A Good Lawyer is the Key to Winning - But What About the Fee?
Transcript edited for clarity:
How come you retired?
I’m old! I’m 77! When I turned 75, I said, “OK, that’s enough, time to play!”
Then how come you are still doing this blog?
Because I can’t retire. I unplugged my business line when I retired, and by happenstance I turned it on a few months later, and I had 87 calls waiting for me. 48 of them were people who really needed help!
I assume they are coming in because people are reading my website, which is still online, and need advice. Under those circumstances, I can’t retire.
What do people need you know about you now that you are retired?
Well, I am not gonna take your case. But I’ll hear you out over the phone. I’ll be happy to do it and take my time with you because I love this work.
And, if you have a case of merit, and you need a referral, I can refer you to a lawyer who I think will be dynamite for you. He will call you if I tell him you have a case of merit.
If you don’t want a referral, that’s fine – but I won’t be taking your case.
Should people worry about a fee?
Everyone worries about the fee. Now, I won’t charge a fee for anything. I’m retired, and your conversation with me is free.
If you do take your case to a lawyer, there will be a fee. Here’s my advice about a fee.
If your #1 worry is the fee, you are worrying about the wrong thing. If you don’t have the money to pay a lawyer, it makes sense to be concerned.
But if you win, the take here (if we can talk in gangster terms) is very high. The fee will pay for itself.
Let’s say you are 55. Now, a lot of people get disability retirement even earlier. You are going to get, in the first year, 60% of your three-high-year-average salary. In the second year, you get 40%.
Now, people say, “Oh, 40%, that’s not a lot of money.” Well, it is when you are doing nothing. Because you are allowed to go out and work at any job for which you are not disabled, and you can keep the entire 60% and 40%.
However, your outside income must be less than 80% of the current base salary of the job you left. Still, Harvey says:
That is what I call making out like a bandit.
When do you make that 40% until?
You earn 40% until age 62, when you fall under the regular retirement annuity. But your years taking disability retirement benefits count toward your annuity. That’s another part of banditry!
So when you say, “Don’t worry about the fee”…
If you are going to make out like a bandit, why worry about how much it costs to make out like a bandit!
If you knew a stock would grow by three or four times, you would pay a little up front!
Now, if you don’t have money for a fee, that is a different problem. But many lawyers, including the ones I would refer you to, will be willing to take a contingency fee. That means they only take a fee if you win.
That will make it possible for you to get the help you need.
If you want to talk to Harvey about your situation, fill out the form at the right, send him an email, or give him a call. As a semi-retired lawyer, he is here to talk with you and help as best he can – think of him as a friend you drop in on for advice.
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…
Which diseases and injuries qualify for disability retirement?
ANSWER: All diseases and all injuries qualify for disability retirement, including phobias, depression, chronic pain, allergies, chemical sensitivities, drug addiction, and alcoholism.
If I retain an attorney and win disability retirement before the MSPB, will I be reimbursed for attorney's fees?
ANSWER: Maybe, but don't count on it. If you win before the Board, you may be able to win reimbursement for attorney's fees, but only fees related to the hearing and not the fees for the OPM proceeding. Additionally, you will not be automatically awarded attorney's fees just because you beat OPM. Before you can get attorney's fees, you have to show the MSPB that awarding fees is "in the interests of justice." Believe it or not, just winning does not necessarily satisfy the standards of "the interests of justice." In short, it is going to be a long, hard, and very unsure road to winning your attorney's fees. Furthermore, because the legal issues are so technical, it is unlikely that you could win an award of attorney's fees without skilled legal assistance. Because you will need legal representation to petition for the legal fees, this may mean that you will have to pay additional attorney's fees in order to win the prior attorney's fees. If all this sounds to you like it isn't in the interests of justice, that's because it's not.
Will OPM check up on me to see if I am still disabled or if I have been restored to earning capacity? If so, how, and how often?
ANSWER: Yes, they will check up on you, but the experience of most of my clients is that they will not harass you to get you off disability retirement. This policy, by the way, is different from that of the Department of Labor, which has a reputation for unrelentingly harassing employees in an effort to get them off workers' compensation. The disability retirement law requires OPM to check on your medical condition at least once a year and also permits them to check up on you whenever they so desire. The results are uneven and sporadic. Some employees are contacted within a few months of going on disability retirement while others are not contacted for years. Although OPM has the power to send annuitants to government-appointed physicians, it usually requires you to have your own physician answer a series of questions, which may be the same or similar to those previously asked on the "Physician's Statement." As to monitoring for restoration of earning capacity, that is done on an annual basis through a questionnaire, and you may, in addition, be required to provide copies of your tax returns.
What forms will I need to apply for FERS Disability Retirement?
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.