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

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Defining Complexity Down

The complexity of a Federal Disability Retirement case is made all the more so, in exponential fashion, when the inherent issues concerning the medical condition and its impact upon one or more of the essential elements of one’s job are difficult and involved.

The administrative process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is in and of itself a complex process — if only for the sheer volume of Standard government forms which must be completed — and is compounded in multiple ways when the variegated medical conditions are included.  Indeed, sometimes it is the combination of multiple medical conditions which, in the totality of interconnected and intersecting symptomatologies, constitute the entirety of the medical impact in preventing one from performing a particular kind of job.

It is the job of the applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits — the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS — who must define the complexity down to its basic, comprehensible and coherent, cogent presentation, in order for the reviewing clerks at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to analyze and ultimately approve the Federal Disability Retirement application.

A simple rule of thumb:  If you cannot explain it, how will OPM make heads or tails of it? The solution:  If you cannot do it, obtain the services of someone who can; normally, this would involve an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Basics & Complexity

Appearance versus reality; ease of effort as opposed to great physical exertional requirements; basic components which make up for a complex composite — the inverse/converse of oppositional forces may seemingly contradict each other, but in most cases, they are entirely compatible.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the initial encounter with the multiple forms which must be completed, the complexity of the questions requested to be responded to — with the underlying sense that each question contains an implicit “trickiness” where the government is attempting to either cage you into a corner you do not necessarily want to be pushed to, or otherwise to state things which cannot be answered in such simplistic format — all betray a conundrum:  Is it as simple as the questions appear?  Or is the complexity hidden in the appearance of such simplicity?

Then, of course, a partial answer will surface when a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied by OPM at the First Stage of the process:  all of a sudden, various legal criteria are cited; standards of proof heretofore unmentioned are recited like a litany from a food recipe; and by the way, if it gets denied again, you get to read through a thick legal packet concerning your “appeal rights” from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Yes, it appears simple; it’s only that the complexity remains hidden in the compendium of laws, statutes and regulations which undergird the entirety of the complex administrative procedure encapsulating Federal Disability Retirement law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Periodic Clarifications

Periodically, despite multiple prior blogs addressing certain issues, it becomes clear that confusions continue to abound, and a clarification is in order.

In many ways, such necessity for periodic clarifications only emphasizes the inherent complexities in Federal Disability Retirement law, despite the foundational simplicity of what needs to be proven.

Indeed, while the substantive law requires the primary basis of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, the nexus between one’s official positional duties, and the medical conditions which prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; nevertheless, there are numerous procedural issues and hurdles which must concurrently be met in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Thus, for instance:  the Federal or Postal employee must file an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service — not 1 year from the date of being placed on LWOP, or from the “date of injury”, etc.

Further, SSDI must be filed by FERS employees, but of course Social Security will not even consider a filing for purposes of evaluating eligibility until a person has stopped working — nevertheless, for FERS Disability Retirement purposes, all that is necessary is a receipt showing that one has filed for Social Security Disability benefits.

And one more:  never wait for one’s agency to act in a Disability Retirement case; such waiting merely constitutes an act of futility, and one which almost always results with an adverse effect upon the Federal or Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Complexity & Context

Complexities in any field, whether general, technical or mundane, possess a context which includes its history, its underlying purpose, and the years of evolving issues which have impacted the expanding compendium of rules, regulations, statutes and procedural mandates.  The previously-stated sentence is itself a paradigm of such complexity, and unless a proper context is provided, retains scant meaning except in a garbled conglomeration of independent words.

Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is somewhat akin to the context-less complexity experienced by any Federal or Postal Worker who approaches such an administrative process.  Those who have been involved in the substantive and procedural morass understand the methodology, means and minutiae which must be engaged in order to successfully maneuver through the regulatory and administrative process.  But most Federal and Postal employees have a singular contact with the entire process (and thankfully so), without a context of how, why, or when it reached a level of such complexity that it became necessary to search for some guidance to understand the very process itself.

Unfortunately, Human Resources personnel are often unhelpful or uninformed themselves.  The statutes, laws and procedural regulations which are supposed to guide the Federal or Postal employees have themselves become a conglomeration of complexities.  And the ability to discern and distinguish between information, helpful information, and errant information, has become a problem in and of itself.

Best to take some time at the front end to simply gather some facts, and determine what the central issues are.  Taking the time at the front end to tackle the complexities, and understand the context, will save some troubles down the road.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Necessity of Recognition

For all of the Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating preparing, formulating or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits either under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize first, the complexity of the administrative process; second, that Federal Disability Retirement benefits are not a guaranteed outcome — it is not an “entitlement” in the sense that a Federal or Postal employee can automatically qualify for the benefit — but is part of the Federal compensation package for being a Federal or Postal employee, but one which must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence in order to qualify; and third, that the challenge of proving one’s eligibility must be met in a sequential, logical, and methodological manner such that the presentation made to the Office of Personnel Management is coherent, concise and comprehensible.  

Preparation for the long administrative process  is a prerequisite; proper formulation of one’s packet must be carefully attended to; and timely filing in order to meet the statutory guidelines is a necessity.  All in all, meeting the entirety of the administrative process is a complex legal maneuver which should be considered with care, foresight, and deliberation.  Do not take anything for granted.  Seek proper and useful information; then be “effective” as opposed to “efficient” — although, obviously encapsulating both qualities concurrently would be the best of all worlds.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Inherent Complexities

It is often asked why filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is more complex, and therefor often more difficult to obtain, than (for example) Social Security Disability, or even Federal Worker’s Comp.  The simple answer is that one cannot compare apples and oranges (to quote an oft-used metaphor), but the greater inherent complexity of answering such a question involves more space than can be allotted here.

Social Security Disability, of course, has a higher standard of eligibility.  In abbreviated explanation, this means that one must essentially be “totally disabled” in order to qualify for Social Security Disability, as opposed to the “lower” legal standard of being “unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job”.  Thus, Social Security Disability cuts a wider swathe, and is generally considered to require a more onerous standard, and the resulting benefit reflects that — by allowing for restrictive ability to earn outside income, etc.  

 Worker’s Comp (OWCP, FECA/Department of Labor) is also complex in its own way, precisely because it requires a showing of occupational connection, or that the injury or medical condition was “on the job” or somehow caused by the job, the workplace, etc.  Then, its reliance upon percentage of disability, and the fact that it is not a retirement system, but a temporary mode of compensation in attempting to return the Federal or Postal Worker back to work, further contains multiple complex issues.  

Often, when a law attempts to particularize a benefit — as in Federal Disability Retirement — by focusing narrowly upon an issue (e.g., being unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s particular kind of job, or any similar job), such a narrow focus creates an inherent complexity all on its own. Complexity of an issue requires a careful and studied approach; to conquer an issue, it is important to expend a great amount of time reflecting upon and scrutinizing the issue. It is only upon understanding an issue thoroughly that the complexity begins to unravel; and only then can one begin to proceed to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Simplicity v. Complexity

Each Stage in the process of proving eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS requires a unique approach and methodology of response.  It requires the combination of responding to, and thoroughly completing, forms required to meet the criteria at the initial stage of the process; of responding to any perceived lack of evidence in responding to a denial at the First Stage of the process, issued by the Office of Personnel Management, and therefore requiring a Request for Reconsideration; and finally, an ability to persuade an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board of the completeness of the application for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement, as well as to prepare the case well for submission of further evidence.

There are, in addition to the three stages mentioned, two further stages of the process (a Petition for Full Review to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which is comprised of a panel of administrative judges; and then to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit), but both such appeal stages will only review the issue of whether or not there was an “error of law” committed by the Administrative Judge at the third stage of the process.  

The entirety of the process is comprised of inherent complexities — involving issues of medical (obviously), legal, administrative, agency, credibility, etc. — issues impacting each Federal Disability Retirement application in its own unique and specific manner.  One can try to simplify the process by breaking each component down into its basic elements, but the complexity of the whole process cannot be avoided.

Understanding each relevant component, addressing the specific issues, dissecting each, then compiling the evidence from each to make up the whole, results in wading through the complexity while maintaining the simplicity of each component part.  Keep the application simple, concise, and to the point.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Complex Case

It goes without saying that each case of preparing and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a “complex case”.  There are multiple intervening issues, including peripheral issues encompassing OWCP filings; issues with SSDI and whether to aggressively pursue it even with the offset and the lower cap for earnings; EEOC filings and collateral issues which may or may not have a direct impact upon the issues which must be focused upon in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  It is the job of an OPM Disability Attorney to tailor the issues, such that the peripheral issues do not overwhelm and dictate the centrality of a case; and to ensure that the central focus remains like a magnifying glass upon those issues which are relevant, not only to the client and to the entire process, but most importantly, to the person reviewing the case at the Office of Personnel Management.  Whenever an inquiry begins with the statement, “Mine is a rather complex case,” I realize that the primary job is to try and simplify the complexities, and that begins with narrowing the issue down to the single focus of the reason why the caller is calling in the first place:  the medical condition, and how that medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform one’s job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire