Disability Retirement from Federal Government Employment: The Well-Digger’s Daughter

It is a French film directed by Daniel Auteuil, and depicts an age just before, during, and after the First World War, when rural life still embraced a contempt for modern values, and the pastoral context defined the the quietude of family life yet unblemished but for private shame of family secrets.  It is in the title itself which reveals much; for, there is no independence of a person’s name, and the underlying theme throughout encapsulates the right to a surname, the identity of an individual, and how the interconnectedness of one’s essence, being and substantive community is itself defined by the proper ascription of who we are related to, how, and by what legitimacy.

It is, in that sense, outdated and “old fashioned”; for, in modernity, we cast no aspersions when it comes to heredity, lineage and source of being, anymore.  But the historical context reflects the time of its relevancy; here, names matter; formal acknowledgement of marital unions within a community of acceptance and celebration are expected; and the child who comes into this world must be identified by the proper surname through label of sacrament.  At the outset, the title itself reveals much; for, we immediately note that it is not the name of a person, but an identity within the context of a family lineage.

In this day and age, names are no more important than the identification of inanimate objects; relational identities have been cast aside; we are known, each of us, by the names we have been given, have shed and taken on in rebellious denial of former connections, or so easily abandon and recreate, like so many pseudonyms used on the technology of our former selves.  But try as we might, somehow the haunting connections seem to matter; otherwise, how else to explain the persistent cries of orphans and abandoned children to search and discover who their parents are, and to open up sealed court documents to embrace identities formerly unknown?

Is it a mere mirage and vestige of an antiquated mutation, where the genetic lineage served to fulfill Darwin’s fantasy of survival of the fittest, somehow misinterpreted by one’s cellular make-up to include direct inheritance of a particular DNA?  And why is the language so precise and important?  Would the story have been any different if it had been titled, say, “The Girl who wore a pink bonnet”?  The narrative could still have remained; but, somehow, by merely identifying the character by what she wore, is not the same as to whom she is related to, of how she is named, and by what relationship her being is connected.

Words — and names — matter.   Identifying the proper relationships, and the context of connectedness, all together form the “wholeness” of a coherent narrative.

That is why, in preparing and formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is important to coordinate the medical documentation with the Applicant’s Statement of Disability; the Applicant’s Statement of Disability with any legal arguments to be made and cited; and any legal arguments with both the medical documentation and the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  For, each are not mere separate codifications of independent entities unrelated to the other; together, they form a compendium of a cogent narrative, whether the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset; and when such force of coherence is submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it heightens the statistical favoritism for an initial approval.

And, like the Well-Digger’s Daughter, we must always remember that the interconnectedness of life, living, and the essence of everything around, is defined not merely in our individual capacities, but by the sacredness of who we present ourselves to be.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement Representation: Substance and Process

In any bureaucratic, lengthy administrative process, one can become embroiled in the procedural aspects of an endeavor, and overlook the substantive elements which form the foundation of any case.  Conversely, one can make the mistake of approaching a case and declare to one’s self, “This is so obviously a good case,” and take shortcuts in the process of putting together an effective and persuasive case.

Either approach is one fraught with grave errors, and for Federal employees and Postal workers who are beginning the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Medical benefits, first through one’s own agency (if still on the rolls of the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service or, if separated, for not more than 31 days), and ultimately submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, Pennsylvania (directly, if the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker has been separated from Federal service for more than 31 days), it is important to keep the balance between the substance of a case, and the process of the case.

Substantive issues involve everything from the factual, informational content required on all standard forms (SF 3107, along with Schedules A, B & C, and the required attachment of one’s DD 214 showing prior active military service; SF 2801 for CSRS employees; and the substantive content of the description of one’s medical conditions to be considered, as required in SF 3112A, etc.), as well as the medical documentation needed to provide the evidentiary support for one’s case.

“Process” issues involve the timeframe in filing a case, the administrative procedures of where the disability application must be submitted through, as well as the myriad of sequential steps required for satisfaction of accommodation issues with one’s agency.

Substance and process — they are the necessary sides of a single, inseparable currency of an administrative reality known as Federal OPM Disability Retirement, and both must be attended to in order to reach the heights of efficacy mandated for a successful outcome in the preparation, formulation and submission of an OPM Medical Retirement application.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Beginning the Federal Disability Retirement Process

The Chinese proverb, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, is meant to remind us that looking at a process in its entirety can result in self-defeat even before starting, and every daunting journey must begin with the small, almost insignificant, effort of initiation.

Facing a bureaucracy and an administrative process can feel like that metaphorical journey of a thousand miles.  The multiple and complex standard forms to complete; the legal criteria to meet; the need to gather, compile and consolidate the medical documentation into a linear, coherent whole; and all of this, in the face of voluntarily reducing one’s income by applying for an annuity and having to deal with the debilitating medical condition from which one suffers.

But the successful way to approach the entire administrative process known as Federal Disability Retirement, is to bifurcate it into workable portions. The SF 3107 series (reissued in May, 2014, where previous editions are now outdated) is merely informational in nature.  It is is the SF 3112 series of forms which one must take care in preparing and formulating, and especially SF 3112A, which requests for detailed information concerning one’s medical conditions, the impact of the medical conditions upon one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; and other pertinent information needed to convey compliance with a legal criteria established through many years via legal opinions issued by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Yes, it is a difficult process, and one which can be eased by legal advice and expertise. But as with all journeys, to look upon the landscape and obstacles as mere hindrances to overcome, will serve one better, than to stand at the foothills and refuse to begin the journey at all.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

The Basic Question Of “What?” during the Federal Disability Retirement Application and Process

“Why” evinces a quality of curiosity, and perhaps of disbelief; “who” indicates a need to establish an identity and source; “how” demonstrates a pragmatic approach in determining a future course of action; and “what” reveals the yearning to unravel the foundations of basic principles, as in Aristotle’s methodology in his Metaphysics.

Before the first storyteller or shaman put on a mask to enhance the mysteries of healing and divination; long before the wide-eyed children gathered with the adults around the village center where the bonfire roared with flickering shadows of unknown powers beyond the periphery of the fireflies beaming in the distant darkness of dangers beyond; and well preceding the written account of human history, where anthropology and narrative fantasy melded to provide reminiscences of prehistoric days created in the imaginations of youth, the question of “what” was uttered in innocence.

What is the meaning of X? What happened? What makes a thing become itself? What is the essence of being?  Thus for any entrance into a fresh endeavor, the human need for satisfying the “what” of a matter is the prefatory step towards progress.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the initial question might be: What constitutes a “disability”?  In that question is the key which often opens wide the conventional confinement which so many people are locked into.

For, in the traditional sense, the focus of the answer to such a question is contained in the definition and diagnosis of a medical condition.  For FERS and CSRS Federal Disability Retirement, however, the expansion of the answer goes well beyond the strictures of a diagnosis.  It is the nexus, or the connection, between the medical condition and symptoms, on the one hand, and the positional requirements (whether physical, mental or emotional) of one’s Federal or Postal work, which establishes the answer.

Once the Federal and Postal employee gains an understanding of this differentiating concept, then the doors open wide beyond the confinement of OWCP benefits or Social Security Disability benefits.  Thus does one approach Federal Disability Retirement with trepidation in asking, What qualifies as a disability?  For, contained within the question is the implicit and unspoken answer: such a query already implies a problem, and the problem likely is an impact already being felt upon one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties of one’s Federal or Postal employment.

As with the first causative rumblings deep in the consciousness of one’s soul, as a child first begins to question the complexity of the universe surrounding the inner self of the “I”, the question uttered alters the relationship between the being of “I” and the objectivity of “others” in a perplexing world of unanswered questions; but in the end, the “what” is a first step, and so it is also for the Federal and Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS or CSRS.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Meeting the Burden of Proof

The difference between “telling” and “showing” is a distinction which is often made in distinguishing between bad literary writing and good literature; such a distinction is applicable in practicing effective law, also.  

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to meet the burden of proof in order to show the Office of Personnel Management that one is entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  To “meet the burden of proof” is to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one has met all of the legal criteria for such eligibility (e.g., that one has a medical condition; that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; that certain identified elements of the job cannot be accommodated, etc.).  

The key is that one must “show”, and not merely tell, and that is where the distinction between effective and ineffective formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application presents itself.  To merely assert that “X is a fact” and then to declare that the burden of proof has been met, is an ineffective methodology of formulating one’s argument.  On the other hand, to describe the factual underpinnings, then to further describe how the natural conclusion from such facts lead to the inescapable conclusion that a legal criteria has been met, is to provide for an effective argument.

The Office of Personnel Management is open to persuasion; it must merely be shown the way through descriptive analysis of the medical facts and conclusions which must be met, in meeting the legal burden of proof in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire