Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: When and Whether

When one should file a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is a matter of individual circumstances and needs — except in the particular situation where objective timeframes impose mandatory filing.

Whether one should file or not is a similar question based upon the medical conditions one suffers from, as well as the extent of a doctor’s support for such an administrative filing — but again, the “whether” also may be mandated by necessity if a Federal or Postal Worker is approaching the 1-year mark of having been separated from Federal Service.

The general rule concerning an impending and upcoming Statute of Limitations is the following:  If the Federal or Postal Worker fails to file within 1 year of being separated from Federal Service, the ability to file will forever be blocked (with some narrow and exceptional circumstances excepting the passing of the 1-year deadline).  As such, it is better to file than not (obviously).

Further, on most issues, one can supplement a Federal Disability Retirement application later on (this is where the Federal or Postal applicant must be very careful in completing the SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability); whereas no such additional pursuance of the Federal Disability Retirement matter can be advanced if one does not file on a timely basis to begin with.

When and whether to file are therefore matters of discretion — unless the Statute of Limitations is about to impose itself upon the when and the where

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Targeted Use of Collateral Evidence

Case-law from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as judicial opinions rendered by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, maintain the standard of acceptable proof for a Federal Disability Retirement case submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, for Federal and Postal employees under either FERS or CSRS.

The primary basis for a Federal Disability Retirement application is clear:  A medical condition which exists, which prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing at least one, if not more, of the essential elements of one’s job; that a legally viable accommodation is not possible; that reassignment to another position at the same pay or grade is not reasonably feasible; that the medical condition will last a minimum of 12 months; and that the Federal or Postal employee must file for such benefits during the tenure of one’s employment as a Federal or Postal Employee, or within 1 year of being separated from Federal employment.

The core of one’s proof is generally based upon the treatment and opinion of one’s treating doctor.

Every now and again, however, there are “collateral” sources of proof which should be considered, and for various reasons, which must be relied upon for establishment of one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Such proof may include: opinions rendered by Second-opinion or “referee” doctors in an OWCP case; percentage ratings provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs; SSDI approval determinations; separation from the Agency based upon one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; medical notes for FMLA; and even (sometimes, but rarely) a decision granting disability benefits by a private insurer; and other such collateral sources of proof.

Such proof, of course, should never replace the centrality of one’s own treating doctor, and further, should always be targeted and submitted with discretionary judgment.  Sometimes, it can be the “other evidence” which makes the difference in a case; other times, if used indiscriminately, can be an indicator of the weakness of one’s case.

Be careful; be targeted; use discretion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement (for US Federal Employees): Administering Treatment versus Administrative Functions

Doctors rarely have any problems with administering treatment based upon clinical encounters and subjective narratives from their patients; yet, when it comes to providing a medical report and performing similar administrative functions, the sudden pause, hesitation, and sometimes outright refusal, is rather puzzling, if not disconcerting.

Such trepidation from the doctor can obviously result in a difficult wall for purposes of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

For, much of medical evaluation, diagnosis, prognosis and prescribing of treatment encompasses receipt of subjective responses from the patient:  where the pain is present; the nature and extent of the pain; the history and chronicity of manifested symptoms; even functional capacity evaluations must necessarily be an observation of the subjective actions & reactions of the participant.  Of course, there are often distinguishable “objective” factors — swelling; carcinogenic versus benign tumors; broken bones, etc.

On the other hand, even MRIs and other diagnostic tools reveal only that X exists — not that X results in symptom Y.  An example would be a bulging disc — while the abnormality itself may show up on an MRI, whether the individual experiences any pain from the abnormality may differ from subject to subject.

This is why, despite the willingness of a doctor to treat based upon most factors being “subjective” in nature, it becomes a puzzle why the same doctor shows an unwillingness to write a report stating that, because of the medical conditions for which patient M is being treated, one must necessarily conclude that he or she cannot perform essential elements X, Y and Z of his or her job.

It is the jump from treatment-to-disability-determination which is often problematic for the treating doctor.  All of a sudden, the excuses flow:  “I am not trained to make such determinations”; “There is no objective basis for your pain” (then why have you been treating me for over a decade and prescribing high levels of narcotic pain medications?); “I can’t say whether you can or cannot do your job”; and many other excuses.

The switch from administering treatment, to treating administrative matters, is one fraught with potential obstacles.  How one approaches the treating doctor will often determine whether such obstacles can be overcome — and whether one’s Federal Disability Retirement application can be successfully formulated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Rumors, Stories and…

Part of the successful strategy of remaining focused, steadfast and purposeful is to maintain and retain the ability to filter out ancillary information  as opposed to the essential ingredients which comprise the important, relevant foundation in any endeavor.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, throughout the administrative process comprising the aggregate of procedures, maneuvering through the agency, then waiting for the decision from the Office of Personnel Management, the Federal or Postal employee naturally becomes sensitive to rumors; to information received from various sources — other co-workers, Agency Human Resources personnel, friends, family, etc.

Whether such rumors or “information” concern the success or failure of other Federal employees who filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; or more generic rumors about the Federal Government and pension benefits, pending legislation about new or proposed laws impacting Federal Disability Retirement benefits; or that OPM is “denying a higher number of initial applications”; or the opposite argument that OPM is “approving Federal Disability Retirement applications to get rid of Federal employees”, and a host of other rumors, stories, and out-of-context partial truths, stories, and outright misinformation — it is important to distinguish between truth, lies, rumors and half-truths.  

The better methodology is to focus upon the present process, and one’s own Federal Disability Retirement application, and leaving aside such rumors and stories.  Put together the most effective Federal Disability Retirement packet one can possible compile; submit it; and the outcome will be based upon the sufficient viability of the Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire