Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Agency Actions Are Merely Persuasive

Whether it is one’s own agency which acts, or some third-party agency, the effect of such actions upon a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is merely persuasive, and not determinative, from the viewpoint of the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.  

Such actions may include:  Disqualification based upon a medical condition, whether because of the primary, underlying medical condition, or a secondary condition resulting from a prescription medication; determination by the Agency based upon a fitness for duty review; failure to pass certain physical fitness standards; declarative statement by the Agency that no accommodations can be accorded, whether because of one’s medical condition or other influencing factors; a conclusion reached by an Occupational Nurse or doctor; acceptance of a case by OWCP, Department of Labor; approval by the Social Security Administration, the Veterans Administration, etc. — all of these “third party” determinations can be persuasive for a Federal Disability Retirement application, but are not necessarily determinative in coming to a conclusion of approval by the Office of Personnel Management.  

Why “persuasive” as opposed to “determinative”?  Because of two fundamental reasons:  (1)  The Office of Personnel Management is an independent agency, mandated by statute, regulation and case-laws, to make its own determination of eligibility of each Federal Disability Retirement application, separate and apart from any other agency, and (2) such agencies which make such determinations are not medical facilities (although a doctor or nurse may have some involvement in the decision-making process), and this is ultimately a “medical” disability retirement, and not an agency retirement system mandated by law.  

As such, one must still prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, based upon the nexus between one’s medical conditions and one’s essential elements of the Federal or Postal job.

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