Disability Retirement from Federal Employment: The Methodological Approach

Many call in a frenzy of confusion, admitting openly of being lost and not knowing where to begin.  That is always the starting point, as even Socrates conceded — of the hope of knowledge beginning upon a recognition of not knowing (though, if one looked carefully and scrutinized the face and eyes of the old sage, one probably gleaned a twinkle of sly naughtiness).

Philosophy began in ignorance, and from there, attempted to ascertain a methodology of approaching problems in a systematic way, in order to overcome the shortcomings of man’s frenetic inclinations.  Identifying and ascertaining a knowledge of a criteria, a system of approaching problems, and an applied methodology of solving, is the preferable way than that of plugging holes where leaks appear.

Thus, for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, it is often necessary to formulate a sequential strategy at the outset, before embarking upon the dark abyss of preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Should certain information be gathered prior to completing the standard forms?  Yes.  What forms are “central” to a Federal Disability Retirement application?  Certainly, all of them, but if timeliness is an issue and the 1-year Statute of Limitations is suddenly upon the Federal or Postal employee attempting to file, then the SF 3107, Application for Immediate Retirement, including Schedules A, B & C, as well as SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, must all concurrently be prepared for immediate submission.

Identification of the essential as opposed to the bifurcated peripheral must be realized; compilation of the proper information, and the laws governing supplementing a Federal Disability Retirement application is essential for a successful outcome.

In the end, as it turns out, Socrates knew much more than he revealed; but the sly sage was wise enough not to engage in the solipsism of later years, like Descartes and the French Existentialists, and by recognizing that lack of knowledge and the admission of such vacuity is the first step towards wisdom, he was able to initiate the prefatory questions in the quest for knowledge in a world devoid of both.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Expanding the Significance of Individual Federal Employee Disability Cases

Lawyers daily engage in it; courts are sometimes receptive to it; the public is rarely approving of it.  Expanding the literal language of a statute by reading meaning into words, phrases and conceptual paradigms not otherwise manifested or obvious in the words enacted, is a language game which some call intellectual brilliance, while others deem to be disingenuous or otherwise dishonest, to be blunt about it.  The “it”, of course, is the compendium of the expanded impact and relevance of consequences resulting from statutory language, some intended, others unintended.

Does it all result from the poor crafting of a statute?  Sometimes.  Is it expected in all statutory construction?  Mostly.  Can constriction, as the antithesis and corollary of an expanded interpretation, ever come about?  Rarely.  It is in the very nature and intuitive construct of a legal statute and inherent principle that expansion of that principle to include avenues and influences not otherwise originally intended is to be expected.  That is the very nature of a law.

Sometimes, legislators knowingly write a statute with intended wiggle-room precisely for the lawyers and judges to wrangle over.  What the general public fails to understand, however, is that each individual can be a singular guardian of the principle of expansion, in each case, with purposive intent and influences beyond, like tentacles on an octopus of fate and fleeting fairytales of justice.

Like the guardian standing at an entranceway, who hears a strange noise or movement emanating from beyond the periphery of his granted authority; how far should he venture?  To what extent should he be curious?  What parameters should preclude his investigation?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the subtle reverberations and almost imperceptible ripples from each case can never be underestimated.  The character of a case can only be properly compared by taking quantum leaps to cases from years ago; but clearly the benefits derived from prior cases, and precedents set from prior expansions of legal principles, cannot be denied.

The general thought is that individual cases represent merely a single raindrop in the expansive oceans of legal turbulence; but it is the individual case which can influence the compendium of legal principles through the unique argumentation of a previously unthought issue, brought in a light untold; viewed at an angle unstated.

Federal Disability Retirement is a parcel of law in a patchwork of quilts still being sewn; and each Federal or Postal employee who seeks to enter into the universe of laws, legal criteria and evidentiary significance, unintentionally walks into a cauldron of Federal Disability Retirement authorities which engulf and encapsulate statutes, regulations, case-laws and underlying legal principles.

How one uses them; to what extent one responds to the Standard Forms, which includes SF 3107 (for FERS) and SF 2801 (for CSRS and CSRS-Offset); and SF 3112 (for all three, FERS, CSRS and CSRS Offset); which evidentiary compendium is utilized; and the extent of legal argumentation and tools assuaged; all make a difference in expanding the significance of an individual case upon the greater universe of the feudal castle originally surrounded by a moat for protection, but where the guardian lowers the drawbridge and enters into territories hitherto uninhabited.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Attorney Representation in Federal Disability Claims: Directions

The crude form of the proverbial image formulated is:  Up the creek without a paddle, but normally with an epithet inserted.  It portrays a vivid scene of being in a symbolic state, directionless and without a means of guiding or maneuvering.  One is thus subject to the winds of time, the vicissitudes of circumstances beyond one’s control, immediate or otherwise, and where a growing storm of unforeseen proportions and magnitude is coming at a rate of ferocity uncontrollable and unable to be prepared for.

People with medical conditions have that sense of progressive disintegration, where the things that one has worked and strived so hard to achieve, are now in danger of loss and ruination. For the disabled Federal employee or the injured Postal worker who suffers from an accident or other health condition, such that the medical condition is impacting the capacity and ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, the growing fear of being swept aside by slow, insidious and deliberative steps by the agency — of a poor performance review; of initiating a “Performance Improvement Plan“, or a PIP; of threats of separation and termination because of one’s absenteeism and exhaustive use of LWOP; all point towards an inevitable direction which is far from the destination that the Federal or Postal employee wants to arrive at.

Lifeboats are funny things; they may save the life, but without a paddle, one may drift and yet fail to survive for lack of food or water.  Sustenance is the key to a life worthy of living.

For the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS, when a medical condition begins to threaten one’s employment with the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, it may be time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Filed through one’s agency if one is still employed or separated from Federal Service but not for more than thirty one (31) days, the application is ultimately processed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for a determination of eligibility and entitlement.  It is a benefit which, in and of itself, provides for a basic annuity such that the sustenance of a livelihood is provided for, in order for the Federal employee or the Postal worker to attend to one’s health, and continue to look to a brighter future in the years ahead.

Thus, in that sense, Federal Disability Retirement is the needed oar for the man or woman in the proverbial boat, stranded up the mythological creek, waiting for the means to direct the drifting dictation of life’s daring demands.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Immediate Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Complex Simplicity

Often enough in life, the most complex of conceptual constructs is constituted by its very simple nature; and, conversely, the seemingly simplest of tasks is characterized by its concealed complexity, only to be revealed upon an attempted unraveling of its internal mechanisms.

Consider the games of basketball or golf; the concept begins with placing a round object into a similarly-shaped chasm.  From a spectator’s perspective, nothing could be simpler; for the one who has practiced the identical motion to succeed, nothing could be more frustrating.  Conversely, witness the passage of a simple law, or of the original amendments to the U.S. Constitution; words of limited complexity; yet, it is the very simplicity of the underlying principles which conceal their complex conceptual underpinnings.

For Federal and Postal employees who first encounter the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one might be tempted to “go it alone” because of the seemingly simple construct of the necessary nexus: of the connective bridge which must be established between one’s medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job.

But it should become abundantly (and quickly) clear that it is not the foundational precept of the entire process which makes for complexity, but the ancillary issues, including the required medical documentation, the agency’s attempt to accommodate, or the elements which constitute the essential duties of a position and how they are impacted by a medical condition, etc.  No, it is the coordination of all of the arms and legs which go into preparing and formulating an effective Federal Disability Retirement packet, which makes for its very complexity.

Like the boy who is “all arms and legs” when first he attempts to play the game of basketball, so the nascent encounter with a complex administrative process which has been around for many years, will require some trial and error for the Federal or Postal employee who attempts the feat without assistance.

Trials are fine; it is the errors which become of concern.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Legal Tools

Few disciplines and classes of artisans create their own tools.  Musicians do not fashion their own instruments; accountants do not produce calculators or computers; painters do not manufacture their own brushes.  The blacksmith does, however, form and mold his own ironworks.

Similarly, the lawyer formulates the tools upon which he crafts his arguments; for, as most Judges are lawyers themselves, and the vast majority of legislators are also attorneys, so the statutes which are issued, and the judicial opinions which are rendered, are analogously “created” by those who are members of the class identified as “lawyers”.  Once created, it is how the tools are used which makes all the difference.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, the multiple tools available must be utilized for the very purpose of their making.  Thus, application of the Bruner Presumption must be invoked where appropriate, and “stretched” to their logical extension wherever possible; the “Trevan” rule concerning SSDI approvals should be pointed out whenever it has been approved during the process of waiting for a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application; and the restatement of the applicable legal criteria in Henderson v. OPM should be emphasized when OPM attempts to misinterpret the applicable statutory criteria in being eligible for Federal Disability Retirement as requiring a 1-to-1 ratio between medical conditions and positional duties; and multiple other legal tools.

The issue of “where” a tool was manufactured, unless poorly constructed, is rarely one of importance or relevance; rather, it is how the tool is applied which is the issue of greater import and significance.  For it is precisely the “how” and the efficacy of the utilization of a tool which results in the intended consequences of such use.

For the blacksmith, a well-fitting horseshoe; for the accountant, a tax savings; for the artist, a masterpiece; for the lawyer, a victory.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Legal Responses

There is of course the old adage that “good fences make good neighbors“.  It is meant to magnify the importance of demarcations, and how societal mores, rules, and accepted dictates of common etiquette provide for social boundaries without which the breakdown of common decency occurs.

Fences and boundaries not only contain; they provide markings which restrain others.  The white powder placed on a football field; the painted lines on a basketball court; the pitcher’s mound from which the pitcher must throw the ball; these are all accepted boundaries — symbols of containment as well as of restraining devices to the “others”.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, imagine what the outcome would be for the Federal or Postal Worker if all that existed were the originating statutes governing the criteria for a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Imagine a world in which OPM was the sole arbiter of its own statutes — of having the right to interpret the dictates of its own mandates.

Look at the recent case of Stephenson v. OPM, in which OPM interpreted the statutes of another agency (the Social Security Administration) and decided that an offset of SSDI benefits against a FERS Disability annuity could still be perpetrated even though no actual receipt of funds was received.

Laws are like fences and boundaries; they are to be used both as a shield, as well as a sword.  Use of legal arguments not only restrains a Federal Agency from acting and stepping out “too far”; they can also be used to attack and force a retreat.  But remember that, just as the fence-building should be left to the carpenter, so the sword should be used by a warrior.  In today’s parlance, don’t think that anyone and everyone can be a courtroom lawyer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Undue Focus upon Minutiae

It is like the story of the man who rushes in breathlessly and declaratively warns others of the impending tornado, and with only minutes to spare, he is stopped and asked, “But will we still be able to watch our evening shows?”  The focus upon relevant details; of the “larger picture“; of logical and sequential sets of facts, as opposed to getting irrelevant information correctly stated, is often a problem in writing effectively.

The ability to use discretionary choices in separating factually important descriptions from those which are tertiary at best — will result in having the reader focus upon the essential aspects of one’s presentation, in any context or forum.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is vitally important to separate and bifurcate that which is primary in importance, that which is secondarily of relevance, and those factual minutiae which, even if left out, will make little or no difference to the substantive content of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Often, Federal and Postal employees who suffer from severe psychiatric conditions will unduly focus upon minutiae which, in the context of their medical conditions, are exponentially quantified in magnified importance beyond reason or rationale.  One must understand that such is the very nature of the psychiatric condition itself; but recognizing it as such, and trusting in the wise counsel and advice of one’s attorney, is the best first step in making sure that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will have a fighting chance for an approval.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire