While I believe that an attorney versed in the Federal Disability Retirement process can be helpful at all stages of the process, at the Third Stage — the Merit Systems Protection Board stage — the input, assistance, and representation of an experienced attorney can be invaluable. This is essentially the “last” stage of the three-stage process. Of course, there are two additional stages, but both concern an appeal — in the event that the Administrative Judge rules against the disability retirement applicant at the MSPB.
During the process at the MSPB, the Appellant will have what is called a “Prehearing Conference”. At such a conference (held over the telephone), the Judge will go over with both parties (the applicant and the OPM representative), certain basic essentials about the law, to include the standard of proof, witness list, preliminary legal matters, etc. What is important at such a Prehearing Conference is to carefully listen to the Judge. As each Judge is human, and thus different, it is important to listen and carefully be attentive to what the Judge is looking for. If more medical documentation is needed, exactly what is the Judge looking for? If there is a concern about a certain legal issue — say, the issue of accommodation — what exactly is the Judge concerned about? By being attentive to the questions of the Judge, and fashioning the Hearing to address those concerns, the applicant greatly enhances his or her chances of winning at this crucial stage of the process.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire