Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Process of Decision-making

It is both informative and interesting to observe various personalities in the thought-process of decision-making.

Some will merely be silent and ponder for hours, days, and weeks (or longer), as if time alone with resolve an issue; others will be proactive and aggressively inquire, gather further facts; still others will make a quick and decisive stand, with little thought or reflection.

Then, of course, there are those who rely upon “gut instinct”; others who apply a methodological paradigm where each criteria must be satisfied and checked off before a decision is made; and some who “hedge their bets” and make a contingent decision, which is often no decision at all.

For Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the luxury of time often works against them.

Time is the great decider of fate; for, whether because of financial reasons, Statute of Limitations, or impending adverse actions proposed by the agency, time constraints must always be factored into the process of decision-making. Wait too long, and it may be too late; wait not long enough, and an opportunity presently unforeseen may have manifested itself.

Time, in its essence, is both the outside influence and the internal trigger, and the time one takes in pondering the proper decision is often the indicator of whether it is the right or wrong decision.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Agony of Beginning

Somehow, the agony of beginning a process is the most excruciating; why that should be so is a mystery, when the prefatory phase leading up to actually starting and engaging an activity is probably the period where most people experience the greatest anxiety.  By “beginning” is often a milestone of a mental nature, as in coming to a decision to initiate an activity.

Then, the question remains of bridging the chasm between the thought and the physical action of “doing it”.  Thus, one can “decide” to perform X in one’s own mind, but never actually implement any objectively ascertainable steps to manifest any signs of having begun the process in order to reach point Y. Beginning the process must follow a sequence of steps.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to close the gap between thinking about it, and actually doing it.  Agencies often get frustrated with mere words; they want to see some evidence, some progress; and even if it is information regarding having retained a Federal Disability Retirement attorney, or some communication concerning the process and the progress made, will often delay an administrative action or sanction contemplated.

As OPM takes an inordinate amount of time in making a decision on any given case, it is important to take the necessary initial steps, and to submit a Federal Disability Retirement packet within a reasonable period of time, and to shorten the period of agony and anguish, by initiating the administrative process of Federal OPM Disability Retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Random Decisions

Waiting is indeed a requirement in the entire administrative process of preparing, formulating, then filing for Federal Disability Retirement Benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

As this author has repeatedly noted previously, if patience is a virtue, then it necessarily follows that Federal and Postal employees must be the most virtuous of individuals, for the very act of waiting for a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management mandates such a virtuous response from the Federal or Postal Worker who has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Is there a systematic and logical basis in the sequence and order of the decisions which are being made?  Perhaps.  Stories always abound, of course, of specific instances where a Federal Disability Retirement application was approved within a very short timeframe, but without knowledge of the specifics, including whether the facts included exigent circumstances beyond everyday occurrences, one cannot make a determination as to why an “exception” to the sequence of decision-making was made, if at all.

From an outsider perspective, it appears that the sequence of decisions made by OPM is rather random.  Yes, there is somewhat of a pattern of first-in, first-out, but of course that depends upon whether or not such a pattern is based upon the assignment of a CSA number from Boyers, PA or at the entry point of being assigned to a case worker in Washington, D.C.

The randomness can be troubling; waiting is a frustrating part of the process; but beyond that, virtue can be tested beyond the limits of reasonableness.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Human Element & Application of the Law

It may well be that technological advances will one day allow for imputed algorithms to precisely calibrate and decide everything in life; but for the time being, we must all deal with the human element in the process of decision-making.  

Comparative stories abound about how X obtained disability retirement benefits with minimal documentary proof, and even less of an actual medical condition.  It is always an anomaly as to how one can possibly answer the query which involves the following:  “X told a friend of Y, who knows of Z who filed and got his Disability Retirement benefits approved within T-amount of time”.

The particulars of each case must always determine the outcome of the case; some stories become inflated with the telling of the narrative when passed through third parties multiple times; but, on the other hand, there is the possibility that the final narration of the story is entirely true.  The reason is because the human element is still the determinative factor in any Federal Disability Retirement application.  

There is no computerized algorithm which is applied in making a determination at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  And, so long as human beings continue to remain a part of the administrative, bureaucratic process in scrutinizing a Federal Disability Retirement application, by analyzing the content and substance and applying the relevant laws, there will never be a perfect continuity or consistency of application.  

In some ways, this is a good thing; for, as each human being is unique, so the story of each medical condition and the impact upon one’s inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is also particularized and unparalleled.  May it be so in the future, lest we ourselves become mere drones in this world of conventionalized perspectives.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Defining Complexity Down

The complexity of a Federal Disability Retirement case is made all the more so, in exponential fashion, when the inherent issues concerning the medical condition and its impact upon one or more of the essential elements of one’s job are difficult and involved.

The administrative process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is in and of itself a complex process — if only for the sheer volume of Standard government forms which must be completed — and is compounded in multiple ways when the variegated medical conditions are included.  Indeed, sometimes it is the combination of multiple medical conditions which, in the totality of interconnected and intersecting symptomatologies, constitute the entirety of the medical impact in preventing one from performing a particular kind of job.

It is the job of the applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits — the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS — who must define the complexity down to its basic, comprehensible and coherent, cogent presentation, in order for the reviewing clerks at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to analyze and ultimately approve the Federal Disability Retirement application.

A simple rule of thumb:  If you cannot explain it, how will OPM make heads or tails of it? The solution:  If you cannot do it, obtain the services of someone who can; normally, this would involve an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: The Basis of the Decision

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the basis of decision-making — whether from the perspective of the Federal or Postal employee, or from the Agency in determining actions, potential actions, etc., once they learn about an employee’s intentions; and finally, the decision by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — can be varied and multiple; but ultimately, all such decisions come down to the validity and force of the information upon which such a decision is made.

Thus, the source and reliability of such information is what is paramount in properly influencing the decision-making process.

For the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the widespread complexity of the variegated information must be prioritized:  the extent of the support of the treating doctor; the ability to wait the process out; the financial and economic considerations; the options of whether it is even feasible to remain at a job whose duties require capabilities beyond consistency with one’s deteriorating medical condition; whether in comparison to any “early out” offer which the agency may be making (or perhaps none at all), disability retirement is the better option, etc.  From the Agency’s viewpoint, what extent of loyalty is owed?  Does the Supervisor have the discretionary fortitude to keep the employee on extended LWOP?  And many other decisions to be made.  From OPM’s viewpoint:  Are the elements of the law met?  How compelling a case is it?  And hopefully:  Is this lawyer going to be a headache for us?

Decisions of every and any kind are based upon the efficacy of the source behind such making; thus, the first and foremost basis of a good decision, is to make the best decision of gathering reliable information in order to decide the best course of action.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Filing

The actual filing of a FERS Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, can be rather anti-climactic, precisely because the prospective anticipation is merely beaten down by the long wait and the extended period of inactivity.

Thus, in the prior two phases of the administrative process — the “preparation and formulation” part of it —  the engagement in obtaining and completing the forms, presenting in written form and putting the entire Federal Disability Retirement application together, creates an appearance of progressively working towards a goal.  Once filed — if still with the agency or within thirty one (31) days of being separated from the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service —  the agency must complete their portion.

Depending upon whether it is with the local Human Resources Office or the District Human Resources Office will often determine how efficient or helpful they are.  If a Federal or Postal employee has been separated from Federal Service for over thirty one (31) days, of course, then it must be filed directly with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, Pennsylvania.

Filing a Federal Disability Retirement application is both a physical act, as well as a psychological barrier to be broken; as to the former, it is a relatively simple matter of sending it in; as to the latter, it constitutes an important step in recognizing and acknowledging the necessity of attending to one’s medical needs for recuperative purposes, whether because of physical or psychiatric medical concerns which require an alteration of employment demands.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Each Step as a Building Block for the Next

Of course, the penultimate approach would be to have the first stage of the process in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, to be the first and final step of the process.  But life in general is imperfect; particular lives are generally in disarray; and to expect any administrative process — especially one at the Federal level — to be one of attaining perfection at the First Stage, is to expect that there are no ancillary motives, purposes or quota-driven mindsets behind the decision-making process.

The very concept of a “building block” is itself an interesting one, for it is a metaphor used to convey a sense of progress.  And that would be the key.  One does not purposefully leave out any single building block in the process of constructing a foundation.  Instead, each block is an addition to the greater expanse of the structure, solidifying its base, preparing for the completion such that the end product will withstand weather, elements, unforeseen circumstances and potential challenges to the structural integrity itself.

Similarly, if the U.S. Office of Personnel Management questions an issue or aspect of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, the entire structure of the application should not be in danger of crumbling; rather, it may be a question which leads to an easy resolution, or a clarification which can be answered, challenged or expanded upon.

That is why time expended at the initial stage of the process before the filing itself — the pre-formulation part of the process, if you will — is important.  Old adages die hard, and thus to be penny wise and pound foolish is perhaps the most appropriate, wisdom-filled statement which proves itself perennially valid.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Pushing for a Decision

In these difficult economic times, when alternate or secondary employment is hard at best, waiting upon the Office of Personnel Management for a decision on one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, can be unsettling.  

There are, of course, multiple ancillary methods of “putting pressure” upon the Case Worker at OPM — contacting a supervisor; repeatedly calling and leaving multiple voicemails; sometimes, contacting a congressman/woman to initiate a “congressional inquiry” into the matter.  Whether, and to what extent, such ancillary methodologies work, is anyone’s guess.  

Hume’s argument concerning causation is probably at work here:  If an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application is received shortly after pressure is initiated, one can declare that it “worked” — that the effect of an approval followed the causal impact of such pressure.  If a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application is received shortly after such pressure is initiated, perhaps one may suspect that while the pressure may not have “worked” to one’s liking, nevertheless, the fact that a decision was made shortly after the initiation of such pressure may “prove” that the effect followed the cause.  

Or, as Hume would argue, does the fact that the rooster makes a ruckus shortly before the sun rises, mean that the former caused the latter? One will never know.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: To Be or …

Often, the question is asked whether or not it is advisable to “just resign” from one’s Federal or Postal employment, and whether such resignation would impact one’s ability to file for, and obtain, Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Such a question actually contains multiple sub-questions, which often need to be extrapolated, dissected and bifurcated, then answered independently.  Then, upon answering such questions separately, they can be reconstituted to provide a greater picture.  In answering any or all such questions, however, the proper context of each case — for each case is unique in their facts, circumstances, and potential impact upon future decision-making processes — must be revealed, identified, analyzed and properly addressed.  

Whether the Agency is making any “noise” of proposing to remove the Federal or Postal employee, and the basis of such removal; whether they are open to suggestions or negotiations pertaining to the basis of the removal; whether the Federal or Postal employee has already secured a doctor, a medical narrative report, and proper substantiating medical documentation which shows that, prior to such removal or resignation, the Federal or Postal employee could no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, etc. — all of these, and many more besides, are questions which must be considered before one takes the finality of the leap which determines whether to be, or not to be, a Federal or Postal employee as of a date certain, and its impact upon one’s ability to secure the benefit known as “Federal Disability Retirement” benefits under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire