I worked in the field of OPM Disability Retirement Law for 35 years of the more than 50 years I've been a lawyer. I was a pioneer in the field and won the enormous bulk of my cases on either initial application, reconsideration, or appeal. I successfully handled hundreds of federal employment cases such as accommodation, removal, etc.
Nowadays, I spend my time working on this blog, providing advice to disabled federal employees, and writing my memoir.
If you want to hear about how I learned what Disability Retirement is from my first Disability Retirement client, listen below:
1965-JD University of Miami School of Law
1972-JSD Candidate, Columbia University School of Law
District of Columbia Bar
Attorney, Civil Rights Division, US Office of Economic Opportunity
Attorney, Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Attorney, National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders
Attorney, National Commission on the Causes and Prevention of Violence
Special Counsel, US Senate, Committee on the District of Columbia
Attorney, US Department of Justice
Director, American Bar Association, Special Committee on Crime Prevention and Control
Director, Courts Task Force, National Advisory Commission on Criminal Justice Standards
Assistant Professor of Law, (Detroit & Baltimore)
Private Law Practice
1978 to Present, Washington, DC
Private Practice Before Disability Retirement
Before working on Disability Retirement, I had a long career in civil rights, security clearances, and other areas. Below are podcasts, stories, and a video about some of those chapters of my life:
I was side-stepping the KKK working as a Federalized civil rights worker In 1966. The civil rights movement in the south was boiling over. Fire hoses, vicious dogs, and barred entry to almost everything if you were black...
In 1966, it was not considered unreasonable or unusual for a white sheriff in a rural county in Mississippi, to detest the Federal government, let alone some white liberal lawyer working for the Federal government...
Running from the KKK: A story about encounter with the KKK at a church in Mississippi. Listen below.
Moscow Party is a podcast about one of the many security clearance cases Harvey handled. It features KGB Agents, monopoly, lesbian affairs, and much much more! An exciting story completely unrelated to disability retirement, but we hope you enjoy nonetheless. Listen below.
CBS AIDS in the Military Video
Before turning to Disability Retirement Law, Harvey was an attorney for members of the US Military, including some who were diagnosed with AIDS and then faced a legal battle with the US Government. In 1982, Dan Rather's CBS Nightly News reported on a number of cases Harvey won for service members with AIDS.
Harvey briefly discusses the issue at the end of the clip.
Jeremy is the webmaster. He runs the blog, keeps track of who is contacting us, and helps Harvey write his memoir. If you are interested in his work, check out his website at www.jmneff.com.
And here is a little interview that I, Harvey, did with Jeremy back in his school days when he first came to work for me.
We have a real problem with Physician’s Statements from doctors who are too busy to spend time writing them and unwilling to go out on a limb to say it like it really is. So you have to work around this.
When it comes to doctors, you have to…
Following up on my earlier post about getting fired for misconduct:
If you are fired for misconduct, that does not mean your agency can wash its hands of you and not cooperate with your claim for Disability Retirement. Your agency is still required…
How long do I have to work for the government in order to be eligible for disability retirement?
ANSWER: That depends on the retirement system to which you belong. FERS employees are required to be enrolled in their retirement system for a minimum of 18 months to be eligible for disability retirement. CSRS employees must be enrolled a minimum of five years in their retirement system to be eligible.
How valuable is the reconsideration stage in winning disability retirement?
ANSWER: Until recently, the reconsideration stage was often a wasted effort. In most instances as a consequence of bureaucratic intransigence (or plain laziness), OPM regularly failed to provide the reasons why the application was rejected. This pretty much made the reconsideration stage worthless, since you had to guess at what might change the minds of those at OPM. After constantly pummeling OPM for this failure, I have found that the agency has changed its procedure, and is now regularly providing reasons for their initial denial. This makes an enormous difference and allows you to make a more meaningful response on reconsideration.
If OPM rejects your application again on reconsideration, it issues a final decision, which gives you a right to appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board. There, an administrative judge will afford you a hearing and decide your entitlement to disability retirement.
Who decides if I have a right to collect disability retirement?
ANSWER: OPM decides. If it turns you down in a final decision, though, you can then appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), and the Board will decide. Your agency does not make that decision (unless you happen to work for OPM).
What are some of the things my lawyer might do to win on reconsideration?
ANSWER: Since it would be impossible to explain how to win every type of case on reconsideration, let me tell you one way that you certainly won't win. You won't win if OPM is using information about you that you are unaware of. Many applicants keep a meticulous file on their case and believe that it constitutes all of the information in their case. Many are wrong. Sometimes there are medical records that physicians not have shared with patients. Sometimes OPM obtains information from workers' compensation, from supervisors, from official personnel files, from informal agency contacts, or from other sources. You need every bit of that information and you have a right to every bit of it. You even have a right to medical information that OPM may seek to conceal from you under its "prudent physician's rule." That information is critical to you winning your case, and it should be obtained, you should go for it.
Equally important as gathering all of the factual information in your case, is designing a written argument that will make OPM change its initial decision. This requires challenging not only factual assumptions but also their legal conclusions, which are often erroneous. Most disability retirement decisions contain whole paragraphs drawn directly from previous decisions that have been stored over the years in some word processor. This is a cavalier way to adjudicate someone's rights. If you want to win, you have to turn this around.
I have represented Federal government employees and Postal workers seeking OPM Disability Retirement for a long time. I also represent them in agency leave problems such as AWOL, FMLA, LWOP, etc. Leave problems often come along with being sick and disabled. I have stuck to this area of the law for more than 30 years of the 50 years I have been a lawyer.