Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Process versus Substance

The emphasis and magnified focus upon process-issues as opposed to the underlying substance of an endeavor is often misplaced; yet, the problem is, if one ignores the former, the latter may never reach fruition because it may never arrive at its intended destination.  The question of balance between the two is an important one; for, the greatest of ideas may have historically vanished not because the idea itself was one lacking in value, but rather because it never received the sales pitch which effectively presented itself into the stream of commerce.

Similarly, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, while it is important to understand the administrative process of the “nuts and bolts” of filing (i.e., who does it go to; which form is completed by whom; how long does it take at point X; what happens after destination Y, etc.), it is preliminarily of relevance to get the substance of the application in order (i.e., the proper medical report with all of the essential elements in place; one’s statement of disability which addresses the issues of concern to OPM; any legal arguments and invocation of precedent-setting arguments, etc.).

Process gets us there; substance is the “that” which gets there.  If there is no “that”, it will be no use for the “there”; and, conversely, if it never gets there, it will not make a difference.  Ultimately, however, while both are of importance, it is the substance of the case which makes the difference, and the focus should be upon that substance before one’s attention is placed upon the vehicle of delivery.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Intersection of the Applicant’s Statement and the Medical Documentation

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS with the Office of Personnel Management, one should not expect to compensate for the lack of medical conclusions in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A).  

By this is meant the following:  While the Applicant’s Statement of Disability should certainly be an “extension” of the medical documentation submitted, in terms of describing the identified medical conditions, the subjective delineation of pain, symptomatologies experienced, the extent and severity of the subjective experience which only the individual who suffers from the medical condition can properly describe; nevertheless, it should be just that — an extension — and not a means in which to compensate for the obvious (or sometimes not so obvious) lack of findings in the medical reports.

Pain and other subjective experiences are by definition personal to the Federal or Postal employee who “owns” the medical condition, and indeed, the case laws decided by the Merit Systems Protection Board (and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals) clearly declare the relevance and proper weight in considering the subjective statements of the Federal or Postal applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

That being said, the medical documentation, including the office/doctor’s notes, etc., along with the medical narrative report which has been submitted as part of the Federal Disability Retirement application, should stand alone with sufficiency and unequivocal confirmation of the medical condition suffered, the symptoms noted, and the nexus created between one’s medical condition and the type of positional duties one is required to perform.  

The Applicant’s Statement, on the other hand, should be an expansion from the point of reference of the medical report, and describe the experiential impact of the medical condition upon one’s job, upon one’s personal life, etc.  Together, they represent two sides of a single coin — but the coin does have two sides, and one side cannot “make up” for any lack revealed on the other side.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire