Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Patience & Frustration

Stories now abound concerning the backlog at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; and as has been often stated by the undersigned attorney, if the old adage that “patience is a virtue” is truly a truism, then Federal and Postal employees must indeed be the most virtuous of individuals in any given society, because the long wait in order to obtain a decision — favorable or otherwise (and, if the latter, then at least the Federal or Postal worker can assert his or his reconsideration or appeal rights in the matter) — on a Federal Disability Retirement application certainly tests the outer limits of one’s moral character.

The inverse emotional reaction to the moral character of virtue, is the expression of frustration.  Such an expression is the release of irritation, anger, and an overwhelming sense of angst at a system and administrative procedure which follows no rules, acknowledges no time lines, and concedes no boundaries of what a “reasonable” length of time would be defined as.

Then, of course, one always hears of “stories” about individual X who filed and got a decision within a month of a case being assigned; or that individual Y went into bankruptcy while waiting for OPM to make a decision.  It is best to refrain from comparative analyses; such stories, in whatever form and to what extent of truth is contained, will only increase the level of frustration, and further test the moral fibre of virtue.

While there is no single answer to the long waiting period which OPM has imposed upon the process, this much is true:  Approvals are being issued; decisions are being made on a daily basis; it is simply a matter of time.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, this period of waiting must be “factored in”.  But when such factoring has occurred, the actual period of waiting is indeed a frustrating part of the administrative process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Added Stresses

It is a long, bureaucratic process.  Such is the state of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the Office of Personnel Management.  The funny thing about stress is that we all recognize that we are the “gatekeepers” of stress, to a great extent.  Unless a catastrophic external force is about to immediately impact our lives, the majority of stressful issues invade the essence of our conscious world only when we allow it in, and to that extent, the old adage of “ignorance is bliss” is a simplistic, but profoundly uncomplicated truism.  

Federal and Postal workers who are constantly being criticized and bombarded with the stresses of completing their daily positional duties, and now under greater stress because of the economic and political megaphonic voices shouting about the excesses of benefits for Federal and Postal employees; that, combined with the daily criticism that Federal and Postal employees constitute waste, fraud and overcompensation; that they receive excessive benefits, and undeservedly so; and, additionally, when one is medically disabled and in need of Federal Disability Retirement benefits, to be forced to wait for longer periods of time because of the bureaucratic backlog of Federal Disability Retirement cases at the Office of Personnel Management — this is, indeed, a time of stress, whether through activity or the enormous stress of inactivity.  

Waiting is a stressful activity; don’t think that inactivity is merely the art of doing nothing; if it impacts one’s conscious state, it is a stressful time.  But patience is a virtue precisely because it is one of the ultimate tests — and the conundrum is this:  to deal effectively with the stress of inactivity, it is sometimes best to engage in an alternate form of activity, whether mental or physical, such that the activity will satisfy the emotional needs of the individual.  

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is a long and arduous process, whether defined by activity or inactivity, and how best to deal with the stress of the latter is often defined by the character of the former.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Long, often Frustrating Road to a Decision

It is indeed taking an inordinate amount of time in receiving a decision from the Office of Personnel Management, for a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

The problem which has been identified by various personnel at the Office of Personnel Management is that there has been a steady backlog of cases resulting from various factors, including personnel attrition through retirement, transfers, etc., without an adequate rate of substitution or replacement.

This is obviously of great frustration and concern to all Federal and Postal employees who are awaiting a decision from the Office of Personnel Management on his or her Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, but ultimately it must be accepted as part of the bureaucratic, administrative process of filing for a benefit.  

Each of the Claims Representatives at the Office of Personnel Management, when contacted, are clearly attempting to get through their case-loads, but they must review, evaluate and apply a set of criteria in making a determination on each case.  

A denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application only sets back the case further, because it then is transferred to the Reconsideration Section of the administrative process, and is reviewed anew (assuming that the Federal or Postal employee files a Request for Reconsideration within the 30-day timeframe) by a different OPM Representative.  

Frustration is a part of any and every bureaucratic, administrative process; waiting is part of that process; patience is the virtue which must be retained; and recognizing from the outset that exponential multiplication of the waiting period is the best mathematical calculus to estimate the average waiting time, then to attempt to remain productive and busy during such time, is the best (and only) approach to the long and often frustrating road to a successful outcome in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: OPM, Patience & Frustration

After one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS has left one’s agency (or, in the case of a Federal or Postal employee who has been separated from Federal Service for more than thirty one (31) days, filed directly to the Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA), it then goes to Boyers, PA for the intake processing part of the process.  

Thereafter, a CSA Number (if one is under FERS, the 7-digit number will begin with an “8”, and under CSRS it will begin with a “4”, with the eighth and somewhat irrelevant digit being a “0”), which is the case identifier for all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications, is assigned in order to be able to easily reference a case for purposes of discussion, adding or supplementing additional information, checking on the status, etc.  

Once it arrives in Washington, D.C., then the “real” waiting part of the process begins — first, waiting for it to get “assigned” to a Case Worker in the OPM Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division; then, once assigned, to have OPM review it.  Sometimes, a piece of information is found lacking or missing, and a letter apprising the Federal or Postal employee of such lack is sent out, allowing for the Federal or Postal employee to obtain such information within thirty (30) days of the date of the letter.  

OPM’s general policy is to try and make a decision on a case within 90 – 120 days of a case being assigned to a Case Worker, but that timeline is a malleable one.  One can easily add another 30 – 60 days to that block of time. What occurs during this block of time?  It is a mystery, remains a mystery, and retains the aura of secrecy and mystery.  

As frustration is the flip-side of the virtue of patience, as an emotional expression, it has little benefit or worth to the human soul.  Expression of frustration should be accomplished in constructive ways, and calling OPM in an angry outburst is not considered one of them.  Constrain the frustration; exhibit the virtue of patience; understand that time is a projection of an expectation of hope in one’s mind, quantified exponentially in a mire of frustration when one does not occupy the void and vacuity of time with other things to do.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Resisting the Urge to Panic

The process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is merely the first step in the long road to proving one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

“Merely” and “first step”, of course, are conceptual triggers which have an expanded context for those who have been engaged in the informational infinity of articles, blogs, postings, etc., which are voluminous in quantity, and often questionable in qualitative reliability.  Putting together all of the medical documentation; formulating the nexus between the medical documentation and one’s position description; securing the support of one’s treating doctor; being persuasive and adequately descriptive in one’s applicant’s statement of disability — all of these are necessary steps before the actual filing of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Then, there is the long waiting process.  Thereafter, with the potential for a denial at the First Stage of the process, and a subsequent denial — at the Reconsideration Stage of the process — then preparing for an Administrative Hearing before a Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board:  throughout it all, the urge to panic must be resisted.  

During the long and arduous waiting periods between a denial and the response to be submitted (or even sometimes between an approval and the beginning of interim pay; or between the receipt of interim pay and the finalization of one’s case), there is the looming financial pressure from not having sufficient income during such periods.  Those Federal and Postal workers who have prepared well and have the financial resources to endure the long period of non-pay status are fortunate.  Combining the difficulties of having a serious medical condition with the pressure of finances, the urge to panic is almost unavoidable.  

Ultimately, however, panic will not resolve the issue; the focus must be singularly placed upon attempting to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is entitled and eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and whatever one’s circumstances, the future rests upon one’s ability to focus upon that goal.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Excuse to Wait

There is rarely a good reason to wait to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Often, the Federal or Postal employee will engage in seemingly important work which provides a justifying “reason” for not filing at the moment.  Thus, engaging in an appeal against the former Federal agency or Postal service to refute the termination or separation from service; waiting to see if the Agency will place you on a PIP; waiting for another medical test result; waiting for…  

The waiting syndrome is similar to the “what if” syndrome — of coming up with multiple hypotheticals and scenarios in diverting the attention needed to begin to prepare, formulate and file a Federal Disability Retirement application.  The fantasy world is an enjoyable and satisfying world.  

The world of reality — of facing the inevitable events leading to the necessity to prepare, formulate and file a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS — can be a much harsher one to face.  Procrastination and “not thinking about it” is a survival mechanism which we all trigger when the necessity arises.  It is as Heidegger’s proposition that we engage in multiple projects in our lives in order to avoid facing the inevitable and ultimate event.  But procrastination and delay often complicates the very thing which we need to focus upon.  

When filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits becomes an emergency — because of time, finances, and the need to put a case “quickly” together — it can present a problem.  Most problems, however, can be overcome; it is a matter of focusing upon the problem, evaluating it, dissecting it, and then solving it.

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

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Waiting upon the Office of Personnel Management

A Federal or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS must understand that the waiting portion of the entire process is probably the most difficult time, precisely because it is a time of inactivity, where one’s future plans are placed on hold because of the uncertainty of the decision.  

Everyone, of course, believes that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application has merit. Otherwise, a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, should never have been prepared, formulated, finalized and filed — but for the strong belief that one’s medical conditions prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  

Every Federal or Postal employee whom I represent believes that his or her case is a “slam dunk” case, and it is the job of an OPM Disability Attorney to present it as such, but within the limitations of what the doctor & other supporting documentation will provide.  Once a Federal Disability Retirement application has been filed with the Office of Personnel Management, then the destiny of one’s future plans is somewhat placed in the hands of the OPM benefits clerk.  

Activity often gives the appearance of progress, and inactivity presents a frustrating sense of powerlessness.  But waiting is part of the process.  As such, it is best to make plans, prepare for one’s future in other ways, and allow the Office of Personnel Management to review one’s case properly and thoroughly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Last Minute Filings

There are multiple reasons why a Federal or Postal employee might wait to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS until the last minute — waiting because __________ (anyone may fill in the blank).  Whatever the reason, if the time has come to file, and there are only a couple of weeks left, then it is time to stop looking for various reasons why any further time should be wasted in order to file for the benefit.  Yes, a Federal Disability Retirement case can be prepared within a couple of weeks and filed.  Will it be the best packet?  Probably not.  Can the packet be supplemented later on?  Yes, if it is prepared in a certain way to allow for some flexibility.  Just remember, however, that if the deadline for filing passes, then there is absolutely no chance at obtaining the benefit.  A Statute of Limitations is just that — once it has come and gone, one is legally precluded from ever filing in the future.  One must file on time; otherwise, no amount of supplementation of the original packet will be allowed.  And, by the way, do not rely upon any “exceptions” to the Statute of Limitations.  Reliance on a long-shot is rarely the wisest thing to do.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Continuing Patience

It is difficult to be patient.  The Office of Personnel Management, in reviewing and evaluating each case, takes its time.  One can attempt to “read into” each day, as to whether the longer wait is more beneficial than a decision which is to be made in short order.  Calling to check on the “status” of the case can have a negative effect upon a decision, although it is not “supposed to” do so. 

Often, the response by OPM’s representative is that a decision will be made “this week” or “next week” or “by the end of the month”.  Time passes, and there is no decision.  These past couple of weeks, OPM has sent out many decisions that were long-in-waiting.  When the decision is a favorable one, then of course the burden of the wait is suddenly lifted.  When the decision is a denial, then the response is often one of anger, disbelief or discouragement.  Once the emotions are set aside, then one must accept the reality of further waiting.  Yes, patience is a virtue, and Federal and Postal employees must be the virtuous of all people.  But those are empty, vacuous and meaningless words when one must wait to see what the future holds. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire