left for lack of planning of the event itself — of preparing, formulating and filing for the Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Thus, a distinction should be made:  yes, the fact of the medical condition, and its unplanned impact upon one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, thereby cutting short the Federal or Postal career of the individual, is quite often something which is unexpected and beyond one’s control.

Once the realization that it is necessary to  file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM becomes apparent, however, one should not simply act in a manner which compounds the problems of lack of planning.  At that point, planning is essential to the entire endeavor:  the garnering of support from the medical community; the persuasive conversation which one must have with one’s treating medical provider; the decision of which medical conditions to include, how to state it, what to state; the preparation of the coordinated aspects of each of the strands of a Federal Disability Retirement application — these need to be planned for, in order to increase the chances of success at each stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Understanding & Application

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 both “understand” the administrative process — the compendium of the entirety of the process and procedures itself, including the relevant statutory and case-law criteria which is relied upon, the methodological approach of the Office of Personnel Management, etc. — as well as have the ability to apply such knowledge in an effective manner.  The former constitutes the preparation:  i.e., the study of one’s enemy is necessary in the ultimate prevailing of an endeavor.  The latter — the application of such obtained and accrued knowledge — is the initiation of the former.

The distinction between the two, and the effective use of both, is important in reaching a successful conclusion to the whole point of the process.  Understanding of a subject, person, group, entity, or Federal Agency, is important in the initial, preparatory stages of the administrative process, and as there is much information “out there”, one ultimately has little excuse in not taking the time to reading, self-informing, and compiling the available facts and informative advice provided.  The chasm between understanding and “application”, however, is one which differentiates between knowledge and wisdom; and it is the latter which one is attempting to achieve.  Once the information is compiled, the key is to apply it in an effective, impacting manner.

The difference is likened to the person who has read upon on how to fly an airplane (i.e., the language game may be memorized), but would you ever step onto a plane being flown by a pilot who has never flown previously, but who assures you that he has studied all available resources?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Pre-Conditional Preparatory Steps

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether a Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, there are steps to be taken — not only at each “stage” of the administrative process, but moreover, in the weeks and months prior to the actual formulation, compilation and submission of the Standard Forms, documentary support, writing of the Applicant’s Statement, etc.

As a “process”, one may bifurcate the necessary steps into the following:  the pre-conditional stage; the preparatory stage; the time of formulation & actualization; finally, the submission of the disability retirement packet.

In the “pre-conditional” time period, one should focus upon the single most important aspect of a Federal Disability Retirement case — that of garnering, concretizing and establishing the necessary physician-patient relationship, such that there is a clear understanding of what is required of the physician; what the physician expects of the patient; and, wherever and whenever possible, a continuing mutual respect and understanding between the doctor and the patient-applicant.

This is why the Merit Systems Protection Board has explicitly, through case after case, opined upon the preference for “treating” doctors of longstanding tenure.  For, in such a relationship of long-term doctor-patient relationships, a greater ability to assess and evaluate the capabilities and limitations of the patient’s physical, emotional and psychological capacities can best be achieved.

In every “rule”, of course, there are exceptions, and sometimes more “distant” methods of evaluations can be obtained — through OWCP doctors, referee opinions, independent examinations (indeed, one can make the argument that because it is “independent”, therefore it carries greater weight), functional capacity evaluations, etc.

For the most part, however, the cultivation of an excellent physician-patient relationship will be the key to a successful Federal Disability Retirement claim, and as such, the pre-conditional stage to the entire process should be focused upon establishing that solid foundation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Unfortunately, like a Toothache

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is analogous to having a toothache — a gnawing sense of foreboding during the entire process, especially during the long period of waiting for a decision from the Office of Personnel Management.  Then, like the extracted tooth which cures all ills, an approval from the Office of Personnel Management solves many of the problems, clears up much uncertainty for the future, and allows for a good night’s sleep for the first time in many months.

The difference between filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and having a toothache, however, is that while the latter can have a solution fairly immediately, the former will linger for many months, and it is precisely the longevity of the process which is the most disconcerting.

Further, the fact that one’s own Federal agency, or the U.S. Postal Service, and specifically the Human Resources office of many agencies (there are, of course, exceptions to the general rule, though such exceptions are rare and delightful when found — sort of like coming upon a near-extinct species and recognizing the aberration of the moment) will deliberately and with purposive intent attempt to obfuscate and create unnecessary obstacles (isn’t that precisely why such euphemistic designations like, “The Office of Human Capital” is applied?) is itself disturbing, puzzling, and infuriating.  But like the toothache, all that can be done during the long administrative process is to wait for that moment of extraction — or approval, as the case may be.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire