FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: New Faces

Old timers will often smirk cynically and observe:  Time will cure them of such a naive perspective.  Or, to paraphrase a famous line from a well-know Christmas movie, Youth is wasted on the young (hint:  the scene were Jimmy Stewart is throwing a rock at the old abandoned house).  Youth and inexperience are often accompanied by enthusiasm and a fresh perspective. Lack of knowledge is compensated — some would say “overcompensated” — by an eagerness which sees no boundaries or obstacles.

There are clearly some new hires at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as of this date, and their unique approach in viewing and evaluating a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, must be contended with.

The fundamental problem with newcomers is not that they don’t know what they are doing; rather, it is often the converse — they think they do know what they are doing, and when girded by a list of criteria which is applied in an inflexible fashion, one often gets blinded by the confusion of the forest while having a myopic view of an individual tree.  The great equalizer in countering lack of knowledge, fortunately, is the law itself; and while a list of applicable criteria provided to a fresh face may well assist the OPM employee to evaluate a claim, it can never replace the necessity of knowing the law.

For anyone filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, now constitutes the time to employ all of the tools which the compendium of cases decided, and statutes reinforced, accord in arguing one’s case.  Time will certainly tell, but for the present, it is advisable to dot all I’s and cross each T, carefully and with great scrutiny.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Logical Fallacies

The problem with logical fallacies is that the people who make them rarely recognize such errancy (otherwise they wouldn’t repeatedly make them), and further, are often the same people who refuse to recognize them even if it is kindly pointed out.

For example:  In a Federal Disability Retirement case, when the doctor’s report clearly and unequivocally points out that the Federal employee’s medical condition is “permanent”, one would logically infer from such a statement that the condition therefore will last a minimum of 12 months (the legal requirement in a FERS or CSRS Federal Disability Retirement case), and therefore would satisfy the legal requirement concerning that particular issue.

However, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will often fail to make such an inference, and claim that the legal requirement that one’s medical condition must “last a minimum of 12 months” has not been satisfied.

Now, one essentially has three (3) choices in responding to OPM’s claim at the Reconsideration Stage of the process (or, if made a second time with a denial at the Reconsideration Stage, then to the Administrative Judge at the MSPB):  (1)  Ignore the logical fallacy, (2) Argue that OPM has made the logical fallacy and failed to make the correct inference, or (3) Have the issue restated in any updated medical documentation.

Of the 3, the last is probably the preferable, if only because one should expect that any failure to recognize such an obvious inference will likely reoccur again within the same organization (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management), and therefore clarity of statement (or restatement) would be the most effective course of action.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal & Postal Workers: New OPM Case Workers

In a perfect world, any administrative determination — or any judicial, quasi-judicial or official analysis and evaluation of a “case” of any nature —  should be governed by precepts and criteria which are deemed “objective” in the sense that a standard application of a determining calculus would be applied without any subjective, arbitrary elements involved.  But this is not a perfect world, and as such, there are always “subjective” elements which become part and parcel of any determination, administrative or otherwise.

In Federal Disability Retirement cases, there are OPM (an abbreviated acronym for U.S. Office of Personnel Management) Claims Representatives, or “case workers”, who have had many years of experience, and those who have just recently been hired, trained, and been “let loose” in order to apply their limited knowledge.  There is definitely a change, and quite a noticeable one, in having a case reviewed by a novice at the Office of Personnel Management, as opposed to receiving a determination by a “seasoned” OPM worker.

Issues which are peripheral and do not impact the centrality of a Federal Disability Retirement case are often focused upon and detailed with irrelevant argumentation.  But that is the nature of an “administrative process”, where there are multiple layers and levels of appeals and reviews.

Ultimately, that is why there is a “Reconsideration Stage” — to allow OPM to review the decision of the first-level personnel, and to correct any misguided decisions made at that first level.  Further, there is the Merit Systems Protection Board, where an Administrative Judge will review the decision of OPM independently.  This is a “process“, as opposed to a single filing, and it is wise to remember it as such.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire