Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Confusion & Disarray

A state of confusion and disarray can work in either direction; either the confused state of affairs can lead to a successful outcome (resulting from the inability to make a logically correct decision, but where a favorable outcome may randomly occur); or the state of disarray can result in a detrimental consequence, also arising from the state of confusion.  The former is often random in scope; the latter is more predictable.

Reliance on the potentiality that it “may come out right” is normally not the best course of action to take.  As such, if one is confused about a subject, an issue, etc., it is often a wise step to take to consult with someone who can unravel the layers of obfuscation surrounding an issue or circumstance.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, a repetitive thread of frustration heard throughout the process — both in a procedural sense, as well as the underlying substantive approach to completion — is the confusion of the forms themselves, the information needed to prove one’s case, and the necessity of coordination in matters of bureaucratic steps.

The obstacle of confusion and disarray is not one which is merely felt by any unique individual; it is pervasive, and you are “not alone” in the matter.  The fact is, the entire administrative process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is indeed a confusing one, and one fraught with a state of disarray.

It is thus important to approach the entire process with a logical, sequential methodology, in order to find one’s way out of the darkness of a black hole.  The universe may well have all sorts of unexplainable phenomena and voids; the Federal process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits may well be one of them.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: What the Agency May Say

Individuals can and do tell untruths (an euphemism for a “lie”); organizations, as a collective congregation of multiple individuals, can therefore also convey negations of truthful statements (a further euphemism, stated diplomatically to avoid the unpleasantry of a direct statement).  Of course, the justification for such factually incorrect statements is that there is a “difference of perspective” or of an opinion which is not in agreement with another’s.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the portion of a Federal Disability Retirement application which the Agency must complete — most notably the Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) and the Agency’s Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts (SF 3112D) can and most often do contain misstatements, differing perspectives and negations of untruthful statements.

They are not like the other forms which must be completed by the Agency — i.e., the checklist, the Certified Summary of Federal Service, etc., where the information provided can be compared to factually verifiable documents, statements, etc., and therefore will be constrained by objective and ascertainable facts.

Unfortunately, there is “wiggle room” on both the SF 3112B and the SF 3112D, and agencies tend to utilize the wide expansiveness of such roominess to move about.  That is why, what the agency says or might say, must be preempted as much as possible by the medical report and other documentation.  By providing as much of an airtight case prior to submission of the disability retirement packet to the agency, one increases the odds that the impact of what the agency says, will be minimal, and minimized.

Of course, there is then the further problem of the inaccuracies engaged in by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management itself — but that is another story to tell, and one which must be categorized in a department beyond “fiction”, but more akin to the genre of “fantasy” or “science fiction”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Surprise in the Universe of Reconsiderations

Until the science of Physics can implement the ability of molecular and particle transference technology (i.e., “Beam me up, Scotty”), there is little potential of resolving the Cartesian mind/body dualism (i.e., that French Philosopher Rene Descartes, who bifurcated the world between the material and the spiritual). But such dualism in philosophical terms does not mean that we can be at two places at one time; or even attempt to be “objective” when the subjective “I” is the very same person who is attempting to appear objective.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, when the U.S. Office of Personnel Management issues a denial letter, the customary response by the denied OPM applicant, whether a Postal Worker or a non-Postal Federal Worker, is that he or she is “surprised” by the initial denial because of the strength, completeness, and thoroughness of one’s Disability Retirement packet.  But that should be a given.

No one who files with OPM should do so without meeting the requisite foundations of thoroughness or completeness.  But this is where the problem is:  the very person who determines that a Federal Disability Retirement application is sufficient, is the same person who suffers from the very medical conditions of which the application speaks about.

The subjective/objective coalescence makes for a difficult mind/body dualism, in that the one who suffers from the medical condition can hardly assess and evaluate, in an objective manner, the strength of the Federal Disability Retirement application.

Thus, the Cartesian mind/body dualism lives on, and until Captain Kirk can guide us otherwise, such bifurcated dualism will continue to pervade all Federal Disability Retirement applications, whether under FERS or CSRS, and the denials which follow will still have the familiar response of, “Surprise!

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Denials

Denials come with an unexpected force and impact; for, in every Federal Disability Retirement case, there is the expectation that the application itself merits close scrutiny and a belief that a proper review will persuade the OPM trier of facts that the Federal Disability Retirement application should be approved.

Indeed, from the perspective of the applicant, who is suffering from the medical condition itself on a daily basis, it is often a reaction of disbelief and anger when a denial is issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  But one must understand that this administrative process identified as “Federal Disability Retirement” is one which is not an “entitlement”, but rather, an adversarial process where proof, argumentation and persistent appellate procedures must be invoked at every step of the way.

That is why, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one needs to always prepare a case as if it will ultimately go to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Further, it is understandably disappointing to read an OPM denial and find that the OPM case worker does not even mention or refer to much of the substantive medical documentation submitted, but instead blindly (and generically) issues a template of tired old phrases, such as, “You did not meet the legal criteria“; “The evidence did not show that…”

With hundreds of cases assigned to each OPM Case Worker, one must understand that denials are rarely personal; but in responding to a denial from OPM, one must be diligent, forceful, and approach it with the use of all legal tools available.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Patience & Frustration

Stories now abound concerning the backlog at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; and as has been often stated by the undersigned attorney, if the old adage that “patience is a virtue” is truly a truism, then Federal and Postal employees must indeed be the most virtuous of individuals in any given society, because the long wait in order to obtain a decision — favorable or otherwise (and, if the latter, then at least the Federal or Postal worker can assert his or his reconsideration or appeal rights in the matter) — on a Federal Disability Retirement application certainly tests the outer limits of one’s moral character.

The inverse emotional reaction to the moral character of virtue, is the expression of frustration.  Such an expression is the release of irritation, anger, and an overwhelming sense of angst at a system and administrative procedure which follows no rules, acknowledges no time lines, and concedes no boundaries of what a “reasonable” length of time would be defined as.

Then, of course, one always hears of “stories” about individual X who filed and got a decision within a month of a case being assigned; or that individual Y went into bankruptcy while waiting for OPM to make a decision.  It is best to refrain from comparative analyses; such stories, in whatever form and to what extent of truth is contained, will only increase the level of frustration, and further test the moral fibre of virtue.

While there is no single answer to the long waiting period which OPM has imposed upon the process, this much is true:  Approvals are being issued; decisions are being made on a daily basis; it is simply a matter of time.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, this period of waiting must be “factored in”.  But when such factoring has occurred, the actual period of waiting is indeed a frustrating part of the administrative process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Deadlines

One of the frustrating aspects of the entire administrative process entitled, “Federal Disability Retirement” — of the whole of the engagement in preparing, formulating and filing, and then of waiting for an answer from the Office of Personnel Management — is the issue of “deadlines” imposed by the regulations, statutes and rules.  For one thing, it seems to be a unilateral imposition:  a one way street required by the Office of Personnel Management, with no requirement of deadlines of responsive timelines for the Agency, the Office of Personnel Management, or the Federal Government in general.

Thus, the 1-year statute of limitations for filing; the 30-days within which to file a Request for Reconsideration; the 30-days within which to file an appeal from a denial of a Reconsideration Request to the Merit Systems Protection Board; the time to file an appeal to the Full Board for a Petition for Review; the time requirement to file an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals — all of these are statutory impositions and restrictions upon the Federal or Postal employee.  

Yet, where is the timeline imposed upon the Agency, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the MSPB, the Federal Courts, or the Federal Government in general?  It seems that the requirement of waiting and being patient is all upon the individual Federal or Postal employee, without any obligatory ancillary or concomitant requirement placed upon the agency — specifically, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in providing a responsive decision to a Federal Disability Retirement Application, whether under FERS or CSRS.  

While all of this is true, and it may well be “unfair” in a general sense, it is merely a fact of life which must be lived with.  As the famous author, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., famously stated in referring to the multiple absurdities of life, “So it goes…”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Long, often Frustrating Road to a Decision

It is indeed taking an inordinate amount of time in receiving a decision from the Office of Personnel Management, for a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

The problem which has been identified by various personnel at the Office of Personnel Management is that there has been a steady backlog of cases resulting from various factors, including personnel attrition through retirement, transfers, etc., without an adequate rate of substitution or replacement.

This is obviously of great frustration and concern to all Federal and Postal employees who are awaiting a decision from the Office of Personnel Management on his or her Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, but ultimately it must be accepted as part of the bureaucratic, administrative process of filing for a benefit.  

Each of the Claims Representatives at the Office of Personnel Management, when contacted, are clearly attempting to get through their case-loads, but they must review, evaluate and apply a set of criteria in making a determination on each case.  

A denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application only sets back the case further, because it then is transferred to the Reconsideration Section of the administrative process, and is reviewed anew (assuming that the Federal or Postal employee files a Request for Reconsideration within the 30-day timeframe) by a different OPM Representative.  

Frustration is a part of any and every bureaucratic, administrative process; waiting is part of that process; patience is the virtue which must be retained; and recognizing from the outset that exponential multiplication of the waiting period is the best mathematical calculus to estimate the average waiting time, then to attempt to remain productive and busy during such time, is the best (and only) approach to the long and often frustrating road to a successful outcome in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: OPM, Patience & Frustration

After one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS has left one’s agency (or, in the case of a Federal or Postal employee who has been separated from Federal Service for more than thirty one (31) days, filed directly to the Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA), it then goes to Boyers, PA for the intake processing part of the process.  

Thereafter, a CSA Number (if one is under FERS, the 7-digit number will begin with an “8”, and under CSRS it will begin with a “4”, with the eighth and somewhat irrelevant digit being a “0”), which is the case identifier for all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications, is assigned in order to be able to easily reference a case for purposes of discussion, adding or supplementing additional information, checking on the status, etc.  

Once it arrives in Washington, D.C., then the “real” waiting part of the process begins — first, waiting for it to get “assigned” to a Case Worker in the OPM Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division; then, once assigned, to have OPM review it.  Sometimes, a piece of information is found lacking or missing, and a letter apprising the Federal or Postal employee of such lack is sent out, allowing for the Federal or Postal employee to obtain such information within thirty (30) days of the date of the letter.  

OPM’s general policy is to try and make a decision on a case within 90 – 120 days of a case being assigned to a Case Worker, but that timeline is a malleable one.  One can easily add another 30 – 60 days to that block of time. What occurs during this block of time?  It is a mystery, remains a mystery, and retains the aura of secrecy and mystery.  

As frustration is the flip-side of the virtue of patience, as an emotional expression, it has little benefit or worth to the human soul.  Expression of frustration should be accomplished in constructive ways, and calling OPM in an angry outburst is not considered one of them.  Constrain the frustration; exhibit the virtue of patience; understand that time is a projection of an expectation of hope in one’s mind, quantified exponentially in a mire of frustration when one does not occupy the void and vacuity of time with other things to do.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Simplicity of the Process

In becoming deeply involved in the morass of the bureaucratic process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS and CSRS, it is often easy to become frustrated with the inherent complexity of the process.  

Because of the multi-faceted complexities of the administrative process (e.g., obtaining the proper format and language in a medical narrative report in order to meet the legal criteria for eligibility; creating and nexus between the essential elements of one’s position in the Federal Service with the symptomatologies of the interaction between the medical conditions and the essential elements; understanding and applying the various statutory authorities and legal precedents which have evolved over many years; of preempting — if necessary — statements by the Agency or the Supervisor; and multiple other issues to be addressed concurrently), it can be frustrating for an injured or disabled Federal or Postal employee to attempt to pull all of the intricate strings together into a singular yarn of coherency and succinct presentation of a narrative form.  

Such is the time to remind one’s self of the simplicity of the process — of the 3-part essence of a Federal Disability Retirement application which will ultimately be a paper-presentation to the Office of Personnel Management.  First, the medical narrative must be simple but concise, and must provide a proper bridge between the medical condition and why a Federal or Postal employee is unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Second, one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability must be consistent with the medical narrative reports — neither understated nor exaggerated, and guided by truth. And third, it is important to understand and apply the legal precedents, and use the law as what it is intended for — a tool for both a shield and a sword.  In life’s complexities, it is important to maintain a paradigm of simplicity.  Unfortunately, it is often the simplest forms which constitute the height of complexity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Frustrating Process

As with most administrative dealings with the government (Federal, State or local), the process itself is a frustrating one.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a process which necessarily entails patience, and along with it, a quiet frustration because of the multiple levels of administrative procedures which one must undergo.  

I recently went and watched the De Caprio movie, Inception, which involves a complex and convoluted plot-line of attempting to convince an heir to a great business fortune, to break up the company.  The way to convince the young heir was to involve him in a dreamworld of mental constructs without his knowing it, and to plant an idea into his subconscious that he should break up the company, and thereby fail to compete with another company.  If the short “telling” of this plot line is confusing and convoluted itself, you may imagine how the movie itself is.  Yet, at an IMAX Theater, it was enjoyable, and my son certainly enjoyed it.  

The point here is that the convoluted process of getting from point A to point B, is to take a simple conceptual paradigm and make it into a confusing morass of a long and involved movie.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement has that same sense of the absurd; of a process which is convoluted beyond a simple concept; and the waiting part is the most frustrating of all.  Then, when the end comes, either with an initial denial or an approval, it is anti-climactic.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire