— Of the man who built a castle in order to protect against invading marauders, but filled the moat with colorful fish because he did not want to spoil the perfect harmony of the ecosystem by introducing foreign predators into the land. Such a man failed to understand the foundational purpose of the construction of the castle to begin with – to keep out foreign invaders. By refusing to introduce foreign predators, his castle was invaded by foreign marauders, leaving a devastated skeleton of a charred stone structure – a memorial to one who confused appearance for substance, and the resultant calamity of failing to recognize that sometimes a distinction does make a difference.
— From Aristotelian Perspectives in a Metaphysically Neutral Environment, from Heraclitis to Mao Tse-Tung
The preparation, formulation, and finalization prior to filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS (the Federal Employees Retirement System) or CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System), should be sufficiently reviewed and carefully scrutinized prior to submission to the Agency of the Federal Employee (if still employed or separated but not more than 31 days) or the H.R. Shared Services Center for the Postal Employee (in Greensboro, North Carolina, where all Postal Disability Retirement applications are processed – again, if still employed or, if separated, not for more than 31 days) and before its ultimate arrival at the Office of Personnel Management, first at Boyers, Pennsylvania, for the intake processing portion of the administrative, bureaucratic process, then for transfer to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management at 1900 E Street N.W., Room 3468, Washington, D.C. 20415.
Once the Federal Disability Retirement application has been received for the initial intake processing portion of the administrative procedure at Boyers, Pennsylvania, the case is assigned a “CSA” number – for CSRS individuals, the number which is assigned will begin with the numeral “4”, and end with a “0”; for FERS employees, the CSA number will begin with the numeral “8”, and also end with a “0”. A CSA Number is simply assigned for purposes of identification so that the case can be easily accessed through the identifying number; although, if the assigned CSA number is forgotten or misplaced, the Office of Personnel Management can still easily locate the file through one’s Social Security Number.
All successful preparation is defined by careful planning and meticulous formulation. In scrutinizing a Federal Medical Disability Retirement application prior to submission to the Office of Personnel Management, try to think in terms of both perspectives – the “professional” (the Applicant for Federal Disability Retirement) and the “spectator” (the Claims Representative who will be reviewing the Federal Disability Retirement application for sufficiency, cogency, viability, believability, and evidentiary impact). The “professional” is the person who prepares the case with such meticulous scrutiny and care, such that it makes it appear to the spectator that everything is in order, that the doctor’s unequivocal support, the natural flow of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability on SF 3112A coincides systematically, truthfully, and without contradiction with the supporting medical evidence; and, further, regardless of what the Supervisor’s Statement says – whether supportive, negative, or neutral in its tone, tenor and content, the important thing is to make sure that the documented medical evidence is such that it makes irrelevant the focal trajectory of the Supervisor’s Statement. Remember: this is a Federal Medical Disability Retirement application, and not a “Supervisor’s Disability Retirement application”.
The “professional” – whether a singer, entertainer, athlete or salesman, or the applicant who is preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, is defined by the ease with which the “spectator” is able to review and evaluate the presentation placed before him or her. Extensive and unrelenting preparation is always the key to a successful presentation. The athlete makes the game enjoyable precisely because of the long hours of preparation he endures; the singer, for the extensive coordinating music sessions with the supporting band prior to going on stage; the entertainer, for the hours upon hours of rehearsals to perfect the necessary timing; and the salesman, who must practice the psychology of persuasive marketing to a stranger being confronted with a 10-second attention span. Whatever the circumstances, it is always the extent of one’s preparation which correlates and corresponds with a higher statistical chance of initial success. Sad is the sight which reveals a lack of correlating result from an aging or lazy athlete, where preparation fails to correspond concomitantly with the extent of preparatory exertion.
In preparing and beginning to formulate the basic approach of a particular Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, however, it is always important to begin with some foundational questions, and such queries should always be accompanied by preliminarily exploratory inquires: Do I have a supportive doctor? How will I survive financially for the next 8 – 10 months? Is it better to slowly use up my sick leave over a span of time? Under FERS, how aggressive should I be in filing for Social Security Disability benefits, and what are the chances of getting it? What impact will Social Security Disability have on my FERS Disability Retirement annuity? Should I go out on LWOP? Should I file for Family Medical Leave? Should I participate in the leave-donor program? What happens if my Agency separates me before I file? What impact will a separation from Federal Service have upon a Federal Disability Retirement application? Will I be able to survive on the annuity? Will I try and work in a private-sector job after I receive a Disability Retirement annuity? These questions constitute a minor foray into the larger universe of questions which every Federal or Postal worker will have, prior to, during, and after the beginning entrance into preparing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.
Should I hire an attorney to represent me in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits? The answer to this latter question will often assist in satisfying many of the previous questions posed, precisely because an attorney who is knowledgeable in Federal Disability Retirement issues should not be merely an administrator for filling out forms; rather, any attorney who represents a Federal or Postal Worker to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits either under FERS or CSRS should be able to advise, guide, counsel and answer all of the questions surrounding Federal Disability Retirement issues.
Remember further two (2) important points: (1) A Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, is never a matter of “filling out forms”. If that were the case, anyone should (and would) be able to file for, and obtain, Federal Disability Retirement benefits. And (2), it is very, very rare that a Federal Disability Retirement case is a “slam dunk” case. Most people believe that his or her particular Federal Disability Retirement application is a “sure thing”. Such an attitude is quite understandable, of course, because the same person who is preparing the Federal Disability Retirement application is identical with the person experiencing the medical condition which defines the basis of the Federal Disability Retirement application. It is difficult to separate the two fundamental roles – of the person experiencing the trauma of the medical condition and the impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, from the person who must objectively formulate the Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.
Finally, always remember that there is a difference between truth, evidence, and persuasive argumentation. The former does not, in and of itself, always provide sufficiency of presentation, and the latter two are needed in order to highlight the strength of the former. The middle term – “evidence” – must always be accompanied by the art of persuasive argumentation. Don’t ever think that merely compiling a voluminous compendium of medical documentation, even if completely truthful, is enough to meet the evidentiary standard of proof necessary to obtain an approval from the Office of Personnel Management.
The above constitute some basic approaches to preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management. Basic approaches always reveal a superior methodology than attempting to create complexities where none exist. Sticking to the “basics” always provides for a foundational aptitude of success, and success is defined by obtaining an approval from the Office of Personnel Management. Stick to the basics; it is the highest statistical road to success.
I am a Federal Disability Lawyer who represents Federal and Postal workers from all across the United States, including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico. I do not charge for an initial telephone consultation; thus, if you believe that you need to consult an Attorney concerning Federal Disability Retirement, please contact m in one of these ways:
- View the FERS Disability Retirement website or the U.S. Postal Service Disability Retirement blog
- Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Call me at 1-800-990-7932
Robert R. McGill, Esquire