Federal Disability Retirement: Facts and Explanations

There is often a widespread misconception that “facts” need no elucidation or explanation, and somehow speak for themselves.  There are, indeed, times when self-imposed limitation of apparent eloquence and bombastic, grandiloquent and pretentious verbosity is of use; for, scarcity of adjectives and brevity of prose can leave the plains and tundra of a descriptive narrative’s call for less inhabitants, and not more, to reveal the beauty of the linguistic landscape; but even in such instances, facts still require explanation.

Facts without explanation constitute mere artifacts floating in a vacuum of a historical void.  It is thus the prefatory context provided by explanatory delineation, or the sentence next which elucidates the relevance and significance of an event before. Without the explanation, facts merely remain an artifice with a lack of architectural integrity, lost in the quagmire of historicity without dates, times or epochs of reference.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the misunderstanding between the conceptual bifurcation of “facts” and “explanations” is often exponentially magnified to the detriment of the Federal Disability Retirement applicant when one presumes that “medical facts” speak for themselves.

Thus does the Federal or Postal worker who is preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application simply bundle up a voluminous file of medical records and declare, “See!”  But such declarative intonations accompanying files of “facts” do not explain in meeting the legal criteria to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement.  An explanation is in response to the query by a governmental agency and bureaucracy which requires that justification through explanation will meet the preponderance of the evidence test in being eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Yes, there are some “facts” which may not require explanation — such as the beauty of a morning dawn pink with a quietude of poetry, where words fail to embrace the peaceful mood within the serenity of nature; but such facts do not reflect the chaos of the paperwork being received by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and very few there care about the pink dawn of nature, but want an explanation as to why the Federal or Postal employee is entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: A Bridge Too Far

It is an indelible comment in history, marking a failure of calculations resulting in catastrophic consequences in the unwise attempt to quickly end the war.  As a tactical consideration, the attempt to outflank German defenses by securing key bridges in order to isolate the enemy, constituted a brilliant idea; in practical application, the unconfirmed attribution of the comment that the Allied Forces may be going “a bridge too far” proved to be the very downfall of such a bold military strategy.

M-2 Treadway Pontoon Bridge under construction across the Po River near Ostiglia (National Archives)

M-2 Treadway Pontoon Bridge under construction across the Po River near Ostiglia (National Archives)

Bridges represent vital and necessary supply lines between two entities, organizations, populations, and even ideas.  They allow for the free flow of supplies and communication; they constitute the “lifeline” between two otherwise disparate groups.  It is such a bridge, or “nexus”, which is similarly of great importance in all formulations of Federal Disability Retirement applications. For the Federal or Postal Worker who is preparing to submit a Federal Disability Retirement application through one’s agency (if still employed by the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, or otherwise separated but not more than 31 days since the effective date of separation), and ultimately to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, making sure that the “bridge” between one’s medical condition and the impact upon the positional duties of one’s job is a vital and necessary part of the process.

Like physical bridges which connect various populations, the nexus which brings together the Federal Disability Retirement application in a FERS or CSRS submission, will determine the very persuasiveness of one’s presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  A bridge which is inadequate will fail to establish that the medical condition impacts one’s capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal position; and one which overextends itself may raise red flags of overreaching and exaggeration, undermined by a Supervisor’s Statement or the Agency’s contention that they have attempted to accommodate an individual to a legally viable degree.

While a 1-to-1 ratio of a medical condition-to-an-essential element is unnecessary in establishing eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits (see my multiple articles on the Henderson case), nevertheless, a linguistic construction of an adequate bridge between the two must be firmly established.

In the end, as with the Allied attempt to swiftly conclude the war resulted in the unnecessary cost of human lives, so one must take care in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, such that one does not go “a bridge too far” in making one’s case in a Federal Disability Retirement claim.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Comparative Refractions and CSRS/FERS Medical Disability Retirement

The optical effect of refracted light when it passes through an altering medium is that of a changed phenomenon.  One can engage in an activity which we all enjoy: of comparative analysis before and after, or in parallel evaluation; and just as we determine life’s compass of success or failure by looking at other lives, so the refracted light provides a symbolism of comparative satisfaction or dissatisfaction, as the case may be.

Changes of perspectives allow for a sudden and new awareness previously unknown; sometimes, the cocoon of the limited universe we have chosen will be a comfort zone and a security blanket which we are content to remain in; but then a crisis occurs — one which may be disproportionately viewed, given the relative antiseptic life we have created — and the difficulty of dealing with the change is reflected like the optical alteration of refracted light.

For Federal and Postal Workers who suffer from a medical condition which begins to impact one’s ability/inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s duties as a Federal or Postal Worker, this phenomenon is well-known, familiar, and often challenging.

Medical conditions constitute a crisis of being, precisely because they necessitate a change and potentially a wholesale reconstitution of one’s life:  Work, which often involves more than a third of one’s time and life; family, which is impacted by the difference in income; and self, because one’s identity is so intimately tied to one’s work. Who we are; what we represent; where we are going; how we are going to get there: all are impacted.

That is why filing for Federal disability retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is so important. It allows for a period of respite and interlude in order to reorganize and coordinate.  It allows for a time of attending to the medical condition; of securing a base annuity upon which to survive; and creates an atmosphere of positive thinking for the future.

As nature provides guidance of life, so the refracted light hints at a manner of dealing with problems in life.  For the Federal and Postal Worker, reflecting upon refraction may be the first important step in recognizing this guiding principle.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Insular Worlds

The private domain of individual, insular worlds always remain unknowable and profoundly unreachable. We can extract common linguistic signposts to have some superficial encounters, with at least a semblance of comprehension; but in the end, can one ever “know” the sensation of pain which another experiences? Or the extreme emotional turmoil that a person who suffers from schizophrenia or Bipolar Disorder; the diffuse pain of a person suffering from Fibromyalgia; or the cognitive dissonance of one beset by Major Depression, uncontrollable anxiety or panic attacks?

Yet, it is a necessary step in preparing, formulating and submitting a Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, to have the ability to convey, delineate and describe the nexus between one’s experiential phenomena of the insular world of a medical condition, and one’s external encounter with the Federal position in the work-world.

The private chaos of one’s medical condition must be linked to the public display of one’s physical or mental capacity and capability in the employment with the Federal Sector or the U.S. Postal Service; how one makes that connection, the manner of the description, and the characterization of the impact of the former upon the latter, will make all the difference in the world whether or not that unique universe of insularity can be protected from the progressive harm of one’s job.

For, in the end, it matters not whether one can adequately relate to another’s medical condition; it is enough to know that the private domain of one’s life is that which makes human consciousness the unique mystery peculiar to the human animal.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Extras, on Either Side

In performing a job, there is the basic parameter of the official “position description” for the Federal and Postal employee, which provides the foundational overview, the physical and cognitive demands of the job, and the necessary credentials and qualifications required before acceptance.

The reality of the actual workplace may somewhat modify the official establishment of one’s position, and that is to be expected:  generalities are often tailored to meet the needs of individual circumstances and situations presented by the local agency.  Beyond that, however, there is often the question of what constitutes “too much” on the one hand, and on the other side of the equation, what reduced modification of a position constitutes an accommodation under the law.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, such a duality of questions will often be encountered.  Modification by a Supervisor of a position’s duties may well allow for the Federal or Postal employee to continue to remain in a position, without compromising one’s health.  Yet, does such unofficial modification constitute a viable accommodation such that it would preclude one from being eligible for Federal Disability Retirement?  Normally, not.

On the other side of the equation, does adding responsibilities to one’s official position description result in such additional duties becoming part of the essential elements of one’s job, such that the fact that one’s medical conditions may prevent one from performing such added responsibilities impact the eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement?  Again, normally not. But such issues must be approached with intelligence and armed with the tools of knowledge of the applicable laws.

Whatever the answers, the “extras” on either side of the equation must be approached with caution, lest one finds that the earth is indeed flat, and one can fall over the edge into an abyss of administrative nightmares in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Position Description

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to have a good idea of what the position description states — the one which the Federal or Postal applicant occupies, and the one which is reflected in the SF 50 or the PS Form 50, the personnel action form which designates and identifies the official position assigned to the Federal or Postal employee.  For, what the Federal or Postal employee does in a job, in real time and in the actual state of the job, may be significantly different from what is described in the position description itself.

One must understand that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) — the agency which makes all determinations on Federal Disability Retirement applications — does not have an agent sitting in one’s office, taking notes on the duties which one performs.  Thus, the case worker at OPM who receives and reviews the Federal Disability Retirement application, will come to be informed of the essential duties of a Federal or Postal employee, based upon a “paper presentation” that is set before him or her.

The comparison to be made between the medical condition proven and the essential elements of one’s job, will arise from OPM’s review of what is presented — the position description itself; the statement of one’s job in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability; and other documentation.

In making the comparison, it is ultimately from the position description itself from which one is retired, and if the applicant’s statement includes superfluous assertions otherwise not contained in the position description itself, the discrepancy may well go against the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Fortunately, most position descriptions are fairly generic in nature, and one can imply a variety of duties which are not otherwise specified in an official position description.  That is where creative writing and effective presentation comes into play.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire