OPM Disability Retirement: Early Decisions, Later Consequences

Decisions engaged in early on, reap later consequences which often reflect the choices made in those initial steps.  This is true both in life generally, and in particularized ventures, endeavors and vocations.

That is precisely why we tell our kids to study hard; that the key to success is preparation and practice; that, on performance day, the ease with which the presentation appears reflects the extent of the behind-the-scenes effort which went into the show.

Such admonitions apply to every project we undertake, and it is no less different when one is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, for the Federal and Postal Worker.  The logical sequence of how a person puts together a Federal Disability Retirement application will be reflected both in the final submission, as well as in the results obtained.

Now, there may well be cases which are poorly compiled, yet approved without a glitch; just as there will be cases which are irrefutably argued, yet denied by the Federal Bureaucracy identified as OPM.

However, another adage which is also true, is that “the exception does not make the rule”.

What words are chosen; how the Statement of Disability on SF 3112A is formulated; what medical evidence is presented; which legal arguments are promulgated and highlighted; what collateral issues are preemptively brought up; collectively, they “matter”.

What we do today determines the course of tomorrow; what tomorrow brings, will reflect upon who we are today.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

USPS and Federal Civil Service Disability Retirement: Human Beings and Railroad Tracks

The metaphor of trains and railroad tracks are numerous and infinite in their applicability and relevance:  train wrecks; inability to stop; actions which proceed with a directional course towards a cliff; predetermined path of existence; and many others, some which invite ontological and teleological issues concerning free will and the ability to have an omniscient vantage point.

For Federal and Postal employees who are suffering from a medical condition such that the medical condition(s) impacts one’s ability/inability to perform all of the essential functions of one’s job, the analogy to a train ride is quite accurate.  For, the course of one’s career is often one which is set at the very beginning — an upward trajectory with expected grade-promotions and regular step increases; a sense of working for an agency with a mission, a purpose, and (perhaps most importantly) a steady paycheck.  But a pre-set course has a disadvantage:  a track from which one cannot stray; yet, if continuing onward, a certainty for a collision, headlong into subpar performance evaluations, a PIP, disciplinary actions, and potential terminations.

A train wreck waiting to happen.

About the go over that proverbial cliff.  Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit available for all Federal and Postal workers, whether under FERS or CSRS, if you meet the minimum eligibility requirements.  Fortunately, humans are not trains; free will and the ability to change course in life is an innate potentiality of the human soul.  But free will, in order to have any effect, must be acted upon.  Mere thought is not the same as action; it is, ultimately, human action which leads to change.  Just some thoughts to ponder.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Gatekeeper II

The image of the gatekeeper is a powerful one — for it represents both sides of an analogously identical coin:  of an insurmountable impasse from the perspective of a third party, as well as the key to entry and deliverance when seen from the subjective “I”.

Stress is ultimately an inevitable and inherent part of any workplace environment.

Each of us represents a gatekeeper of sorts; what we allow to bother us, and what stresses we embrace and transport into the quietude of our own homes, will often depend upon each individual’s tolerance for the wide spectrum of ability to filter the stresses impacting our lives.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is also a gatekeeper of sorts.  The Agency empowered to make determinations on all Federal Disability Retirement applications can open the door to allowing for that crucial rehabilitative time in a person’s life, where granting of a Federal Disability Retirement application will secure one’s future and change the course of one’s life in order to avoid, avert and allow for an environment different from the stressful one which is impacting one’s health and well-being.

Ultimately, the gatekeeper him/herself — the Federal or Postal employee — must make the decision to open the door or not, and to take the next step in determining whether or not it is time to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS.  That decision — whether to open the door or not — is often the single most important step of one’s life, career, and future course of actions.

In the end, we determine who we are, what we want in life, and when the right time is, in overcoming the insurmountable; for the gatekeeper has the hidden key to the passageway to the Khyber Pass of our own future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Angst of Thought

The distorted and warped world within which we live is often a creation of our own imagination; while it speaks well for man’s creativity and unique conceptualization of a virtual universe, it may not be the most effective formula for physical survival.  On the other hand, perhaps it is our very ability to escape the reality of the barrenness of this world, which allows for such survival.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is often that “next step” — from fear, loathing, and conceptualization of the foreboding future and what it may portend — which gives one pause in taking the leap from thought-to-action.  But it is action which enlivens the spirit, which uplifts one from the doldrums of cataclysmic cognitive proportions.

Taking concrete steps, as opposed to merely anguishing over the need to get from point A to destination B, is precisely what distinguishes one from being in a state of continual suspension in life, as opposed to progressing towards a goal.  The world of our own making — the linguistic, conceptualizing world of the virtual universe of man’s own creation — must always be balanced by the reality of the physical universe.

Making a decision is important; acting upon a decision is the next important step.

Beginning the process of contacting the doctors, obtaining the forms, or engaging an OPM Disability attorney — those are the actual steps in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, which will rescue one from the angst of thought, and spring into action the universe of accomplishment for the future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Fish or Cut Bait

Colloquial expressions often develop over time because of their shorthanded effectiveness; they are the antiquated equivalent of text-messaging abbreviations, but with greater meaning and potency because of their time-testedness and allowance for a slow, evolutionary progression within a society.  Such expressions allow for a blunt statement which removes all doubts as to meaning; and the statement itself is all that is necessary, with surrounding silence revealing all.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, a person contemplating initiating the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement must ultimately come to the decision of moving forward, or not.

Such a bifurcation of clarity in making the decision is necessary both for the sanity and health of the Federal or Postal employee who must make the decision, as well as for the agency who either wants full productivity from its employees, or an ability to “accommodate” the medical condition (in accordance with the governing laws concerning the legal issue of accommodations in the workplace) in order to reach an acceptable level of productivity.

Fish or cut bait; in four words, such a colloquial expression says it nicely:  Initiate the process, or live with the pain and progressive deterioration.  Already, in the very act of trying to explain or “add on” to the expression, nothing of value has been accomplished because the expression itself is sufficient.  As such:  silence.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Once the Decision is Made

It is often the decision itself which is the greatest hurdle in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.  The decision itself is the all-encompassing beginning point, the obstacle which must be reviewed, analyzed, discussed, and ultimately overcome.

Once that decision is made, then the floodgates open with respect to the approach, the procedural issues, the time-frame within which to file, the garnering of support from one’s doctor; the legal avenues and pitfalls which must be confronted; the financial burden which must be faced and adjusted to; contending with issues at work; whether to inform the agency’s Human Resources office at this point or when the Federal Disability Retirement application has been prepared and is ready for submission; whether and what to discuss or hint at with one’s supervisor; which medical information to include or merely weave throughout the narrative of one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability; the problem of quantifying in a substantive manner one’s medical conditions; how best to characterize the essential elements of one’s job; the connecting of all of the dots; the building of the nexus between one’s positional description and the medical conditions suffered.

These are merely a few of the issues which must be confronted once the decision to proceed is made.  Federal Disability Retirement is an important decision to embrace; it should be treated in accordance with its important status.

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

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Chronic Medical Conditions

The concern is often expressed in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, that if a medical condition has been suffered with for multiple years, and perhaps even “pre-existing” the time of Federal Service, and further, since the Federal or Postal employee has been able to perform the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job, how can it be characterized as a medical condition which prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job?  

The answer to such a concern is actually quite simple: The Federal or Postal employee has been able to manage life, activities and the essential elements of one’s job for multiple years; the chronicity of the condition is simply an inherent part of the nature of the particular medical condition; whether because of age, or slow, progressively deteriorating impact upon the body or psyche, the medical condition has ultimately taken its “toll” upon one’s physical, mental and/or emotional capacity of the Federal or Postal worker.  

Sometimes, there comes a point where the wall of tolerance to stress, pain or other increasingly debilitating symptoms can go no further.  The fact that the Federal or Postal worker has been able to perform the essential elements of the job for so many years is simply a testament to the endurance of the Federal or Postal Worker.  This is why it is important to maintain a blunt, honest and forthright line of communication with one’s treating doctor.  Often, the doctor will be the one who, for years, has encouraged the Federal or Postal worker to seek disability retirement.  

It may be that the time has come to take the doctor up on his or her advice, and to begin talking about the type of narrative and administrative support needed to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esqire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Difficulty of Making the Decision

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, it is often the mental act of deciding to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits which is the most difficult to make.  

For, while the actual mechanics of the entire process — of obtaining an attorney (if that has been decided), gathering the necessary medical narratives and supporting documentation; of facing the harsh reality of writing the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (following the format of Standard Form 3112A) and reading about the impact of one’s medical conditions and the direct nexus to one’s inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job — of actually outlining and delineating the symptomatologies resulting from the singular or multiple diagnosed medical conditions; of approaching and having the supervisor complete a Supervisor’s Statement; of essentially declaring to the Agency that you are no longer capable or able to perform one or more of the essential elements of the job, thereby confirming what many at the Agency probably already suspected — all of these “mechanical” aspects of the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, while difficult, pale in comparison to the singular act which propels and initiates the entire process:  that of deciding to move forward.  For, as an old proverb states:  To lift a finger without thought is merely an act; to move with thought only a conscious event; to think, to plan, and then to engage in action, is the essence of man’s strength.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Delays

Often, the answer to a question posed depends upon how accurately the question is presented.  Such are the tools of the trade of an attorney, and it is often necessary to rephrase, reassemble and rearrange a question in order to suit an answer.  

In a Federal Disability Retirement case under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, the question posed is:  How long does the process take?  This all depends upon a number of factors — how quickly the treating doctor will respond; how long will the Agency take in completing their portion; what is the “wait time” at the Office of Personnel Management.

Unspoken within the original question, however, is how many months of delay has already occurred on the part of the potential applicant prior to coming to a point of determining that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a necessary event.  Unfortunately, the very emergency nature of having to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS results quite often because the Federal or Postal worker has continued to delay for months and months — and sometimes years — prior to coming to a decision that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a necessity.  

Such delays and procrastination are often part of the medical condition itself, and cannot be helped.  But during such delays, it is important to make an assessment as to whether the procrastination has a detrimental effect, or is it for positive reasons?  If it is irrefutable that one’s medical condition is progressively and irreversibly deteriorating; if delaying is simply dwindling finances needed to endure the long administrative process of waiting for an approval from the Office of Personnel Management; if putting off the inevitable is simply a result of not wanting to face the event; such reasons for delay constitute a self-defeating action.  If, on the other hand, delaying has meant securing one’s financial future, or because it has had positive psychological benefits, then that is a different matter entirely.  

To delay is not necessarily a negative decision, but each individual must bear the personal responsibility of his or her part in such an act, by making a forthright assessment of the underlying reasons and justifications.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire