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

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Man’s Best Friend

Dogs reflect the owner’s personality, character, and often even one’s appearance. Whether by intuition or by sheer chance, the choice which the master makes in the selection of a dog is more revealing about the former than the latter.  On the other hand, just as in marriage, where a man and a woman begin to think, act and live alike, perhaps it is merely that the master and the dog begin to assume the personalities, traits and characteristics of one another, over a period of time.  Certainly, there are instances where mismatches occur — as in an older couple rescuing a large dog out of sympathy, but who have neither the physical strength nor the means to manage its care.  Sometimes, the mismatch is merely apparent; what one finds is that the adoption of a particular breed of dog is “just what the doctor ordered”.

In making a decision about preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the initial reaction is simply one of doubt, hesitation and foreboding; for, throughout one’s life, one is taught to advance in one’s career, to “give it one’s all”, and that the Protestant Work Ethic is the essence of meaning which drives one forward from birth until death.  Circumstances dictate one’s life more than one would like to admit; the vicissitudes of life’s unexpected gifts and challenges require an acceptance without doubt or question.  Medical issues will often mandate a change; and while one may be reluctant to change a career, admit to a medical condition which requires a different pace of life, the acceptance of such a change will often prove to be a blessing.  Fear is often both a motivator, as well as the obstacle to change.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, is indeed a change which is hard to accept for the Federal or Postal employee; but like adopting a dog which appears to be a mismatch to one’s personality, character, and style of living, it may prove to be the prescription which is necessary.  The real difference is that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits will reduce the financial resources one receives; adopting a dog merely increases that which is essential to man’s happiness:  unconditional love, provided in the form of a slobbering canine tongue first thing each morning.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Bridge

The “bridge to nowhere” has become a metaphor for wastefulness and needless expenditure, both in terms of effort and resources.  It is a phrase in politics which has become overused and bandied about for political gain, attack ads and undermining of an opponent’s credibility.  As a political tool, in its very repetitiveness of its incessant utilization and reactive assignation against opponents, it has lost its efficacy.  Yet, in a very real sense — while the phrase itself may have become conceptually emptied of meaning — the foundation of what it represents still applies, and is relevant in all walks of life.

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must create a “bridge”, or a “nexus”, between one’s medical condition(s) and the positional duties of one’s job.

The underlying and inherent self-contradiction in the phrase itself is fascinating, if one pauses to reflect:  a “bridge” by definition” is intended to connect two or more points — from A to B, to perhaps other destinations. Yet, because a “bridge to nowhere” fails in its very definitional inception by only going from point A to … (?), as such, it undermines its own definition and purpose.  It is not a bridge.  The “nowhere” destroys the conceptual integrity of the “bridge“, and therefore the phrase itself is a conceptual conundrum of nonsense.  In order to regain its conceptual identity, one must go back to the foundational purpose of what a thing “is”, in order to regain what it must become and why it has lost its identity.  As in most things in life, we must go back to Aristotle’s “first principles”.

In Federal Disability Retirement, one needs to go back to what the question is that is being asked on Standard Form 3112A, its purpose, its directive focus, and why it is that the Office of Personnel Management is asking the question.  Only then can one begin to effectively formulate the bridge between one’s medical conditions, and the impact upon one’s positional duties, whether as a Federal employee or a Postal worker.

In a Federal Disability Retirement case, the “bridge to nowhere” will result in a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  The bridge must begin from a point of relevance, and end in its intended destination.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Showtime

In old literary adage, one should always write in a manner which “shows” to the reader an event that is happening, a conflict unfolding, or a misery felt.  Entertainers never declare to one another, “It is Tell-time”.  Instead, we are all familiar with the singular phrase, “Showtime”.  For, one can “tell” a story, state facts, convey issues, etc., but the most effective tool in evoking empathy, sympathy and understanding from the reader, the recipient or the audience, is to “show” what is occurring.

Such conceptual efficacy also applies in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.  It is interesting how a focal point of an endeavor often calls for utilization of tools outside of the arena of specialty demanded; thus, it is not so much knowing administrative law which is necessary to prepare an effective narrative in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A, both for FERS as well as for CSRS employees) — rather, it is the ability to engage in effective narrative prose.

The common literary refrains of repetitiveness, of descriptive word-usage, of choosing adjectives which flow and yet accurately describe the nexus between one’s medical conditions and the positional duties of one’s Federal or Postal job — these are all important in compiling an effective narrative of one’s medical condition and how it impacts upon one’s ability to perform one’s job.

While the doctor may present your case in a distant, clinical manner, the applicant himself/herself must evoke some semblance of understanding from the Claims Representative at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Indeed, it is “Showtime”, but the showing must be accomplished in words, and the time to touch upon is the present moment, encapsulated in time and the narrative prose.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Efficiency and Effectiveness

What does it mean to be “efficient”?  Is it distinguishable from being “effective”, or are the two inseparable?  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to be effective in submitting a paper presentation to the Office of Personnel Management.

Efficiency, while helpful, is not necessarily a precondition in order to be effective.  In an inverse manner, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is very effective in its procedural approach — the laws support such effectiveness, in that their decisions, timeframes and arguments are effective in their very finality (leaving aside the issue of appeal rights, of course).  But is OPM efficient?  Most would argue that because of the recent inefficiencies reflected by their case-load backlog, that one could hardly describe OPM as being very “efficient”.

Thus, “effectiveness” and “efficiency” are two distinct concepts which are clearly separable.  If one were to choose which of the two characteristics one should embrace in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it would clearly be the former (effectiveness), as opposed to the latter (efficiency).  For, while time will fade, the final decision of whether one gets an approval or a denial in a Federal Disability Retirement case will not.

Being effective in fighting a case is the more important of the two characteristics, and sometimes, when one needs to be effective, one is not terribly efficient in the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: To Resign, or Not

The question of whether a Federal or Postal employee should (or should not) resign from the job is one which cannot be answered in a vacuum.  Various considerations should be taken into account, but generally speaking, the rule of thumb which the undersigned writer poses in any circumstance is:  What is the compelling reason to do so, such that by resigning, one triggers the Statute of Limitations on filing for Federal Disability Retirement?

Certainly, there are dire circumstances which may necessitate a resignation: being able to access TSP funds because one cannot work because of one’s medical conditions, and one has no other means of support during the process; a pending non-medical adverse action which cannot reasonably be argued against, which may collaterally impact a Federal Disability Retirement application, with a settlement choice to resign for “medical reasons”; and some similar factual scenarios which may indeed warrant and dictate a resignation.

On the other hand, by remaining on the rolls of the Federal sector job, there are multiple advantages which may unfold for the future, including the assertion of the Bruner Presumption when the Federal Agency realizes that the Federal Disability Retirement package clearly shows an inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job and proceeds to remove the Federal or Postal worker based upon the medical inability to perform; a lack of triggering the Statute of Limitations, thereby extending the timeframe for multiple future attempts in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; and other issues which need to be considered.

Resignation is an event of certainty, with no reversal; and in all such certainties, it should be done only if compelled by circumstances, facts and considered thoughtfulness.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Proving the Standard

In approaching how to prove a Federal Disability Retirement case, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is best to try and meet a higher standard of proof, and not be lulled into thinking that because the applicable standard of proof is the lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard, that the mere necessity of proving one’s case is reflective of that standard.

Standards of proof on a theoretical level are for academics; in the practical world of law, one must actually persuade and convince the individuals who are authorized to approve a Federal Disability Retirement application, that the Federal Disability Retirement application merits an approval.  This would include the personnel at the Office of Personnel Management, as well as an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.

One can shout all one wants that the standard of proof needed in a Federal Disability Retirement case is the “preponderance of the evidence,” and that all that is necessary to meet that standard is that X is more likely to be true than not.  However, in the “real” world of law, people, and persuasive authority, one’s case should always strive to meet the highest standard — that it is so persuasive that the deciding authority has no choice but to approve the case.  For, as the higher standard logically subsumes all lower standards, the inverse is not true, and the interpretation of what constitutes meeting the “preponderance of the evidence” test can have a wide margin of error.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Concerns of Confidentiality

There is often an expressed concern regarding how confidential the medical records submitted through one’s Agency are kept.  It is a valid concern, but one which must be weighed and considered in light of the ultimate goal:  to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS.

There are multiple instances of confidentiality breaches — both at the agency level and at OPM.  OPM has sent out letters in the past to the wrong individual, and in the letters they discuss details of medical conditions, contents of medical reports, etc.  Such mistakes, while (fortunately) rare, do occur at times.

At the Agency level, of course, the concern is of greater import.  If a Federal or Postal employee is still on the rolls of the Agency and has not been separated from Federal Service for more than thirty one (31) days, then a Federal Disability Retirement packet, with all of the attached medical reports, must be submitted through that Agency.  Disclosure of such medical reports and records are to be kept to an “as needed” basis — for the limited purpose of seeing whether the Agency can accommodate a medical condition, for instance.

Federal and Postal employees who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits often express the concern that unauthorized individuals may be able to view the confidential medical reports, and sometimes use them for alternative, unauthorized purposes.  One such concern, of course, is if there is a pending collateral case ongoing — such as an EEOC case or some similar filing, where the evidence gleaned from the medical records can be used against the Federal or Postal employee in another forum.

Ultimately, the Federal or Postal employee must weigh the pros and cons, and do the best to ensure confidentiality, and view any concerns of confidential breaches as merely an intermediate step of necessity to attain the ultimate and more important goal, of obtaining an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Proving with Purposive Intent

Each compensatory program, whether on a Federal, State or Local level, has an underlying basis which finds its inception in an idea, a proposal, then a statute.  The statutory authority of a “program” is the basis of its very existence.  Court opinions will interpret, expand upon, and “explain” the limits and boundaries of the program itself.

As such, each program of compensation contains a “raison d’être” (a reason for its very existence), and in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is often a good idea to understand the foundational basis of a compensation program, in order to be able to effectively attack it, comply with it, and ultimately to prove its purposive intent.

Thus, for Social Security Disability, for example, the underlying purposive intent involves a higher standard of “total disability” and how the medical condition impacts one’s daily living activities.  For the Department of Labor, Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (DOL/FECA), the underlying purposive intent involves an injury or medical condition related to the job itself, with a view towards (if at all possible) rehabilitating the Federal or Postal employee such that he or she can return to the position occupied prior to the injury.  For Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, it is the “bridge” itself which defines the purposive intent — of the impact between the medical condition and the particular job which one performs.

It is for that very reason — the purposive intent behind a Federal Disability Retirement Statute — that the compensation program allows for the Federal or Postal employee, unlike the other programs, to go out and earn up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays, in addition to receiving the Federal Disability Retirement annuity.

By understanding, one is able to begin to formulate a strategy of applying and proving a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Danger of the Sure Thing

The danger of any “sure thing” is that, aside from the potential reversal of fortune if the assumed certainty fails to come to fruition, the acceptance of the claim of certainty in and of itself undermines the motivational factor in the very process of attempting to reach a goal.

A recent article in the New York Times told of another high school basketball prodigy who was “destined” for greatness in the NBA, only to descend into the ranks of the “has-beens” and those who had “great potential” but somehow never realized and actualized such potential greatness.  Rare is the Lebron James in any walk of life; rarer still is the one who recognizes the distinction that a “sure thing” becomes a certainty only on the precondition that one must vigilantly ascertain and safeguard such certainty of outcome.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is often a misguided view that one’s own particular medical condition is so serious, and so debilitating, that it is a “sure thing” in the approval process with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Yes, there are rare cases where the identity of the medical condition is such that it warrants an automatic approval from OPM; but such cases are few, and that is why we refer to them as cases of certainty.  The problem often rests in the fact that the sufferer of the medical condition is the same person who attempts to be a proponent of the Federal Disability Retirement application.

Certainty is clouded by judgment; when it’s your own horse in the race, one wants to judge a certainty.  When that horse is not only one’s own, but moreover, the person himself/herself is in the race itself, then a clouded judgment becomes a misguided view of how the world operates.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire