OPM Disability Retirement: Trust

Words have become increasingly malleable.  They can be reformed, restated, interpreted in multiple ways, and ultimately made to conform to what an individual desires it to mean.  Trust is based upon the mutual understanding of words.  As such, the breach of trust can come about quite rapidly, as the deterioration of such mutual understanding becomes apparent.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there is often an issue of “trust” between the Agency from which the Federal or Postal employee is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and the Federal or Postal employee him/her self.  The extent to which an agency is informed of the process; issues of confidentiality and whether privacy concerns are breached — all involve an issue of trust.

Unfortunately, trust is also an issue which, for whatever reason, is instilled as a desire in human beings.  Most people “want” to trust another individual, and because of this desire, it can be used as a predatory bait for those who may have motivations and reasons other than the best interests of the Federal or Postal employee.

Finally, what this author has always believed, is the following:  The test of sincerity is represented by past actions, not the mere speaking of words.  Yet, even actions do not constitute a complete source of reliability.  In the end, discretion calls for limited revelation of information.  An “only need-to-know, when necessary” rule should always be applied to confidential, private information.  And what can be more confidential and private, than one’s own medical condition in the preparation, formulation and filing of Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Like the Perfect Storm

As the Eastern Seaboard gets pummeled by Hurricane Sandy, one can see the analogy with those who have come to a point where preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, becomes a necessity.

It is the coagulation and coalescence of multiple factors, all coming together and making a direct impact upon an entity, geographical location, or in this particular case, a person, which defines a “perfect storm”.  For the Federal or Postal employee who finally sees the necessity for filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the factors may involve:  the increasingly debilitating nature of the medical condition itself; the flashpoint of the Agency, where the agency is no longer showing any understanding or empathy for one’s medical condition (perhaps, as more likely is the case, they never showed any such understanding or empathy, anyway); the constricting resources because of the continuous need to exhaust sick and annual leave, and going out on LWOP; exhaustion of FMLA protection; adverse actions from the agency being proposed, including a Proposed Removal; and other similar actions and conditions coming to a forceful impetus where the Federal or Postal employee no longer has the luxury of considering applying for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement; rather, the time has come.  But many of those factors forcing the issues could be seen long before the perfect storm came to fruition.

Just as preparing for the onslaught of a hurricane can be adequately performed beforehand, the Federal or Postal employee should understand that the administrative process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits should be looked upon and considered long before that perfect storm hits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Different Approaches

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there are different approaches which one can take within the limited universe of available time which each Federal and Postal Worker possesses.

One approach is to fight every wording and each action which the agency undertakes or engages in.  A different approach is to ensure that the core and central foundation of one’s case is effective and — whether explicitly or implicitly — answers any of the collateral issues which may be brought up by the agency.

Thus, for example, if a medical narrative report effectively addresses all of the essential questions concerning a Federal Disability Retirement application, then whatever the agency attempts to argue or infer in an argument, concerning accommodations, light duty, or even adverse actions which have previously been imposed, will all become essentially irrelevant and immaterial, precisely because this is fundamentally a medical issue, and not an issue concerning who did what or tried what.

Much of what is within the purview and control of the Federal or Postal employee putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application is lost when the focus is unduly placed upon trying to correct, attack, or explain what the agency is doing.

By creating an excellent firewall of that which is within one’s own control,  the Federal Disability Retirement application that is prepared, formulated and filed by the Federal or Postal employee effectively answers anything and everything which the Agency may attempt to insert with a subversive motive.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Escape from the Morass

The loss of perspective comes at a price:  ever deeper in the morass of self-reflection, one cannot step outside of one’s self in order to attain a viewpoint other than that which one possesses.  That is often how we criticize politicians who have been in Washington for “too long” —  caught within a society of power and appearances, they fail to recognize how “real” people live and struggle.

The acknowledgment of such a perspective (or, to put it more correctly, some would say the “loss of perspective”) is a first step; the second, and more important step, is to do something about it.

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 for the Federal or Postal employee to comprehend, understand, and ultimately “see” that there is a way out.

The desperation in the voices of those Federal and Postal employees who have been caught in the morass of the vicious cycle of pain, chronic and deteriorating medical conditions, the self-denigrating perpetual maze of being caught in a web where one can see no future in a job which one cannot perform because of a deteriorating medical condition which one cannot control, can be heard in the description of cries for help.

But the next step in order to escape such a morass is to prepare to formulate a plan, and the first stage of that plan is to decide whether one is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  As that old proverb goes, the journey of a thousand miles begins with a first step…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Agency’s Attempt

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the issue of “accommodations” will necessarily surface, if only because the Agency must complete SF 3112D — the Form which is entitled, “Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts” (which bureaucrat came up with that title?).

Agencies will often choose the wrong box to check because they will either misread the choices or misunderstand what the statements mean.  For instance, in the third choice of Question 4, it states, “Yes, describe below the accommodation efforts made, attach supporting documentation and provide narrative analysis of any unsuccessful accommodation efforts.”  The problem with the choice itself is that the entire concept of “accommodations” has been clarified, modified, and thoroughly discussed in cases which have been brought before the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and such court opinions have been issued subsequent to the original meaning of the term when the Standard Form was first issued.

But when the Agency completes the form, they will often answer the question in terms of “allowing for liberal use of sick leave” or “letting the employee refrain from doing X, Y or Z”,  etc.  But allowing for temporary, light duty work does not constitute a “legal accommodation“, and thus does not go to the requested information.  In fact, the loosely-used term of “accommodation” is actually no accommodation at all.

What to do about it when it happens?  One must be discreet in how to approach it.  For most cases, the agency’s lack of understanding will have no impact at all, and it should not be responded to.  In other instances…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Bureaucratized Process

One cannot expect any entity, organization, or group of individuals to reinvent the wheel for each product, service or response; streamlining and repetitive conformity of a product, issuance or completion of a case is the way of the world; it is how the Model T became a successful capitalistic venture; it is how China dominates the world of marketing.  But in the world of Due Process, one cannot formulate a mass production of effective advocacy without trampling upon the rights of an individual.

Thus, on both sides of the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, each case must be responded to in accordance with the specific, unique facts as constrained by the individual circumstances.

Conversely, one should expect — and demand of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — that something more than a mere template of a response should be issued, after a careful and thorough review of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

If a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application is approved by OPM, then of course one can expect merely a letter of approval which is identical to thousands of others.  If denied, however, the denial letter should reflect a careful, thorough and individualized letter, reflecting the scrutiny of one’s particular disability retirement packet.

Anything less would be to trample upon one’s due process rights as a Federal or Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: After the Dust Settles

Moments in time are often emphasized by specific occurrences; one may have vivid memories of rather mundane freeze-frames of one’s life, and such flashes of remembrances may be punctuated by an event which exponentially magnifies the importance of a particular pinpoint in one’s life.

One often talks about the “aha” event, or in psychology, the gestalt moment, where clarity comes upon one and sudden illumination occurs, where understanding, comprehension and embracing of intellectual openness comes to fruition.  But what one fails to realize, is that the real work — the hard work of life — comes after such a moment, when the mundane drudgery of daily living must follow thereafter.

In any moment of victory of defeat, 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 recognize that, if, whether and when, a Federal or Postal employee obtains and gets approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, life must still go on, and the hard choices of such a life must still be made at each moment of one’s life.

Thus, throughout the administrative process of trying to obtain Federal Disability Retirement, it is important to recognize that the process itself continues; but in a different form.  If denied, the disappointment of a denial should not overwhelm one, but merely be understood as a momentary setback which must be fought.  Everything in life comes at a cost — and expended effort.

If approved, then such an approval is merely the beginning point to the next phase in one’s life.  After the dust settles is when the real work begins.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Use of Collateral Sources

Context is important.  Identifying the relevance of importance, however, is discretionary, and requires some insight into the impact which a differentiated distinction might require.

Allow for some expansive explanation:  In attempting to obtain OWCP/DOL benefits, one may want to argue against the validity of a medical evaluation — i.e., by attacking the claimed “independence” of the medical evaluation (argument:  the doctor is being compensated by the Department of Labor; 25% of his practice is devoted to such evaluations, and out of that, 95% of his evaluations are found to be in favor of the Department of Labor, etc.).  But the fact that one may want to attack the relevance and validity of an  independent medical examination within the context of the Office of Worker’s Compensation, does not mean that when one files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, that one should necessarily and unequivocally discard the received report from OWCP.

There may well be statements contained in such a report which may be useful in arguing to OPM that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application should be approved.  Can one argue positively that it is an “independent” medical examination?  Absolutely.  In fact, the contrary argument should be made:  that because the doctor was selected by another government agency (Department of Labor), it is all the more so that the medical opinions of the particular doctor are relevant and of significant impact.  One must be careful, of course, in using such collateral sources for support of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, but so long as the proper context is identified and understood, one should always consider the use of such “other” sources of support — but never to replace the primary importance of one’s treating doctor.  Context, properly understood, can result in substantive argumentation of relevant and significant import.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Selective Extrapolation

The game of selective extrapolation is played by many; there was a time when such a methodology — otherwise known as taking something “out of context” — was with simplicity and bluntness identified for what it is:  dishonest.  But in this day and age, it has come to be accepted, and even applauded, for such characteristics as “aggressiveness” and “smart play”.

Once, in an age where integrity and fidelity were upheld as character traits worthy of emulating, there was an affirmative duty to “tell the whole story” — that if X quoted from a document in fragmented form, it was one’s duty to provide the entirety of the context in order to be “fair”.  Perhaps it is the adversarial nature of the legal arena which allowed for this standard to change; or perhaps it is just part of the greater deterioration of the culture; in any event, in modern times, it is an accepted practice to merely take sentences, words, concepts and phrases out of context, and twist and mangle them to whatever form and usage will gain one’s advantage.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, especially in the context of a denial issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one will often find the use of selective extrapolation — of taking a lengthy, comprehensive medical report of a doctor, and choosing to quote an almost-irrelevant statement which seems to support a negative or opposite conclusion from that which the doctor has stated.  At first glance, one merely scratches one’s head with puzzlement; but after the initial shock, it must be recognized for what it is:  an attempt to merely justify the denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

How to rebut it?  Fortunately, the rebuttal is not made to the same individual who played the game of selective extrapolation; that would obviously be an act of futility.  The rebuttal must be forceful and head-on; call it for what it is, and provide the correct content and context.

In Federal Disability Retirement law with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  In order to do so, one must maintain a level of integrity which reveals the sharp contrast to those who engage in such games.

It is sometimes difficult to refrain from playing the other person’s game; but in the end, let’s hope that age-old standards of integrity and fair play will continue to win out.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire