Misnomers and the OPM’s Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division

The problem with misnomers is not just the inaccuracy of designation which is either explicitly or implicitly conveyed, but the unintended consequences of the string of reactions and responses which can occur as a result thereof.  Sometimes, interpretive mistakes occur purely on a subjective basis; in which case it is not truly a case of a misnomer, but rather merely the misunderstanding by the recipient of the information.  Other times, a word or designation can be open to multiple meanings, where reasonable people can differ on the inferences to be made.

For Federal and Postal employees who have filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal Service employee is under FERS or CSRS (such acronyms have specific, esoteric meanings only to Federal or Postal employees, and as such, cannot constitute an objective misnomer, but rather a potentially subjective one), the complexity of the administrative and bureaucratic process can result in the failure to recognize and properly respond to various misnomers throughout the process.

For example, when a Federal Disability Retirement case is assigned to an Administrative Specialist at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and one receives a letter informing the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant that X is further needed — the identification of the OPM Representative that he or she is from the “Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division” is both confusing and a misnomer.

For, the recipient of the letter (and just to receive any correspondence from OPM other than an approval letter or a denial letter is an amazing fact in and of itself) can well infer from the designation that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application has already been denied without notification (i.e., because it is in the “Reconsideration & Appeals Division”). In fact, all cases fall under the aegis of “Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals” section of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Misnomers may be unintended. It is the recipient and the responder who must, unfortunately, live with the consequences.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Rule of Words

When does a child recognize the power of language? Perhaps it is at the moment when the ineffective response to a tantrum occurs, precisely because the demands conveyed by the destructive actions have not been adequately understood. But once the verbal ransom is received, linked to the potential screams and flailing of arms and legs, hence the power of words becomes consciously recognized.

Linguistic leverage contains a duality of meaning when stated in the concept of a “rule”; on the one hand, it means that there are certain criteria which must be followed in order to maintain the protocol of meaning and conceptual comprehension and intelligibility, as in the statement, “The Rules of language must be followed”; on the other hand, it can also convey the idea that language encompasses a power beyond the mere visibility on paper or on screen, as in: “Language rules the day”. It is the combination of both which, when followed and applied effectively, allows for the explosive efficacy of a presentation.

For Federal and Postal employees who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, it is always important to understand and appreciate the fact that a Federal Disability Retirement application is first and foremost a paper presentation to the office which makes a determination on the packet. Thus, tantrums and pleas will not move the bureaucracy; however, effective word usage will.

The connection between action and language must be contained in the Federal Disability Retirement presentation itself, through effective and persuasive use of language. When once upon a time a tantrum served one’s purposes well, such a time became long past when the rest of the world determined that language needed to be delinked from actions, and it is language alone which would rule the day.

For Federal and Postal employees suffering from a medical condition such that the medical condition impacts the ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, the “action” part of the process is left to dealing with the medical condition itself. For the formulation and filing for the administrative procedures identified as “Federal Disability Retirement benefits“, it is the language itself which will rule the day, by following the effective rules of language.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Theory of Correspondence

20th Century Philosophy has witnessed the steady progression of deconstruction; of centuries of attempting to answer age-old questions which challenged the mind, only to be declared that it was, all throughout, the question which was the problem, and the imprecise manner of communication through language difficulties and conceptual confusions that created the unfathomable difficulties, and that therefore there are no substantive problems in philosophy to solve.

Bertrand Russell, the entire tradition of English Empiricism, and long comes Wittgenstein; and any theory of correspondence between language and the “objective” world was cast aside as being impractical, unendurable, and in the end, untrue — though, as truth itself became an empty concept, it remained a puzzle as to how such a declarative end could be proposed.

But it was ultimately the devaluing of correspondence which became most troubling; for, now, as there was and is no connection between language and reality, so an individual can do and say one thing, and be and remain another. Perhaps that is why Facebook, Twitter and electronic media are so popular; we have become who we merely declare we are.

That is often the insidious nature of a medical condition; when once it becomes known, we want to ignore it, conceal it, and think it away; but somehow the physical reality of one’s life cannot be erased so easily as words on paper, or through the use of a ‘delete’ button.

Medical conditions really do impact us; and if the Federal or Postal employee finds him/herself beset with a medical condition such that it prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s job, then the reality of a career’s end and a change of vocation is one which is beyond mere words. But words and completing forms are what must be performed in formulating, preparing and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS.

So, in the end, the integrity of correspondence occurs, despite what modern philosophy says — there is still, and will always be, a connection between language and reality, and that is clear and unavoidable for the Federal and Postal employee who must attempt to maneuver one’s way through the bureaucracy and administrative procedures of a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Dependence of Meaning

Wittgenstein believe that it was not possible to have a private language held by an individual alone; for, as language by definition is a means to communicate, any language which is kept in private from everyone else would be a meaningless tool.

Private, insular worlds are dependent upon their functioning upon the receipt by third parties to impart meaning and interaction; otherwise, left within the void and chasm of pure privacy, they remain nothing more than the slow drip of a distant echo of spring water deep within the hollows of an undiscovered cave.  For those of the rest of us who live and interact within a world of words, writings, and regulatory compendium of laws and statutes, the ability to convey meaning in a meaningful way is paramount for the successful progression of our every day lives.

For the Civilian Federal or Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of his or her Federal or Postal duties, conveying what one means becomes a critical exercise:  putting together an effective Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, in a manner which persuades and entitles, is the penultimate goal which must be accomplished.

How one gets from point A to point B; what material and evidence to compile and include; what legal arguments to bring up and point out; these are all elements which must be considered. Concurrently, the privacy of one’s medical conditions must be protected to the fullest; but that is where the compromise must be attained, between the private and insular world of necessity, and the public world of reality which must be encountered and engaged.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Speaking with the Doctor

Communication is the key to a successful outcome:  such a trite truism is certainly applicable in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS.  The primary focus when a Federal or Postal employee has a medical condition which is impacting his or her ability to perform all of the essential elements of his or her job, is to take care of the medical condition — i.e., to have the necessary treatments, to undergo the proper prescriptive treatment modalities, including surgery, medication regimens, pain management treatments, psychotherapeutic intervention, etc.

Beyond such treatment modalities, however, there may come a point in the life of a Federal or Postal employee when it is becoming apparent that the medical condition is simply “incompatible” with the useful and efficient retention in the Federal or Postal Service.  Such a determination is best made by the Federal or Postal employee, if possible, as opposed to having the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service suddenly and unceremoniously make such a determination — in the form of a proposed removal based upon one’s failure to maintain a regular work schedule; or because of taking “excessive leave“; or putting a Federal or Postal employee upon a Performance Improvement Plan.  Such a determination may best be made by the Federal or Postal employee by communicating one’s concerns to the treating doctor, and asking some incisive questions.  Another trite truism:  The only stupid question is the one not asked.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Flexibility of Language

Language is inherently a flexible tool; it is meant to communicate, and while precision in communication is the defining purpose in the use of the tool, often the essence of language must nevertheless be flexible enough to embrace other, correlative concepts. To limit the tool of language often will lead to undermining the very purpose of the use of such language.  

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the use of language in preparing, formulating and describing the interaction between the medical conditions and how it impacts one’s job duties, must allow for some level of flexibility.  For example, if certain chronic symptomatologies result in a mis-diagnosis of a medical condition, should a later (revised) diagnosis be allowed to be argued to the Office of Personnel Management after it has been filed?  

The answer to the question is contained in how the Applicant’s Statement of Disability on Standard Form 3112A is formulated.  If one merely lists the diagnosed medical conditions without describing the symptoms, then the language used has restricted the flexibility of post-filing inclusion.  On the other hand, if one combines the various medical diagnoses, but also includes a descriptive discussion of the symptoms, then the answer is likely, “yes”.  The use of language should be one of precision; how one utilizes the tools of language, however, should remain flexible.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Communication

As in all areas of law, a truism which may be applicable to a particular kind of practice of law applies both generally, as well as specifically to the process spoken of.  That is the nature of what constitutes a universal truth.  In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, the governmental agency which makes the decision in a case (the Office of Personnel Management), will often communicate directly with the applicant regardless of whether the applicant is or is not represented by an Attorney.

Indeed, OPM will often go so far as to completely ignore the attorney, thereby failing to send a copy of the decision letter, or to request additional documents.  All such communication is directly to the applicant/client first and primarily, without regard to the representing attorney, in many cases.  With that in mind, it is very important that the applicant communicate with the attorney.  Further, because the Office of Personnel Management is a Federal Agency which oversees thousands of cases, files will often sit dormant on some desk, or letters and decisions will be sent out without checking on updated addresses, etc.

Because of this, it is important that a total effort in communication be engaged in, which means:  communicating with one’s attorney on any correspondence or contact with the Office of Personnel Management.  A Federal Disability Retirement case under FERS or CSRS must be a “total effort”; it is ultimately the responsibility of the applicant, in the eyes of OPM, to respond properly.  The attorney in a Federal Disability Retirement case may have the technical knowledge on how best to approach a case; it is the applicant who must still continue to be engaged in the process, in order for the entirety of the process of be workable.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire