Federal Disability Retirement: In Life, the Pragmatic Trumps the Theoretical

In administrative and other processes, as in life generally, there are issues which on a theoretical level would seem to work; but when tested in the “real world”, somehow the perfect paradigm suddenly disintegrates.  Thus, one may ascribe a series of seemingly logical propositions, each in their independent and isolated delineations apparently stand strong and without a flaw; but somehow, in their linear progression of dependence, one upon the previous one, the linkage itself may be the determining factor.

Thus the old adage:  An X is only as strong as the weakest link.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee may lay out a plan of attack which, on its face, may appear sound and credible; but as experience in anything constitutes the crux of everything, so the first-time experience of thinking that one’s own case is a “slam-dunk” case because the “pain I feel” is so excruciating that there is no way that OPM could do otherwise than to approve my case, may be that weakest link.

Think again.  OPM deals with thousands of such cases; your particular case, as the unique case singularly known by you, is essentially a mere theoretical example of countless other such cases.  The pragmatic reality of the Federal bureaucracy is what one must ultimately face; again, as in life in general, the practical aspects of an engagement rules the day.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Early Decisions, Later Consequences

Decisions engaged in early on, reap later consequences which often reflect the choices made in those initial steps.  This is true both in life generally, and in particularized ventures, endeavors and vocations.

That is precisely why we tell our kids to study hard; that the key to success is preparation and practice; that, on performance day, the ease with which the presentation appears reflects the extent of the behind-the-scenes effort which went into the show.

Such admonitions apply to every project we undertake, and it is no less different when one is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, for the Federal and Postal Worker.  The logical sequence of how a person puts together a Federal Disability Retirement application will be reflected both in the final submission, as well as in the results obtained.

Now, there may well be cases which are poorly compiled, yet approved without a glitch; just as there will be cases which are irrefutably argued, yet denied by the Federal Bureaucracy identified as OPM.

However, another adage which is also true, is that “the exception does not make the rule”.

What words are chosen; how the Statement of Disability on SF 3112A is formulated; what medical evidence is presented; which legal arguments are promulgated and highlighted; what collateral issues are preemptively brought up; collectively, they “matter”.

What we do today determines the course of tomorrow; what tomorrow brings, will reflect upon who we are today.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Societal Complexities

For over 50 years, we have been told that our lives will be simpler, more efficient, of greater ease, resulting from the technological advancement of society at large.

With each technological innovation, some aspect of the common man’s life was supposed to be unburdened, with greater leisure time and less stress.  But a fundamental principle of human nature was ignored throughout the incremental advancement towards such sophistication:  the innate hunger to create ever more, and the desire by those at the pinnacle of civilization to play the role of master of the universe.

In legal circles, we were all doomed once the fax machine was invented; for, with such a contraption, the 3-4 days it took to send out a first class letter confirming a conversation or following up on one, became instantaneous, and the war of the who-said-what and what was settled upon became an urgent necessity with the ability to send and receive immediately.

Contrary to the great promise of our times, technology and modernization has further complicated, stressed and compounded the problems of daily living.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, the added complexity of winding one’s way through a maze of bureaucracy, of compiling an effective legal case for one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, is often “too much” because such an effort is in addition to the burden of dealing with one’s debilitating medical condition.

The key is to always streamline and simplify; but of course, that’s precisely what society has been purportedly doing all of these years, with each new gadget declaring the end of stress; and we are all the more stimulated by it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Algorithms & Human Peculiarities

In maneuvering through the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there are potentially multiple stages that one may encounter:  The First Stage of the process — the initial filing; if denied, one has a right to have the denial “reconsidered” by filing a Request for Reconsideration within thirty (30) days of the denial; if denied by OPM a second time, then one has a right to file an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, before an Administrative Judge.

There are, beyond the three stages identified, additional appellate stages of the process, including a Petition for Full Review before a 3-Judge panel of the MSPB, as well as an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

At each stage of the process, the Federal Disability Retirement application is reviewed and evaluated for sufficiency of proof and satisfaction of the statutory criteria for eligibility; and, moreover, a different person looks at the application at each stage of the bureaucratic process.

Thus, there is no singular algorithm — no application of a computer model which is identical across the board — in the evaluation of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  Instead, a different person reviews and evaluates the Federal Disability Retirement application at each stage.  This is probably a positive approach, and one which would be deemed “fair” by any objective standard.  For, while an application of a standard algorithm may be deemed objectively impersonal and unbiased, whereas human beings, in their inherently fallible nature may indeed possess biases and inclinations; nevertheless, it is the peculiarities of human imperfections which are still the trusted traits for procedural determinations.

That is why there is such a hue and cry over the increasing use of video replays and electronic line judges in sports; for some reason, we still trust in the human perspective, as opposed to the cold hardware of computers.  Perhaps, in our collective childhoods, we all became paranoid from watching HAL 9000 in Kubrick’s 2001:  A Space Odyssey.  A shivering thought.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Process

The engagement of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a “process” both on a macro as well as a micro level.

On a macro level, the ability to consolidate the variety and complexity of information; of understanding that there are multiple levels in the administrative labyrinth of a Federal Disability Retirement application, beginning with the initial stage of the process; then, if denied, the Second, or Reconsideration Stage of the process; then, if denied a second time, an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board; then a potential filing of a Petition for Full Review; and, finally, an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; all told, the aggregate of all of the procedural hurdles can be characterized as a “process”, precisely because of the complexity of each stage building upon the previous one.

On a micro level, it is similarly a process, but in a different sense.  The “pieces of the puzzle” must be gathered, and the best way to do so is in a methodologically sequential manner, one which reflects a logical structure, as opposed to a haphazard compilation of facts, tidbits, arguments and rants strung together into a barely coherent whole.

Remember that putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application must reflect an argument with a purpose — of proving one’s case by a preponderance of the evidence.  As such, understanding the “process” of such an endeavor is important in the very preparation of one’s case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Apparent Independence of Each Stage

In some ways, the fact that each “stage” of the process of Federal Disability Retirement is independent from each other, is a “given”.   When a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the Initial Stage of the process, then again at the Reconsideration Stage of the process, it is considered a positive part of the administrative process that the Merit Systems Protection Board will evaluate and decide the case “de novo”, or “anew” or “afresh”, without regard to what the Office of Personnel Management stated, decided, affirmed or concluded.

To that extent — to have an independent eye and an evaluation unbiased by prior analysis — is a good thing.  However, when one reads the decision of the Office of Personnel Management at the Initial denial of the application, then again at the Reconsideration denial of the application, it is somewhat disconcerting that neither OPM Representatives relied upon the analysis of the other.  What this allows for, of course, is an independent review by both the Initial Stage of the application and the Reconsideration Stage of the application, and while such independence of review can be seen in a positive light (again, that one OPM Representative is not influenced or biased by the views of the other), more often than not, what happens is that the Reconsideration Stage OPM Representative merely comes up with new and previously unfounded arguments upon which to deny the application a second time.

In short, it is difficult to stabilize the arguments upon which OPM relies, in order to answer and refute them.  That is why the MSPB’s approach of viewing a case de novo is important.  For, by ignoring the malleability of OPM’s reviewing process, one may get an objective and truly independent analysis and evaluation of the case.  Independence is an important component of “fairness”; objectivity is an integral element; and integrity is the filament which holds the law together.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Recognizing the Process & the Necessity for Patience

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize that the entire application endeavor — the initial preparation, formulation and filing; if denied at the First Stage, the ability to file a Request for Reconsideration within thirty (30) days of the denial; the appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board; a further appeal to the Full Board; then, if necessary, an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals — constitutes a “process”, and one which must be prepared for from the very beginning.  

Recognizing that the entire endeavor is a process will help to prepare one for the long haul — not only in being patient with the Office of Personnel Management at the first two stages of the process, but further, with the Administrative judicial process at the Merit Systems Protection Board; then (if necessary) with the Federal Court system.  Without such recognition, one will only experience frustration and anxiety.  As has been stated many times, Patience is a virtue; as such, Federal and Postal employees must be the virtuous of all classes of people, because of the constancy of patience they must endure.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire