OWCP, EEOC, Grievances & the Comfort Zone

Medical conditions are often accompanied by the necessity to engage in certain forums, to initiate particular legal actions, and to file for alternative means of compensation.  Actions of necessity often come in bundles, and this is natural, as a single event can spawn multiple avenues of legal relief, and reflect various responses by the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.

Thus, a medical condition — whether work related or not — can result in Agency retaliation, persecution, adverse actions, subtle changes of attitudes, etc.

It is therefore not a surprise that a Federal or Postal employee who is filing for FERS Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management also has parallel actions which may include the wide spectrum of a simple Grievance, to an EEO Complaint; a concurrent OWCP/Department of Labor case (for an application of compensation based upon a medical condition or injury resulting from an on-the-job incident or on an occupational disease claim, etc.); a claim of hostile work environment, retaliation; assertion of the whistleblower provision, etc.

As an attorney who specializes in obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits for Federal and Postal employees, one observes the following: there is often a mistaken belief that being involved in parallel or alternative routes of litigation somehow delays the need — whether practically speaking, or in terms of the 1-year Statute of Limitations — for filing of Federal Employee Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management.

This mistaken belief often stems from a “comfort zone” that arises — whether because OWCP is paying on a regular and monthly basis, and so the financial concern is not presently and immediately existent; or because one is continually engaged in some form of contact with the Federal Government through alternative litigation, that the 1-year requirement to file for FERS Disability Retirement benefits is automatically delayed.  The Statute of Limitations is not a sympathetic statute.

A personal comfort zone is not a basis to delay what the law requires. Immediacy of an event should not be the basis of whether to file for a claim or not.  Planning for the future is the important basis to act, and preparing, formulating and filing for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits is something which every Federal or Postal employee should be considering concurrently with all other forums and avenues of compensation.  A man can do more than one thing at a time, and preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits should be one of those multiple issues to be embraced.

Don’t let a present comfort zone deny you the right of a secured future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Attorney

Mr. McGill is a Federal Employee Attorney who specializes in FERS Disability Retirement Employment Law, helping Federal and Postal employees across the nation secure their Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  You may contact Attorney Robert McGill over the phone or by email to receive a free and confidential 30 minute initial case evaluation.

The Agency’s Attempt

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the issue of “accommodations” will necessarily surface, if only because the Agency must complete SF 3112D — the Form which is entitled, “Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts” (which bureaucrat came up with that title?).

Agencies will often choose the wrong box to check because they will either misread the choices or misunderstand what the statements mean.  For instance, in the third choice of Question 4, it states, “Yes, describe below the accommodation efforts made, attach supporting documentation and provide narrative analysis of any unsuccessful accommodation efforts.”  The problem with the choice itself is that the entire concept of “accommodations” has been clarified, modified, and thoroughly discussed in cases which have been brought before the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and such court opinions have been issued subsequent to the original meaning of the term when the Standard Form was first issued.

But when the Agency completes the form, they will often answer the question in terms of “allowing for liberal use of sick leave” or “letting the employee refrain from doing X, Y or Z”, etc.  But allowing for temporary, light duty work does not constitute a “legal accommodation“, and thus does not go to the requested information.  In fact, the loosely-used term of “accommodation” is actually no accommodation at all.

What to do about it when it happens?  One must be discreet in how to approach it.  For most cases, the agency’s lack of understanding will have no impact at all, and it should not be responded to.  In other instances…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Lawyer

Materials and information on this blog are provided for informational purposes only, are general in nature, and do not constitute a legal opinion or legal advice and should not be construed as a legal opinion or legal advice.  For more specific information, or to discuss the specifics of your case, you may contact the author for a free, first-time phone consultation.

Reassignment Considerations

In considering filing for FERS Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management the issue of possible reassignment will arise — normally as a rather secondary and unimportant facet of the process — as an obligatory agency action.

SF 3112D is a form which the agency must complete.  The form essentially affirms that the agency attempted either of 2 things: tried to “accommodate” the Federal or Postal employee, or tried to find a suitable “reassignment” to another existing, available position.

As to the latter, case-law has made it clear that in order for an offer of reassignment to preclude the Federal or Postal employee from continuing with one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, such light or limited duty offer must be at the same pay or grade of one’s current position (there are some complicating details connected with the enunciated standard, but for present purposes, this general rule will suffice).

Sometimes, the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service will find a lower-paying position, and offer it, and the employee will gladly accept it because it allows for continued employment.  But one must understand that, if down the road, the Federal or Postal employee finds that he or she is unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of that “lower” position, then it is from that “lower” (and often of lesser responsibilities) position that one will be filing for Federal Disability Retirement.

Just some thoughts to ponder; for, as a general rule, the greater the responsibilities of a position, the lesser the standard of meeting the threshold for a Federal Disability Retirement; and, conversely, the lesser the responsibilities of a position, the higher requirement to prove one’s case in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Attorney

This and other articles might or might not have been published before.  In this blog edition, we have tried to update them to check over laws and rules that change over time.  However, we can’t guarantee the accuracy of this information.  If you or a loved one is considering early medical retirement from a Federal or Postal position, contact Attorney McGill to discuss the specifics of your case.

The Essential Elements of a Federal Job

In preparing, compiling, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS, one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence (a legal standard which has been set by statute) that a Federal or Postal worker who has a minimum of 18 months of Federal Service and suffers from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s particular kind of job.

The concept of “essential elements” is variously defined and expanded upon by court cases, but one way to identify the “core elements” of a particular job is to review the position description, and to extrapolate from the official description of the job. Another place, of course, is the Agency’s performance review, which will often identify the core elements.

One should never overlook the obvious, in addition to that which is identified in the position description — the fact that one is required according to the position to work full time; to be “on site” for many jobs (thereby precluding tele-commuting as a viable permanent accommodation); and certain other inherently obvious elements which are often mentioned in passing — such as sitting for long periods of time (a sedentary position); being required to stand or walk for extended periods of time; and other such “essential elements” which make up a position, and are inherently required by the very nature of the job.

Those “obvious” but often unmentioned essential elements are notable for the fundamental requirements of being able to successfully perform a job.  They should not be overlooked.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Lawyer

Note:  The material provided in this blog has been updated by the webmaster/editor and written originally by Attorney Robert R. McGill in other websites and blogs.