By far, the most common question that applicants for FERS or CSRS disability retirement ask the Law Office of Eric L. Pines is whether and when a federal employee or postal worker should hire an attorney. There is no easy answer to this question. No case or situation is the same, so there is no way that any attorney can give you a “standard” answer to this question. Here is the general guidance that we give to postal workers or federal employees who ask us this question.
There are a number of factors that the federal employee or postal worker should consider in deciding whether and when to hire an attorney for their FERS or CSRS disability retirement application. Here are the factors we think are most important:
1)Do you have the time and resources to deal with your Agency, OPM, and/or the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB)? Dealing with OPM, the MSPB (and many federal agencies that provide employee or citizen benefits) can consume and exhaust an applicant. There will be requests for more information. There will be delays. There will be incompetence and procrastination by the Federal agency, OPM, that is handling your claim for federal disability retirement. If you have the time and resources – and most importantly, the patience and resolve – to anticipate these problems and to effectively confront them or to plan for them, then you may not need to hire an attorney.
2) Do you have confidence in the “system” and your ability to navigate the “system”? It’s a fact of life that Federal Agencies that provide benefits to postal workers, federal employees and veterans play games. The VA, for example, has recently been caught shredding and throwing away Veterans claims for benefits on a large scale. OPM will often deny a postal worker or federal employee application for federal disability retirement just to see if the applicant will push back on their decision. If you do not feel confident that you can handle the “games” that the Agencies play in applications for FERS or CSRS disability retirement, than hiring an attorney may take a lot of stress of your plate, and help you to present more favorable arguments and evidence in support of your application.
3) Are you physically or mentally capable of dealing with assembling the evidence, filing the application, and if necessary, pushing back on your employing Federal Agency or the OPM? We talk to postal workers and federal employees every day whose medical conditions are so advanced that they are physically or mentally unable to handle the rigors of producing a thorough and complete and well-documented application for federal disability retirement. If you are in this situation, or if you are the spouse of a postal worker or federal employee in this situation, hiring an attorney may allow you the time to focus on your treatment, and let someone else handle the deadlines.
4)Can you manage all the deadlines without fear of missing any? Federal agencies, the MSPB, and OPM love their deadlines. The caseloads before OPM, the MSPB and other federal administrative forums are so high that the easiest way to deal with the backlog of cases is to quickly deny benefits to those that miss their deadlines. This is a fact of life, and one that the federal employee or postal worker must be prepared to deal with. Every day, I read MSPB decisions about individuals who would likely have received a deadline but for the fact that they missed a key deadline. If you have concern that you might miss a deadline – or might not know about a deadline in an application for federal disability retirement – then hiring an attorney may be worth greater consideration.
5) Do you have the financial resources to hire an attorney? Attorneys cost money; though we at the Law Office of Eric L. Pines love the work we do to help Federal Employees, postal workers and US Veterans before the MSPB, EEOC, OPM, OWCP and the VA, our law firm is a business. We strive to make our services more affordable, and are always looking for ways to keep our fees as low as possible by balancing two goals: keeping the business profitable so we are around to help more federal employees and postal workers and veterans, and ensuring that our fees help us remain accessible to the average federal employee or postal worker. If you are concerned about the cost of an attorney, always talk to the attorney about ways to make your fee more affordable. The Law Office of Eric L. Pines offers fixed fees and payment plans, and we are always willing to hear your ideas about how to keep your costs down. Can you get medical records for your attorney? If so, this can help keep the cost down. Are you willing to handle some of the administrative work on your case? If so, the attorney may be able to lower the cost. In certain situations, the Law Office of Eric L. Pines does represent Federal employees or postal workers “pro-bono” (for the public good, at no charge). Our criteria for pro-bono representation are specific, and we reserve this type of representation for those people who need it most.
6) Will an attorney “add value” to your application? In some situations, it is very clear that OPM should grant federal disability retirement benefits to a postal worker or federal employee. In other cases, it is not so clear. In still other cases, it may appear to clear to the rest of the world that OPM should grant the benefits, but there may be facts which could lead to a denial of the claim if not addressed early, completely, and effectively by the federal disability retirement applicant. An attorney who is experienced representing federal employees and postal workers in applications for federal disability retirement can identify strengths and weaknesses in your case that you might not know about, or that you may not know how to plan for. For these reasons, if you are considering applying for federal disability retirement, always talk to more than one federal disability retirement attorney to see if they can help spot some of these issues for you. If, after learning the strengths and weaknesses and possible “wrinkles” in your case, you don’t feel comfortable or confident dealing with OPM or the MSPB, an attorney may be able to “add value” to a postal worker or federal employee’s application for FERS or CSRS disability retirement.
There are always other factors to consider that are unique to your particular application for federal disability retirement. For those making an original application for federal disability retirement to OPM, we never charge a consultation fee.
Call us and talk to us for 30 minutes about your situation. In fact, call more than one attorney!
Frequently, I will tell the federal disability retirement applicant to call and talk to other attorneys before making the decision whether or when to hire an attorney. Attorneys look at cases very differently, and what one attorney sees as a problem, another may not see at all. What one attorney sees as being unimportant, another attorney may see as a major storm-cloud on the horizon. The only way you can learn about all this is by calling and talking to attorneys about your claim. Get offers of representation in writing from those attorneys, and then use the above checklist to decide whether or not you should hire an attorney for your FERS or CSRS disability retirement application.
No post on this website is legal advice, is meant to be legal advice, and certainly does not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Information is power, and we are providing this information to give you, the federal employee or postal worker, with some power. This information is not widely or easily accessible to Federal Employees or postal workers.
The Law Office of Eric Pines represents Federal employees under FERS or CSRS in their applications for federal disability retirement to OPM. If an application for federal disability retirementis denied, the Firm represents Federal employees under both FERS and CSRS in their MSPB appeals of denials of federal disability retirement applications by OPM.
It is best to consult with a lawyer familiar with Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) and federal disability retirement appeals to discuss the facts and law of your particular case. If you are obese, or morbidly obese, and would like to discuss your application for federal disability retirement, under FERS or CSRS, or OPM’s denial of your applications for federal disability retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, or any attempts to seek to have federal disability retirement benefit reinstated by OPM, contact an MSPB attorney or a Federal Disability Retirement Lawyer at the Law Office of Eric Pines to schedule a telephone consultation.