Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Respective Positions

The position of the applicant is a uniquely vulnerable one; for, as one who is requesting a benefit from a governmental entity, he or she is essentially powerless to act except in response to the agency’s determination on approving or denying a Federal Disability Retirement application.

There are certain “pressure points” which can be attempted, the efficacy of which is questionable but nevertheless engaged in:  repeated calls (although one may suspect that excessive inquiries may ultimately reflect in a detrimental way); attempted influences via backdoor channels; or perhaps a request for a Congressional inquiry through one’s representative; and other similar methods — some more effective than others.  But it is ultimately the respective positions of the applicant-versus-agency which defines the underlying sense of powerlessness-versus-power; for, in the end, the agency can make any determination it wants, with a basis of rationality or one which issues a complex and garbled statement of reasonings which may not possess any meaningful import as reflected in the law.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a powerful agency which is granted a special position and status — one which is responsible for the administration of retirement issues impacting upon all Federal and Postal employees.  Such a position is indeed one of heightened sensitivity and responsibility; and while the respective positions of the “little guy” (the Federal or Postal employee) as opposed to the “big guy” (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) comes down to nothing more than individual human beings, it is the status granted to the latter which makes all the difference, and those within the agency should take such a position with the utmost of seriousness and gravity.

Ultimately, most case workers at OPM are doing the best they can with the tools and manpower provided; from the viewpoint of the applicant waiting for his or her Federal Disability Retirement application to be determined, however, that sense of vulnerability — where one’s future is “on hold” until an action is initiated by OPM — is what makes the entire process a frustrating one.

In the end, there is nothing which can change the respective positions of the applicant-versus-agency, until an approval from OPM is granted, and the status of “applicant” is then transformed into one of “annuitant” — at which point, a new set of respective positions are imposed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Crossing Lines

The question has been posed:  How can one Federal Agency make a determination of disability while another, separate Agency can deny a determination of disability? Contained within that question, of course, is an answer of disability from each Federal Agency, which was further preceded by multiple questions requesting the agency to make a determination of disability.  

A simple answer to the question posed would be:  Each Agency is independent and separate, and thus has the authority to make an independent determination.  That is what is deemed a “power” answer.  But there are further nuances of an answer which go beyond the mere authority or power of an agency to make a determination.  

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the question of another agency’s determination on disability is often asked:  How can one…?  The full answer to the question would require a complex analysis of the various laws, statutes and criteria, which would include the following:  Each Federal agency which provides a particular disability benefit is mandated by a specific statutory authority which sets out a specific set of criteria, and is different from the statutory authority defining another agency’s particular benefits; some legal criteria are based upon a determination of percentage ratings, while others are based upon employability or whether a particular kind of job can be performed.  

Given all of this, one may still “cross the lines” by making arguments utilizing statements from one agency, as persuasive authority in arguing for another agency’s disability benefits.  In crossing such lines, however, it is important to maintain the integrity of the role, the criteria, the specific citation of the law, and what Judges actually have stated concerning the extent and authority of the influence which one agency determination may have another another.  Thus, if one attempts to cross the lines, do so with knowledge and understanding of the law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Opinions, OPM and Power

In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one must always be aware of the distinction between the two — opinions and power — and apply it with that awareness in filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  

There will be multiple opinions involved in any Federal Disability Retirement packet — the opinion of the medical doctor who is treating the applicant; the opinion of the applicant as to one’s ability or inability to perform some, which or all of the essential elements of one’s job; the opinion of the Supervisor or someone at the Agency on multiple issues, rendered in the Supervisor’s Statement and the Agency’s Certification for Reassignment and Accommodation; and the “opinion” handed out by the Office of Personnel Management as to whether all of the compendium of opinions, collectively gathered to present the evidence for approval in a Federal Disability Retirement application, constitute sufficient evidence such that it meets the preponderance of the evidence in proving one’s case.  It is thus helpful to understand that all of these identifiable propositions are all “opinions”.  

The one distinction, however, is that the opinion of the Office of Personnel Management carries with it the power of approval or disapproval, and so one may designate it as carrying more “weight” because it contains an inherent authority which all other opinions lack — that of the power to say yea or nay.  But remember that such power, fortunately, is not absolute, nor necessarily arbitrary and capricious, and there is ultimately an appeal process to have such raw power reviewed for viability and sufficiency.  That is why the validity and force of the “other” opinions is important to maintain — the medical opinion and the opinion of the Applicant — so that when it is reviewed by an Administrative Judge, the integrity of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS may be properly adjudicated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire