Attorney Representation in Federal Disability Retirement Cases

Many times during the free initial consultation, I am often asked about whether or not, or how helpful, legal representation would be in an OPM Disability Retirement case.  To ask a Federal Disability attorney such a question is often unhelpful, for there is always the question as to how much “self-interest” an attorney has in answering such a question.

What I can state, however, is the following:  Remember that everyone believes that his or her case is a “sure thing” — this is natural, because the very individual who is filing for disability retirement is the one who is suffering from the medical condition, and so it is a very “personal” matter, and a sense of objectivity is difficult to maintain in these matters.

Second, remember that when you hire an attorney, you are not just hiring someone who “knows something” about FERS & CSRS disability retirement; instead, you should be hiring that lawyer for his or her reputation, his knowledge of the administrative & legal process with the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board, and how well he is “thought of” by OPM (i.e., how long has he been practicing in the field of Federal Disability Retirement law, does he know the people at OPM, and more importantly, does OPM know him/her?).

Finally, always keep in mind that, while attorneys can be expensive, you must always do a cost-benefits analysis, and look at the benefit you will be receiving (or not receiving) if you do or do not hire a Federal Disability lawyer.  Disability retirement benefits are essentially a means of securing one’s financial future, and as such, the benefit to be secured is important enough to consider hiring an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: An Aristotelian Approach

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics has been the primary foundation for the Western paradigm of proper behavior in philosophy. Quite distinct from his obtuse Metaphysics, the ethical framework of Aristotle takes a pragmatic, almost Confucian approach to correct behavior — balancing context, temperament, timing and correct behavior in formulating a modulated encompassment of how one should act.

As with all things in life, there must be a “balance” — and a recognition that time and relative context of affairs must be taken into consideration before one should act. In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, one must similarly recognize that there is an insight into the balance of life before one can proceed with any action, whether it is an administrative action before the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, or before one’s own agency.

A Federal Disability Retirement application must be “proven”; as such, there is a distinction to be made between that which one “experiences”, and that which one can “prove”.

In such a context, sometimes a medical retirement packet may take some time in order to fully develop and evolve. Doctors may not be able to be approached immediately; instead, at the right time, and in the right manner, they may be willing to provide the necessary medical and professional support in order to make one’s Federal Disability Retirement case successful and productive.

The pragmatic approach which Aristotle used in his ethics is still relevant today: at the right time, in the proper context, and taking into consideration the temperament of others. In this way, success can be attained by possessing an insight and wisdom into the world of human affairs. This was the approach of Aristotle; and so it was with Confucius.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS Disability Retirement: Applicant’s Statement of Disability

In most instances, when I am asked to represent an applicant at the Reconsideration Stage, after he or she has attempted to obtain an approval at the Initial Stage without an attorney, I find that the prevailing mistake made is the exaggerated verbosity of the statement itself. The old adage from Shakespeare, which (I know) is too often quoted (and misquoted), from Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2, where Queen Gertrude responds by saying, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” is indeed appropriate and applicable to this issue.

While the applicant’s statement of disability must be detailed, complete, and accurate, it must not be “overstated”. It should reflect the factual and medical integrity of the medical opinions and findings as delineated in the medical records, documents and notes; it should never exceed the medical evidence in assertions, claims or scope. Overzealous self-advocacy is often the problem in cases of disability retirement where the disabled individual represents him or herself. To this, of course, another common adage is applicable: “A person representing himself in court has a fool for a client.”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Reconsiderations

The Office of Personnel Management does not give a decision over the telephone.  At least, that is their stated policy.  They ask that you instead wait for their written decision, which will be “sent in the mail shortly”.  Sometimes, of course, either by the tone of the conversation or by some slip of the tongue, one can discern whether or not a Federal Disability Retirement application has been approved or denied.  But such “guessing” can be a dangerous endeavor to engage in, and as such, I follow the very policy of OPM and will not convey to my client any “internal thoughts” following upon any discussions with an OPM representative. 

First of all, I find that calling an OPM representative too often is counter-productive; they are overworked as it is, and repeatedly inquiring about the “status” of one of my cases only irritates them further, and there is always the danger of having it denied simply to get rid of it (aghast — can this possible ever happen?)  Second, I made the mistake many, many years ago of once telling my client that his/her case had been approved, when in fact it had been denied.  I learn from my mistakes.  Hopefully, my experiences gained from such mistakes have made me wiser today.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Doctor

The lack of cooperation from a treating doctor, who is asked to provide a medical narrative report for a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, may be based upon one of several factors.

It may be that the doctor merely refuses to engage in any type of administrative support for his patients; it may be that the doctor has private suspicions that, to openly admit that his/her patient must file for Federal Disability Retirement means that his/her treatments have failed, and thus, the patient/disability retirement applicant is considering filing a malpractice action, and asking him/her to write a supportive medical narrative is merely a ploy to set the groundwork for a later malpractice action; it may just be bad bedside manners; or it may be that the doctor does not understand the Federal Disability Retirement process, and how it differs for Social Security Disability, or Worker’s Comp.

If it is the latter reason, then it is the job of the attorney to make sure and explain, delineate, and inform the doctor of the nature, extent, and context of Federal Disability Retirement — and to show how an approval for disability retirement benefits will be the best thing for his/her patient.  This is where an attorney representing an applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS becomes a crucial component in the preparation of such an application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Time to Make the Decision (Part 1)

Waiting until the last possible moment to start the process to file for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS may be commendable from the Agency’s viewpoint — but is it smart?  If you are a Federal or Postal employee with multiple years of service, and you believe that because you gave your life, your blood, your sweat, tears, and even your firstborn, that therefore you will receive what I often term as “bilateral loyalty” (i.e., an expectation of receipt of loyalty from your agency for having given your undying loyalty to them throughout the years), you might want to reconsider.

If you are exhausting all of your sick leave, using your annual leave, dipping into your TSP in order to “hope” that you will recover from your continuing medical condition, then come to a point where you need to file for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, then come to realize that you must survive for 6 – 8 months, or even longer, and pay an attorney, pay for medical reports, and _______ (here, you may fill in the space yourself), then you may need to re-think the entirety of the process, the time it takes, etc.  Most people know, very early on, whether or not he or she has a medical condition which will last for a minimum of 12 months.  The time to start planning for the future is now.  As a famous football coach once quipped, “The future is now.”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Coming Year

For all Federal and Postal employees who are considering, or may consider in the coming year, filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, I hope that this “continuing blog” has been helpful, and will continue to be helpful. 

In the coming year, I will attempt to stay on top of any changes in the current laws, including statutory changes (if any), any new developments handed down through opinions rendered by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board or the Federal Circuit Courts.  One’s future is what is at stake in making the all-important decision to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and I will endeavor to remain informative, and provide you with a level of professionalism which all Federal and Postal employees deserve.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The New Year

The New Year is always a time of reflection, resolutions, and an insight as to how quickly time passes by. It seemed like yesterday that we were all amazed that we were entering the “Twenty-First Century”. In a span of a single year, circumstances change; people and perceptions become altered; friends and co-workers seemingly become transformed into strangers; and medical conditions which yesterday appeared irrelevant, contained or able to be endured, suddenly take on a life of its own.

Medical conditions are a reality which cannot be ignored. Then, of course, there is the problem of a medical condition, its impact upon one’s life, one’s employment, and one’s ability or inability to have an acceptable “quality of life” — as distinct from being able to convey a description of a medical condition in order to qualify for FERS & CSRS disability retirement benefits. It is in the describing of a medical condition, and the practical impact upon one’s employment, which is the key to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS. There is a distinction between the reality of a medical condition, and the ability to describe it to an impervious and implaccable agency — the Office of Personnel Management. Many think that, because one suffers from a medical condition, that it is enough to become eligible for disability retirement benefits. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Statute of Limitation Reminder

The “end of year” and beginning of the new year is a good reminder for people, that once you are separated from Federal Service, you only have one (1) year to file for Federal Disability retirement benefits.  Furthermore, many people are separated from service right around this time, and just remember:  You can always “supplement” a Federal disability retirement application with additional medical reports, documentation, etc.; however, unless you file the necessary forms before the deadline, you cannot do anything.  The first and most important step in the process is to always file on time; thereafter, you can make other additional medical and legal arguments on behalf of your case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire