OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: The Declination of Laughter

A Smiling USGS Employee

The Declination of Laughter

Does lack of laughter signify anything?  If a person was known to laugh a lot, then one day comes in with nary a chuckle, is it significant at all?  Is it the reverberation from the throat, or the eyes which reveal an underlying sadness, which tells the true tale of a person’s state of mind?  Can a person be in so much pain that he laughs out loud?  Why is it that there is such a thin and almost invisible line between laughter, insanity, and loss of control?

For the often contentious circumstances which surround and infiltrate the context and content of a Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the question of the declination of laughter, whether by one’s Supervisor, the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, coworkers, or even family members away from the workplace, can be a telling factor on the spectrum and scale of who we are, what is being done, and what people are thinking.

In the end, life is a serious matter; medical conditions are no laughing matter; actions which impact the substantive future of individuals should be engaged with seriousness and consideration.  Ultimately, it is that dissonance between the mirthless eyes and the resonance of sound which is interpreted as laughter, which should concern everyone.

For the Federal or Postal Worker filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the time of laughter may not occur until well after the attainment of that goal; and even then, the daily problems of life must still be faced, including one’s ongoing medical conditions.  But, at least, the mirthless state of one’s workplace will have been left behind, and with it, the stresses of trying to figure out the intent and motivation behind that Supervisor’s laughter who, just the day before, metaphorically stabbed another coworker in the proverbial backside.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Sports Metaphors

The abundance of metaphors comparing life with sports has pervaded throughout in literature, opinion pieces, articles, etc.  We can relate to sports, because many have been active participants in their youth; continue to engage in it via playing in various adult leagues, or coaching their kids, or perhaps just passively enjoying watching various sports on television, etc.

As a metaphor, it is seen as a “life-lesson”.  It is supposed to teach all aspects of “building character” — of the value of hard work, proper preparation, ethical conduct and behavior, etc.  In pragmatic terms, when one actually plays a sport, it merely becomes a one-to-one adversarial encounter with an opponent, and sometimes teaches merely that the “playing field” is not always level, and the opponent does not always follow the same rules of the game as one is taught to do.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, a comparative metaphor to any sports would be to characterize the entire administrative process as one of the battle between David and Goliath.  The Office of Personnel Management has its own set of rules — of a criteria which is allegedly applied, but which often has limited rational basis; of a time frame within which they say they attempt to meet, but which is systematically ignored; of following rules and regulations as they interpret them, etc.

What would one say about a sport in which one side makes up the rules and then ignores them?  Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is like a professional football team (representing OPM) going against a high school chemistry class deciding to put together a team (the Federal or Postal employee).  The teams are unequal; the playing field is never level; and the outcome of the encounter must therefore be decided by careful preparation, a cohesively formulated plan, and a filing deliberation which results in a compelling total package.

Such is the metaphor with sports:  to prepare, formulate and file — in an effective manner.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: What the Agency Can Do

It is always striking (and suspicious, of course) when an individual tells me that his or her Agency has said that they will “OK” the Federal disability retirement application.  I always remind the individual that it is not the Agency; rather, it is the Office of Personnel Management which approvals or denies an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  In many ways, the Agency attempts to assert for itself greater influence and impact than it really has.  I try and remind people all the time that a Federal Disability Retirement application is a medical retirement application — it is not an Agency retirement application; it is not a Supervisor’s disability retirement application; it is not up to the Human Resources’ Department of the Agency.  The ultimate arbiter of the entire process is the Office of Personnel Management; and the criteria for eligibility is based upon a set of statutory requirements, which must be met by a preponderance of the evidence; and the overwhelming focal emphasis concerns the medical eligibility.  Agencies are too often given too much credit for the success or failure of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  In my view, the influence, input and power of an agency is almost always overstated.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The End Goal

The goal at the end of the process is to obtain that “approval” letter from the Office of Personnel Management.  It resolves and sets aside the months of anxiety and stress compressed into a time of agonizing suspension from life’s ability to move forward; for, during that time of waiting, one cannot “move forward”, because without the knowledge of whether one can obtain the financial benefit of the Federal Disability Retirement annuity under FERS or CSRS, one cannot make the decisions in life to make plans for the future. 

It is of great satisfaction to an attorney to reach the “end goal” — to hear from the client that he or she has received the letter of approval from the Office of Personnel Management, and to hear the relief and joy in the voice of one who finally sees “light at the end of the tunnel” constitutes great professional satisfaction for the representing attorney.  It means that the proper medical narratives were gathered; that the description of the client’s medical conditions and their impact upon the essential elements of one’s job was properly formulated; and it means that the legal argument presented to the Office of Personnel Management was persuasive.  Client satisfaction means alot to an attorney; for one who solely specializes in Federal Disability Retirement Law, to see the end product — the obtaining of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity — is of great professional satisfaction.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Client

Waiting for the approval/disapproval, the determination, the decision,etc., when the Federal Disability Retirement packet is sitting on OPM’s desk, is a passive modality of existence.  Up to that point, however, it is often a good idea to be actively involved in the process.

Whether having an Federal Disability Attorney or not, it is good to “flag” interim dates, to keep on top of how long it has been since the initial letters have been sent out to the doctors, to call the doctors and (diplomatically) ask for a reasonable time-frame within which to have the medical narrative reports written; to ask whether or not a fee is required to prepare the narrative report, and if so, how much, and if prepayment will expedite the report.

Then, once it arrives at the Agency H.R. people (or, in the case of the Postal Worker, the H.R. Shared Services Center in Greensboro, North Carolina), it is a good idea to periodically call (about every two weeks) to see what stage in the process your application is at.  Thereafter, once it is forwarded to the finance office, then on to Boyers, PA, it is a matter of waiting for the CSA number to be assigned, and then the long, arduous wait.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Lawyer

 

CSRS & FERS Disability: an Art Form

As with all effective submissions — pleadings, motions, legal memorandums and, alas, Federal Disability Retirement applications — it should never be approached in a mechanical, one-to-one ratio-like, mathematical manner.  Of course it should contain the technical terms, the medical terms, and the legal arguments.  However, disability retirement under FERS & CSRS — especially the Applicant’s Statement of disability and any legal arguments — should not be matter of matching up a one-to-one correspondence between the medical condition and the particular essential elements which it prevents or impacts.  Certainly, the effect and the conclusion should contain that conceptual correspondence; however, as all good writing contains a technical side, it is also important to weave the story of the human condition and see the writing as an “art” form.

The impact of the human story is important in convincing and persuading the OPM representative to not only understand the medical condition, but to get a sense of empathy for what the applicant is going through.  It is a delicate balance to achieve; yes, the hard legal arguments should be made in order to “force” OPM to see that, legally, they are obligated to approve a disability retirement application; at the same time, if you can touch the empathetic nature of the OPM representative, so much the better.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire