Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Don’t Count Your Chickens …

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is — as has been previously stated ad nauseum in the past — a process which, once completed and filed, requires the enduring virtue of patience.  

During the waiting period, it is natural for the Federal or Postal employee to experience the anxiety and angst of awaiting the decision from the Office of Personnel Management.  Whether continuing to work in a limited, light duty capacity; remaining and waiting it out on LWOP; using up all of one’s accrued sick leave; working at a temporary assignment; or working a job in the private sector to make ends meet; whatever one’s status, there is little one can do during the long waiting period with OPM.  

Calling them will not necessarily evoke a helpful response, but calling just to “check on the status” will often calm one’s fears and anxieties, exacerbated over time because of the sense of isolation and disquietude created by the wasteland period of waiting.  

One rule to follow, however:  when contacting the Office of Personnel Management, it is best not to try and “gauge” the response of the reviewing “specialist” or “Claims Representative” (or whatever other euphemism of self-identity the person may ascribe to), whether in tone, words or verbal references.  Whether an initial denial or an approval, the status of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application should be ascertained only upon the receipt, in hand, of the actual decision.  

Don’t count those chickens before they hatch.  Indeed, don’t even count the eggs; wait until the receipt in hand of the documentary evidence showing an approval or a denial.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Different Denials

After having formulated, prepared and filed a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the period of long waiting ensues with the review process of the Office of Personnel Management (having survived the waiting process through the Agency).  

At this initial stage of the application, the Federal or Postal applicant will be forced to wait (anxiously) for a decision by OPM.  Thus, when the Office of Personnel Management makes a decision at the First Stage, and that decision is a “denial” of the Federal Disability Retirement application, there is a spectrum of possible responses — immediate, emotional, angry, frustrated, etc.  

Instead, however, the proper response is to recognize that this initial denial is merely part of a greater process which involves many steps, procedures, responses and replies.  Indeed, part of the reason why a Federal or Postal employee feels the pressure and anxieties is because one tends to view the application process as a “one-time” deal — where submission of an application should be reviewed by OPM and an approval is granted.  This can be true — but should be viewed as merely an anomaly, and not the standard.  

While having a Federal Disability Attorney prepare the application for Disability Retirement should increase the chances of an approval at any level of the process, it is nevertheless first and foremost a process involving multiple steps and stages, with potential pitfalls and denials throughout.  Thus, a Federal Disability Retirement application may be initially denied, then responded to, then denied a second time at the Reconsideration Stage of the process, and require a further response.  

Different denials require different responses, not because they are not all part of the same process (I know, the double negative gives one pause), but because each denial is given by different departments and personnel at the Office of Personnel Management. Remember, one must prove one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, and proof means that there is the potential for an adversarial component of the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Entrenchment

Once a Federal Disability Retirement application has been formulated, prepared, streamlined and filed though one’s Agency (or, if separated from one’s agency for more than 31 days, then directly with the Office of Personnel Management), then there begins to exist a sense of “trench warfare” — of waiting, and waiting.  

In response, there is always the frustration of waiting; however, the better course of action is to actively embrace the entrenchment, and to engage in productive actions — of either working as much as possible at the job from which one has filed for Federal Disability Retirement; or to find another, part-time work which can supplement the lack of income during the process.

Entrenchment can be a frustrating time, precisely because it makes one feel as if no progress is being made.  Yet, as waiting is part of the process of filing for, and becoming approved for, Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the art of trench warfare, and the acceptance of entrenchment, in awaiting the decision from the Office of Personnel Management, is the most productive course of action.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management, the Agency which reviews, evaluates and makes determinations upon all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications, whether it is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is diligently attempting to adjudicate each application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

One must understand that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) does not just handle Disability Retirement applications for Federal and Postal employees — they handle all regular retirements, early retirements, and at all levels of the process — from eligibility determinations, to benefit and annuity calculations; to ensuring that the proper offsets are put in place between Social Security and Federal annuities; and, moreover, any over-payments or errors which may have occurred in the course of establishing benefits and payments are also reviewed and handled by OPM.  

From the perspective of the individual Disability Retirement applicant or annuitant, the length of time it takes, or the lack of responsiveness, may appear as if a particular individual is being “singled out” in the long delay and lengthy wait.  From the perspectively of OPM, however, such an individual is merely one of many, many cases awaiting adjudication. Discussions with various personnel at OPM reveal that there is simply a backlog of cases, with many, many cases coming in every day.  Patience is the only solution; it is an administrative, bureaucratic process, and when one freely enters into it, one must accept the timeline of the process itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Office of Personnel Management

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency which reviews, approves or denies all Federal Disability Retirement applications for those who are under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), is taking an extraordinary amount of time in reviewing disability retirement applications.  This is true across the board — whether at the initial stage of the process, or at the Reconsideration Stage of the process. 

While certain individual appeals to “personal emergencies” can sometimes move an application ahead of others, the simple fact is that OPM is understaffed and overworked.  Patience is simply the only remedy, and the OPM representative will eventually get to a particular case in the order that it was received.  Now, the question as to whether a particular case is properly prepared such that it will get approved at the first review, is a separate question.  That is why it is important to prepare a disability retirement application properly, and well, at the first stage.  Because OPM is taking a long time before it is even reviewed, it is important to try and make your best case at the first stage.  However, by “best” does not necessarily mean a volume of medical records.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire