Disability Retirement from U.S. Federal Agencies: Creatures of Leviathan Proportions

Leviathan is both a mythological sea creature, as well as the title of a famous book authored by Thomas Hobbes. It represents that uncontrollable entity of gargantuan proportions, unstoppable and thoughtlessly destructive. It takes on many forms, many faces; or none at all. It is an entity of nondescript characteristic, and engulfs countless lives marked by unidentified graves.

For the Federal employee and the Postal worker who is lost in the bureaucratic shuffle of loss of identity, the concept of a Leviathan is both familiar, daunting and dismaying. There are countless tentacles of agencies and departments within the Federal Government, the largest of them including the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Justice, The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, and the umbrella Department of Defense, to name just some of the larger ones.

Becoming a part of the mission of those, or any of the multiple lesser ones, can be an exciting venture. But when a medical condition begins to reduce the stature of one’s potential accomplishments and contribution to the mission of an agency, it becomes easy to get lost in the very size of the agency. Most such agencies have a centralized Human Resources Department, such as a “Civilian Personnel Advisory Center”, which is another faceless and gargantuan bureaucracy.  Personalized Human Resource offices are being gobbled up by the Leviathan of so-called efficiency of centralization; the “personal touch” is left on the side of the road to bigger is better.

For the Federal employee and the Postal worker who needs to file a Federal Disability claim, it is precisely that “personal touch” which is often needed, but is lacking because of the Leviathan of modernity.  Then, of course, the very agency which makes the decision of an approval or a denial — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — is itself a sea creature of sorts.  Difficult to access and even more of a problem of finding information concerning one’s case, the Leviathans of the modern-day world must be constantly battled and confronted with effective swords and shields.

When a Federal employee or Postal worker suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition necessitates filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand the nature of the beast, and the fact that one’s own agency is merely one of many, and the modern-day David in a world of Goliaths may need more assistance than a mere handful of stones.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Disability for Civilian Federal Employees: The Inactivity

Waiting upon a third party or entity is often the hardest thing to do.  Waiting upon a bureaucratic process is an exponential aggravation of that same hardest thing to do, because one cannot fathom a reason or rationale for such dependency of unproductive time.

If there was actual knowledge of some accounting for activity during the process, it would perhaps justify the inactivity; but merely awaiting the sequential attendance of a case file which may or may not be reviewed on any given day, is a non-activity of an unknown and unknowable non-productivity of non-action. The result: frustration.

Now, one may argue that the voluntary submission into the world of bureaucratic waiting means that one has received that which was asked for; but this merely explains the cause, and solves nothing.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an administrative process which, unfortunately, requires patience, waiting, and a resolve that there will be an ultimate end to the process, given the right amount of time.

Then, of course, the Federal or Postal employee who is subjected to the long wait, must immediately comply with the time-limitations imposed if a denial of a FERS or CSRS disability retirement application is issued by OPM.  When it is upon them, the Federal and Postal employee must be patient; when it is upon us, there are strict time limitations which must be followed, or else…

The bureaucracy moves, albeit at a pace designed to test the patience of saints; but then, the old adage applies as always, that Federal and Postal Workers are the most virtuous of human beings, given that patience is still considered a virtue.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal & Postal Employee Medical Retirement: The Intersection of Interests

Throughout one’s life, most Americans have minimal contact with governmental bureaucracies and agencies, except to comply with Selective Service requirements, join the military, file tax returns, claim Social Security benefits in older age, etc. Such encounters are often considered bothersome, and many grumble and complain about the intrusive nature of such dealings. What is often not perceived, of course, is the vast amount of indirect statutory and administrative requirements placed upon private entities, which then shift burdens upon the private citizen, unbeknownst to the person entering the store, bank, etc.

For the Federal and Postal Worker, however, the daily bureaucratic encounters are part of one’s life. The Federal and Postal employee is part of that administrative process which impacts the private sector of the economy; they are, in essence, the “insiders” who make the mechanisms of government tick. As such, the Federal and Postal Worker often has little idea how the “private” individual views such inner workings, until he or she becomes just like the “outsider” and encounters a Federal bureaucracy in the same shoes as the private individual.

When the Federal or Postal employee finds it necessary to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, such a clash and intersection of interests suddenly takes on a new perspective. In one fell swoop, the Federal and Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits becomes both an “insider” as well as an “outsider” — the former, because he or she is still part of the Federal agency or Postal Service; the latter, because such dealings must ultimately be with an independent agency identified as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Such intersection of interests often becomes befuddling; for, no longer is the encounter embracing the administrative and bureaucratic work to which one is accustomed; rather, it is to stand in line like other private citizens to file a claim for benefits.

Such a state of being, for the Federal and Postal Worker, can be likened to the deceased individual caught in Purgatory; and, indeed, perhaps some sins unknown and not atoned for, have been placed upon such Federal and Postal employees to have to encounter OPM in such a state. Whatever the reasons, such an encounter can be just as much of an eye-opener to the Federal and Postal employee, as a private citizen who encounters the complex bureaucracy of the Federal government for the first time in his or her life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: Foreign Territory

Entering a foreign country often has the residual impact of a changed perspective, and an appreciation for what constitutes one’s life “in comparison” thereof.

Such a perspective had greater prevalence decades ago, perhaps, because of the disparity and disproportionate inequality of comparative international standards of living, whereas in recent times there has been the meteoric rise of the middle class in many other parts of the world.  The “East” has attempted to mimic the “West”; the “West” has embraced the “East”; everywhere, in fashion, movies, clothing and personalities, the differences between foreign lands and one’s own has become monolithic in its loss of individualization.

The proverbial “culture shock” has somewhat dissipated, because through telecommunication, the internet, Skype, constant following on Facebook and Twitter, the “new world order” of a singular character has emerged without the need for totalitarian imposition.  But such shock of a foreign culture can occur in an intra-cultural sense.

Thus, for Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, the crisis felt and the impact experienced is akin to culture shock, in that the foreign territory of physical incapacity or psychological turmoil becomes just as real and unfamiliar as entering a foreign country.

Further, for the uninitiated, the bureaucratic morass which one must encounter in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, is often a complete and unalterable conundrum and puzzle for the Federal and Postal employee.  Such an experience, of course, is further magnified and exacerbated because of the crisis one experiences as a consequence of the medical condition itself.

For those Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement, then, the experience itself is often like entering a foreign country; and, in such instances, it is often a good idea to consider obtaining the services of a tour guide.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Bureaucracy

Most people, organizations and entities do not act with deliberate ill-intentions; rather, they fail to think, and actions emanating from thoughtlessness often constitutes the negation of good.  Bureaucratization often results in the unintended consequence of negating the good; for, in following a set pattern and algorithm of administrative procedures, consideration for individual circumstances cannot be excepted.

One can argue, of course, for the positive aspects of a bureaucracy — of the equal treatment of all; of applying the same standards and criteria across the board, regardless of individual needs; and there is certainly something to be said for expunging the capacity for human favoritism.  But bias and favoritism will always pervade; it will merely take on a more insidious form.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who is suffering from a medical condition such that the medical condition is impacting one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, encountering the bureaucratic process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will become a necessary evil to confront.

The key to a successful interaction with the administrative process will be to reach beyond the faceless bureaucracy, and to make relevant one’s own particular and unique facts and circumstances.  That is a tall order to face, in the face of a faceless bureaucracy.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Regardless

It matters not for a bureaucracy, as to which Party occupies the executive or legislative branches of government (regardless — and we shall refrain from irritating those linguistic perfectionists who would vociferously object to inserting the term, “irregardless”, which is a meaningless but playfully interesting word, employing a double-negative and thus leaving one with the originating root word of “regard” — the bureaucracy of any administration will proceed uninterrupted).

A recent statement foretold of a truism before and after this election:  whoever wins, one thing will be certain:  government will continue to expand, and the bureaucracy will persistently chug along.

Often, people start, stop, or continue projects, initiate necessary actions, etc., based upon what someone else decides to do or not do, by depending upon an act or event outside of one’s control.  What one must understand, however, is that the bureaucracy of any government will continue to operate, regardless of any changes at the top.

As such, for Federal or Postal workers who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is best to ignore outside, third-party actions, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  To depend upon the actions of others outside of one’s control will only lead to frustration and loss of time.  Affirmatively prove your case, and file when it is time to file.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Bureaucratized Process

One cannot expect any entity, organization, or group of individuals to reinvent the wheel for each product, service or response; streamlining and repetitive conformity of a product, issuance or completion of a case is the way of the world; it is how the Model T became a successful capitalistic venture; it is how China dominates the world of marketing.  But in the world of Due Process, one cannot formulate a mass production of effective advocacy without trampling upon the rights of an individual.

Thus, on both sides of the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, each case must be responded to in accordance with the specific, unique facts as constrained by the individual circumstances.

Conversely, one should expect — and demand of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — that something more than a mere template of a response should be issued, after a careful and thorough review of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

If a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application is approved by OPM, then of course one can expect merely a letter of approval which is identical to thousands of others.  If denied, however, the denial letter should reflect a careful, thorough and individualized letter, reflecting the scrutiny of one’s particular disability retirement packet.

Anything less would be to trample upon one’s due process rights as a Federal or Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Power and Responsibility

It has often been stated that, when an individual possesses the power to do X, there falls upon the individual the concomitant need to exercise such power with responsibility.  Thus, the shortened statement, “With power comes responsibility”.

In applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal and Postal employee quickly realizes that the entity which holds all of the “power” in the administrative, bureaucratic process, is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Like any large organization, OPM is possessed with a variety of individuals, each exhibiting differing facets of personalities and approaches.  Such variations, however, should of course be veiled by a veneer of professionalism, and the power which they hold — of determining the approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application — is indeed extensive as it applies and impacts the Federal or Postal employee who has made the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The “power” which OPM holds extends not only to the approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, but moreover, to the length of time a person must wait for the decision, and then even after a decision, how long before payments will be initiated.

The “responsibility” portion of the equation involves and encapsulates the application of a fair and equitable review of one’s application; a thorough reading of the medical reports and records; and an objective analysis of the applicant’s statement of disability, the comparison to the position description, and a comprehensive understanding of the doctor’s reports.

That OPM holds the former (power) is unquestioned; that they exercise the latter (responsibility) is sometimes in question, but fortunately, there are different levels of appeals, and it is the administrative process as a whole which continues to retain its integrity, and for that, we may all be thankful.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Double Standards

Double Standards have always been applied throughout history; it is the mark of a bureaucracy and administrative process to apply one set of standards (normally, the prevailing legal criteria) upon the population at large, but be satisfied with an application of a different (albeit normally a less onerous) set of standards (a “watered down version”?) upon itself.  

Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, there are multiple self-contradictions and conundrums which cannot ultimately be reconciled, but must be lived with, but perhaps pointed out to the Office of Personnel Management in one’s rebuttal arguments.  For instance, when a denial is received from the Office of Personnel Management, the set of legal standards applied in the denial letter will often require multiple criteria which fails to comply with the substance of the law.  Thus, for example, the insistence upon “objective” medical testing; higher standards of proof than the prevailing “preponderance of the evidence”, such as “compelling evidence”; a medical condition which keeps a person “out of the workplace”; and other such standards which are nowhere to be found in “the law“.  

In parallel fashion, the Office of Personnel Management will often rely (without directly stating so or quoting from their “expert” source) upon “contract doctors” to render an opinion.  The puzzling contradiction here, of course, is the fact that while the law favors “treating doctors” and the opinions of treating doctors, nevertheless, if a “contract doctor” who merely reviews the medical documentation renders a negative conclusion, then OPM will rely upon that negative conclusion as opposed to the treating doctor’s opinion.  

Such is the world of bureaucracies, the the beauty of double standards:  from OPM’s viewpoint, it is merely the ability to assert power and authority, as OPM is the “arbiter” of all Federal Disability Retirement applications for Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Information v. Essentials

There is a tendency to want to “reveal all“, as if not revealing every aspect of a narrative is somehow misleading, untruthful, or deceptive.  But there is a distinction to be made between information, whether it is background information or information pertaining to relevant facts and circumstances, as opposed to the essential core of a narrative.  

As the Office of Personnel Management attempts to reduce the backlog of Federal Disability Retirement applications under FERS or CSRS, it becomes more and more important for each application to be submitted in a streamlined, “only the pertinent facts” type of submissions.  This is not to say that all “relevant” facts must be distinguished from documents and submissions which provide for contextual understanding of a case.  Rather, the days when volumes of medical documentation of all treatment notes, test results, etc., without a guiding cover letter, may do more harm than good.  

In this day and age when there is so much information on the internet (much of which is irrelevant and meandering), it is good to keep in mind the conceptual distinction between that which is merely informational, and that which is essential.  For Federal and Postal workers who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, make sure that you are focusing upon the essentials, and not merely providing information without context and relevance.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire