Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Claims of Stress

“Stress”is a phrase which is used to describe a myriad of conditions, circumstances and origins of countless medical conditions.  The word itself is malleable and elastic, and can be used in multiple forms — as an adjective, noun, verb, etc.  As a term of common usage to describe the workplace, it is accepted as an inherent part of any job encapsulating a set of responsibilities, because of the accompaniment of positional duties, time management, goal-orientation, and working cooperatively with others in unison and common coordination of efforts.

In the context of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the term itself will appear repeatedly throughout — in medical reports, in an Applicant’s Statement of Disability, and even in a Supervisor’s Statement.

In most circumstances, the term “stress” is used in a grammatically loose sense, and as a secondary identifier of a medical condition, as opposed to a primary diagnosis of a medical condition.  To assert that one “suffers from stress” is a generalization which normally requires greater particulars, and rather describes one in a series of multiple symptoms rather than a conceptually clear diagnosis which is accepted in the medical community.

Moreover, such a statement implies that the “sufferer” of the “stress” receives such a condition and is responding to a particular source of such suffering — i.e., a specific workplace.  This is where “situational disability” is then alleged, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will deny a Federal Disability Retirement application based upon such an assumption and implication.

There are ways to counter such assertions, implications and inferences, but such inoculation against such a charge must be addressed at the outset, not in the middle (although, in most cases, such mistakes can indeed be corrected), of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: SSDI, FERS & Persuasive Impact

As part of the process in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one must file for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) — if the Federal or Postal worker filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is under the FERS programs (CSRS employees are exempted because it is not tied to the Social Security component as part of the retirement system).

A small percentage of cases actually get approved by Social Security prior to a decision being made by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  When that happens (and yes, it is fairly rare, if only because most Federal and Postal employees filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits do so with a recognition that (A) they cannot do a particular kind of job, and (B) with a view towards working at another job, career, vocation, etc., whether part-time or full-time), then the question becomes:  What does one do with an SSDI approval letter?  Trevan v. OPM and subsequent cases, of course, comprise the rule on the matter; but such court cases essentially state that the decision of the Social Security Administration, as well as other Federal entities, are merely persuasive, as opposed to determinative.  But how persuasive?  Persuasive is a relative term.

To an unsuspecting innocent bystander, a person of reprehensible intensions may “persuade” quite easily; to the cynic and man of suspicious nature, “persuasion” may take the full effort of a team of con artists.  For the OPM Case Manager in the OPM Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals division, a decision by the Social Security Administration will take a 3-legged approach to have any impact at all:  (A)  the decision itself, (B) the case-law which makes the Federal Agency’s decision relevant to an OPM Disability Retirement case, and (C) accompanying medical evidence.  And, of course, the 4th component in all of this would be the methodological argumentation by the Applicant or the Federal Disability Attorney who argues effectively the previously-cited 3 components.

Persuasion is a “relative” term — indeed, relatives tend to be more familiar and therefore easily persuaded; strangers to the process need not apply.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: SSDI & FERS

It happens quite often.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal and Postal employee must file for Social Security Disability benefits (under FERS; CSRS is exempted because there is no Social Security component under the law).

While many Human Resources offices, as well as the H.R. Shared Services office in Greensboro, N.C. for the Postal Service, will assert to the Federal and Postal employee that they must “wait” until they get a decision from the Social Security Administration, the truth is that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management only needs to see a receipt showing that SSDI was filed, and this can be easily obtained online by simply completing their questionnaire, submitting it, then printing out a receipt.  Moreover, OPM only needs the receipt showing that one has filed, at the time of an approval.

By being misinformed and ill-advised, what often happens is a delay in the entire process — either that the H.R. office of an agency, or for the U.S. Postal Service, delays processing their part of the Federal Disability Retirement application, or the Federal or Postal employee is left with the misinformation and impression that he or she cannot file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits until the Social Security Administration has made a decision.

Then, of course, there are those who believe (wrongly) that they must receive a “final” decision from SSDI — meaning that after the initial denial is issued, and they have appealed the decision, they must await the results of the appeal.  This can take many months, if not years, and by that time, there is the danger that the Statute of Limitations has come and gone for filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Information is normally a neutral conglomeration of facts and issues, but can be a positive thing; misinformation, by inverse logical definition, would then be a negative thing.  More than that, reliance upon misinformation can lead to real-world consequences — ones which are irreversible.  As such, one must check and double-check the source of information, in order to ensure that reliance results in reliability.

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

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