Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Effective Approach

The sales pitch comes from every direction, all vocations, countless product lines and endless announcements of fanfare and ceremony:  the 3-step plan, the 5-point road to success, the 10-ways of X or Y:  it is meant to be a formulaic methodology of achieving a stated goal.

Formulaic approaches are perfectly reasonable; they provide an avenue which, through prior experience of trials and errors, the “seller” has formulated a method or product as the best means possible for achieving success in any given venture.  But the gimmickery of any formulaic approach can wear thin after a manner; and in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, ultimately the fanfare must be supported by three basic elements (see, even the undersigned writer engages in a 3-point plan):  The supporting medical documentation; The supporting statement of disability; The supporting disability law.  Of the three elements, it is the first (the supporting medical documentation) which is paramount and, to borrow (albeit in a non-technical, misused sense) Aristotle’s verbiage, the “first cause” or “First Mover” of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Ultimately, substance over form must prevail, and will be most effective in a Federal Disability Retirement application; and the “substance” in this case is the medical condition itself — one which needs no fanfare, and certainly no 10-point plan for effective advocacy.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Approaching the Entrance to OPM’s Thought Process

The attempt to predict an opponent’s approach in an endeavor — whether in competitive sports; in debate; in an adversarial forum — is a practice which can have favorable results, or one which ends with disastrous consequences.  For the prediction itself must be based upon known factors, such as the applicable standards which the opponent will rely upon, relevant elements which will be utilized, and human, unpredictable quirks which seem to always come into play.

In approaching an opponent, it is always a good idea to study the opposition; but too much reliance upon attempting to out-maneuver the opposition can have the negative impact of taking away from valuable preparation-time one may need in order to prevail.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, many Federal and Postal applicants attempt to analyze the questions posed on the Standard Forms (SF 3107 series for FERS employees; SF 2801 series for CSRS employees; SF 3112 series for both FERS & CSRS employees) perhaps too deeply, in attempting to “understand” the opponent — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Yes, the questions must be analyzed; yes, there is an implicit trickiness to many of the questions (especially on SF 3112A); and, yes, a cautious approach must be taken in answering the questions.  But such caution should never detract from spending the necessary time in preparing the crux and foundation of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application — that of formulating the logical nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional duties which one can no longer perform.

Ultimately, the substance of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application must be given the greatest of focus and effort:  attempting to approach the opponent’s thought processes — in this case, that of the “collective” efforts of multiple individuals at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — may be an act of futility; better to spend the needed hours solidifying one’s own case than to try and understand an incomprehensible entity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Fish or Cut Bait

Colloquial expressions often develop over time because of their shorthanded effectiveness; they are the antiquated equivalent of text-messaging abbreviations, but with greater meaning and potency because of their time-testedness and allowance for a slow, evolutionary progression within a society.  Such expressions allow for a blunt statement which removes all doubts as to meaning; and the statement itself is all that is necessary, with surrounding silence revealing all.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, a person contemplating initiating the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement must ultimately come to the decision of moving forward, or not.

Such a bifurcation of clarity in making the decision is necessary both for the sanity and health of the Federal or Postal employee who must make the decision, as well as for the agency who either wants full productivity from its employees, or an ability to “accommodate” the medical condition (in accordance with the governing laws concerning the legal issue of accommodations in the workplace) in order to reach an acceptable level of productivity.

Fish or cut bait; in four words, such a colloquial expression says it nicely:  Initiate the process, or live with the pain and progressive deterioration.  Already, in the very act of trying to explain or “add on” to the expression, nothing of value has been accomplished because the expression itself is sufficient.  As such:  silence.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Burden

Ultimately, a Federal Disability Retirement application is a paper-presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Yes, yes, we are entering into a “paperless” technological society, and that is fine; but by “paper presentation” is meant in a generic sense, that the proof necessary to obtain eligibility and entitlement to a Federal Disability Retirement benefit, must be presented in a format which is readable, comprehensible, and coherent — whether on a computer screen or in paper format.

The burden of providing such proof is upon the “applicant” — the Federal or Postal employee who is attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  That “burden” is both a legal one, as well as a regulatory one.  There are different levels or requirements of what constitutes proof, depending upon the requirements of what must be proven.

In a general sense, one can assert that all that is necessary in a Federal Disability Retirement case is to gather together one’s medical records, wrap them in a secure bundle, and forward them to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Will such an approach “prove” one’s Federal Disability Retirement application?  It might — depending upon the seriousness of one’s medical condition, and whether the Disability Retirement Specialist assigned to such a case will take the time to infer and imply.  But to make an inference, or to expect an implication to be discerned, takes an unnecessary chance at misunderstanding, failure, and the unwanted “denial”.

Instead, the better approach is to explicitly explicate.  Always remember that 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 a difference between suffering from a medical condition, and proving that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  It is the latter which is necessary to be approved for a Federal Disability Retirement benefit.  As to the former — while an unfortunate circumstance — it is not enough to suffer to prove one’s case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: 2012 and Beyond

The designation of the year as “2012” is, from a historical perspective, an artifice.  Different countries and cultures have other methodologies of identifying the continuum and sequence of the cyclical seasons.  

Whatever the artifice, however, the reality of daily living remains an encounter which must be dealt with, and for Federal and Postal employees who suffer from one or more medical conditions, who are contemplating preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, the first step in the process is often the hardest, but the one which must be taken in order to make any advances for the coming year.  

Whether that “first step” constitutes contacting an attorney, obtaining the blank forms (SF 3107 series and SF 3112 series for FERS employees; for CSRS employees, SF 2801 series and SF 3112 series), talking to one’s treating doctor(s), etc. — it is the first step which is the hardest but the most significant.  

Days advance; weeks go by; the “new” year steadily marches towards the half-way point, then beyond.  Procrastination is often a self-protective mechanism of human beings — but one which is contradictory and often leads to self-harm.  Don’t let the days pass by, lest the year go to waste.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Sequence of Procedural Requirements

There is a specific reason why the benefit identified as Federal Disability Retirement, whether under FERS or CSRS, exists.  It is to allow for an early retirement for an individual who has met the minimum eligibility criteria — of being a Federal or Postal employee , and having at least eighteen (18) months of Federal Service under FERS, or five (5) years under CSRS.  That is the basic eligibility criteria.  

Those who meet that minimum criteria, have a “right” to take the next step: One must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is eligible for the benefit, by proving (generally speaking) that as a Federal or Postal employee, one cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, or any similar job; that the agency is unable to “accommodate” the Federal or Postal employee’s medical condition (and the term “accommodation” is a term of art, such that there is a particularized and narrow definition of how that term is applied in Federal Disability Retirement law), and that the medical condition will last a minimum of 12 months.  

Beyond those sequential procedural steps, is a wide and fairly complex array of legal, medical and practical considerations which must be viewed, before proceeding with a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Does the Federal or Postal employee have a supportive doctor?  Will that doctor be willing to write a narrative report expounding and delineating the factors and addressing the issues which need to be discussed?  

As with most things in life, it is important to identify, recognize and approach a Federal Disability Retirement application in a logical, sequential manner, such that one does not waste time, effort, and a reserve of hope in going down a path which may not be applicable to one’s particular circumstances.  Advice and counsel from an OPM Disability Attorney who can explain the process may be helpful in this endeavor.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Systematic Approach

It is clear from reviewing many of the Federal Disability Retirement applications which have been denied, either at the initial application stage of the process or at the Second, Reconsideration Stage of the process, that the failure to apply a systematic approach in preparing, formulating and filing the Federal Disability Retirement application was entirely lacking.  

The lack of systematically compiling and formulating the evidence to meet the legal standard of “preponderance of the evidence” in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS can be fatal to one’s efforts.  For, ultimately, it is the nature of the presentation and how it is compiled, delineated and orchestrated which provides for the effective implementation of such an endeavor.

Take the following example:  a “flail” is a farm instrument used for threshing, and in the hands of an experienced user of such equipment, it was an effective tool and implement which systematically cleared a field when in the hands of one who had the experience, knowledge and practical application of such a tool.  Used in modern linguistic terms, the concept, “He was flailing his arms” has come to mean that a person is waving and thrashing about in a manner which lacks harmony, elegance or purposeful end — in a wild and wasteful effort of energy.  

The deliberative approach in preparing and formulating any endeavor in life is an encompassing use of a particular tool in a proper manner, for the purpose for which it was created, to bring about an end for which it was designed, and to preserve the energy necessary to bring about the end in mind.

Preparing, formulating a filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is to use the flail properly, and not to flail about.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire