FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Limitation of Agency Actions

Often, in the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the client will ask the question, “Well, doesn’t that prove that I can’t do the job?”  Such a question invariably points to some action by the Agency — a letter or a memorandum; a statement which the Supervisor made, etc.  While it may be true that the Agency believes that a Federal or Postal employee is unable to perform, or is not performing, all of the essential elements of the job, remember that actions of the Agency can never replace the affirmative burden of proof that one is unable, medically, to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  

One must keep in mind that the Office of Personnel Management is a separate Agency which is not necessarily in communication with the Agency which employs the Federal or Postal employee.  The “mindset” of the Agency is not being considered by the Office of Personnel Management.  Whatever the motivations of the Agency in doing what it is or will do, is to a great extent irrelevant to OPM.  What the Agency is doing may well indicate “proof” as to other issues — i.e., inability to accommodate; acknowledgment that certain essential elements of one’s job is not being performed, etc. — but it does not prove that an individual is unable, as a result of a medical condition, to perform all of the essential elements of the job.  Only a doctor can do that.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Agency Overstepping

The Office of Personnel Management is the Federal Agency which reviews, evaluates and determines the eligibility of an applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  The Applicant’s Agency — in whatever sector, department or facility — is supposed to help process the Federal Disability Retirement application, by filling out its required parts and answering certain fundamental questions.  For example, the Agency must determine whether or not it can “accommodate” an individual’s medical conditions, or reassign him or her to another position at the same pay or grade, and one which the applicant is qualified for.  Further, the Supervisor must complete a “Supervisor’s Statement” (SF 3112B) which provides certain information concerning the conduct, performance and attendance of the applicant, as well as any adverse impact which the applicant’s medical conditions may have had upon the Agency’s ability to complete its work and mission.  Where the Agency oversteps its authority, is when it deems itself to be the pre-judging entity in the place of the Office of Personnel Management.  The Agency neither has the authority nor the knowledge to be making a “recommendation” or a judgment on the viability of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  In the instances where it attempts to do so, it is overstepping its authority.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: What the Agency Can Do

It is always striking (and suspicious, of course) when an individual tells me that his or her Agency has said that they will “OK” the Federal disability retirement application.  I always remind the individual that it is not the Agency; rather, it is the Office of Personnel Management which approvals or denies an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  In many ways, the Agency attempts to assert for itself greater influence and impact than it really has.  I try and remind people all the time that a Federal Disability Retirement application is a medical retirement application — it is not an Agency retirement application; it is not a Supervisor’s disability retirement application; it is not up to the Human Resources’ Department of the Agency.  The ultimate arbiter of the entire process is the Office of Personnel Management; and the criteria for eligibility is based upon a set of statutory requirements, which must be met by a preponderance of the evidence; and the overwhelming focal emphasis concerns the medical eligibility.  Agencies are too often given too much credit for the success or failure of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  In my view, the influence, input and power of an agency is almost always overstated.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire