Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Extras, on Either Side

In performing a job, there is the basic parameter of the official “position description” for the Federal and Postal employee, which provides the foundational overview, the physical and cognitive demands of the job, and the necessary credentials and qualifications required before acceptance.

The reality of the actual workplace may somewhat modify the official establishment of one’s position, and that is to be expected:  generalities are often tailored to meet the needs of individual circumstances and situations presented by the local agency.  Beyond that, however, there is often the question of what constitutes “too much” on the one hand, and on the other side of the equation, what reduced modification of a position constitutes an accommodation under the law.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, such a duality of questions will often be encountered.  Modification by a Supervisor of a position’s duties may well allow for the Federal or Postal employee to continue to remain in a position, without compromising one’s health.  Yet, does such unofficial modification constitute a viable accommodation such that it would preclude one from being eligible for Federal Disability Retirement?  Normally, not.

On the other side of the equation, does adding responsibilities to one’s official position description result in such additional duties becoming part of the essential elements of one’s job, such that the fact that one’s medical conditions may prevent one from performing such added responsibilities impact the eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement?  Again, normally not. But such issues must be approached with intelligence and armed with the tools of knowledge of the applicable laws.

Whatever the answers, the “extras” on either side of the equation must be approached with caution, lest one finds that the earth is indeed flat, and one can fall over the edge into an abyss of administrative nightmares in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Position Description

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to have a good idea of what the position description states — the one which the Federal or Postal applicant occupies, and the one which is reflected in the SF 50 or the PS Form 50, the personnel action form which designates and identifies the official position assigned to the Federal or Postal employee.  For, what the Federal or Postal employee does in a job, in real time and in the actual state of the job, may be significantly different from what is described in the position description itself.

One must understand that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) — the agency which makes all determinations on Federal Disability Retirement applications — does not have an agent sitting in one’s office, taking notes on the duties which one performs.  Thus, the case worker at OPM who receives and reviews the Federal Disability Retirement application, will come to be informed of the essential duties of a Federal or Postal employee, based upon a “paper presentation” that is set before him or her.

The comparison to be made between the medical condition proven and the essential elements of one’s job, will arise from OPM’s review of what is presented — the position description itself; the statement of one’s job in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability; and other documentation.

In making the comparison, it is ultimately from the position description itself from which one is retired, and if the applicant’s statement includes superfluous assertions otherwise not contained in the position description itself, the discrepancy may well go against the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Fortunately, most position descriptions are fairly generic in nature, and one can imply a variety of duties which are not otherwise specified in an official position description.  That is where creative writing and effective presentation comes into play.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Laws, Facts & Persuasive Argumentation

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to distinguish between laws, facts, and persuasive argumentation, as well as the targeted audience to whom such distinguishing elements are being conveyed.

For the first two “stages” of the administrative process, the Federal or Postal employee will be addressing personnel at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  This is merely at the “administrative”, or “agency” level of the process. Thus, the initial review, analysis, and application of the legal criteria will be performed by a non-lawyer, and any application of a legal criteria to determine the eligibility of the Federal Disability Retirement application will be done in a rather mechanical manner.  

By “mechanical manner” is merely meant that the criteria to be applied is merely an extrapolated generic form of interpretation, and will be applied by comparing the “list” of legal criteria against the submission of the Federal or Postal employee.  Whether there is sufficient justification in the medical report and records; whether the description of the Federal or Postal employee’s job comports with the official position description; whether the agency has offered an “accommodation”, and if so, in what form; whether a reassignment to another position at the same pay or grade was offered and declined — and other applicable criteria will be applied, analyzed and annotated by the OPM Representative.  

If the Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at this initial stage of the process, then it will again be reviewed at the Reconsideration Stage of the process — assuming that the Federal or Postal employee files a timely Request for Reconsideration with the Office of Personnel Management.  

It is at the next stage of the administrative process — an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board — that any legal argument will ultimately begin to carry significant and relevant weight.  For, at the MSPB, an Administrative Judge will review the entire file, and proceed to conduct an administrative hearing “de novo”, or “fresh” or “anew”, and weigh the evidence, the legal arguments, and determine the persuasive impact of either or both.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: The Job Description

Remember that the official Job Description may provide an antiseptic-like delineation of the major functions of a particular position.  From that, one may infer, imply and extract the daily physical and cognitive requirements in order to efficiently perform those major functions.

However, in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one must remember that it is never a wise endeavor to think that the Office of Personnel Management will infer, imply or extract anything, leaving aside making the logical connection between a Job Description and the physical, emotional and cognitive requirements to implement the job requirements.

As such, in formulating the impact between one’s medical conditions and the essential elements of one’s job, it is encumbent upon the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits to make explicit that which is implicit; to reveal that which may be contained “between the lines”; and to make sure that, instead of infering, implying or extracting, that the daily physical, emotional and cognitive requirements are boldly revealed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire