Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Time, Expectation & Patience

Time is the basis and essence of frustration.  Often, in becoming involved in the administrative process and procedure of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the “time factor” is the part which concerns the Federal or Postal employee most.  

During the initial stages of the process, where a certain level of activity is experienced — of requesting the medical documentation and narrative reports from the doctors; of formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A); of submitting the preliminary application through the Agency (or, if separated from Federal Service for more than 31 days, to file it directly with the Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA); and then receiving a CSA Number from the Office of Personnel Management, then…the wait.  Activity is the fodder which satisfies time; frustration with time is the chasm between expectation and reality; where there is inactivity, waiting without a specified end in sight is what frustrates most individuals. With the Office of Personnel Management, the greatest difficulty is now in gauging that “end-point”, because OPM continually falls behind in their estimate of time for decision-making.  

The process is a frustrating one; inactivity without an end only exponentially magnifies such frustration.  Ultimately, however, there is no other choice but to wait; for the Office of Personnel Management is the singular arbiter of the decision-making process in Federal Disability Retirement claims.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Long, often Frustrating Road to a Decision

It is indeed taking an inordinate amount of time in receiving a decision from the Office of Personnel Management, for a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

The problem which has been identified by various personnel at the Office of Personnel Management is that there has been a steady backlog of cases resulting from various factors, including personnel attrition through retirement, transfers, etc., without an adequate rate of substitution or replacement.

This is obviously of great frustration and concern to all Federal and Postal employees who are awaiting a decision from the Office of Personnel Management on his or her Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, but ultimately it must be accepted as part of the bureaucratic, administrative process of filing for a benefit.  

Each of the Claims Representatives at the Office of Personnel Management, when contacted, are clearly attempting to get through their case-loads, but they must review, evaluate and apply a set of criteria in making a determination on each case.  

A denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application only sets back the case further, because it then is transferred to the Reconsideration Section of the administrative process, and is reviewed anew (assuming that the Federal or Postal employee files a Request for Reconsideration within the 30-day timeframe) by a different OPM Representative.  

Frustration is a part of any and every bureaucratic, administrative process; waiting is part of that process; patience is the virtue which must be retained; and recognizing from the outset that exponential multiplication of the waiting period is the best mathematical calculus to estimate the average waiting time, then to attempt to remain productive and busy during such time, is the best (and only) approach to the long and often frustrating road to a successful outcome in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: OPM, Patience & Frustration

After one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS has left one’s agency (or, in the case of a Federal or Postal employee who has been separated from Federal Service for more than thirty one (31) days, filed directly to the Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA), it then goes to Boyers, PA for the intake processing part of the process.  

Thereafter, a CSA Number (if one is under FERS, the 7-digit number will begin with an “8”, and under CSRS it will begin with a “4”, with the eighth and somewhat irrelevant digit being a “0”), which is the case identifier for all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications, is assigned in order to be able to easily reference a case for purposes of discussion, adding or supplementing additional information, checking on the status, etc.  

Once it arrives in Washington, D.C., then the “real” waiting part of the process begins — first, waiting for it to get “assigned” to a Case Worker in the OPM Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division; then, once assigned, to have OPM review it.  Sometimes, a piece of information is found lacking or missing, and a letter apprising the Federal or Postal employee of such lack is sent out, allowing for the Federal or Postal employee to obtain such information within thirty (30) days of the date of the letter.  

OPM’s general policy is to try and make a decision on a case within 90 – 120 days of a case being assigned to a Case Worker, but that timeline is a malleable one.  One can easily add another 30 – 60 days to that block of time. What occurs during this block of time?  It is a mystery, remains a mystery, and retains the aura of secrecy and mystery.  

As frustration is the flip-side of the virtue of patience, as an emotional expression, it has little benefit or worth to the human soul.  Expression of frustration should be accomplished in constructive ways, and calling OPM in an angry outburst is not considered one of them.  Constrain the frustration; exhibit the virtue of patience; understand that time is a projection of an expectation of hope in one’s mind, quantified exponentially in a mire of frustration when one does not occupy the void and vacuity of time with other things to do.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Cycle of Patience

It is a common element, now, in a Federal Disability Retirement case to require patience in surviving the bureaucratic process, and while recognizing the cycle of the process does not make it any easier, understanding the entirety of the process can help one to prepare.  

There is initially the preparatory process, which is almost exclusively within the purview of one’s control — of preparing and formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A); of obtaining the proper medical narratives and documentation (although, here, the time frame is obviously dependent upon the availability of the treating doctor to prepare the narrative reports) and any introduction of legal argumentation in support of the Federal Disability Retirement packet, etc.

Then, submission to the Agency takes it partially out of the control of the individual Federal or Postal applicant — although, because of the obvious employment connection to the Agency, the Federal or Postal employee can often make phone calls or other contact to attempt to persuade the expediting of the secondary bureaucratic process.  

Once it leaves the Agency Human Resources Department, or the greater Civilian Personnel Office, then it is out of the hands and control of the Federal or Postal employee entirely, and must wind itself through the bureaucratic maze and morass of the National Finance Office and the Office of Personnel Management.  OPM, like any other agency, is subject to seasonal delays based upon Federal workers who take vacations and time off — Christmas, New Years, Easter, and Memorial Day weekend/week, and throughout the months of June, July and August.  A week’s delay in a Case Worker’s assigned cases can exponentially quantify the delay-time, because upon return of the worker, there are other administrative functions which must be attended to which further compounds the ability to take up where he or she left off.  

Patience is a virtue; as such, Federal and Postal Workers must be the most virtuous of human beings.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Patience & the Hinge

The hinge on a door is the mechanical contraption which allows for the swinging motion to occur.  Without it, the door will remain in place or, if one attempts to pull at the door, it will merely move towards you and continue to block the pathway.  Metaphors have been created from the invented device — a person can become “unhinged” meaning, similar to a door collapsing, a man or woman can lose the hope that a door represents as an entrance or an exit, to enter or leave.  

Preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS for the Federal or Postal employee can represent that “hinge” on a door.  It allows for hope viewed from a perspective of “now”, representing one side of the doorway, involving the debilitating medical conditions, the impact both upon one’s professional abilities, as well as upon the personal life with its correlative issues touching upon wives, children, parents, financial instability, etc.; and on the other side, the potential to receive a basic annuity so that one may exit in order to attend to the serious medical conditions without fear of becoming homeless.  

Yet, during the process of attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits, because of the long delays, the months upon months of uncertainty awaiting for the decision from the Office of Personnel Management, the hinges can begin to rust and crumble.  This is especially true if a denial is received at the First Stage of the process, because it appears as if the door has slammed shut, and the hope for exiting and entering a different phase of one’s life has been lost.  But one must never lose the proper balance and perspective that is necessary to survive the fulfillment of the entire administrative process.  

Filing for, and obtaining, Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a process — the First Step is merely that:  part of the entirety of the process.  A denial at the Initial Stage of the process does not constitute an unhinging of the doorway to the future; rather, it merely represents a moment of time when the door got stuck because of the change in weather, where the wood expanded for a season, making it difficult to open it.  It just needs a little more effort, and patience, to take it to the next step of the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Recognizing the Process & the Necessity for Patience

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize that the entire application endeavor — the initial preparation, formulation and filing; if denied at the First Stage, the ability to file a Request for Reconsideration within thirty (30) days of the denial; the appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board; a further appeal to the Full Board; then, if necessary, an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals — constitutes a “process”, and one which must be prepared for from the very beginning.  

Recognizing that the entire endeavor is a process will help to prepare one for the long haul — not only in being patient with the Office of Personnel Management at the first two stages of the process, but further, with the Administrative judicial process at the Merit Systems Protection Board; then (if necessary) with the Federal Court system.  Without such recognition, one will only experience frustration and anxiety.  As has been stated many times, Patience is a virtue; as such, Federal and Postal employees must be the virtuous of all classes of people, because of the constancy of patience they must endure.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) , located in Washington, D.C., is the agency which makes the decision on all Federal Disability Retirement applications, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS-Offset.  They are the responsible agency for the first two “stages” of the process of attempting to show eligibility and entitlement to a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  By “stages” is merely meant the initial application stage of the process, as well as the second, “Reconsideration” stage of the process — where a Federal or Postal employee has the right to, within 30 days of an initial denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, request that his or her case be “reconsidered”, and further have the right to submit any additional medical or other supporting documentation for review and consideration. 

If the case is denied a second time by the Office of Personnel Management, then the Federal or Postal employee who has filed the Federal Disability Retirement application, or the attorney representing the Federal or Postal employee, has a right to file an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board.  The Office of Personnel Management is taking quite a long time in making a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application, and although they are attempting to get caught up with their workload, the volume of cases filed and received by OPM on a weekly basis has made such an attempt difficult.  As has been stated by this author many times, Patience is a virtue, and as such, Federal and Postal employees must be the most virtuous of all, because patience is what is needed to endure and survive the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire