Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Distances

Somehow, proximity often makes for comfort, and thus do we have a greater sense of security if something is nearby, and distance reflects ties of both emotional and physical detachment.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is the Federal agency which determines all issues on Federal Disability Retirement matters.  They are located in Washington, D.C. (with the intake office for the initial acceptance and computer inputting being accomplished first by an office in Boyers, Pennsylvania).

Whether the Federal or Postal employee is working in an office in California, Nevada, Illinois or Virginia; or, perhaps, somewhere overseas in Europe, Japan, etc.; all such applications for Federal Medical Retirement must be forwarded to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C.  If the Federal or Postal employee is still with the agency, or has been separated less than 31 days from the agency, then the application for Federal Disability Retirement must first be routed through one’s agency (or, for the Postal employee, through the H.R. Shared Services Center located in Greensboro, North Carolina).

This is a “Federal” matter, not a state issue, and therefore an attorney who specializes in handling Federal Disability Retirement does not need to be an attorney licensed in the state where the Federal or Postal employee resides.

Very few local attorneys specialize in such Federal Administrative matters; as such, it is likely that an attorney who is equipped to handle such matters will be located in a different state, far away, but hopefully close to the source of the matter — near Washington, D.C. , where the issue itself is adjudicated at the administrative level.

While such distance may preclude a face-to-face meeting with the attorney, there are other safeguards which can be noted, to ensure that one’s comfort zone is left intact:  reputation, accessibility, and references.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Power, Persuasion and the Legal Argument

FERS & CSRS Disability retirement is no different, in kind, than other areas of law which intersect with individuals and personalities.  As an area of administrative law, and specifically, where a government entity (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) is involved, the Federal or Postal worker must encounter an agency which is large, powerful, and often immovable (sort of like Aristotle’s Primum movens, or the Prime Mover).  

The singular Federal or Postal worker may find the encounter with the Federal government to be a daunting, almost insurmountable task.  It is the classic meeting of two unequal forces; and, as such, there is always a question as to who will prevail.  

Fortunately, however, there are some mechanisms in place which allow for persuasive argumentation.  If a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage of the administrative process, then there is the Second, or Reconsideration Stage of the process, which places the disability retirement application in the hands of a different OPM case worker, in a different section.  If it gets rejected a second time, then it is taken entirely out of the hands of OPM, and will be placed before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Throughout the entire process, however, the Federal or Postal worker may feel lonely, small and irrelevant.  That is why the Federal or Postal worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement must engage in substantive and persuasive legal argumentation.  Persuasion is the key where power is unavailable.  It is OPM which has the power; it is the Federal or Postal Worker who has the persuasive tools, and must use them to his or her advantage as the law allows.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Overwhelming Resources of the Bureaucracy

The advantage which the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has over the individual Federal or Postal disability applicant in a Federal Disability Retirement application is self-evident:  they control the timeframe of the decision; they are not subject to any repercussions or consequences for a decision contrary to law; they possess multiple templates in disapproving a Federal Disability Retirement application, and a single template upon approving a Federal Disability Retirement case, thereby making it administratively easy, simple, and without the necessity of expending much effort, either way.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating preparing, formulating or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is a daunting task to go up against such a behemoth of a Federal administrative bureaucracy.

Indeed, one only needs to review a denial letter from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to comprehend the near-impossible obstacle which OPM can present:  in some denials, there is merely a brusque and short “discussion”, barely touching upon providing any rational reason for a denial; yet, in other denials, there are long and detailed templates — however erroneous or misplaced, and however lacking of any legal or factual basis — which purportedly “explains” the legal basis of the denial.  In either case, OPM has the “upper hand”, at least for that time and stage, because it is merely kicked-up to the next Stage in the process, and handed over to another OPM employee.

Against such an entity, it is important to be prepared with knowledge, legal tools, and the ability to cut through the administrative nonsense which passes for legal authority.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Guidance and the Void

Questions in life always abound; those who ask few, if any, questions, either retain an abundance of knowledge, are wanting of care, or merely meander through life in a muddle of marginality.

In enduring the administrative process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, questions concerning the entire bureaucratic process are never fully answered at any stage of the process.  The void of clear, concise and definitive answers are often deferred — whether because of OPM’s actions, one’s own agency actions, or because the context and timing of the question must betray the patience of an immediate answer.

Guidance throughout the process is invaluable.  Remember — ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement is a legal process; yes, it is the filing of government standard forms; yes, it is “administrative” in nature, inasmuch as the benefit applied for must be submitted through an administrative agency — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  But whenever there are rights to have a “case” reconsidered; whenever that administrative “filing” may require an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board; whenever “anything” of such a nature is or may be required — it constitutes a legal process and procedure.

For a legal process, one normally requires legal guidance.  The void of legal guidance of those who have tried it without an attorney, is palpable.  Of course, guidance is separate from wisdom; and wisdom is differentiated from the mere providing of information — often of error.  Seek the proper guidance, and keep out of the void.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Common Mistakes

There is of course the old adage (and old “sayings” are neatly formulated, refined over time, and revised and updated for applicability and relevance to the significance of the current times), stated in its variety of forms, that those who fail to study history, are condemned to repeat it.  But what if the historical repetition of such foolhardiness results because of the disparate nature of history, scattered among thousands, and never based upon a common essence from which all can draw?

A corollary of the previous words of wisdom is the following (made up by this author):  Historical mistakes repeat themselves because everyone believes that he or she is smarter than the ones before.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, common mistakes abound, and repetitively reveal themselves throughout the process.  Writing to preempt what one thinks a Supervisor will state or not state; listing every medical condition without prioritizing the impact upon one’s inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; writing long, meandering narratives; including “red flag” concepts such as “hostile work environment“; simply giving to the doctor the 3112C with the return address of one’s Human Resources Department at one’s agency; and multiple other such follies.  Yet, such mistakes are not only common; they are to be expected.

The administrative process of Federal Disability Retirement is constructed to appear “simple”.  The questions asked on the standard forms appear straightforward, if not cleverly uncomplicated in their very formulation.  Yet, the laws which govern the benefit identified as “Federal Disability Retirement” is amassed in a compendium of statutes, regulations and case-law, all of which have evolved in interpretive significance over many years.

History does repeat itself; for Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating or have initiated the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, the age-old adage concerning history not only confirms the truth of such a saying, but reinforces it daily.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Rationality Still Exists

One may well disagrees with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on its decision to deny a Federal Disability Retirement application, and yet find a rational basis for its denial.  Indeed, the fact that OPM may offer some rationality to its denial, does not mean that they are correct in their decision.  Often, there is a misunderstanding as to what “rational” behavior consists of.

On a recent Sunday morning talk show, a couple of political pundits were proposing the idea that certain hard-line regimes were not acting “rationally”.  The problem with such an analysis is that one assumes that if an individual or a country fails to act within certain universally-accepted normative behavior, that such actions constitute “irrational” conduct.  That is simply not true.

First of all, rationality — which finds its foundation in logic, whether propositional or syllogistic — depends upon the major and minor premises advanced.  Thus, if the major premise entails a person or country that cares for the welfare of his neighbor or its citizenry, then the logical conclusion may well be one which encapsulates rationality — of acting to protect its people, to safeguard human rights, etc.  On the other hand, if the major premise begins with the primary assertion of retaining authority and absolute power, then the conclusion would involve shooting or massacring its countrymen.  The latter logical trail is no less “rational” than the former. Such a mistake in defining and understanding the concept of “rationality” is often found in all areas of life.

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, the fact that there has been evidence of “irrational” behavior on the part of those parties involved in the administrative process, should not result in a conclusion that the process is “arbitrary” or dependent upon some non-legal criteria.

Ultimately, all human endeavors embrace some semblance of rationality.  While one may disagree with the analytical thought-processes of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which often strays far beyond what the law requires and allows for, nevertheless, one can recognize the rational analytical procedures used in every denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS — albeit, one in which radical jumps from premise-to-conclusion with gaping chasms of generous implications may have to be provided, in order to be able to say that such argumentation incorporated a rational basis of explanatory analysis.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Appropriate Times

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one of the issues which every Federal and Postal employee must consider is whether to hire an attorney.

“What kind” of an attorney to hire is a fairly self-evident proposition — one that specializes (exclusively) in Federal Disability Retirement law, or at the very least, whose practice involves a significant amount of Federal Disability Retirement legal practice.  Most local attorneys have no idea about Federal Disability Retirement, and indeed, the location of the attorney is irrelevant, precisely because it is a Federal issue, and not a State one, and everything must ultimately be forwarded to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, anyway — initially to Boyers, PA, then on to Washington, D.C.

“Whether” to hire an attorney is a more relevant issue.  As everyone believes that his or her own case is a slam-dunk case (because of the difficulty of bifurcating the subject of the Federal Disability Retirement application — the very “I” who is suffering from the medical condition itself — from the “object” of the Federal Disability Retirement application — the person of whom one is speaking about in medical reports, Supervisor’s Statement, etc.), it is often important to obtain a more “objective” assessment of the efficacy, objectivity, and coherence of descriptive delineation of the packet as a whole, from someone who can properly evaluate a Federal Disability Retirement application.

“When” to hire an attorney is also a crucial issue to confront; for, if one has already submitted a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is probably not a good idea to obtain the services of an attorney at that point.  It is best to put the investment in at the “front end” of a process, than to play catch-up for the remainder of the season.

That is what the Baltimore Orioles do each and every season — fail to put the necessary investment in at the beginning of each season — and that is why it is a hardship to be an Orioles fan.  Sigh.  But Spring brings new hope — only, not if you are an Orioles fan.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire