OPM Disability Retirement: Preempting Anticipated Problems

The obvious and self-evident problems of many can be characterized as failing to know what the questions are; for, if the question is unknown, how can one provide an answer?

Thus, in entering into the surreal universe of Federal Disability Retirement benefits, which can be both a procedural, administrative nightmare, as well as a substantive morass of conflicting and confusing legal framework, the novice who first encounters the Standard Forms (SF 3107, with Schedules A, B & C for the FERS employee; SF 2801 with Schedules A, B & C for the CSRS employee; and SF 3112 series for both the FERS and CSRS employee) may well have a perspective that, inasmuch as the questions asked are fairly easy to comprehend, the answers themselves would naturally, likewise, be easy to append.

But as much of law and the success of legal reasoning involves the preempting of anticipated problems (e.g., that is precisely what Estates & Trusts attempts to do — to anticipate any objections of those who are heirs or potential beneficiaries of an estate), so the lack of knowledge of the wide body and historical evolution of how X came to be through the legal evolution and expansion of Y, results in the grave disadvantage of the Federal or Postal Worker who stumbles upon the compendium of the Federal Disability Retirement process.  And, of course, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management loves nothing more than to look upon the unknowing Federal or Postal applicant, with hungry eyes, ready to pounce upon such lack of knowledge.

Preempting a problem requires the anticipation of the question; and knowing the question is the first step to coming up with an answer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Burden of Proof

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, a considerable amount of effort goes into anticipating any objections which may be encountered by the Office of Personnel Management, and to “preempt” such anticipatory objections by addressing them at the outset.  

A proper balance must be maintained in engaging in such preemptive accounting, because one does not want to address the issues which would unnecessarily create a “red flag”, yet at the same time, discussing and explaining reasonable areas of potential concern should be a part of any Federal Disability Retirement application.  

The problems always arise because it is the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits who has the affirmative burden of proving one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The Federal or Postal employee must, by a preponderance of the evidence, prove his or her “burden of proof” affirmatively.  

Conversely, the Office of Personnel Management has the authority to review, criticize, analyze, and ultimately approve or deny a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  They can merely sit back and take pot shots at an application, point out that this particular legal criteria was not “sufficiently met”, or simply make a generic statement that the medical evidence did not present a “compelling enough” case (what in the world could such a generalized non-statement possible mean?).  

Yet, one must play the language game, and play it well, and the best way to play it is to attempt to preempt and anticipate OPM’s potential objections, and to meet one’s burden of proof by jumping ahead, and predicting how an OPM Representative might view the Federal Disability Retirement application that is being prepared.  Predicting the future is always a tenuous endeavor; nevertheless, one must engage the potential pitfalls, and anticipate the actions of the Office of Personnel Management, if one is going to be successful.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Details

Ultimately, it is not the “devil” which is in the details; rather, the details of a Federal Disability Retirement application often determine the success or failure of a case.  

Attention to the details — of coordinating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability with the submitted medical reports and the legal/analytical arguments to be made; of distinguishing between “facts” and “arguments”; of anticipating any issues which an Agency might bring up; of making the determination as to which anticipated issues should be focused upon and preempted (if at all); of whether to utilize collateral sources of documentation, whether they be statements from a denied SSDI application or the ascription and allocation of a Veterans Administration disability rating; whether, if a concurrent OWCP case has generated a Second Opinion or Referee Medical Report; which medical reports to request and submit; which legal and analytical arguments to engage in at the outset; whether or not additional, non-medical but (potentially) supportive documentation should be attached — these are the details which make up for a devilish time.  

In preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is not a question of whether the details make any difference; for the most part, they constitute all the difference.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire