Federal Disability Retirement Application and Process: The Foreign Menu

Certain processes and endeavors in life are tantamount to a foreign menu; one knows that, within the undecipherable and incomprehensible letters and symbols presented before one, amidst the evocative smells and provocative sounds emanating from the kitchen in the back, and behind the sounds and voices formed and learned in another land in distant places beyond the horizon of one’s familiarity, there is a dish of choice which one would, if one could identify it, choose for the occasion before us.  But the menu is in another language; the words and symbols are undecipherable; and the waiters, waitresses, cooks and managers speak not a word of one’s own; and all attempts at describing the wants and desires of the moment have failed, because food is an appetite of desire, and not one which finds its core in the rational basis of words and conceptual constructs.

Can such a scenario occur?  Can one find oneself in a restaurant unable to relate or communicate?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who find themselves unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, and who must therefore engage the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the similarity to the scenario described, and the familiarity of the circumstances conveyed, can be frighteningly reflective of the reality experienced.

Perhaps it should not be such a complicated process.  Considering the circumstances — of an injured or medically debilitated Federal or Postal worker who must concurrently contend with both the complexity of the bureaucratic process as well as the confounding and discomforting issues of the medical conditions themselves — one would think that the gathering of evidentiary sufficiency, the legal pitfalls to be maneuvered, the standard forms to be completed, etc., would all be simplified to fit the onerous circumstances requiring submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  But the fact is that Federal Disability Retirement is a complicated and complex administrative process with no “short cuts” to fruition.

It is a bureaucratic procedure which much be endured — much like the untenable situation of the man who walks into a restaurant thinking only of the satisfying meal to be ordered, only to find that the menu set upon the table is in a foreign language, undecipherable and incomprehensible, except to the proprietors and those who prepare the dishes of choice, in a clattering kitchen far in the background where echoes abound but confusion compounds.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Filing

The actual filing of a FERS Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, can be rather anti-climactic, precisely because the prospective anticipation is merely beaten down by the long wait and the extended period of inactivity.

Thus, in the prior two phases of the administrative process — the “preparation and formulation” part of it —  the engagement in obtaining and completing the forms, presenting in written form and putting the entire Federal Disability Retirement application together, creates an appearance of progressively working towards a goal.  Once filed — if still with the agency or within thirty one (31) days of being separated from the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service —  the agency must complete their portion.

Depending upon whether it is with the local Human Resources Office or the District Human Resources Office will often determine how efficient or helpful they are.  If a Federal or Postal employee has been separated from Federal Service for over thirty one (31) days, of course, then it must be filed directly with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, Pennsylvania.

Filing a Federal Disability Retirement application is both a physical act, as well as a psychological barrier to be broken; as to the former, it is a relatively simple matter of sending it in; as to the latter, it constitutes an important step in recognizing and acknowledging the necessity of attending to one’s medical needs for recuperative purposes, whether because of physical or psychiatric medical concerns which require an alteration of employment demands.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal & Postal Workers: New OPM Case Workers

In a perfect world, any administrative determination — or any judicial, quasi-judicial or official analysis and evaluation of a “case” of any nature —  should be governed by precepts and criteria which are deemed “objective” in the sense that a standard application of a determining calculus would be applied without any subjective, arbitrary elements involved.  But this is not a perfect world, and as such, there are always “subjective” elements which become part and parcel of any determination, administrative or otherwise.

In Federal Disability Retirement cases, there are OPM (an abbreviated acronym for U.S. Office of Personnel Management) Claims Representatives, or “case workers”, who have had many years of experience, and those who have just recently been hired, trained, and been “let loose” in order to apply their limited knowledge.  There is definitely a change, and quite a noticeable one, in having a case reviewed by a novice at the Office of Personnel Management, as opposed to receiving a determination by a “seasoned” OPM worker.

Issues which are peripheral and do not impact the centrality of a Federal Disability Retirement case are often focused upon and detailed with irrelevant argumentation.  But that is the nature of an “administrative process”, where there are multiple layers and levels of appeals and reviews.

Ultimately, that is why there is a “Reconsideration Stage” — to allow OPM to review the decision of the first-level personnel, and to correct any misguided decisions made at that first level.  Further, there is the Merit Systems Protection Board, where an Administrative Judge will review the decision of OPM independently.  This is a “process“, as opposed to a single filing, and it is wise to remember it as such.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire