The Effective Use of Language in the Federal Disability Retirement Application

As a paper presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Federal Disability Retirement must by necessity be based upon the effective use of language. Language — that all-encompassing compendium of vocabulary, grammar, word-choice, topical selection, verbs, descriptive ascriptions, use of nouns and action verbs, etc. — is the vehicle of requirement, all within the constraints of providing validating evidentiary proof in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application; and it must be delineated within the purview of factual validation and guided by truth within the context of a methodological approach of persuasive force.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement, whether the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is a test of one’s use of language — a vehicle of communication provided in written form, to be reviewed, analyzed and evaluated for persuasive impact and convincing force, by an unknown entity, represented by a person who is merely a stranger with a title allegedly having technical expertise and validating credentials within a greater bureaucracy of a complex administrative process.

Put in this way, it can be a daunting, hair-raising process; and, indeed, the mere superficial perusal of the Standard Forms (SF 3107 series for FERS employees; SF 2801 series for CSRS and CSRS Offset employees; SF 3112 series for all employees, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset) provides a glimpse into the complexity of the process.  For the initial stage of the process, the onus is entirely upon the Federal or Postal applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement.

Then, if it gets denied at the First Stage by the Administrative Specialist at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there is a double-duty whammy (no, the latter is not a legal term or even a term of art), in that the Federal or Postal worker whose Federal Disability Retirement application is denied, must contend with attempting to comprehend the basis of the denial as propounded by OPM — again, understanding, evaluating and analyzing language, and the necessity of replying with the complexity of using that language.

Thereafter, one must then, in essence, “start all over”, and reengage, and apply the vehicle of effective language again, but this time not only in reworking the persuasive vehicle to provide additional evidence to meet the requisite legal criteria, but at the same time to answer the concerns the arguments as stated in OPM’s denial — which is customarily the use of worn and dated templates used by Federal Disability Specialists over and over again in all OPM Disability Retirement application denials.

To take liberties and paraphrase Wittgenstein, this is a language game of epic proportions, and the masters who play the game must know and apply the rules, and understand the various strategies which result in the successful and effective force of play in preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Intersection with VERA

Questions always abound when Federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service offer incentivized programs under the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) propounded by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  In accepting a VERA, the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition must take into account whether the VERA should take the place of a Federal Disability Retirement application, or whether it will merely be the first step in the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement.

Often, because Federal Disability Retirement takes many months in order to secure and procure, Federal and Postal employees considering such an option will elect to accept a VERA in order to have some income during the time of filing for, and waiting upon, a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Questions which the potential Federal or Postal VERA annuitant should ask themselves include: What impact does a Federal Disability Retirement application have upon a VERA? Is there an offset between Social Security and the VERA annuity, as opposed to the offset which occurs under Federal Disability Retirement, and if so, which provides greater financial sense? Are there provisions where, if the Federal or Postal employee accepts a VERA, one must repay any lump sum incentive which is offered, if one subsequently files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and gets it approved?

While it often makes sense to accept a VERA, then to subsequently file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service as a result of the VERA, one should nevertheless do so with full knowledge and information.

As a final point, in addition to obtaining all information and basing one’s decision upon full knowledge, the fact that the years which one is on Federal Disability Retirement counts toward the total number of years of one’s Federal Service, should always be factored in — especially if one lives to be a ripe old age, where one’s retirement nest egg will be an important future consideration.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Service Disability Retirement: Agency Support

Sometimes, the question comes up as to whether or not it is important to have the blessing or support of the Agency or the USPS, when filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS. My answer to such a question is fairly uniform and redundant:  this is a medical disability retirement; it is unwise to proceed to apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits on the assumption that your Supervisor or Agency will be supportive, for there is no guarantee as to what “supportive” means (they may have a completely different understanding or definition of the concept than you do — something which you probably learned over many years of working in the Federal Sector), and further, the primary focus from the perspective of the Office of Personnel Management, is upon the medical evidence presented and how the medical condition impacts one or more of the essential elements of your job.  The Supervisor’s Statement should be minimized in importance and relevance, as much as possible, by ensuring that the rest of the disability retirement application is “excellent”.  By doing this, you neutralize any undue dependence upon an Agency’s alleged “support” of your application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: The Agency & the Individual

The National Reassessment Program (NRP) now implemented in full force, along with the Voluntary Early Retirement, the cash incentives (many have called to ask whether or not, if one is not eligible or offered the early retirement, but the cash incentive with a resignation is still being offered, should you take it?), and the Postal Service’s ultimate goal of shedding its payroll of anyone and everyone who is not “fully productive” by doing away with all “light duty” or “modified duty” slots (there actually is no “slot”, but rather merely an ad hoc set of duties “made up” on a piece of paper, which is what I have been arguing for years and years, and as the Bracey Decision by the Federal Circuit Court addressed) — all of these developments are merely a large-scale, macrocosmic level of what happens every day on an individual, singular basis. 

This is merely a reflection of an Agency, and how it acts, reacts and responds to injured workers, workers who have medical conditions which impact one’s ability to perform one’s job, and worker’s who are not “fully productive”.  It is merely that which happens every day to individual workers, but on a larger scale.  Think about it:  A Federal or Postal employee who develops a medical condition, and cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; job performance soon begins to suffer, although perhaps imperceptibly at first; and the question becomes:  How will the agency, via its representative, the “Supervisor”, treat such an employee?  Sadly, more often than not, in a rough-shod, unsympathetic, and often cruel manner.  The Postal Service is simply doing it on a larger scale; but be fully aware, that every day, a Federal or Postal employee who is suffering from a medical condition, encounters such behavior and treatment — only, on a microcosmic, individual scale.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire