Federal Disability Retirement: Preparation in Anticipation of the Process

Preparation in anticipation of a process, as opposed to filing the proper paperwork to receive an entitlement, constitutes a different mindset and approach.

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, where the Federal or Postal employee may be subject to undergoing the process of the initial stage of the application, then potentially the Request for Reconsideration stage; if denied at the Request for Reconsideration Stage, then the process involves an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board; then, if denied at the MSPB, a Petition for Full Review, and an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Because the entire process may involve multiple forums, the extent of support requested from the outset should be understood to potentially involve such extensive time frames and stages.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must be understood as potentially involving the entirety of the process, and not just a single-event occurrence.

Now, as to whether to inform the treating doctor at the outset the details of such potential support needed, is another matter. Such a full disclosure may, if presented wrongly, indicate such a daunting process that no one in his right mind would want to undergo such a process. Most doctors, however, already have an inkling of what an administrative process might involve, through contact with Social Security, which is the benefit most medical doctors have been involved with.  In any event, it is important to secure the support of the treating doctor and to have the comfort of knowing that he or she will continue such support through the entirety of the process, and not abandon you halfway through it.

That is why the mindset of understanding that preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is important to obtain from the outset, that it is a process, and not an entitlement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: The Timeline

The timeline is an extensive one.  Beyond the period from start to finish of the initial process (6 – 8 months minimum for just the First Stage of the process, assuming everything goes “right” in receiving prompt responses from the medical providers, obtaining the records; having the agency process everything in a timely manner, etc.), there is then the possibility of a glitch in the process on the part of the Office of Personnel Management.  

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management must necessarily entail an acknowledgement and recognition of being prepared for a long and arduous wait.  Then, of course, if the case is denied at the First Stage of the process, one must expect a minimum of 90 – 120 days for the Reconsideration Stage of the process; if it is denied a second time by OPM, then a minimum of 120 – 150 days at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

Further, if a Petition for Full Review is filed, it can often taken 10 months.  And an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals?  You don’t even want to consider that…  

As such, when one is preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the operative focus should be upon the first conceptual link in the sequence — “preparing”.  The first order of business in a Federal Disability Retirement application is in mentally preparing for the long haul.  I will reiterate an oft-used quip:  Patience is a virtue; ergo, Federal and Postal employees filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS must by definition be the most virtuous of people.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Procrastination

Someone once said that procrastination is a wonderful thing — it allows for a lag-time between the future (for those things which need to get accomplished at some point), the present (those things which require attention immediately), and the past (those things which needed to get done, but whose time has passed, and with each passing moment, the urgency of which is diminishing because it doesn’t matter, anyway).  But procrastination has a way of “catching up” — where the piling up of past non-action combined with the present need to act, finally explodes when there is no future left to wait for. 

Preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS should not be compiled based upon a paradigm of procrastination.  Waiting for the last moment, or simply putting together a voluminous box of medical records and quickly filling out an SF 3112A by listing a compendium of known or suspected medical conditions, then quickly concluding that they impact one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, will only further raise the chances of a denial from the Office of Personnel Management

When a medical condition impacts a Federal or Postal employee and his or her ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, there is certainly a sense of urgency.  However, the urgency to quickly file a case must be weighed and balanced against the future likelihood of success.  This is a long, long, process, and the extra time it may take — weeks or months — to properly prepare, formulate and file a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, will help to prevent the problems of procrastination.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Right Time to File

The proper time to file for a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is an issue which only the Federal or Postal employee contemplating such action can make a final determination upon.  The question often posed to an attorney, “What should I do?” is a difficult one when it comes to timing.  However, because the Office of Personnel Management seems to be taking a long time in rendering decisions upon a FERS or CSRS disability retirement application, such length of time must be taken into account when determining which “metric system” of filing one should rely upon.  

Further, because OWCP benefits can be cut off because of non-compliance issues, or because the Department of Labor has decided that you are fully recovered and can go back to full duties, the comfort of such payments may not be the best guidance as to determining the right time to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  The answer to the previous question is thus probably two-fold:  

The fact that you are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is an indicator; and second, preparation should involve reading as much information on the internet by various resources, and determining which source appears to have the knowledge, credibility and insight to be able to assist you in attaining your goals.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Time to File

When should I file?  This is a question which is asked often; it is a telling, revealing question, because it is often a rhetorical question.  It is as if the question begs to be answered with an unequivocal, “You must file now”.  Aside from the time it takes, which is generally between 6 – 8 months from the time the entire process begins until the time the Office of Personnel Management approves an OPM Disability Retirement application at the First Stage of the process (and certainly this general time-frame needs to be taken into account because of financial circumstances, accrued sick and annual leave which may be used, and multiple other factors for consideration), the Federal or Postal worker who is contemplating when to file an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits generally knows the answer to the question.  As a general rule, if one asks the question, then the answer is already known.  If one is expecting a PIP, comes home each day dreading and exhausted, living with the anxiety that the Agency is waiting for an excuse to get rid of the employee; if each night and weekends are spent just recuperating in order to make it into the office for another day, then to ask the question, “When should I file?” becomes merely a tautology.  To arrive at that point is to make it into an emergency; it is better to project into the future; as a football coach once said, “The future is now.”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The 1-Year Rule

Periodically, I remind everyone of the various “1-year” rules which govern Federal Disability Retirement issues under FERS & CSRS.  Since there are multiple applications of the 1-year rule, there is often a confusion which is still prevalent and ongoing.  Thus, here are some clarifications:  You must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS either while in the employment of a Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, or within 1-year of being separated from Federal Service

There are a couple of exceptions to this 1-year rule:  If you are found to be incompetent, you may be able to get a waiver from the Office of Personnel Management, but this is extremely rare and difficult to obtain.  Another exception, however, is found in the U.S. Court of Appeals case of Johnston v. OPM, where the Court found that if a person was removed for apparent medical reasons, but was never notified by the Agency, then the 1-year rule may be waived (this often happens to Federal and Postal employees who have been on OWCP for many years, and are forgotten and never informed of an initiation of an SF 50 separating him or her from Federal or Postal Service). 

The 1-year rule should not be confused with:  One’s medical condition needs to last for a minimum of 1 year (but this does not mean that you need to wait a year before filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; rather, it merely means that your doctor expects that your medical condition will last for a minimum of 12 months).  I hope that this clarfies any confusions, and further, that it serves as a reminder to anyone who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

OPM Disability Retirement: Snow (and More Snow)

By all accounts, the amount of snow which has hit the D.C. & surrounding metropolitan area constitutes a record amount. With 25 – 30 inches already on the ground and stretching the resources of state and local governments, there is another winter weather warning, of another 10-plus inches of snow. The Federal Government has shut down today (Monday); that means that the Office of Personnel Management, Disability Retirement Section, has been shut down. While the white blanket is certainty a picture of beauty to behold, those who have Federal Disability Retirement applications awaiting a decision, and those who will be shortly filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS will have further delays because of the shut-down of the Federal government.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: OPM, Washington, D.C. & Snow

The three constitute a bad mixture: Washington, D.C. shuts down with barely an inch of snow, and the mere forecast of snow sends everyone to delirious panic; here, we have a forecast of 10 – 20 inches of snow, and panic has turned to pandemonium, and there is a calm quietude of resignation: the Office of Personnel Management, located in Washington, D.C., in a city with a forecast of a major snowstorm — result? A certainty of shutdown, a backlog of work, and further delays. For my clients (and those who are not my clients) who are awaiting the Office of Personnel Management to make a decision on a pending Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, further patience is needed. The combination of the three: OPM, Washington, D.C., and snow, simply do not mix. All I can do is watch the fluffy white stuff come down upon a deepening nightfall, and hope that spring will come early. Sigh.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Again — Reminder as to the Statute of Limitations

I have many, many people who are on all sides of the spectrum concerning the time-line of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS — people who call me 2, 3, 5, sometimes 10 years after being separated from service, saying they were never informed about the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Obviously, such former Federal employees cannot now (except in extremely peculiar and rare circumstances) file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, under either FERS or CSRS. 

Then, there are those who are still “on the rolls” — those who have never been separated (normally because of the negligence or neglect of the Agency) from Federal Service, who call to ask whether they can file for Federal Disability Retirement now.  The answer is most often, Yes, and furthermore, once the disability retirement is approved, the annuitant can receive back-pay all the way back to the last date of pay.  Then, there are those who call me in a state of panic, saying that it has been almost a year after the injury; is it too late to file?  No, it is not too late, so long as it has not been over one year from the time of separation from service.  Thus, here is a reminder (again):  A Federal or Postal employee has up until one (1) year to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the time of being separated from Federal Service — meaning, when you have been terminated from being a Federal or Postal employee, and are off of the “rolls” of the agency.  I don’t know how to make this any clearer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: When to File

I still get calls by people who state that (A) they are waiting for a year before they are going to file for FERS or CSRS disability retirement, (B)  It hasn’t been a year since they have been on LWOP, but it almost will be, or (C) They are waiting to be terminated so that their year will begin.  Quiz:  Which of the above (A, B or C) is the correct basis upon which to decide to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?  Answer:  None of the Above. 

Since OPM disability retirement can take anywhere from 6 – 8, sometimes 10 months to get (beginning the time-sequence from the time a doctor is contacted to provide a medical report, to putting the entire packet together, to getting it to the Agency Human Resources Personnel, to getting it to Boyers, PA, to getting it to Washington, D.C., to getting an initial approval, etc.), it is:  A.  Not a good idea to “wait a year” because there is no reason to wait; B. You don’t need to wait a year on LWOP to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and:  C.  You don’t need to get terminated, or separated from Federal Service, in order to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits. 

Let me re-emphasize:  The “1-year rule” has to do with the following:  A.  You have one (1) year from the date you are separated from Federal Service to file for disability retirement — but you can file at any time, whether separated or not, as long as it is not after 1 year after being separated from service.  B. Your medical condition must be expected to last for a minimum of 12 months — but your treating doctor should be able to tell quite easily whether or not the medical condition for which you are being treated will last that long — normally within a couple of months of treatment. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire