These are difficult economic times. For the everyday worker, both Federal and Postal employees, the decisions made at the top echelons of the Federal Government and the U.S. Postal Service impact the financial security and viability of each and everyone. Bad decisions have a cumulative impact upon future alternatives for economic security. Wasted funds thrown at various programs which engendered political favoritism and popular responses at the time, are spent resources which now squeeze out necessary services and programs.
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Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management requires, first and foremost, a sophisticated understanding and insight into the entirety of the Federal Administrative Process. Whether it is the procedural rules and regulations governing all Federal Disability Retirement applications — that all Disability Retirement applications, whether under FERS or CSRS, must be submitted through one’s agency if still employed, or within thirty one (31) days of being separated from Federal Service.
In undertaking any endeavor, one should never engage the activity until one has thoroughly analyzed and understood the overarching rules which govern the enterprise, whether it is in sports, a trade, a craft – or applying for a benefit at the Local, State or Federal level. Would you advise your child to play football without first going over the rules? Would you hand a power tool to a novice? Or entrust a large sum of money to an individual who possesses no knowledge about financial management?
Filing for Federal Disability Retirement requires planning, preparation and foresight. It is first and foremost a “paper presentation” to the Office of Personnel Management and, as such, unless it goes to the Third Stage of the Process – the Merit Systems Protection Board – the Federal or Postal employee who files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, will not have an opportunity to personally plead his or her case as to the validity, persuasiveness or merits of the case.
Federal and Postal employees who are attempting to prepare, formulate, and file a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS must somehow endeavor to “put it all together” in order to meet the 7-part criteria which the Office of Personnel Management has extracted and extrapolated pursuant to (so they claim) Sections 844.101 to 844.404 of Title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (for those under FERS) and similar provisions for those under CSRS (which is becoming a rarer animal close to extinction).
As with most things in life, attempting to secure a Federal Employee Disability Retirement annuity under FERS or CSRS requires an extraordinary amount of time, effort, planning, and the collection, formulation and coordination of a compendium of information. Multiple questions arise at the early stages of planning: Can I live on 60% of the average of one’s highest-3 consecutive years of salary for the first year, then upon the second and subsequent years at 40% (planning stage)? Will my doctor support me (collection of information stage)?
Law is an evolving process. Statutes are merely the beginning point. Thereafter, cases are tried before Judges, and the evolution of the law, within the context of a particular sector of law, begins to unfold. As the evolution of law begins to unfold, the complexity of the legal process becomes more and more intricately intertwined. A body of law develops and grows. Yes, to a great extent, lawyers create the complexities which grow within that body of law.
The recent case of Vanieken-Ryals v. OPM, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, decided on November 26, 2007, cannot be overemphasized for its importance to the Federal Disability Retirement process. It is, in my view, a landmark case which will greatly advance potential OPM Disability Retirement applicants who base their disabilities upon psychiatric conditions. In representing my clients, I have repeatedly argued that the Office of Personnel Management’s insistence upon “objective medical evidence”,…
Many individuals who have filed for disability retirement benefits with the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), get their applications rejected because they have not created the proper “nexus”, or bridge, between their medical condition and the duties of their job. Remember, OPM Disability Retirement is unlike Worker’s Comp or Social Security. Under Worker’s Comp, often the primary focus is to prove the causation between work and injury…
The Office of Personnel Management is constantly and aggressively attempting to change the laws concerning Federal Disability Retirement, to make these disability retirement laws more difficult to overcome. Such attempts at changing the law always comes in incremental steps, and may not seem like “blockbuster” cases at the time; but the reverberating effects of such cases can be far-reaching, and impact upon Federal and Postal Workers for years to come.