OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: Approaching a Reconsideration

The proverbial definition of insanity is to engage in the same repetitive activity with the expectation of receiving a different result.  While such a definition may not provide a clinically accurate or legally acceptable formulation, it does implicate the chaotic character and the futile act of responding in a particularly fruitless manner.

For Federal and Postal employees who have attempted to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, and have received an initial denial, the process of having OPM reconsider one’s case must be approached in a 2-tier manner:  First, one must meet the “deadline” of filing for Reconsideration with OPM within thirty (30) days of the denial, or upon receipt of the denial (although, to be on the safe side, it is best to use the former date as opposed to the latter);  next, with the box checked to indicate submission of additional medical documentation, to then gather, prepare, compile and submit additional medical evidence within thirty (30) days thereafter, unless a further extension is needed and requested.

However, one should also understand that in an OPM Reconsideration case, it will not be the same Case Worker who will review the case, but it will be reviewed thoroughly by someone else as if it had never been previously reviewed. As such, there is the confounding conundrum of a dual anomaly: The First Case Worker who issued the denial based the denial upon certain specific points; yet, what the First Case Worker denied the case upon, may have no bearing upon what the Second, Reconsideration Case Worker will evaluate the case upon.

What does one do? Whatever one’s answer is to this complex conundrum, do not engage in the proverbial act of insanity; better to get some legal guidance than to spin one’s wheels in an insane world of futility.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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

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

Federal Disability Retirement Attorney: Legal Representation

Federal and Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS often call and state that they are unable to find “local” representation; that when the issue of the Federal Agency or the Postal Service is brought up, local attorneys either do not handle such cases or they are obviously unfamiliar with the concepts involved.  

Representation of Federal and Postal employees to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a Federal matter, not a state issue, and therefore legal representation is not limited to an attorney who is licensed within a specific state.  Ultimately, the Agency which is the final “arbiter” of a Federal Disability Retirement application is located in Washington, D.C., and is the Office of Personnel Management.

Thus, whether an individual is working in Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, or overseas in Europe, Japan, etc., it matters not — because the application itself will ultimately end up first in Boyers, Pennsylvania, then routed to Washington, D.C.  “Local” representation becomes an irrelevancy, precisely because it is not related to any local or state issues, but rather entirely upon the Federal issue of Disability Retirement either under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Process at the MSPB

When a FERS or CSRS disability retirement application has made its way in the “process” to the “Third Stage” — the Merit Systems Protection Board — then I (as an attorney) must be unequivocal in my recommendation:  You need an attorney.  I believe that individuals who file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits should retain a competent attorney at every stage of the process, but there are always considerations of financial ability, and perhaps other considerations, which prevent someone from hiring an attorney at the initial stages of the process. 

At the MSPB level, however, it is important for two (2) reasons (there are many, many other reasons as well, but for brevity’s sake, I choose the main reasons):  1.  It is extremely important to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that you meet the eligibility requirements, to an Administrative Judge, who is both a lawyer and a Judge, and therefore has the knowledge and background to make a reasoned assessment of the evidence presented, and 2.  You must be able to present the case in such a way that, if the Administrative Judge makes an error in his or her decision, you are prepared to appeal the case to the next level.  In order to be able to appeal the case to the next level, you must know the law, be able to present your evidence at the MSPB in accordance with the law, and therefore be able to argue that a decision rendered against you is in violation of the law.  In order to do this, you need an Attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Attorney Representation

I am still often asked about whether or not, or how helpful, legal representation would be in a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement case.  To ask an attorney such a question is often unhelpful, for there is always the question as to how much “self-interest” an attorney has in answering such a question.  What I can state, however, is the following:  Remember that everyone believes that his or her case is a “sure thing” — this is natural, because the very individual who is filing for disability retirement is the one who is suffering from the medical condition, and so it is a very “personal” matter, and a sense of objectivity is difficult to maintain in these matters.  Second, remember that when you hire an attorney, you are not just hiring someone who “knows something” about FERS & CSRS disability retirement; instead, you should be hiring that lawyer for his or her reputation, his knowledge of the administrative & legal process with the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board, and how well he is “thought of” by OPM (i.e., how long has he been practicing in the field of Federal Disability Retirement law, does he know the people at OPM, and more importantly, does OPM know him/her?).  Finally, always keep in mind that, while attorneys can be expensive, you must always do a cost-benefits analysis, and look at the benefit you will be receiving (or not receiving) if you do or do not hire an attorney.  Disability retirement benefits are essentially a means of securing one’s financial future, and as such, the benefit to be secured is important enough to consider hiring an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire