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

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a “paper presentation” which must be “proven”.  It is thus not technically an “entitlement”, but rather an accessible benefit which must meet certain legal guidelines as set forth by Statute, subsequent Regulations propounded by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and Case-laws and Court opinions as rendered over a long course of time by various courts and administrative agencies, such as the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

When one steps back and observes the entirety of the process, it is — from inception of the administrative procedure to its conclusion in receipt of payment of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity — a massive compendium and compilation of “language”.  Throughout the process, little need be spoken of or to; rather, the written word — that malleable tool of communication — is placed from mind-to-ink-upon-paper, to be presented to another receptive mind, in order to evaluate, analyze and ultimately conclude with a decision, whether as an initial approval or a denial.  If a denial, then the process continues without interruption as heretofore described.

As such, because Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is comprised by the linear, sequential and persuasive use of language, it is important to utilize the tool effectively, and to apply all of the forces of language which will make for an effective presentation:  brevity, but with emotive force; succinct, but with logical persuasiveness; comprehensible, but with descriptive expansiveness. Language is the tool to be used; as the preferred and necessary tool, it must be applied with careful choosing, in order to be effective in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Impersonal File

Creative writing courses almost always fall back on an old adage:  Show, don’t tell.  Such a simple advisory truism, while trite and overly simplistic, applies in so many aspects of what constitutes effective writing — whether for fiction, journalism (is there a difference between the two?), or in Federal Disability Retirement (the latter, of course, is a completely separate genre from the former two).

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to apply all of the learned, effective tools of writing, in confronting every stage, every administrative hurdle, every step in the bureaucratic, administrative process.

In approaching a treating doctor:  remember that doctors are quite effective in compartmentalizing patients — separating a patient emotionally from the patient’s file; the cold, clinical approach of treating a medical condition without becoming “personally involved” is what a doctor is trained to do.  Thus, in obtaining the support of one’s treating doctor, it is important to break that silent wall of bifurcation, and often, simply sitting down with the doctor and explaining, talking, “personalizing”, is an important first step.

Another example:  the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  That statement is the window to OPM’s soul.  It is the means and vehicle by which and through which one persuades the Case Worker at OPM that one has a medical condition which prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s job.

Writing it well is the route to success.  Showing, and not merely telling.  Old adages tend to live on forever, because the truth inherent and embedded in them continue to thrive.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Showtime

In old literary adage, one should always write in a manner which “shows” to the reader an event that is happening, a conflict unfolding, or a misery felt.  Entertainers never declare to one another, “It is Tell-time”.  Instead, we are all familiar with the singular phrase, “Showtime”.  For, one can “tell” a story, state facts, convey issues, etc., but the most effective tool in evoking empathy, sympathy and understanding from the reader, the recipient or the audience, is to “show” what is occurring.

Such conceptual efficacy also applies in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.  It is interesting how a focal point of an endeavor often calls for utilization of tools outside of the arena of specialty demanded; thus, it is not so much knowing administrative law which is necessary to prepare an effective narrative in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A, both for FERS as well as for CSRS employees) — rather, it is the ability to engage in effective narrative prose.

The common literary refrains of repetitiveness, of descriptive word-usage, of choosing adjectives which flow and yet accurately describe the nexus between one’s medical conditions and the positional duties of one’s Federal or Postal job — these are all important in compiling an effective narrative of one’s medical condition and how it impacts upon one’s ability to perform one’s job.

While the doctor may present your case in a distant, clinical manner, the applicant himself/herself must evoke some semblance of understanding from the Claims Representative at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Indeed, it is “Showtime”, but the showing must be accomplished in words, and the time to touch upon is the present moment, encapsulated in time and the narrative prose.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Knowing the Terms

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to have some clarity on conceptualizations of physical and psychiatric medical conditions or, to put it quite simply, to “know your terms”.  

While one must obviously obtain the necessary medical documentation in order to meet the eligibility requirements for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, and such medical documentation — a narrative report providing for the “bridge” between one’s medical condition and the particular type of duties and positional requirements one is engaged in with the Federal government or the Postal Service, as well as office notes, treatment notes, etc. — reliance upon the medical documentation to expand upon, delineate, explain, illustrate and elucidate upon the narrative story of how the medical condition impacts upon one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, may be expecting too much from the doctor and medical documentation itself.  

On the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A), there is an opportunity for the Applicant to provide information concerning the impact of one’s medical condition upon the essential elements of one’s job, as well as upon one’s personal life.

Knowing the “medical jargon” and being able to extrapolate, apply, expand upon, and describe in terms which are cohesive, understandable, illustrative, and with sufficient emotive impact, yet maintaining a sense of rational perspective and sequential, logical application, is an important part of providing useful information to the Office of Personnel Management.

Keeping it simple is important, but at the same time being able to use the medical terms comfortably in describing the impact upon one’s positional duties, in a technical but comprehensible manner, is the key to effective communication.  For, after all, “communication” is what this is all about — of presenting a case which is persuasive to the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Being Effective is the Point

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to bifurcate the various and multitudinous issues, assign (implicitly) the import, relevance and correlative significance of each issue as it relates and satisfies the criteria for eligibility; then, to proceed to systematically delineate each such issue, yet present them in a narrative fashion such that they constitute a sufficiently human narrative to convey the impact of the medical condition.  

As the Office of Personnel Management often attempts to rebut and argue, the “mere existence of a medical condition does not warrant approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application.”  That being said, a clinical approach to listing a set of diagnosed medical conditions obviously is insufficient to persuade and convince the Office of Personnel Management of one’s eligibility and entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  For, isn’t that ultimately the point — to get it approved?  

It becomes an act of futility to stand on a hilltop and repetitively declare, “I have a medical condition,” without being effective in presenting such a condition and obtaining an approval.  Of course, this is an administrative process; as such, it will often take more than the First Stage of the process before all of the factors coalesce with a resultant approval — the right balance between persuasion, facts, narrative form, medical documentation, legal argumentation, clinical notes, statement of disability, etc. Being “effective” means attaining that right balance between the medical, the legal, and the personal.

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