OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: Substantive versus Linguistic Redefinition

Once the acceptance of dissociative dichotomy between language and the objective world became entrenched, the path of ease with which to tinker with language in order to adeptly fit language to reality (i.e., redefine words, concepts and meanings) became a simple next step in the process.

There are, of course, limitations.  A rock thrown and shattering a bottle is difficult to avoid, no matter how much linguistic gymnastics may be engaged.  For reality-based situations which must encounter the language game, one cannot come closer to the correspondence necessary than when one encounters a medical condition.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who must confront the reality of a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s life, livelihood and future financial security, the reality of the importance of “getting it right” is never more certain.

Often, the question is asked on a purely linguistic level: Will medical condition-X qualify me?  That is the wrong question.

For, Federal Disability Retirement, whether under FERS or CSRS, filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the question must be asked in an alternative manner, because the entire process of proving one’s case is unlike Social Security Disability and other forums.

In those “other” criteria, the identification of the medical condition itself — i.e., the linguistic identification of the issue — will often be enough to determine qualification criteria.  But for Federal Disability Retirement purposes, it is the direct encounter and confrontation between language and reality which must be faced and embraced: Not “what” identified medical condition, but rather, “how” the medical condition impacts, in the real world, the essential elements of one’s job and how one can adequately perform them.

Thus, Federal Disability Retirement cannot avoid the correspondence between language and reality; it is that very question touching upon the nexus between language (the identified medical condition) and reality (how that medical condition impacts the physical or cognitive ability of the worker to engage in the world) which must be answered.  Thus, no matter what linguistic deconstructionists declare: language does require a correspondence with reality, and truth does still matter despite the hard-fought and persistent attempts to otherwise make irrelevant that which we all accept in the everyday world.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Entrenchment versus Fidelity to a Promise

People often have a general sense of obligations and duties, and remain steadfast in fidelity to promises made.  Ultimately, it is actions which confirm the sincerity of words, and not an abundance of additional verbiage.  But fidelity to a course of action can constitute an entrenchment of actions without regard to changing circumstances or the vicissitudes which accompany a career or a course of events.  Intersecting issues will often require a changing response; a change in plans does not necessarily constitute a violation of a promise; rather, it may in fact be the very fulfillment of a promise.

And so it is with Federal and Postal employees who confront and must deal with a medical issue; those projects which were spearheaded by a particular person; those mission statements and goals intended — suddenly, multi-tasking must be pared down to a single duty; time must be taken to attend to one’s medical conditions; the course of action intended must be altered, modified, and sometimes abandoned.

If the essence of X becomes damaged, do its attributes remain untouched, also?  Or must the dependencies be transformed in order to preserve the essence? Staying on a course when the context has encountered dramatic alterations, can be viewed as either foolhardy, stubborn, or valiant.

When a Federal or Postal Worker who is suffering from a medical condition such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, it is time to evaluate and review the course of one’s career.  Opting to preserve one’s health and to prepare and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is not an abandonment of purpose; rather, it is a recognition that life’s unexpected turn has forced a change of course — honorable in intent, and necessary in preservation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Illness v. Disability

Everyone has experienced an illness which results in a temporary period of disability; there is, however, a vast difference between such an illness, and a medical condition which is of such severity, chronicity, and intractability, such that it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

In this day and age of cynicism and suspicion, where economic forces have pitted the private sector against Federal and Postal employees, it is important to approach a Federal Disability Retirement case in a methodological, systematic way, such that there is no question as to the viability of one’s case.  The U.S. Office of Personnel Management scrutinizes each Federal Disability Retirement application with a set of legal criteria, and if any one point of the Federal or Postal Worker’s application fails to meet the legal criteria, the Office of Personnel Management will deny the case.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to ensure that one’s narrative description, the compilation of medical reports and evidence, and the entirety of the Federal Disability Retirement application, is not characterized merely as a “temporary illness”, but is unequivocally shown to be a medical condition such that it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

There is a difference between an illness of a temporary nature and a chronic and progressively debilitating medical condition; but more than that, there is a vast chasm between a fact and the effective description of the fact.  It is the latter which must be conveyed to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Quality & Quantity of Medical Report

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is often asked as to the quantitative sufficiency of the medical documentation to be submitted.

Qualitative sufficiency for Federal Disability Retirement applications, at least on a generic level, is an easy one to answer — the substance of the medical documentation must meet the legal standard of proof.  If the Office of Personnel Management or the Merit Systems Protection Board approves the Federal or Postal employee’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, then obviously both the quality and quantity of medical documentation met the standard of proof.  

But an answer based upon “after the fact” circumstances is rarely useful; the generic answer of, “Submit medical evidence such that it meets the legal burden of proof, of Preponderance of the Evidence”, might be well and good, but what does that mean?  

Ultimately, the reason why such questions as to sufficiency of medical documentary submission cannot be answered in a generic manner, is that each particular case is unique, and any imposition of a general rule is dangerous because, the moment the general rule is followed and violated (with a denial from the Office of Personnel Management), then the rule becomes obsolete and irrelevant.  

The quality of the medical documentation to be submitted must ultimately show to OPM that each of the legal criteria are met, and that there is a nexus between one’s medical conditions and the type of work that one performs.  

Quantity of medical documentation is ultimately determined by the quality of the medical narrative.  While generic in scope, the general approach is that one should submit only the extent of medical documentation sufficient to prove one’s case; and in each particular case, what that proof must consist of, is unique, particularized, and ultimately personalized to the individual Federal or Postal Worker who is preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Knowing the Terms

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to have some clarity on conceptualizations of physical and psychiatric medical conditions or, to put it quite simply, to “know your terms”.  

While one must obviously obtain the necessary medical documentation in order to meet the eligibility requirements for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, and such medical documentation — a narrative report providing for the “bridge” between one’s medical condition and the particular type of duties and positional requirements one is engaged in with the Federal government or the Postal Service, as well as office notes, treatment notes, etc. — reliance upon the medical documentation to expand upon, delineate, explain, illustrate and elucidate upon the narrative story of how the medical condition impacts upon one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, may be expecting too much from the doctor and medical documentation itself.  

On the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A), there is an opportunity for the Applicant to provide information concerning the impact of one’s medical condition upon the essential elements of one’s job, as well as upon one’s personal life.

Knowing the “medical jargon” and being able to extrapolate, apply, expand upon, and describe in terms which are cohesive, understandable, illustrative, and with sufficient emotive impact, yet maintaining a sense of rational perspective and sequential, logical application, is an important part of providing useful information to the Office of Personnel Management.

Keeping it simple is important, but at the same time being able to use the medical terms comfortably in describing the impact upon one’s positional duties, in a technical but comprehensible manner, is the key to effective communication.  For, after all, “communication” is what this is all about — of presenting a case which is persuasive to the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Effective Narrative

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to compile an effective narrative on Standard Form 3112A, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  

The narrative presentation, in response to specific questions which are posed on SF 3112A, should encompass a wide range of writing tools:  clear identification of the diagnosed medical conditions; concise description of the symptoms which manifest themselves; an understandable delineation of the type, nature and essential elements required in one’s position with the Federal government or the Postal Service; and a connective narration of the impact of one’s medical conditions upon the performance of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.  

All of those writing tools which one learned in grammar school — and hopefully perfected over the years — should be utilized in the process of formulating the narrative.  By “narrative” is meant the story of one’s medical conditions and its impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  

The narrative form should be clear, concise, comprehensible, and minimalist to the extent that the range of irrelevant tangents should be limited, but the story should be compelling enough to contain the details to captivate the OPM Representative who is reviewing the case.  Moreover, it should be a short story as opposed to a novel; one should not have to tell about the pain, but rather, allow the story to reveal the physical and emotional devastation of the medical condition, its impact upon one’s job, and upon other aspects of one’s life.  Further, it should answer the questions posed, but go beyond the questions, and answer the essential foundation without argumentation:  Why one is eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Those Chronic Medical Conditions

Often, in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is the concern that because a particular medical condition has had a “chronic” nature to it (whatever the particular diagnosis is, to include Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Failed Back Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Pain, etc.), that somehow it will impact the chances of being approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

The argument and concern goes somewhat as follows:  X Federal or Postal employee has been able to work for Y number of years for the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service; the medical condition has not prevented the Federal or Postal employee from performing the essential elements of the job all these years, because the Federal or Postal employee has simply endured the chronic nature of the pain; therefore, the medical condition (it is feared) cannot be cited as a basis for an approval from the Office of Personnel Management.  

However, the mere rationale that a particular medical condition is chronic, inherently or otherwise, is not a basis for being concerned about a denial.  The fact is that a particular Federal or Postal employee was able to perform the essential elements of his or particular job for many years; the chronicity of the medical condition is often the case; but at some point, the constant, chronic pain comes to a point where the Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to physically, emotionally or mentally tolerate the extent, duration and severity of the pain.  At such a critical point, it is time to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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