Experiential Responses: Medical Retirement for Postal & Civilian Federal Employees

Life’s garbage is supposed to teach us lessons; that is what we are taught from a young age.  Thus, long lines allow for an opportunity to test patience; insults and ingratitudes, self control; imprudent behavior, an antipathy towards it; lengthy battles, allowing a lesson to forge on while others give up; and similar encounters which provide ample revelations for altering one’s natural instinct of regressive responses.

But the other force which powers its way in an insidious and countermanding manner, is the very negation of lessons learned: of finding security in habitual and repetitive behavior; of responding in a known manner, because past actions of an established quality provide a zone of comfort in contrast to an unknown future.  But medical conditions in and of themselves are unknown factors which impede, intrude, and interrupt.  Sometimes, not acting is as deleterious as proceeding against life’s lessons, learned or yet unachieved.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition not only impacts one’s ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties but, beyond that, has already impacted the extent of experiential encounters with one’s agency, supervisor, coworkers, etc., it may be that one must reconstitute and consider changes which may be anathema to one’s very nature: patience for long-term treatment may not work, as one’s agency may be impatient; self-control towards the ingratitude manifested may not be enough; and imprudent behavior engaged in by one’s agency may be an acceptable norm of standards to follow.

Federal Disability Retirement benefits are meant to allow for the Federal and Postal employee to attain a level of livelihood in order to attend to the most important of life’s experiential encounters: one’s health.

While filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, may feel like one is “giving up” instead of forging forward despite adversity; the reality of it is that filing for OPM Disability Retirement does not constitute defeat or surrender, but rather an affirmative move to change the stage of the battlefield.  Further, in life, it is not always the “good guy” that wins. Sometimes, the guy in the white hat must walk away, only to see another day to engage the greater battle of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: To Just Walk Away

One suspects that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management “plays the odds” and finds that a certain percentage of the population will accept at face-value the stated basis of a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, regardless of the lack of substantive basis for such a denial.  And, indeed, there will be a segment of the population, within the entire universe of Federal and Postal employees who submit a Federal Disability Retirement application, who will simply feel discouraged, and simply give up.

This is precisely why, in many administrative processes, there is an automatic first-level denial.

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement is somewhat different, and one would assume that there is no internal mechanism of automatically rejecting a submission at the initial stage of the application, because the merits of each case should be determined at each stage of the process.

Nevertheless, it would be “prudent” for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to take such an approach, if only to test the determination and seriousness of each applicant.  This is not to allege that such an approach is deliberately engaged in by OPM; rather, whether on a valid basis or not, there is nevertheless the likelihood that a certain percentage of Federal Disability Retirement applicants who are denied at the first stage, will simply walk away, not fighting for a benefit which they may well be eligible for.

And, of course, “walking away without a fight” is certainly an option for everyone; not a very viable one, and one which should not be recommended.  The sad part, of course, is that the very basis for not having “the fight” to contest an OPM denial, is often the same basis for which the Federal or Postal worker filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits in the first place:  the medical condition itself, and the debilitating manifestations which have weakened the human spirit to persevere.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Don’t Overstate the Case

It is important to have an objective tone in one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  This is inherently difficult, of course, if one is representing one’s self in such an application, because naturally the subject is the very person one is attempting to be objective about —  one’s very own self.  Because of this difficulty, it is often important to have legal representation, in order to attain that level of objectivity where the voice which speaks concerning the subjective pain, medical conditions, and impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of the job, is portrayed in an ‘objectified’ manner, tone and tenor.  Further, the problem with an overemphasis on emotionalism in any Statement of Disability is that, while it may evoke sympathy, it often overstates the case.  Overstating a case occurs when the subjective description collides with the ‘objective’ medical documentation which it is meant to support — not to undermine — the case as described by the applicant for Federal or Postal Disability retirement benefits.  Remember that, from the perspective of the Office of Personnel Management, the applicant who has prepared the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS has an underlying motive beyond filing for a benefit — that of being the recipient of the benefit.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Using the Legal Tool

A word of wisdom:  generally, it is not a wise endeavor for applicants who are not lawyers, who file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, to make legal arguments.  I have seen the end-product of such results, and have concluded that they are more-often-than-not, harmful to the case.  Most legal arguments are formulated through years of discretionary application based upon extensive research and experience in a given area of law; and the discretion that must be used is not always intuitively obvious.

As an example, there are cases where it is entirely appropriate to submit the VA disability rating as part of the Federal Disability Retirement application, as supplemental documentation in support thereof.  However, determination concerning the importance, impact and significance of relying upon such information must be discreetly assessed.

Yes, there is “case-law” concerning the persuasive authority of VA Disability ratings.  However, the practical legal aspect of utilizing such ratings must be carefully considered, based upon numerous factors:  while the combined rating may be higher, what are the individual percentages?  Are each high enough to warrant persuasive argumentation?  Could closer scrutiny of the individually ascribed ratings be more harmful to one’s case?  Is the rating (and each individualized break-down) discussed in medical terms in the VA records?

Ultimately, the individual who files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits without an attorney must rely upon himself or herself, and the wisdom of one’s own counsel.  Whether that is wise or not, I leave to each individual.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: OPM May Say So, But…

I often wonder how many unrepresented disability retirement applicants there are who, having received a denial letter at the First Stage of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, never file a Request for Reconsideration because they believe what the Office of Personnel Management stated in the Denial Letter.  Sometimes, I will get telephone calls from people who want to file, and during the course of the conversation, it will come out that they had filed a few years previously, and had been denied.  “Did you file a Request for Reconsideration, at the time?” I ask.  “No,” is the answer.  “Why not?” I ask.  The typical answer?  “Because I just thought there was no way to fight them on it.” 

I used to be amazed at such answers, but after some thought, it makes sense.  As an attorney, my first instinct (both trained and natural) is to always take something to the next level, with the firm belief that I will prevail just by pure persistence, and by using the law as “a sword” in the process of fighting for my clients.  But most people are not lawyers (some would say, thank goodness for that, we have enough lawyers in the world), and when the Office of Personnel Management writes up a denial letter, then allegedly cites “the law”, and makes bold conclusions such as, “You do not meet the eligibility criteria under the laws governing disability retirement…”  It all sounds convincing.  It all sounds like any further action will be an act of futility.  But just because OPM “says so” doesn’t make it true, doesn’t make it right, and certainly doesn’t make it unwinnable.  They may say you don’t meet the eligbility criteria; I would argue otherwise.

Sincerely,
Robert R. McGill, Esquire