OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: The Law & Life’s Pragmatic Reality

In a Federal Disability Retirement case, one of the ways to establish the nexus between one’s medical condition and the inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, is to show a “service deficiency”. But as most Federal and Postal employees systematically receive satisfactory or higher ratings of workplace appraisals, and are passed through without thought in order for managers and supervisors to avoid contentiousness and adversarial encounters with their employees, it is rare that anyone can show poor performance and tie such a service deficiency to one’s medical condition.

Does one need to go to the supervisor and point out the service deficiencies and ask that the supervisor rate him or her as sub-par?  No.

Does one have to grieve or contest a superior appraisal?  Again, the answer is, No.

The intersecting contradiction between law and life often manifests itself in such circular absurdities.  But how the law is read; the knowledge of a myopic understanding of the law without the greater context of the entirety of the evolution of case-law opinions and further expansive interpretation of the originating statute, can leave one to believe that the law makes no sense, and fails to reflect the pragmatic issues of reality.

Hint:  Most Federal and Postal employees do not have a service deficiency; but since Federal Disability Retirement rules, regulations and statutes require that one’s medical condition must last for a minimum of 12 months, does that mean that one must show a devastation of one’s work ethic for a full year before you can even file?  No.

The conflict between law and the pragmatic reality of life is merely an apparent one; once the truth is unraveled, there really is no conflict at all, internal, apparent, or otherwise, and Medical Retirement applications submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, in fact reflects the reality of life quite well.  One needs to merely figure out and think away any such apparent self-contradiction.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Interests of Each

In assessing and evaluating friends, adversaries or neutral parties, it is important to analyze the self-interest of each, to understand the differing perspectives of the people involved, then to arrive at conclusions concerning the benefits received in the interaction of the process.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, the parties involved include:  The individual FERS or CSRS Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating initiating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; the Agency (including coworkers, Supervisors, Managers, etc.) for whom the Federal or Postal worker is employed by; the Human Resources Department of the Agency (which is a separate and distinct entity from the “Agency” for whom the Federal or Postal worker is employed by, precisely because (A) they are often a separate section of the agency and (B) the personnel employees have had no day-to-day contact, for the most part, with the employee but (C) whether the Human Resources Department is “management-friendly” or “employee-driven”, may color the perspective of where their alliances and loyalties lean); the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; the Attorney or Representative of the Federal or Postal employee assisting in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Obviously, the first and the last (the potential Federal or Postal employee/applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits) and his or her attorney, should have a contiguous perspective:  to look out for the best interests of the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  The “others” — no matter how friendly, by all appearances “helpful”, and no matter how much assistance is provided —  have their own self-interests to protect, preserve and advance.  Keep the different perspectives in mind.  Better yet, understand that self-interest is the primary motivating factor of Agencies — and act in the interest of one’s own advancement accordingly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Lawyers and H.R. Personnel

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one of the peculiar “events” which often erupts and surfaces is the interaction between a Federal or Postal employee, his or her attorney, and the interaction with the Human Resources Department of the particular agency.  

While the reaction of the H.R. personnel is not universal by any means, and while exceptions will surprisingly occur, nevertheless the pattern of recurrences leads one to conclude that there is an undertone of antagonism between the lawyer representing the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and the Agency’s Human Resources Department.  

What is puzzling is the following:  (1)  The undersigned writer always attempts to approach all H.R. Personnel with humility and courtesy, with the view that both are working towards the same common goal of assisting the Federal or Postal employee, (2) the very existence of the Human Resources Department of the Agency is predicated upon the notion that they are there to assist the Federal or Postal employee in his or her employment endeavors, including filing for administrative benefits, and (3) since both the attorney and the H.R. Personnel are there to help the Federal or Postal employee, cooperation of efforts would be the natural course of action.  

Unfortunately, in most instances, the very opposite is true.  Whether because the H.R. Personnel believe that an attorney is antagonistic by nature, and therefore must be met with equal force; or because they believe that the attorney is somehow circumventing or undermining the role of the Human Resources’ work and role; nevertheless, it is important for the H.R. Personnel to understand and appreciate that the role of the Attorney in representing a Federal or Postal employee in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application through the Agency (first) and to the Office of Personnel Management (thereafter), needs to be a tripartite effort (the Federal or Postal employee; the Agency; and the attorney), all working together.  

If the Human Resources Department did its job, much of what the representing attorney needs to do would be diminished, and perhaps altogether unnecessary.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire