CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Complexity in the Hidden Background

To prove one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, is seemingly an uncomplicated matter.

As one’s medical condition impacts the ability to perform one or more of the essential element of one’s job, it is up to the treating doctor to establish the nexus and provide an opinion as to the connecting bridge between the medical condition and the positional requirements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

How does one do that? Must it be comprised of a 1-to-1 ratio between job elements and medical conditions? How important and prominent are “symptoms” considered, as opposed to the mere clinical declaration of the diagnosis, in persuading the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that a particular medical condition should qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits? To what extent is one’s own statement of disability, as described on Standard Form 3112A, important in establishing the foothold towards gaining an approval from OPM?

Also, what algorithm or comparative analysis does OPM use in evaluating a case, and how does one enhance the chances of success at the First Stage of the process? If denied at the First Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process, does the basis of the denial (often characterized by a plethora of multiple reasons given) require a point-by-point refutation, and is the Reconsideration Division at OPM using the same standard of review, or a different application of laws in evaluating the additional evidence submitted at the next stage?

If one watches a gymnast, a ballerina, or even a mathematician at work in solving or unraveling a complex problem or exercise, one is immediately struck by the ease with which the feat is performed. But it is almost always the unseen preparation which has preceded the actual performance that sets the stage of an uncomplicated presentation.

It is that mystery of the uncomplicated, which tends to trip us all, and that is no different in the preparation, formulation and submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application, applied through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Correlation, Correspondence & Causation

How we assert and connect disparate facts reveals the extent of one’s understanding of the conceptual distinctions to be made between correlation, correspondence and causation.

Correlation, in its normative usage, refers to the relationship between two or more things, and will often involve statistical dependence between entities.

Correspondence, on the other hand, will entail the agreement of one or more things with one another, or encapsulate similarities and reflective agreement.  Thus, one may discuss Russell’s and Moore’s “correspondence theory of truth“, for instance, where the proposed argument would involve the “agreement” between what one says, and its reflection upon the objective world which it is attempting to describe.

Causality, as a distinctive concept from the other two Cs, involves the sequential occurrence of one event followed by another, where the second event is accepted as a consequence of the first.

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 understand the conceptual distinctions between these words, precisely because the Federal and Postal employee formulating the nexus between one’s medical condition and one’s position description must show the relationship between the two.

Thus, one may argue that a correlation exists between poor performance and one’s medical condition; or one may establish that the corresponding actions on the part of the agency involved references to medical reports and records; or that the position itself caused the exacerbation of the medical condition — although, the latter may be more relevant in a Federal Worker’s Comp case.

In arguing for eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, use of all of the linguistic tools available will provide a decided advantage; but usage must be preceded by understanding, and understanding must involve the careful analysis of the specialized application of conceptual constructs.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Effective Approach

The sales pitch comes from every direction, all vocations, countless product lines and endless announcements of fanfare and ceremony:  the 3-step plan, the 5-point road to success, the 10-ways of X or Y:  it is meant to be a formulaic methodology of achieving a stated goal.

Formulaic approaches are perfectly reasonable; they provide an avenue which, through prior experience of trials and errors, the “seller” has formulated a method or product as the best means possible for achieving success in any given venture.  But the gimmickery of any formulaic approach can wear thin after a manner; and in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, ultimately the fanfare must be supported by three basic elements (see, even the undersigned writer engages in a 3-point plan):  The supporting medical documentation; The supporting statement of disability; The supporting disability law.  Of the three elements, it is the first (the supporting medical documentation) which is paramount and, to borrow (albeit in a non-technical, misused sense) Aristotle’s verbiage, the “first cause” or “First Mover” of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Ultimately, substance over form must prevail, and will be most effective in a Federal Disability Retirement application; and the “substance” in this case is the medical condition itself — one which needs no fanfare, and certainly no 10-point plan for effective advocacy.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Approaching the Entrance to OPM’s Thought Process

The attempt to predict an opponent’s approach in an endeavor — whether in competitive sports; in debate; in an adversarial forum — is a practice which can have favorable results, or one which ends with disastrous consequences.  For the prediction itself must be based upon known factors, such as the applicable standards which the opponent will rely upon, relevant elements which will be utilized, and human, unpredictable quirks which seem to always come into play.

In approaching an opponent, it is always a good idea to study the opposition; but too much reliance upon attempting to out-maneuver the opposition can have the negative impact of taking away from valuable preparation-time one may need in order to prevail.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, many Federal and Postal applicants attempt to analyze the questions posed on the Standard Forms (SF 3107 series for FERS employees; SF 2801 series for CSRS employees; SF 3112 series for both FERS & CSRS employees) perhaps too deeply, in attempting to “understand” the opponent — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Yes, the questions must be analyzed; yes, there is an implicit trickiness to many of the questions (especially on SF 3112A); and, yes, a cautious approach must be taken in answering the questions.  But such caution should never detract from spending the necessary time in preparing the crux and foundation of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application — that of formulating the logical nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional duties which one can no longer perform.

Ultimately, the substance of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application must be given the greatest of focus and effort:  attempting to approach the opponent’s thought processes — in this case, that of the “collective” efforts of multiple individuals at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — may be an act of futility; better to spend the needed hours solidifying one’s own case than to try and understand an incomprehensible entity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Unlike the Superbowl

Since this week requires some profound analogy to the upcoming game between Baltimore and San Francisco, we must submit to the conventionalized mandate.

The Superbowl is an “event”; Federal Disability Retirement is similarly an event, albeit one which requires foresight, planning, and a purposeful step to engage in a change from daily living. There — the analogy has been made and satisfied. Moreover, in truth, most issues which surface in daily life are not based upon expectations of an upcoming event.  

The Superbowl is something which NFL players strive for as a goal; a career-ending injury or medical condition is more akin to what a player suffers on the pathway to that goal.  For Federal and Postal employees, a quiet, consistent and progressive route to a satisfying career is what is sought after.  For many, however, such a solemn and honorable goal is cut short because of unforeseen circumstances — either a physical medical condition, or a psychiatric condition which insidiously begins to disrupt and destroy.

Remember, however, that Federal Disability Retirement is not a complete surrender to a medical condition; that is precisely why the U.S. Office of Personnel Management allows for a person on disability retirement to engage in another vocation, and to work and earn income up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.  

The Superbowl is a one-time event per year; beyond that, there are 364 days of daily living which everyone must consider, including the Federal and Postal employee, as well as the star NFL player. Just something to think about, and to maintain a rational, balanced perspective.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Simplification of a Complex Process

It is the simple things in life which provide the greatest amount of pleasure; but simplicity often conceals the underlying complexity inherent in that which merely appears so.  

The child who first observes the vivid pictures on a computer screen has little to no understanding of the complex hardware and software network interfacing which, in the long history of computer design and evolving creation of computers, resulted in the seemingly simple result, produced by a push of a button.  Thus, the complexity behind the microchip and the human endeavor which designed, created and manufactured the product is what makes for the simplicity of the complex.  

As with all other things simple and complex, Federal Disability Retirement must be approached with caution. The questions which are required to be answered on Standard Forms (SF 3107 series for FERS applicants; SF 2801 series for CSRS applicants; SF 3112 series for both FERS and CSRS applicants) may appear quite simple in form; the content of what must be provided will necessarily require a complex interaction of thought, foresight, knowledge of the law, and carefully chosen words to provide information, argument and documented evidence which proves, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Federal or Postal worker is entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  

To compile and produce a product which appears “simple”, from the myriad of administrative complexities, is the key to a successful outcome in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Simplicity betrays complexity; that which appears so, may not reveal the underlying and compound complexities which must be cautiously approached.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Administrative Process

Ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement must be viewed as a “process“, as opposed to a singular procedure whereby a triggering mechanism automatically allows for receipt of benefits.  The former requires an affirmative approach which involves submission of proof, argumentation, an expectation of resistance (in many cases), and an analysis by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as to whether or not all of the legal criteria have been met.  The latter is merely a formality of filing.

As a process, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has various steps, procedures, and Stages for appeals.  There is, first and foremost, the initial application Stage, where one has the opportunity and right to submit proof of eligibility, and make legal arguments for entitlement.  If one’s Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the first Stage of the process, then one has a right to have it “reconsidered” by filing a “Request for Reconsideration” within 30 days of the date of denial, or receipt of the letter of denial from OPM, whichever is later.  If denied a second time, then the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has a right to file an Appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

There are, in addition to the 3 stages described, two (2) additional stages of appeal, but the three main stages of filing are what have been previously described.

With such a “process” in mind, it is wise to prepare for the long haul.  An expectation of a quick and easy approval, even if obtained, should not be embraced at the outset, precisely because one must take into consideration the potential length of time which the entire process may take, and prepare accordingly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire