Misnomers and the OPM’s Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division

The problem with misnomers is not just the inaccuracy of designation which is either explicitly or implicitly conveyed, but the unintended consequences of the string of reactions and responses which can occur as a result thereof.  Sometimes, interpretive mistakes occur purely on a subjective basis; in which case it is not truly a case of a misnomer, but rather merely the misunderstanding by the recipient of the information.  Other times, a word or designation can be open to multiple meanings, where reasonable people can differ on the inferences to be made.

For Federal and Postal employees who have filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal Service employee is under FERS or CSRS (such acronyms have specific, esoteric meanings only to Federal or Postal employees, and as such, cannot constitute an objective misnomer, but rather a potentially subjective one), the complexity of the administrative and bureaucratic process can result in the failure to recognize and properly respond to various misnomers throughout the process.

For example, when a Federal Disability Retirement case is assigned to an Administrative Specialist at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and one receives a letter informing the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant that X is further needed — the identification of the OPM Representative that he or she is from the “Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division” is both confusing and a misnomer.

For, the recipient of the letter (and just to receive any correspondence from OPM other than an approval letter or a denial letter is an amazing fact in and of itself) can well infer from the designation that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application has already been denied without notification (i.e., because it is in the “Reconsideration & Appeals Division”). In fact, all cases fall under the aegis of “Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals” section of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Misnomers may be unintended. It is the recipient and the responder who must, unfortunately, live with the consequences.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal & Postal Employee Medical Retirement: The Intersection of Interests

Throughout one’s life, most Americans have minimal contact with governmental bureaucracies and agencies, except to comply with Selective Service requirements, join the military, file tax returns, claim Social Security benefits in older age, etc. Such encounters are often considered bothersome, and many grumble and complain about the intrusive nature of such dealings. What is often not perceived, of course, is the vast amount of indirect statutory and administrative requirements placed upon private entities, which then shift burdens upon the private citizen, unbeknownst to the person entering the store, bank, etc.

For the Federal and Postal Worker, however, the daily bureaucratic encounters are part of one’s life. The Federal and Postal employee is part of that administrative process which impacts the private sector of the economy; they are, in essence, the “insiders” who make the mechanisms of government tick. As such, the Federal and Postal Worker often has little idea how the “private” individual views such inner workings, until he or she becomes just like the “outsider” and encounters a Federal bureaucracy in the same shoes as the private individual.

When the Federal or Postal employee finds it necessary to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, such a clash and intersection of interests suddenly takes on a new perspective. In one fell swoop, the Federal and Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits becomes both an “insider” as well as an “outsider” — the former, because he or she is still part of the Federal agency or Postal Service; the latter, because such dealings must ultimately be with an independent agency identified as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Such intersection of interests often becomes befuddling; for, no longer is the encounter embracing the administrative and bureaucratic work to which one is accustomed; rather, it is to stand in line like other private citizens to file a claim for benefits.

Such a state of being, for the Federal and Postal Worker, can be likened to the deceased individual caught in Purgatory; and, indeed, perhaps some sins unknown and not atoned for, have been placed upon such Federal and Postal employees to have to encounter OPM in such a state. Whatever the reasons, such an encounter can be just as much of an eye-opener to the Federal and Postal employee, as a private citizen who encounters the complex bureaucracy of the Federal government for the first time in his or her life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Linguistic World of Mirrors

Mirrors are peculiar human inventions; they play to the vanity of men and women, while at the same time revealing the cosmetic warts and boils which remain unhidden and starkly open on display.  But linguistic mirrors take away that disadvantage of visual perception; instead, through the vehicle of words, one can create reflections of a fantasy world of make-believe, without ever having to confront the ugliness of reality.  Thus can we go through the day by surrounding ourselves with platitudes:  “It’s not that bad”; “You look good, today”; “Things will get better tomorrow”.  Linguistic mirrors avoid the direct reality of one’s reflection, and instead create a mythical world of statements bouncing back to the bearer of siphoned and filtered news.

Further, the one who surrounds himself with sycophants and yes-men can continue to live in a surreal world of compliments and make-believe for countless years, without suffering the consequences of objective reality.  And we can do that with medical conditions, too.  One can survive through years and years by avoiding the signals of progressive physical and cognitive deterioration.

Federal and Postal workers are quite good at this game of mirrors — that is why it often comes to a crisis point before Federal and Postal Workers consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS; and that is why Supervisors and Managers are surprised; and, moreover, at least one of the reasons why performance appraisals reflect “outstanding” throughout the years of pain and debilitating conditions.  But in the end, mirrors fade, crack, and reveal the ugliness beneath the cosmetic surface; and even words begin to fail.  Pain in the human body is an innate alert system that is fail-safe, and when the medical condition begins to manifest itself to the point where one can no longer mask the symptoms, the seriousness of it all becomes apparent.

Federal Disability Retirement is at least an option for Federal and Postal Workers to consider, in order to be released from the “true picture” of one’s conditions.  There are legal criteria to meet; medical statements to obtain; narrative statements to write; but all in good time, as we see the reflection in the mirror, and apply more cosmetic means to hide the reality of our true condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Advice and Guidance

The worth of advice is unique in that it is valued based up multiple facets of judgments: the source of such advice; the reputation and historical successes of that source; the soundness of the advisory statement, based upon all information available; and, ultimately, the receptiveness of such advice on the part of the person who seeks it. When advice falls upon deaf ears, of course, then the very value and effectiveness of such advice has been lost forever.

In the legal arena, there is an added component — that the attorney is unable to, for obvious ethical reasons, to render advice unless there has been established an attorney-client relationship.  The “obvious reasons”  have to do with the fact that proffering advice in particular circumstances can only come about if and when an attorney has received the confidential and specific information pertaining to a “client”.  Guidance of a general nature, without reference to individualized details, can be given in a generic sense.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, where each case is unique because of fact-specific medical conditions, position descriptions which are impacted by the particularized medical conditions of the individual case, and the nexus which must arise with the interaction between the two — because of this, legal advice must be tailored within a context of an attorney-client relationship.

General guidance can be given; but the Federal or Postal employee seeking help in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, should understand that the importance of getting good legal advice is dependent upon the value and worth the Federal or Postal employee places upon his or her unique and individualized case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: All Things Equal

Of course, in life, all things are NOT equal. Some cases get approved within a couple of weeks; others, seemingly for months sit on an OPM Representative’s desk, with not even a glance or a reason for the extensive delay. As night approaches, and this area gleams with the white of snow, a virtual dreamland of snow piled feet upon feet; whether Washington, D.C. will even open this week, or enter the week with the “liberal leave” policy; and, yes, of course there is tele-commuting, but the effectiveness of that is also based upon people ultimately coming in for files, additional information, etc. This week, all things are not equal; Washington, D.C. is frozen in time, in weather, and in a beauty of sheer whiteness; in the quietude of nightfall, only the dreams of children and the shrills and shrieks of sleds and snowballs matter; for those who have Federal Disability Retirement applications waiting to be approved by the Office of Personnel Management, patience must still remain a virtue to be sought after.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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