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

Connecting Two Important Dots in a FERS Disability Retirement Application

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is the nexus — the connections which are made between any two or more issues, concepts, evidence, etc. — which raises a Federal Medical Insurance Retirement application to meet the standard of required proof under the law. Such connections to be made are vital, and determine the success or failure of a Federal Medical Retirement application.

We have all encountered eccentric individuals in our lifetimes — whether of the proverbial “batty-aunt” who talks incessantly about things which nobody understands; or the “flighty friend” who can talk a mile-a-minute about a thousand disconnected issues all in one breath; or perhaps it is a chance-meeting with a stranger who, after a long conversation, one realizes didn’t make a bit of sense in anything that was said.

In conversation, one can engage in such language games which have little to no correspondence to reality, and not have to pay a price for such engagement.  In the world of Federal Disability Retirement, failing to make the necessary connections will most certainly lead to a denial of a Federal Retirement application.

Thus, the persuasive connection between one’s positional duties and the health conditions; the argumentative connection between the prevailing law and one’s factual statements; the impacting connection between the medical reports and the entirety of the submitted case; and multiple other connections — each must be carefully crafted.

In a world where we come upon a “noumenal” world (as Kant would state), and where our cognitive categories organize the disparate world we discover, establishing the necessary nexus between X, Y & Z is something which the Federal Disability Retirement applicant should never overlook.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Discretionary Decisions Made by Federal Disability Lawyers

As an OPM Disability attorney, I am often asked questions by people of which I am unable to answer.  They are not questions concerning “the law” underlying Federal Disability Retirement, but rather questions which go to my “professional discretion” as an attorney in putting together a Federal Disability Retirement packet, prepared to go forth to the Office of Personnel Management.

By “professional discretion” questions, I mean those questions which go to making decisions and choices concerning medical reports, percentage ratings received from the Veterans Administration; permanency ratings received from Second Opinion or Referee doctors, or the fact that one has reached “maximum medical improvement” and is now “permanent and stationary”, and whether to use such collateral sources of medical documentation in putting together a disability retirement packet.

The practice of law is not all objective and straight-forward; part of the “practice” of law is of an art form, based upon one’s experience, and professional discretion sharpened by repetitive experiences in working with the Office of Personnel Management and in representing Federal and Postal employees before the Merit Systems Protection Board.  Further, there are some questions which I answer only for those whom I represent.  I am happy to provide general information about the process of filing for federal disability.  For those whom I represent, however, I reserve for them the art of practicing Federal Disability Retirement law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Extended Weekend, the Subtraction of One, and the Addition of Another

Extended weekends provide for an anticipation of restful joy.  It is always an admixture and conundrum of overdoing it, or not doing anything at all.  It is that extra day which allows for the gathering of friends and family without the unwanted pressure of having to get up the next day to engage the commute and the inherent stresses and problems of work.  That “next day” is that extra day off, and when one awakens, it is a delicious pleasure when one is reminded that work is delayed for another day.  The significance and symbolism of what the designated day is set aside for, is often lost in the very joy of leisure.

We may plant a token flag; or perhaps attend a children’s parade; but remembrances of solemnity are often replaced by the sheer joy of having an extended weekend.  Perhaps that is “wrong” for the soul and conscience of a country; but as a population which is characterized by an ethics of hard work and leadership, such extended weekends are nevertheless well-deserved.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, the extended weekend is often viewed in a different light.  It is the addition of one, and the subtraction of another.  It allows for providing an additional day in which to rest and recuperate.  It subtracts a day from the turmoil of pain and suffering, exacerbated by trying to act as if one is okay.

The fact that the numerical postulate of adding and subtracting constitutes the identical day, is irrelevant.  Rest, recuperation, rehabilitation and respite from the work-a-day turmoil and stresses of life, may be suspended for a day.  Weeks are characterized by weekends of recuperative repose.  To add a day is to also subtract, and the peculiar math which one engages in, makes perfect sense to the Federal or Postal Worker who lives in pain, or who suffers from intractable depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an option which needs to be considered by any Federal or Postal Worker who has come to a point of perspective described herein.  For that Federal or Postal Worker who abstracts the anticipated extended weekends as merely an addition of one, and a concomitant subtraction of the same, is merely delaying the inevitable, if for another day, another weekend, and until the next mathematical peculiarity is encountered.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Supervisors, Agencies and H.R. Personnel

I am sometimes pleasantly surprised at Supervisors — ones who actually recognize that an individual filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS does so out of necessity, and not out of any personal or professional spite against the Supervisor or the Agency, and that the proper response to convey is one of support, empathy, and cooperation, without needing to compromise the goal and mission of the Agency.  Further, I am taken aback by the unprofessional and utterly unhelpful attitude of many Human Resources personnel in the processing of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Too often, the H.R. person finds it his or her mission in life to be an obstacle to the smooth processing of a disability retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  Yet, the law is clear (though not to many of the H.R. Departments at various agencies):  it is the Office of Personnel Management which has the sole legal authority to make a positive or negative determination on a Federal Disability Retirement application; at the agency level, the role of the Human Resources person is to try and expedite and efficiently process the disability retirement application.  Hopefully, those who have the positional designation of “Human Resources” will come to realize what it all actually means:  he or she is supposed to be a “resource” (a positive one, for that matter) with a “human” emphasis.

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

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Time

Time is of the essence in almost everything we do.  There are timed deadlines for filing a Federal Disability Retirement application; a great amount of time is taken in the bureaucratic processing of the application; greater time is taken by the Office of Personnel Management in reviewing, analyzing and deciding upon a Federal Disability Retirement application; appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board require time within which one must prepare a viable case before an administrative judge, etc.

Time is a presence in every aspect of our lives.  But within that framework, a comparative analysis of time should always be taken into consideration.  To “rush” the preparation of a disability retirement packet is often penny wise but pound foolish; care and patience should always be taken, both in the writing, preparation and filing of anything to be submitted to a Federal bureaucracy; the Office of Personnel Management is no different.  Rushing something in order to “save time” is often counterproductive.  To take the time to prepare an excellent disability retirement packet will actually save time in the long run.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Discretionary Judgments

There are many things in the long process of getting a Federal Disability Retirement application approved, which are purely “discretionary”, based upon one’s experience, sense of a case, an ear to listening to a client, and based upon a compendium of factors, facts and circumstances, to come up with the “best” decision on a particular issue.  A person who tries to go through the process alone, without the ear, mind, experience or judgment of an attorney who knows the process governing Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, has to make such discretionary decisions without the benefit of past experiences.

Such decisions can range from small issues of:  how and when a treating doctor should be approached in the request for a medical narrative; how much guidance the doctor would need or want in preparing a medical narrative report; when and how to inform the agency of the pending decision to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, etc.; to the larger decisions, such as which medical conditions and reports to include in the final packet to be submitted to the Office of Personnel Management; and many other such discretionary decisions.  Yet, when grouped together, the complex interactions of the multiple “discretionary judgments” can often make or break a case.

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

Federal OPM Disability Retirement and “the Decision”

The decision to finally go forward and start the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is often a hard one.  One needs to consider multiple factors, and the process of deciding to move forward in and of itself can be a complicated one.  Such factors as the medical condition itself and how progressively deteriorating it is; whether and for how long you can “mask” the medical condition; how perceptive your supervisor is; whether your supervisor and coworkers will continue to provide cover for you, and overlook some of the growing deficiencies; whether, even if you cannot do one or more of the essential elements of your job, whether the amount and type of work you are doing are significant enough for you to continue; whether you have a good rapport and relationship with your doctor; whether your doctor will be supportive and understanding; whether your agency will suddenly and without notice place you on a PIP or file a Notice of Proposed Removal; and a host of many other reasons and factors need to be considered.  For many of these questions, an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law under FERS & CSRS can be of help.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire