CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Narrative & the Audience

Anton Chekhov’s short story, “Grief”, is often accompanied by a subtitle, variously interpreted as, “To whom shall I share my grief?”  It is both about the need inherent in human nature to tell one’s story of grief, as well as the cold, unreceptive world which has no time to hear the story.

As the horse-driven cab picks up various passengers and fares, it becomes clear that the audience to whom the father’s grief must be told, is characterized as unfeeling and uncaring towards a man who has experience a tragedy in life.  It is thus the search for the proper audience — and how the narration must be told, in the right manner, at the proper time, within the appropriate setting.

That is how all stories must be told, including a Federal or Postal Worker’s statement of disability, as formulated on Standard Form 3112A in a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  It is with a heightened sense of sensibility that one must put together the narrative form, with a view towards the audience; what facts and minutiae should be included; with a coherent beginning and an appropriate ending; where to begin and when to end; what details should be included, such that it does not divert one’s attention from the centrality of one’s story; all of this, and much more.

Chekhov teaches us much in his writings; how we apply it in our every day lives is left to the reader — his audience.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Accuracy & Creativity

Accuracy and creativity are not mutually exclusive approaches; one often thinks that the former relates to more ‘technical’, non-fiction genres, while the latter encompasses the areas of fiction and similar writings.  But being scrupulously accurate while describing an event in ‘creative’ terms can go hand-in-hand.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Employee Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one should not feel constrained in properly and fully expressing one’s medical condition and its impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s position within the agency, based upon either the questions posed by the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A both for FERS and CSRS employees), or by the admonition that technical accuracy is paramount.  Of course, truth should always be the guide; but where subjectivity must necessarily be an element present throughout one’s descriptive attempt at conveying the nexus between the medical condition, the position description, and the impact one has upon the other, the reluctance to use descriptive adjectives should not be a constraining element.

In formulating one’s case, one should be creative and forceful in describing the profound impact of one’s medical condition upon one’s life.  On the other hand, brevity and succinctness are characteristics which are often most effective; but that is another story altogether.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Autobiographical Slice

Every story is unique.  Uniqueness is a characteristic of each human life story, precisely because there are no two sets of facts which are identical.  Assuming that parallel universes do not exist, the autobiographical details of each human story defines a distinctive and identifiably different set of sequential life experiences as to any given human narrative.  But uniqueness does not mean relevance, or even imply significance or of great interest.  The reason why the minutiae of the personal lives of the “rich and famous” are of such titillating interest is not because they are unique; rather, it is because they are distinctively different — in a voyeuristic sort of way.

In preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the autobiographical details should, for the most part, be left out.  As this author has often referenced Anton Chekhov’s famous short story entitled, “Grief”, it is a given that everyone wants to share the human narrative of one’s story, and more than that, to share it abundantly.  But it is the slice of one’s life, in a meaningful, relevant manner, which must be streamlined in order to ensure relevance and a focused audience — the very attention of the caseworker from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which must be provided.

Federal Disability Retirement is a specific submission; it is not the time to convey the unique story of one’s autobiographical details beginning in years past; rather, it must awaken the empathy of the reader — OPM — by the very hypnotic force of the medical conditions as they relate to one’s inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.

The human story in a Federal Disability Retirement case must be a compelling one, indeed, but within the context of uniqueness distinctively different from the boring autobiographies of mundane stars.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Genre of the Narrative

Different genres purportedly possess internal mechanisms and tools of the trade which distinguish one art form from another; thus, fiction writers use various forms which, in the eyes of the “professionals” will elicit oohs and aahs regarding the technical beauty which heightens the art form; biographers invoke poetic license in recreating scenes and human expressions and emotions from an omniscient vantage point; then, there is the admixture of truth and fiction, of “true crime novels” which are allegedly “true” but in novelistic form, easily readable, commercially successful, and universally enjoyed — but in essence, it all comes down to good writing.  

Readability is the whole point of writing.  Yes, to remain true to the art form is important to the genre; and, yes, to be technically proficient in utilizing the mechanisms and tools of the trade engenders professional acclaim and self-aggrandizement.  But ultimately it all comes down to the ability and capacity to express what one wants to, and needs to, in order to convey to the audience the desired effect.  

So it is in Federal Disability Retirement.  For, as in the various forms of literary genres, the narrative form must be engaging, readable, succinct and streamlined.  Salacious details need not be included to get the attention of the OPM case worker.  

A FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement narrative in the form of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability should be the penultimate form of the art:  part biography, part non-fiction, part logical analysis, and certainly analogous to the true crime fiction — that is the narrative which will draw the OPM case worker into the world of the Federal or Postal Worker who is trying to persuade a bureaucrat to have a spoonful of sympathy in exchange for a cup of truth.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: SF 3112A, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability

Each genre retains its own internal customs, traditions and acceptable characteristics which, in their idiosyncratic ways, defines for itself why the specific genre is distinctively different from another.  Content, length, volume, and literary mechanisms may be acceptable within certain defined parameters; a recent biography by Edmund Morris attempted to utilize a literary artifice which, by most accounts, was not well-received within the genre.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must first and foremost understand the “audience” to which the Federal or Postal employee is “writing” to, and thereby custom-fit the “genre” of the writing.  

The reviewing clerks at the Office of Personnel Management have dozens, if not hundreds, of files from Federal and Postal employees.  At the First and Reconsideration stages of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM, the reviewing clerks must sift through the case-file by analyzing the medical documentation submitted, and most importantly, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability as reflected in SF 3112A.  A Dickens-like autobiographical background is not needed, and will likely be ignored.  A mere listing of the medical conditions, while short and to the point, will likely be insufficient.  Thus, the old adage:  neither too hot, nor too cold.  Somewhere in the middle is the proper “genre” to apply.  

As for the specific characteristics of an effective submission, a general comment:  Stay on point; connect the dots between one’s medical conditions and the positional requirements; and don’t bore the reader.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Unique Story

This is a world which requires conformity and uniformity; eccentricity is a leisure which few can afford, and as the world operates on a factory-like assembly line, where productivity is the measure of one’s worth, so the uniqueness of a story gets lost in the fading echoes of a scream one hears in a solitary cave, where the sound of one’s cry reverberates deep into the chasm of darkness and the silent quiescence of water dripping upon a moss-covered granite surface.  That is why the poignancy of Chekhov’s story about an old man’s grief and his need to tell his story of the death of his son, resonates with us.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to strike the proper and delicate balance between recognizing the “uniqueness” of one’s case, and the pragmatic acknowledgement of the bureaucratic need of the Federal Agency (both one’s own as well as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) to have a conformity of one’s story.

Yes, some history and background can be told in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (although one must be careful in avoiding the pitfalls of ‘situational disability‘ and other issues); yes, one can provide some additional details of one’s ‘story’; but, ultimately, the issue which must be addressed is the legal one:  the essence of the case remains the same throughout.  Throughout, always prepare the Federal Disability Retirement case to conform to the law.

One’s story is unique; the uniqueness must be conformed to a standard of legal proof in order to meet the requirements of Federal Disability Retirement law; once told and conformed, you can still go out and relate your story to those who have a willing ear.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal OPM Disability Retirement: Answering the Question Is Merely the Beginning

The question itself is obviously the starting point; however, whether answering the question is enough, presents a greater problem.

In any arena of law, the wider context of legal requirements will include the statutory authority upon which regulations and standard governmental forms are based upon; then, there are case-law opinions of judges — in the area of Federal Disability Retirement, this would include the administrative opinions of the Merit Systems Protection Board, both at the Hearing level, as well as from a Petition for Full Review; and further, Court opinions from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must obviously complete multiple Standard Forms. Chief among the forms is the “Applicant’s Statement of Disability“, or otherwise identified as SF 3112A.  There are multiple questions requesting information about one’s medical condition and the impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  The questions may seem straightforward enough; the answers can be; but the greater conundrum is whether completion of answers to such questions will be adequate in proving, by a preponderance of the evidence (which is the legal standard in meeting the adequacy of proof in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS) one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

It is precisely because there is a greater context of legal expansion in the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement, that merely answering the questions represents a beginning point.  In other words, we meet head-on the age-old distinction between that which is necessary, as opposed to what constitutes sufficiency in order to satisfy the criteria.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: How the Historical Background Is Stated Can Make All the Difference

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must address the issue of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A), and answer questions regarding the medical conditions, their impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform the essential elements of one’s positional duties as slotted; impact upon other areas of one’s life, etc.

The problem with many respondents to such a form (by “respondent” is meant to identify the Federal or Postal employee who is completing the form and filling out the SF 3112A for filing of a Federal Disability Retirement Application) is the manner in which it is responded to — the “how” it is stated.  In journalism, there is the standard approach of providing information:  Who, what, when, where and how.  Such satisfaction of a journalistic approach provides the reader with the necessary information required to complete a story.  In that type of forum, however, the penalty for providing the wrong “how” is merely bad penmanship, and some potential criticism by the general reading public.

In applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, however, the penalty for a wrong “how” may be a disqualification from being able to receive Federal Disability Retirement benefits, because the historical context of the medical condition can impact the legal criteria for eligibility.

Be careful in formulating the applicant’s statement of disability; what one says matters; how one says it may matter most.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Undisciplined Narrative

‘Discipline’ is a concept which is anathema to the American psyche; for, it is precisely the American character to have unfettered liberty, the ability to “be one’s self”; of self-expressive uniqueness, and to embrace the boldness of the American Dream, as represented by the vast expanse of the American Midwest.

We debate about the constructive use of discipline for our children; complain if the government attempts to discipline our spending habits; and question whether societal constraints should be imposed in our daily lives.  In writing, however, a measure of self-discipline is necessary, if only because the audience for whom one writes will necessarily veto our refusal to discipline one’s writing in a penultimate manner, if we do not:  by refusing to read it.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must discipline the writing of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112D), in multiple respects:  in length; in providing historical background; in careful content selection; in answering the questions asked in a relevant and appropriate manner; in avoiding breaching certain taboo subjects which could defeat a Federal Disability Retirement application; in taking on the tone, tenor and texture of objectivity as opposed to pure emotional appeal, etc.

‘Discipline’ is a dirty word in the American lexicon; but in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application from OPM, it is a necessary clump of dirt which must be sifted, cleansed and appropriately dusted, in order to provide an effective narrative vehicle to have a Federal Disability Retirement application approved by OPM.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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