Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: When It All Becomes Worthwhile

Aristotle’s admonishment of determining too early the virtue and reputation of an individual, can be analogously likened to the state of emotional turmoil we find ourselves in, at any given moment of one’s life.  Happiness is indeed a fleeting state of one’s being; and the history of civilization is one fraught with trembling and fear, with interludes of joyous celebration.

For the Federal and Postal employee contemplating preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the administrative process of the actual filing itself, and the patient waiting for months-on-seemingly-unending-months, is merely a continuation of the trials which the Federal and Postal Worker has had to endure within the context of a history of such trials.

We tend to view life’s events in a vacuum, as picture-perfect albums of lives lived in tandem with our selective memories.  And for evolutionary purposes, perhaps that is the only way we could survive; for, to constantly be reminded of the trials would be to relive the morbid traumas of our lives.

The Federal and Postal employee who has come to a point in his or her life such that filing for Federal Disability Retirement is the only viable option left, must then endure the further trial of waiting upon the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to render its decision.

In the end, when an approval is received, the sigh of relief reverberates to tell of the happiness felt in that moment of jubilation; but silent is the suffering which preceded that fleeting snowflake of time as joy floats soundlessly for a frozen frame of time.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Ecstasy of Approval

Winning, of course, cures all ills; it is the pinnacle of a goal-oriented aim of any endeavor — to prevail, to obtain the intended effect, to accomplish the very goal which one has set out to do, etc.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the goal is to obtain an approval from OPM.

An approval, however, has many consequences, and often in very short order — separation from Federal service; a sudden cut in pay (if one has continued to work during the administrative process; of course, the opposite may be true if one has been on LWOP or has already been separated from Federal Service); a drastic change in daily routine, etc.

Thus, part of the process during the patient time of waiting (I will restate the syllogistic quip which I have repeatedly invoked:  Patience is a virtue; Federal and Postal employees who file for Federal Disability Retirement must be the most patient of individuals; ergo, Federal and Postal employees are the most virtuous of people) is for the Federal and Postal employee (or ex-employee, as the case may be) to prepare for the eventuality of the achieved goal, both physically (perhaps a move is contemplated because of the reduced circumstances?) and psychologically (the sudden alteration in work, economic changes, etc.).  The ecstatic response of Federal and Postal employees in being informed of an approval from the Office of Personnel Management is indeed gratifying; but it is the days, weeks and months that follow, which tests the preparatory mindset of the Federal or Postal Employee.

In psychology, there is that special Gestalt experience; but it is often the period that follows which constitutes the more important phase of psychological awakening.  Similarly, while the “win” in a Federal Disability Retirement application is indeed the intended goal, one must always remember that there is an afterlife to live, and how one prepares for that, is all the more important.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: OPM May Say So, But… (Part 2)

Then, of course, there are the multiple “other” issues which the Office of Personnel Management “says so”, such as failure to pay the full amount of back-pay due; failure to compute the average of the highest-3 consecutive years correctly; reinstating the full amount of FERS once a person becomes no longer eligible for Social Security Disability benefits; arbitrarily and capriciously deciding that the medical report is not “good enough” in answering a post-disability approved, Medical Questionnaire; failing to compute the earned income in any given year properly, and thereby informing the disability retirement annuitant that he or she earned over the 80% limit of what the former federal employee’s former job currently pays; and a host of other issues.  My specialty is in obtaining disability retirement benefits for my clients; I only selectively get involved in post-disability annuity issues, but the point here is that the Office of Personnel Management has a track-record of being in error, in multiple ways, on multiple issues, in volumes of cases. 

It is thus important to recognize that the Office of Personnel Management is not an infallible agency.  Far, far from it, they are merely made up of people who are subject to error, but often stubbornly so — unless you counter their denial in an aggressive, but calm and rational manner.  If a denial comes your way, do not get distressed; prepare your case well, and lay out the groundwork necessary to win.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: How Many Should Be Listed?

I am often asked the question:  How many health conditions or disabilities should I list in my Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A)?  This question is often preceded by another question and answer:  What are your medical disabilities (me to the caller)?  Answer:  I have about ten of them (caller to me).  Let me start out by giving some free advice:  Don’t list ten medical conditions.  Don’t list nine.  Don’t list eight.

When the Office of Personnel Management reviews a Federal Disability Retirement submission under FERS or CSRS, the OPM Representative will review your disability retirement packet until it is approved — and no further.  Approval comes about upon a finding that one of your listed medical conditions disables you from performing one or more of the essential elements of your job.  Now, sometimes OPM will find that a combination of 2 or 3 medical conditions disables you together:  meaning that OPM perhaps found that while a single one did not disable you under their criteria, a combination of two or three did.

Furthermore, it is important to understand that, because the medical conditions and disabilities upon which OPM makes their decision on will be the basis for future continuation of your disability retirement annuity (in the event that you receive a Medical Questionnaire in the future), it is important to limit the listing of one’s medical disabilities on the SF 3112A to those conditions which will likely last for more than 12 months.

Conclusion:  It is important to sequentially prioritize the medical disabilities, in the order of severity, chronicity and duration.  Further, it is important to NOT list the minor medical conditions which, while they may be aggravating, and have impacting symptoms, may not necessarily prevent one from performing the essential elements of your job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Workplace (Part 2)

In filing for FERS or CSRS Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to stay away from issues which may explicitly or implicitly characterize the particular medical condition as being “situational” in nature.  However, this does not mean that the medical condition cannot have originated from, or been exacerbated by, the workplace environment.  Remember that OPM disability retirement is not like OWCP/Worker’s Comp — the issue of causality, or whether the medical condition occurred as a result of your occupation, is not important to prove. 

However, sometimes, it is simply an indisputable fact that the medical condition originated from the workplace, or was exacerbated by conditions in the workplace.  Such origination or exacerbations, once it takes on a “life of its own” and becomes chronic and pervasive such that the medical condition impacts a person both at the workplace as well as outside the workplace, then it has transformed into a medical condition beyond being merely “situational”.  Thus, that which originated as a “situational” medical condition may well no longer be a situational one.  In such cases — and that is normally the case in almost all medical conditions which begin as a situational disability — there would be no problem with filing for OPM disability retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire