Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Independence of Each Program

The disparate nature of each Federal program, with little to no intersecting coordination amongst them (with the exception of SSDI and FERS Disability Retirement benefits in the coordination of payments upon approval of each) betrays the unplanned, thoughtless creation of each program, as well as a sense that each agency wants to maintain its feudal control and assertion of independent power.

That perhaps explains, in part, why each program ignores the extent of persuasive authority the approval of another program should logically have, upon an approval and acceptance by the “other” program.  Does it make sense that being granted “unemployability” status under the Department of Veterans Affairs ascription of percentage disability ratings would only have a nominal impact upon a FERS Disability Retirement application?  Or that an SSDI approval would have, at best, a persuasive effect upon a FERS Disability Retirement?

It is somewhat more understandable that a case accepted by OWCP/Department of Labor would have minimal impact upon a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application, precisely because the former is set up as a program of rehabilitation in an effort to return the Federal or Postal employee back to his or her job.

The only true “coordination” of benefits occurs between SSDI and FERS — and that, only if both are approved, and payments are received concurrently; but even then, there are often overpayment problems, lack of the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing, etc.

Thus Coordination and intersection between departments, agencies and various programs rarely occurs.  Agencies tend to want to remain independent.

Such lack of coordination, however, does not mean that the FERS or CSRS Federal or Postal employee should not force a legal argument upon OPM when a significant finding is made by another agency or program.  For, in the end, it may not be the U.S. Office of Personnel Management which listens, but an administrative judge at the MSPB, or a 3-judge panel on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals; in which case, a precedent will have been set, for all to (hopefully) follow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Misunderstanding Leading to Irreversible Detriment

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee must first engage in a general foraging for information.

The act of gathering information is of importance; for, just like the animal in the wild who must “learn” to forage for food before the first winter comes, so the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal medical/disability retirement benefits must develop the keen sense of how to gather the necessary, pertinent and relevant information concerning the entire bureaucratic process, and once gathered, to sift through the vast array of information to determine truth, falsity, relevance, effectiveness, and that which is erroneous or misleading — to one’s detriment.

Foraging is a learned tool, necessary in the wild, and a key component of the natural process of selectivity.  It begins with an inborn part of an animal’s nature, but must be honed in the wild — to be clever, quick, and be able to distinguish between that which is good for one’s diet, as opposed to that which may be poisonous.

By analogy, in the vast array of the universe of information “out there”, one must be able to quickly discern and bifurcate information concerning Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits, dividing between relevance and irrelevance, substance versus fluff, for purposes of failure versus defeat.  As information gathering leads to action upon the knowledge gained, so one must be cautious in determining the source of such information.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Providing Information

In every area of law, in most facets of life, and certainly in the administrative procedures of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits either under FERS or CSRS with the Office of Personnel Management, one must determine the extent, scope and substance of the information which will be provided to the requesting entity.  

Most of the time, the extent of information is pre-determined by the requirements which must be satisfied.  Similarly, the scope of the information to be submitted must meet certain criteria, but additionally, it will depend upon the question asked.  More importantly, the substance of the information one needs to provide, will be determined by the question asked, the criteria to be addressed, and the statutory and regulatory guidelines which must be met — in the case of Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, that which would meet the legal standard of “preponderance of the evidence.”  

In venturing and maneuvering through the administrative process of applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, however, there will be times when either the Agency or the Office of Personnel Management may request “additional” information, indicating that they are not satisfied with what has been submitted.  

An appraisal of what information is being asked; whether the question is properly formulated as posed, or whether it can be reformulated and still satisfied; and the harm or good in responding fully or partially to the request — these are all determinations which are best guided by the advice and counsel of an attorney who understands the laws governing the legal criteria in Federal Disability Retirement cases.  

Not every question deserves a full answer.  Sometimes, the question itself must be re-formulated and answered in the re-formulated format.  Agencies are not gods; they are not omnipotent, and certainly not omniscient.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: A Fair Hearing

It is a common complaint against the Office of Personnel Management that the particular Claims Representative who reviewed the file and issued a denial in a Federal Disability Retirement application failed to look at, or review, the medical evidence; that the denial letter was merely a restatement or regurgitation of a template referring to a 7-part criteria, and makes statements which could easily have been “cut and paste” from a thousand other such denials.  

Indeed, there have been times when references to a denial were clearly (and mistakenly) extracted from another file, where the names of doctors and medical documents are referred to which have no relation to the particular individual, and are clearly mixed in from another case.  

To be fair, a counter-argument to such criticism is that there is no bureaucracy, with so many cases to review and properly evaluate, and with so few personnel and staff to undertake the massive workload, that could or should “reinvent the wheel” each time a case is set to be reviewed.  Obviously, certain language that is applicable in all (or most) cases will be re-stated, and templates used where such have been standard language used in the past.  Applicable language and statements which merely reiterate the legal and statutory criteria; introductory remarks; conclusory statements — they are all part of a paradigm and template which any administrative bureaucracy may apply.  

But the criticism goes much deeper than that:  It is often the case that, clearly, the Claims Representative who wrote the denial did not even read his or her own denial.  Proofreading is an essential part of reviewing, writing, and issuing a decision.  OPM must ultimately realize that each decision is an important, crucial, and often critical point of importance in the life of the applicant.  It is a Federal or Postal worker who has previously dedicated many years of his or her life to a career with the Federal Sector, and the applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits deserves a fair hearing.  A fair hearing is defined by a careful evaluation of the particular case.  That is not too much to ask for.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire