Federal and Postal Workers: Things You Shouldn’t Do When Filing For CSRS or FERS Disability Retirement

First, a quick clarification: I have had periodic calls concerning the time-frame in filing for disability retirement. The Statute of Limitations in filing for disability retirement is one year from the date you are separated from Federal Service — not from the date you were injured, or from the time you stopped working, etc. Next, many Federal and Postal Workers ask me to represent them in obtaining disability retirement at the Second Stage (OPM’s Reconsideration Stage), after having filed without representation. I have no problems with that — indeed, sometimes (though rarely), individuals have such a severe degree of medical disabilities that an attorney is not necessary. For the majority of Federal and Postal Workers, however, representation beginning at the initial stage of a disability retirement application is necessary. If, however, for financial or other reasons (including stubbornness), an individual insists upon filing for disability retirement without a qualified Attorney, the following are a few things which you should NOT do in preparing your application:

Do not become non-compliant in a treatment regimen, medication regimen, or any aspect of a reasonable medical regimen designed to treat the disease or injury. This is a sure way to have your disability retirement application denied. For, when an employee “is unable to render useful and efficient service because that employee fails or refuses to follow or accept normal treatment, it is wholly proper to say that the employee’s disability flows, not from the disease or injury itself (as the statute requires), but from the employee’s voluntary failure or refusal to take the available corrective or ameliorative action.” Baker v. Office of Personnel Management, 782 F.2d 993, 994 (Fed. Cir. 1986) (A word of caution: this does not mean that all surgeries must be consented to).

Do not ignore the basis of a Notice of Removal. I have previously discussed the importance of obtaining the Bruner Presumption, whenever possible, in a disability retirement case. Beyond getting the Bruner Presumption, however, is the fact that any implication of misconduct or willful failure on the part of the Federal or Postal Employee should always be appealed, if not to have it completely amended, then to at least have such a basis for removal expunged, and instead to allow for the employee to resign, thereby nullifying misconduct as a basis for separation. Never give the Office of Personnel Management an additional reason to deny your disability retirement application.

Do not have your treating doctors send in medical documentation directly to the Agency Personnel Office. Always take charge of your own disability retirement application. Have the doctors send the medical documentation to you, and personally review and inspect each page of your submission for accuracy, relevance, and applicability to your medical condition. Never blindly submit medical documentation to the Office of Personnel Management. Again, never give the Office of Personnel Management an additional reason to deny your disability retirement application. This advice, of course, goes “hand-in-hand” with my policy of never signing the SF 3112C (Physician’s Statement), which often releases all of the medical documentation directly to the Agency.

These are just three fundamental “Do Not” rules in preparing and filing for disability retirement. When a Federal or Postal Employee comes to me at the Reconsideration Stage for legal representation, I find that I must first correct several fundamental errors committed by the applicant. While I can almost always correct the mistakes already made, the damage can only be minimized, and never completely eradicated, because the error is already known to the Office of Personnel Management. Still, I am normally able to convince the Office of Personnel Management to approve the disability retirement application.

In the course of representing Federal and Postal Workers to obtain disability retirement benefits, I have always tried to emphasize the fact that, while it is each individual’s choice as to whether or not to hire an attorney, you should always proceed with the greatest tool available — knowledge. Disability Retirement is a benefit accorded to all Federal and Postal Employees under FERS and CSRS. However, as with all benefits, the right to it remains unclaimed unless one proves, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is legally entitled to it. To prove your claim, you must go at it from a position of strength — and this requires knowledge. Like the Mother Rabbit who cautions her bunnies, do not allow lack of knowledge to be your stumbling block.

My name is Robert R. McGill. I am an attorney who specializes in disability retirement claims for Federal and Postal Employees. If you would like to discuss your particular case, you may contact me at 1-800-990-7932, or email me at federal.lawyer@yahoo.com.

0 thoughts on “Federal and Postal Workers: Things You Shouldn’t Do When Filing For CSRS or FERS Disability Retirement”

  1. I filed application for FERS Disability Retirement in May 2008 but the OPM denied the first and the second applicaton. So then, I forward their correspondence to the Merit Service Protection Board. Now I have telephone conference with both the Merit Service Protection Board and OPM on 7 July 2009.

    I am a disabled veteran with multiple health problems such as TMJ, Tinnitus (or Hypercusis), Sacrodiosis, Seborrheic Dermatitis, Ocular Granultumous Uveitis, Chronic Bronchis, Depression, Chronic Fatigue, Hypertension, Sleep Disorders and Apnea.

    My work assignment is Program Management at Family Program Office. The job requirement is 75 percent Verbal Communication and physical activities for standing, walking, lifting, commuting for daily events and special projects such as quarterly training conferences and quarterly command inspections.

    Furthermore I am currently performing healthcare for 32 medical problems with additional problems. The VA provide a letter for 25 new problems. The medical examinations are pending for request orders such as MRI for Brain functions and EMG for neurological conditions.

  2. IF YOU GO OUT ON DISABILITY RETIREMENT DO YOU STILL GET YOUR GOVERNMENT PENSION? I AM 59 AND WILL HAVE HAD 20 YRS WITH THE GOVT THIS MONTH. DO I HAVE THE AGE AND THE YEARS? I AM RIGHT NOW ON WORKER’S COMP BUY THAT EXPIRED 8/27/09 AND HAVEN’T BEEN TOLD IF I WILL BE EXTENDED FOR W/C. I START MY THERAPY THIS WEEK THEY ARE PAYING FOR IT BUT IT PUTS ME IN LWOP. I TOLD THEM I COULD LOSE MY HOME WITHOUT PAY AND THE LADY SAID I HEAR THAT ALL THE TIME., I AM STRESSED AND THIS EVEN CAUSES ME MORE PAIN. I DON’T KNOW WHERE TO TURN OR WHAT TO DO. I APPRECIATE IN ADVANCE ANY ADVICE YOU CAN GIVE TO ME.
    tHANK YOU SO MCUH,
    KATHRYN KAMER

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