CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Complexity in the Hidden Background

To prove one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, is seemingly an uncomplicated matter.

As one’s medical condition impacts the ability to perform one or more of the essential element of one’s job, it is up to the treating doctor to establish the nexus and provide an opinion as to the connecting bridge between the medical condition and the positional requirements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

How does one do that? Must it be comprised of a 1-to-1 ratio between job elements and medical conditions? How important and prominent are “symptoms” considered, as opposed to the mere clinical declaration of the diagnosis, in persuading the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that a particular medical condition should qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits? To what extent is one’s own statement of disability, as described on Standard Form 3112A, important in establishing the foothold towards gaining an approval from OPM?

Also, what algorithm or comparative analysis does OPM use in evaluating a case, and how does one enhance the chances of success at the First Stage of the process? If denied at the First Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process, does the basis of the denial (often characterized by a plethora of multiple reasons given) require a point-by-point refutation, and is the Reconsideration Division at OPM using the same standard of review, or a different application of laws in evaluating the additional evidence submitted at the next stage?

If one watches a gymnast, a ballerina, or even a mathematician at work in solving or unraveling a complex problem or exercise, one is immediately struck by the ease with which the feat is performed. But it is almost always the unseen preparation which has preceded the actual performance that sets the stage of an uncomplicated presentation.

It is that mystery of the uncomplicated, which tends to trip us all, and that is no different in the preparation, formulation and submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application, applied through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Striving for an Unobtrusive Life of Quietude

When first entering the adversarial universe of trial lawyers, a kindly but seasoned opposition who easily made foolish mincemeat out of the flustered composite of inexperience and youthful exuberance, but later approached to compliment the young whippersnapper to give some sagely advice: “You have a yellow pad. That is good. You kept looking down at it as if it was a security blanket. That is revealing”.

Whenever I see a man with a roadmap, and it is my job to disrupt the travel route from Point A to Point Z, it makes my job easier to make the opposition take some circuitous routes to force the journeying adversary onto more interesting pathways, to make him take in the sights and travel in a zig-zag manner, rather than in the straight line he desires to take. Point taken.

Revealing too much can have the negative effect of allowing the opposition to know one’s travel route; and if the purpose of one’s mission is to make miserable any goal-tending individual and preventing him or her from attaining a life of unobtrusive quietude (as is often the superficial purpose in life of Supervisors, Managers and other minor dictators who control multiple miniature fiefdoms throughout the Federal and Postal Sectors of employment), then providing an insight into one’s itinerary is like posting a copy of the newly discovered treasure map on Facebook and expecting secrecy because you clicked on a few privacy settings.

It is, indeed, a sad world in which we live; for, if the goal of most is merely to attain an unobtrusive life of quietude, the minimalism of expectation is for each to respect the privacy-space of one another. But perhaps that is asking too much of humanity.

For Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS or CSRS, who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition has interrupted the unobtrusive life of quietude, filing for FERS Disability Retirement benefits through one’s agency (if one is not yet separated from Federal Service, or has been but still within 31 days of such separation) is the administrative requirement. If separated for more than 31 days, then the Federal Disability Retirement application needs to be filed directly with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

In either event, of course, all Federal Disability Retirement applications end up at OPM.  But in so doing, timing, the extent of any prefatory information to be revealed to the agency; to whom; for what purpose; and the ultimate question: When? These are all questions and concerns which must be dealt with in a sensitive, thoughtful manner, and particularized to each situation.

Mapping out a strategy on the proverbial yellow pad is an intelligent approach to take; providing a copy of what one has prepared, to whom, when, and to what extent, will determine whether one’s journey is an unobtrusive straight line from point A to point B, or a zig-zagging line of confusions beset with multiple points of disquietude.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: Sequential Propriety

In many societies and cultures which still consider social protocol of applicable importance, correctness and orderly rectitude must be followed in rigorous detail.  It is the process itself which constitutes substantive relevance, and not merely the ritual itself.

Thus, for example, engaging in the details of business dealings prior to enjoying a meal, or bringing up the subject of a disputed issue during a meal or in the presence of family members, may be a violation of such social protocol as to justify irreparable severance of any future business dealings.  Sequence of actions, tested and applied over decades and centuries of norms developed through cultural screens of human institutions guided by sensitivities impacted by trial and error, retain a purpose beyond the mere folly of observable appearances scoffed at by foreigners to the cultural protocol.

For those who are unfamiliar to the importance of such subtleties, a singular breach may invite a fury of cold shoulders resulting from the rudeness of misunderstandings. For the Federal and Postal Worker who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is something to take note of. Not in the sense of social protocol; rather, in the lessons which can be gleaned from the importance of sequential application.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM, it is important to recognize that proper sequence of compiling the evidence and presenting one’s case can be crucial in the successful filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Doing things “out of step’ can result in preemptively harming one’s own OPM Disability Retirement application.

Whether it is like the proverbial gaffes of, for example, “letting the cat out of the bag”, or “speaking out of turn”, one should always take seriously the relevance and importance of social protocol as a cultural phenomena which contains a logical basis, and is not merely a compendium of silly rules garnered to make outsiders uncomfortable; rather, proper sequence and protocol of actions often teaches us that how one performs the process itself is just as important as the end product for which we strive.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Key Words, Conveyance of Information, and Satisfying the Legal Criteria

There is often a misunderstand about a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS: that the magic of linguistic compliance will bring about success, as opposed to the compilation and delineation of information needed to meet the legal criteria in a case.

There are no “magic words” or “key phrases” which the Federal or Postal applicant, the treating doctor, or the lawyer representing the Federal or Postal employee, can utilize or include in any Federal Disability Retirement packet, which will ensure or otherwise exponentially increase the statistical variances of being successful in applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Rather, the “key” to a successful filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application is to compile the necessary and required documentation in order to meet the medical and legal criteria mandated by law, in becoming eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The difference may be somewhat subtle: on the one hand is the misguided approach of thinking that Federal Disability Retirement application-X was successful because it contained certain key phrases and elements, and thus in thinking that a regurgitation and reenactment of those phrases or elements, if used in another Federal Disability Retirement application, will result in an identical outcome.

The proper approach (satisfying the converse grammatical requirement and avoiding the necessity of saying, “on the other hand”) in opposition to the “key phrase” thought, is to recognize that each Federal Disability Retirement application-Y is constituted by unique facts and medical data peculiar to the individual case, but that in the application of those facts and data, compliance with the administrative criteria is somewhat self-reflective. Similarity, however, does not imply successful extrapolation of previously-applicable content from another Federal Disability Retirement application.

That is the mistake which is often made: One success often leads to the laziness of regurgitation; to put it crudely, one can starve by feeding upon the same food within a confined organic digestive system. In the end, a successful Federal Disability Retirement application must not rely upon prior successes, but rather, recognize the uniqueness of each set of circumstances, apply the relevant law to such peculiarities, and argue the evidence in the context of the conveyance of information meeting the statutory criteria espoused by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Rumors, Stories and…

Part of the successful strategy of remaining focused, steadfast and purposeful is to maintain and retain the ability to filter out ancillary information  as opposed to the essential ingredients which comprise the important, relevant foundation in any endeavor.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, throughout the administrative process comprising the aggregate of procedures, maneuvering through the agency, then waiting for the decision from the Office of Personnel Management, the Federal or Postal employee naturally becomes sensitive to rumors; to information received from various sources — other co-workers, Agency Human Resources personnel, friends, family, etc.

Whether such rumors or “information” concern the success or failure of other Federal employees who filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; or more generic rumors about the Federal Government and pension benefits, pending legislation about new or proposed laws impacting Federal Disability Retirement benefits; or that OPM is “denying a higher number of initial applications”; or the opposite argument that OPM is “approving Federal Disability Retirement applications to get rid of Federal employees”, and a host of other rumors, stories, and out-of-context partial truths, stories, and outright misinformation — it is important to distinguish between truth, lies, rumors and half-truths.

The better methodology is to focus upon the present process, and one’s own Federal Disability Retirement application, and leaving aside such rumors and stories.  Put together the most effective Federal Disability Retirement packet one can possible compile; submit it; and the outcome will be based upon the sufficient viability of the Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire