Federal Disability Retirement: Each Step as a Building Block for the Next

Of course, the penultimate approach would be to have the first stage of the process in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, to be the first and final step of the process.  But life in general is imperfect; particular lives are generally in disarray; and to expect any administrative process — especially one at the Federal level — to be one of attaining perfection at the First Stage, is to expect that there are no ancillary motives, purposes or quota-driven mindsets behind the decision-making process.

The very concept of a “building block” is itself an interesting one, for it is a metaphor used to convey a sense of progress.  And that would be the key.  One does not purposefully leave out any single building block in the process of constructing a foundation.  Instead, each block is an addition to the greater expanse of the structure, solidifying its base, preparing for the completion such that the end product will withstand weather, elements, unforeseen circumstances and potential challenges to the structural integrity itself.

Similarly, if the U.S. Office of Personnel Management questions an issue or aspect of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, the entire structure of the application should not be in danger of crumbling; rather, it may be a question which leads to an easy resolution, or a clarification which can be answered, challenged or expanded upon.

That is why time expended at the initial stage of the process before the filing itself — the pre-formulation part of the process, if you will — is important.  Old adages die hard, and thus to be penny wise and pound foolish is perhaps the most appropriate, wisdom-filled statement which proves itself perennially valid.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Agency Pressures

Agencies have an inherent, built-in mechanism to pressure the Federal or Postal employee to quickly file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, and indeed, often the Human Resources Department will pressure the Federal employee to prepare, formulate and file the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits in an expedited manner.  

This can be both a positive thing, as well as contain some negative consequences.  Ultimately, the self-interest of the Agency is in vacating the position presently being held by a non-productive (or so it is viewed and thought) dead-weight, in order to have it filled by someone else for the efficiency of the service.  

This is not to say that there are not some compassionate, empathetic H.R. Personnel, or Supervisors or others in the Agency who are attempting to “fast-track” a Federal Disability Retirement application in order to look out for the best interests of the Federal or Postal Employee.  There are some good people.  But the balance of alternatives must always be weighed between filing something quickly, and doing it properly and thoroughly.  

Pressure from the agency should not be the primary basis of one’s response; obtaining the proper medical documentation, the doctor’s reports, and carefully preparing the Applicant’s Statement of Disability in order to increase the chances of success at the Initial Stage of the Application for Federal Disability Retirement with the Office of Personnel Management, should always be the paramount and first order of consideration.  

Each entity has a self-interest; making sure that one’s own self-interest is properly looked after, is the first order of business in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Decisions of the Federal and Postal Employee

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, the ultimate and deciding “first step” factor which propels the entire process, of course, is entirely within the authoritative realm of the Federal or Postal employee contemplating such a course of action.  

In making any decision, however, the trajectory of options begins to diminish when the options themselves become more and more limited and restricted by external circumstances.  Thus, when the Federal or Post employee is removed and separated from Federal Service, then the option to file becomes clearly defined:  one must file within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service, or you lose your right to file forever.  Or, if the threat of being separated from service becomes cumulatively overwhelming; or, perhaps the medical condition itself, because of its progressively deteriorating aspect, imposes the necessity to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits sooner than anticipated, rather than later.  

Additionally, there are multiple scenarios which offer refinements to those already mentioned — for example, if one has already filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and in the meantime the Federal or Postal worker has been separated from Federal Service, then the ability to either file for Reconsideration (in the event of an initial denial) or appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (in the event of a second denial from the Office of Personnel Management) — as opposed to letting a Request for Reconsideration or an appeal to the MSPB lapse and begin the process all over again —  may be restricted and limited precisely because of the separation from service “in the meantime”.

Options and the ability to make the proper decision in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, should be made with the utmost of flexibility, if possible; but such flexibility and possible decision-making become more and more limited when one waits for external circumstances to intervene — i.e., the medical condition itself; the law; work circumstances; or a combination of all of the above.  Remember, most emergencies are self-made, and the destiny of one’s choices often depends upon thoughtful preparation at the beginning of a complex process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Waiting upon the Office of Personnel Management

A Federal or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS must understand that the waiting portion of the entire process is probably the most difficult time, precisely because it is a time of inactivity, where one’s future plans are placed on hold because of the uncertainty of the decision.  

Everyone, of course, believes that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application has merit. Otherwise, a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, should never have been prepared, formulated, finalized and filed — but for the strong belief that one’s medical conditions prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  

Every Federal or Postal employee whom I represent believes that his or her case is a “slam dunk” case, and it is the job of an OPM Disability Attorney to present it as such, but within the limitations of what the doctor & other supporting documentation will provide.  Once a Federal Disability Retirement application has been filed with the Office of Personnel Management, then the destiny of one’s future plans is somewhat placed in the hands of the OPM benefits clerk.  

Activity often gives the appearance of progress, and inactivity presents a frustrating sense of powerlessness.  But waiting is part of the process.  As such, it is best to make plans, prepare for one’s future in other ways, and allow the Office of Personnel Management to review one’s case properly and thoroughly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Wait Seems Longer

For those waiting for their Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, pending before the Office of Personnel Management, the wait seems to be getting longer and longer.  Whether at the initial stage of the application process, or at the Reconsideration Stage, OPM is taking longer to make a decision on a pending application.  Everyone, of course, wants his or her application to be the next in line; and, indeed, it is all the more frustrating when an applicant is told that a decision will be made “within the next 2 weeks”, and after the 2-week period comes and passes, still no decision. 

What makes it worse is that, even after an approval, there seems to be longer delays in processing the approved application before payment is received.  Further, even after the “interim” payments begin, there appears to be a longer wait before a case is “finalized” for payment processing.  Each period of delay results in a ripple-effect throughout the system as a whole, and indeed, in these economic times of hardship, it  places an even greater burden upon those who need the financial benefit most — those who are disabled, and who rely upon the benefit of disability retirement payments for their very livelihood.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency which reviews, approves or denies all Federal Disability Retirement applications for those who are under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), is taking an extraordinary amount of time in reviewing disability retirement applications.  This is true across the board — whether at the initial stage of the process, or at the Reconsideration Stage of the process. 

While certain individual appeals to “personal emergencies” can sometimes move an application ahead of others, the simple fact is that OPM is understaffed and overworked.  Patience is simply the only remedy, and the OPM representative will eventually get to a particular case in the order that it was received.  Now, the question as to whether a particular case is properly prepared such that it will get approved at the first review, is a separate question.  That is why it is important to prepare a disability retirement application properly, and well, at the first stage.  Because OPM is taking a long time before it is even reviewed, it is important to try and make your best case at the first stage.  However, by “best” does not necessarily mean a volume of medical records.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire