Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Bureaucracy

Most people, organizations and entities do not act with deliberate ill-intentions; rather, they fail to think, and actions emanating from thoughtlessness often constitutes the negation of good.  Bureaucratization often results in the unintended consequence of negating the good; for, in following a set pattern and algorithm of administrative procedures, consideration for individual circumstances cannot be excepted.

One can argue, of course, for the positive aspects of a bureaucracy — of the equal treatment of all; of applying the same standards and criteria across the board, regardless of individual needs; and there is certainly something to be said for expunging the capacity for human favoritism.  But bias and favoritism will always pervade; it will merely take on a more insidious form.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who is suffering from a medical condition such that the medical condition is impacting one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, encountering the bureaucratic process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will become a necessary evil to confront.

The key to a successful interaction with the administrative process will be to reach beyond the faceless bureaucracy, and to make relevant one’s own particular and unique facts and circumstances.  That is a tall order to face, in the face of a faceless bureaucracy.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Overwhelming Resources of the Bureaucracy

The advantage which the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has over the individual Federal or Postal disability applicant in a Federal Disability Retirement application is self-evident:  they control the timeframe of the decision; they are not subject to any repercussions or consequences for a decision contrary to law; they possess multiple templates in disapproving a Federal Disability Retirement application, and a single template upon approving a Federal Disability Retirement case, thereby making it administratively easy, simple, and without the necessity of expending much effort, either way.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating preparing, formulating or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is a daunting task to go up against such a behemoth of a Federal administrative bureaucracy.

Indeed, one only needs to review a denial letter from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to comprehend the near-impossible obstacle which OPM can present:  in some denials, there is merely a brusque and short “discussion”, barely touching upon providing any rational reason for a denial; yet, in other denials, there are long and detailed templates — however erroneous or misplaced, and however lacking of any legal or factual basis — which purportedly “explains” the legal basis of the denial.  In either case, OPM has the “upper hand”, at least for that time and stage, because it is merely kicked-up to the next Stage in the process, and handed over to another OPM employee.

Against such an entity, it is important to be prepared with knowledge, legal tools, and the ability to cut through the administrative nonsense which passes for legal authority.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Bureaucratized Process

One cannot expect any entity, organization, or group of individuals to reinvent the wheel for each product, service or response; streamlining and repetitive conformity of a product, issuance or completion of a case is the way of the world; it is how the Model T became a successful capitalistic venture; it is how China dominates the world of marketing.  But in the world of Due Process, one cannot formulate a mass production of effective advocacy without trampling upon the rights of an individual.

Thus, on both sides of the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, each case must be responded to in accordance with the specific, unique facts as constrained by the individual circumstances.

Conversely, one should expect — and demand of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — that something more than a mere template of a response should be issued, after a careful and thorough review of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

If a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application is approved by OPM, then of course one can expect merely a letter of approval which is identical to thousands of others.  If denied, however, the denial letter should reflect a careful, thorough and individualized letter, reflecting the scrutiny of one’s particular disability retirement packet.

Anything less would be to trample upon one’s due process rights as a Federal or Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Accountability

One often asks the question, “Well, how long can they…” or “Isn’t there some law that can force them to…”   Ultimately, such questions asked, and any similar or related ones, in the entire process designated as “Federal Disability Retirement process under FERS or CSRS” has to do with the question of accountability.  Have you ever noticed that, where X is accountable to Y, X can be subjected to persuasive arguments, and will often be compliant?  But the larger question is, Who is Y accountable to?  And therein lies the problem.  

That Agency to whom all other agencies are accountable, knows no sense of accountability, but will be the first to hold all others accountable.  Thus, the intermediate agency in a Federal Disability Retirement case, the one who employs the Federal or Postal employee, can be persuaded to complete the Federal Disability Retirement packet and to fulfill its obligations, because such an agency cannot “preempt” the statutory authority of the Office of Personnel Management.  But what argument can be made of the final arbiter, the Office of Personnel Management?  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement for Federal and Postal Employees: Defining Terms

In proceeding through the administrative and bureaucratic maze of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, one of the most frustrating encounters is the lack of an ability to concretely “define terms”, such that any disagreement with the Office of Personnel Management can be narrowly curtailed in order to allow for a proper response.  It is often contended that 99% of arguments and disagreements are non-substantive.  That is, because neither side defines the terms utilized in the argument, each side will argue at cross-purposes, never agreeing because there has been no prefatory attempt at defining the terms which are being used in the first place.  If you can, take the opportunity to sit and listen to two people arguing:  Are each using terms interchangeably and loosely?  Is person A using the terms in the same way and meaning as person B?  It is unfortunate that there is never an opportunity to have a “conversation“, in effect, with the Office of Personnel Management, before an Initial Decision is made. 

When one looks at an OPM denial, denying an initial Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application, the terms used, the criteria declared, the arguments made (if any), there is never a static point of reference in the terms defined.  Ultimately, of course, the point of needing to “define the terms” comes about at the Third Stage of the Process — at the Merit Systems Protection Board, where an Administrative Judge will be an arbiter and (hopefully) finally force a more stable use and definition of terms.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The Problem with Answering an OPM Denial

A denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management always leaves the applicant and his or her attorney at a disadvantage.  This is because OPM is never answerable to any resulting consequence of a denial; at least, not directly.  Think about it this way:  In the initial application, if an OPM Disability Retirement application is properly prepared and submitted according to, and within the parameters of the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement, one would assume that it should be approved.  If it is denied, then the case is sent to the “Reconsideration” division of OPM — meaning, to another person. 

Now, taking it out of the hands of one OPM Representative into the hands of another, has both the good and the bad mixed together:  the good is that it will now be reviewed afresh by someone else; the bad is that the person who denied the original application has no further responsibility for the denial.  This is true, incidentally, with respect to the Reconsideration Stage of the process; if a second denial is issued, the person who issues the second denial also has no responsibility to answer for the basis given in the denial. 

The “light at the end of the tunnel“, however, comes when it is finally taken up by an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  While the AJ cannot hold anyone at OPM responsible for a denial which never should have been, at the very least, when the AJ reviews the record and finds that the previous denials were unfounded or rationally without legal foundation, an immediate recognition of a baseless denial can help the applicant.  Ultimately, rationality and legal integrity has a chance to prevail; it sometimes takes more than one bite at the apple.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire