Federal Disability Retirement: The Symbiotic Relationship

In biology, symbiosis refers to the interaction between two different organisms, often benefiting both.  It is the coexistence through the capacity to acquire greater advantage without diminishment and harm to the other, which then allows for the balance of nature to occur.

In other contexts, in differing circumstances or changed environments, perhaps the relationship and the interaction would alter, and the evolutionary forces of nature would impel each to become predator and prey; but for whatever reason, it is precisely the stability of balance in nature which allows for, and favors, such a symbiotic relationship.

By analogy, the relationship between the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and the Federal and Postal worker, whether the latter is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, enjoys the symbiosis of necessity.  It is precisely for the Federal and Postal worker that the very existence of OPM is maintained; and for the Federal and Postal Worker who requires a personnel action to be processed, the existence of OPM is to the advantage of the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker.

For the Federal and Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition necessitates filing for Federal OPM Medical Retirement benefits, the enhancement and spotlight of the symbiotic relationship between OPM and the suffering Federal or Postal worker comes to the fore; it is, indeed, precisely a relationship of advantage to both entities and organisms.

Of course, just as in the universe of biological entities (of which the human species is a part of, lest we forget because of our so-called advanced state of evolutionary existence), circumstances may alter, environments may change, and contexts of interaction may convert; and a similar relationship as that between predator and prey may develop.

A denial of an initial application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits tends to do just that; for, suddenly OPM is not just a bureaucratic morass upon which one is waiting for an action to ensue; now, it is an adversary which must be countermanded.

Still, despite the change, and regardless of the alteration of the essence of the symbiotic relationship, where the Federal or Postal worker must then file a Request for Reconsideration within 30 days of the date of the denial of an OPM Disability Retirement application, the interaction must still exist, and necessity of circumstances requires the continuing relationship between the two given entities: the Federal and Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition on the one hand, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on the other.

It is by necessity of interaction that the two entities meet; it is by change of context which impels substantive alteration; but in the end, the reliance and dependence of symbiosis remains throughout.

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

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

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Respective Positions

The position of the applicant is a uniquely vulnerable one; for, as one who is requesting a benefit from a governmental entity, he or she is essentially powerless to act except in response to the agency’s determination on approving or denying a Federal Disability Retirement application.

There are certain “pressure points” which can be attempted, the efficacy of which is questionable but nevertheless engaged in:  repeated calls (although one may suspect that excessive inquiries may ultimately reflect in a detrimental way); attempted influences via backdoor channels; or perhaps a request for a Congressional inquiry through one’s representative; and other similar methods — some more effective than others.  But it is ultimately the respective positions of the applicant-versus-agency which defines the underlying sense of powerlessness-versus-power; for, in the end, the agency can make any determination it wants, with a basis of rationality or one which issues a complex and garbled statement of reasonings which may not possess any meaningful import as reflected in the law.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a powerful agency which is granted a special position and status — one which is responsible for the administration of retirement issues impacting upon all Federal and Postal employees.  Such a position is indeed one of heightened sensitivity and responsibility; and while the respective positions of the “little guy” (the Federal or Postal employee) as opposed to the “big guy” (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) comes down to nothing more than individual human beings, it is the status granted to the latter which makes all the difference, and those within the agency should take such a position with the utmost of seriousness and gravity.

Ultimately, most case workers at OPM are doing the best they can with the tools and manpower provided; from the viewpoint of the applicant waiting for his or her Federal Disability Retirement application to be determined, however, that sense of vulnerability — where one’s future is “on hold” until an action is initiated by OPM — is what makes the entire process a frustrating one.

In the end, there is nothing which can change the respective positions of the applicant-versus-agency, until an approval from OPM is granted, and the status of “applicant” is then transformed into one of “annuitant” — at which point, a new set of respective positions are imposed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Power, Persuasion and the Legal Argument

FERS & CSRS Disability retirement is no different, in kind, than other areas of law which intersect with individuals and personalities.  As an area of administrative law, and specifically, where a government entity (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) is involved, the Federal or Postal worker must encounter an agency which is large, powerful, and often immovable (sort of like Aristotle’s Primum movens, or the Prime Mover).  

The singular Federal or Postal worker may find the encounter with the Federal government to be a daunting, almost insurmountable task.  It is the classic meeting of two unequal forces; and, as such, there is always a question as to who will prevail.  

Fortunately, however, there are some mechanisms in place which allow for persuasive argumentation.  If a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage of the administrative process, then there is the Second, or Reconsideration Stage of the process, which places the disability retirement application in the hands of a different OPM case worker, in a different section.  If it gets rejected a second time, then it is taken entirely out of the hands of OPM, and will be placed before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Throughout the entire process, however, the Federal or Postal worker may feel lonely, small and irrelevant.  That is why the Federal or Postal worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement must engage in substantive and persuasive legal argumentation.  Persuasion is the key where power is unavailable.  It is OPM which has the power; it is the Federal or Postal Worker who has the persuasive tools, and must use them to his or her advantage as the law allows.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Sports Metaphors

The abundance of metaphors comparing life with sports has pervaded throughout in literature, opinion pieces, articles, etc.  We can relate to sports, because many have been active participants in their youth; continue to engage in it via playing in various adult leagues, or coaching their kids, or perhaps just passively enjoying watching various sports on television, etc.

As a metaphor, it is seen as a “life-lesson”.  It is supposed to teach all aspects of “building character” — of the value of hard work, proper preparation, ethical conduct and behavior, etc.  In pragmatic terms, when one actually plays a sport, it merely becomes a one-to-one adversarial encounter with an opponent, and sometimes teaches merely that the “playing field” is not always level, and the opponent does not always follow the same rules of the game as one is taught to do.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, a comparative metaphor to any sports would be to characterize the entire administrative process as one of the battle between David and Goliath.  The Office of Personnel Management has its own set of rules — of a criteria which is allegedly applied, but which often has limited rational basis; of a time frame within which they say they attempt to meet, but which is systematically ignored; of following rules and regulations as they interpret them, etc.

What would one say about a sport in which one side makes up the rules and then ignores them?  Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is like a professional football team (representing OPM) going against a high school chemistry class deciding to put together a team (the Federal or Postal employee).  The teams are unequal; the playing field is never level; and the outcome of the encounter must therefore be decided by careful preparation, a cohesively formulated plan, and a filing deliberation which results in a compelling total package.

Such is the metaphor with sports:  to prepare, formulate and file — in an effective manner.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire