Legal Representation on FERS/CSRS Disability Claims: What isn’t known

There is often that final question during a consultation — of “any other advice” that can be given, or whether something else was forgotten, or the generalization of “Anything else I should know?”  That is where the particulars of a case must be known, and the wide chasm that exists between “being a client” and merely receiving an initial overview of a person’s case.  For, what isn’t known is often the element that can harm or injure, and the question asked but left unanswered is the one that no one thought about but should have.

Lawyers like to enter an arena of legal battles well-prepared; all questions asked, normally already are presumptively answered, and no lawyer worthy of his opponent asks a question that he or she already doesn’t know the answer to, or at least has a fairly good idea about.  In a Federal Disability Retirement case, where there are multiple stages of an Administrative Process to tackle and prepare for, the First Key to success is to not submit that which will be harmful to one’s case.

As an attorney who represents Federal and Postal workers in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the primary issue is obviously upon the medical report and records to be submitted; followed by the legal arguments to be presented and established, normally through an extensive Legal memorandum, which provides a kind of “road map” for the assigned OPM Specialist to review and (hopefully) become persuaded as to the validity, incontrovertible legal basis, and the substantive qualification of the Federal or Postal employee in meeting all of the legal criteria in becoming eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

For the Federal or Postal employee who attempts this complex Administrative Process without legal representation, the obstacles, pitfalls and potential hazards are many, and it is often what isn’t known that defeats a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Sure, there are cases where the presented facts, medical conditions and evidence constitute an undeniable, “slam-dunk” case, but those are few and far between, and we can all recognize such cases and a competent attorney would normally advise such individuals to go ahead and complete the Standard Forms, attach some relevant medical documentation and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with OPM.

Then, of course, there are cases on the far side of the spectrum that constitute a “weak” or otherwise invalid case, and those, too, are easily recognizable.  Most cases, however, fall in the middle, within the spectrum where one must affirmatively and by a preponderance of the evidence “prove” one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  And for all such cases that fall in that “middle” area of the wide spectrum, what isn’t known is the lynchpin that must be identified and prepared for further assessment and formulation, whether by addressing it in a medical document or reinforcing it by legal argumentation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Deprogramming a Preconditioned Approach

The preconditioned attitude of the general public is that, if X has a medical condition, then such medical condition, by the very nature of the condition itself, will either entitle one to benefits, or not.  Such an approach is what one is conditioned to expect — that by the very nature of the medical condition itself, means that it will either lead to, or not lead to, a specified result.  This viewpoint and approach is based upon a definitional standard, where the very essence of what it means to suffer from X already predetermines whether one is eligible and entitled to benefit Y.

Social Security assumes such an approach.  To some extent, so does OWCP, because the Department of Labor is willing to pay a certain amount of compensation based upon a predetermined calculus of a percentage rating, for loss of limb, loss of use, loss of functional capacity, etc.

This is why Federal and Postal employees who first contemplate preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, will attempt to tie the fact of having a medical condition with the question, “Does this qualify me for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?”  But that is the wrong paradigm to use in asking the question.  For, eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM is not based upon a definitional ascription of a medical condition; rather, it is that “third element” — the connection between X and Y, X representing the medical condition and Y standing for the positional duties which the Federal or Postal employee must engage.

In many respects, Federal Disability Retirement answers the philosophical question which David Hume asked:  Is there a necessary connection between cause and effect?  For Federal Disability Retirement purposes, the answer is a resounding “yes”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS: Junkyards

It is the latter in the compound word which is left forgotten and unnoticed, precisely because of the screaming blare represented by the former, demanding attention by the sheer nature and character of its breaching sensibilities, like the spoiled cousin refusing to abide by the conventions imposed upon uninvited visitors and customs curtailing unwanted guests.

Once, before time forgotten and memories untarnished, the landscape was perhaps a pasture green with wildflowers and vegetation overgrown; then, a possessor who perhaps put up a fence to demarcate the beauty by identifying acquisition, tending to the weeds, creating a vegetable garden here, building a house over there, and all the while trying to maintain the beauty and solitude of a picturesque scene of pastoral quietude.

Initial intentions are rarely malevolent; it is time, circumstances and disrepair of incremental decay which, in their unnoticed aggregation of cumulative disregard, suddenly fall upon us like a tidal wave of gloom.  Perhaps it began more with the invention, creation and abundance of implements and industrial tools; or just the defect of human essence and the inherent laziness of the species.

An automobile which refused to throttle one early morning can certainly become the foundation of that linguistic pose at the forefront of the compound; later, a refrigerator where the condenser fan or the compressor, or some other such component which refused to make the proper sounds and conduct itself in a manner befitting cold air in the heat of a summer day, suddenly gives out, and what do you do with a monstrosity taking up valuable space within the limited dimensions of a cramped kitchen?

And thus, over time, where once the carefully tended landscape of pristine greenery unscathed by the clutter of unwanted debris, begins to dominate, as do most creations of human refuse.  The detritus of discarded wreckage scattered in the afterthought of one’s castle, as represented by the backyard of a home, is telling of a lengthy history of accumulation, decisions, riffraff of rubble unwanted — sort of like the history of human experiences comprised of emotional baggage gathered and garnered.

The outer reflects the inner, and the essence which expands within the soul of a tormented individual requires release and revelation, if only for a fortnight before an exponential explosion of psychic need claws to escape from the restraining membrane throughout.  Ugliness begs for concealment and a veil of hope; and so the grass and weeds which grow to cover the rusting wreckage in a junkyard of despair, often parallels the anguished inner being of the one who cries silently in hollows where no one can hear, or is unwilling to listen.

Junkyards are interesting case studies of the history of individual lives, otherwise undiscovered except perhaps by archaeologists who mistake an ancient site for a bevy of linear rationality.  But it is often the forgotten part of the junkyard which remains unnoticed — that of the inner component of man, left untended to and forgotten for fear of releasing the box which Pandora was entrusted with, containing all of the evils of the world, and what more to consign but the turmoils of human emotion and psychological scars, otherwise camouflaged by smiles and entreaties of normative concealment?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition — whether physical, emotional or mental — the junkyards most concerning are comprised of the illness and pain hidden from full view, perhaps left in the rear and avoided by others, which burdens the soul beyond capacity to endure.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is often merely a first step in the process of clearing out the debris which accumulated over a lifetime of attempting to conceal and contain; for, in the end, the Federal or Postal worker who needs to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is at a point in his or her life, when the wreckage mounting in the unseen privacy of junkyards left unattended, requires help to haul those heavy components of human detritus away, and in the process, a forgotten jewel carelessly discarded in a time once known with laughter in the pasture of one’s past, may again be discovered for future joy and hope.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal & Postal Employee Disability Retirement: The carousel of life

It is the easiest of analogies to ponder:  of a vision in the humdrum of circularity; different sizes, shapes, and images of artistry; of the choices we make and the alternatives offered; where we sit in life, of the approaches we take and the variable speed of the up and down motion; do we possess the fearless temerity to change midway from a lumbering, elephantine facade to the sleek and pathological ride of a cheetah?  Does the music have the concordant synchronicity such that it is neither an annoyance nor a distracting disturbance?  Or do we even take note of the loud cacophony of the blaring entourage, or merely as a backdrop to the excitement in the very ride we undertake?

Some recent intellectuals have argued that human beings comprehend their interaction, environment, place and significance in this world, only through the thought-process of analogical thinking; that the intersection of words, linguistic culpability and attachment of language games to encounters with the objective, impervious world of reality, becomes elevated to that Rorschach moment when the obfuscating inkblots of an objective universe otherwise indistinguishable from the insular parallelism of one’s own conceptual constructs suddenly explodes with insight and vigorous apprehension.

That was the problem with the nascent approach of existentialists; somehow, we all recognized that something was missing.  But instead of taking a right turn, that missing “something” took the wrong path down the corridors of Foucault and Derrida, and allowed for deconstruction to embrace the self-destructive charisma of nothingness.  How we understand the world; what we impart to it; the self-image of whence we came; and the walking pictures we carry about in the chasms of our psyche; they all matter, and the narrative of our lives become written the longer we survive in this anachronism called “life”.  We have become misfits in a virtual world of our own making.

The metaphors we establish within ourselves; the analogies we create to comprehend; the novel within each of us and the narrative of carefully chosen ideologies; all cumulatively define the essence of our being.  And thus as we ride the carousel of life, or watch ourselves ride from a distance, matters little to those who have decided to sit this round out; and yet, they, too — whether from afar or in a slumber of repose, must by necessity hear the music which plays regardless of whether one rides the circularity of the metaphor.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, of course, such an analogy can be a poignant reminder of the current state of turmoil.  Perhaps the analogy takes on greater significance if we posit a mechanical failure — of stoppage of the rhythmic ride, and where the music also blares a discordant trumpet of shattered symphonies screeching with discomfort down the sensitive eardrums of the bystanders.

Federal employees and U.S. Postal Service workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal positional duties, have a clear choice to make:  Stay on the broken carousel; get off and walk away with nothing; or, of greater benefit and reward, to prepare an effective Federal Disability Retirement application and submit it to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

If the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, and has the minimum years of service in order to become eligible, then it is time to consider that it is not the carousel of life that has broken, but merely failure of the operator to take into account the suitability of the particular vision with the individual embracing that concept.  It is not always the rider’s fault; sometimes, the faulty ride itself has miscalculated the algorithm of synchronizing the music to the roundabout.  Think of it in terms of the man behind the curtain in the Wizard of Oz — but then, that is for another blog altogether.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Early Medical Retirement under FERS & CSRS: Of spare things left in the world

We don’t seem to have a capacity to share of those things which we have no need, anymore.  Does scarcity of resources result in “doubling down” in ways formerly described as miserly in deed?  Does the free market principle of supply and demand explain the loss of social grace in responding to need?  What ever happened to the spare tire, the jingle of spare change, and the ephemeral absence of spare time?  Has society come to a criss-cross of contending forces, where the explosion of population growth, the rise of the middle class in developing nations around the globe, coupled with the exponential depletion of finite resources, have cumulatively coalesced to an incandescent compromise of character crisis?  Does the lack of everything mean that we can spare no more for others, or provide assistance in the event of need?

As for the spare tire issue, the fact is that modern technology has extended the wear of tires, and many people have lost the knowledge or skill to use a jack or a lug wrench.  This, combined with fear of scams and roadside robberies, in conjunction with the durability of today’s tires, has resulted in the widespread consequence of calls for help defined as a cellphone dial for professional roadside assistance.  Further, society has deemed that any caricature of a ‘damsel in distress’ is tainted with a misogynist attitude; and we certainly would never want to be charged with an ‘ism’ at the cost of helping another.  And of spare change?

Homelessness has been relegated to either a non-existent phenomenon until a different political tide rolls in, or has otherwise been linguistically redefined as an alternative lifestyle.  What remains, then, is our spare time — which we have no more of, despite the constant drumbeat to the contrary that the aggregate of modern technology is always supposed to ‘save us time’.  Isn’t that what we are told each time a new gadget is foisted upon us?  That it will save time so that we have more time for greater and more important things — like politicians who suddenly leave office or fail to seek another term in order to spend “more time” with family.  Right.

The fact is that we are left with very little of anything, anymore, other than to stare vacuously into the fluorescent chambers of computer screens and smartphone apps.  Yet, spare time, spare tires and spare change — while apparently mere arbitrary anachronisms of antiquity, alas, fading into the dim light of change itself — reflects a community of sharing now lost as art was once a defined form.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, where the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties, the idea of sparing a person a break, has gone the way of other spare things.  Neither the Federal agency nor the U.S. Postal Service has any spare time to spare anything, anymore, and certainly no more than the rest of society can spare.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, can be likened to the spare tire in the back of the trunk, which is always there but forgotten but for the time of crisis or need.  When the Federal or Postal worker can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties with the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, then preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application to OPM is like getting out that spare tire.

The problem is, as most people have lost the skill to use the ‘other’ implements hidden beside the spare tire — like the jack and the lug wrench — so the proverbial roadside assistance may be required.  As for spare change and spare time?  Pockets are a requirement for the former, and future fashion will determine the necessity of an antiquated design, as will inflation and online banking for the need of coins or paper money at all; and as for the latter, we are told that we have more of that than ever before; just not enough to spare for others.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: The Divide between Words and Reality

The problem with the linguistic universe is that they create a parallel universe which can be completely devoid of any connection or correspondence to the reality of the world which we occupy; thus the span of genres of imaginary creations, including fiction, science fiction, fantasy; as well as the virtual world of video games (which encompasses language because of the imaginary conversations which act “as if” the events occurring in the game itself are real).

The danger of language is that it may well communicate far more than what the objective world represents; and, conversely, it can also convey far less than what one may intend.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the point of language is to describe and delineate the reality of one’s situation; the severity of one’s medical condition; the logical nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional duties one must engage; and the reasoning, based upon medical evidence, of why the Federal or Postal employee cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

The wide chasm between the world of language and the world of objectivity is the test of success; for, it is the one who can close that gap, and represent the reality of one’s universe by the correspondence of language, who will achieve a successful outcome.

The great divide between language and reality is a challenge which must be approached with care and trepidation; for, in the end, if language fails to correspond to reality, what would be the point of civilization in its endeavor to maintain the historicity of its existence?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Independence of Each Program

The disparate nature of each Federal program, with little to no intersecting coordination amongst them (with the exception of SSDI and FERS Disability Retirement benefits in the coordination of payments upon approval of each) betrays the unplanned, thoughtless creation of each program, as well as a sense that each agency wants to maintain its feudal control and assertion of independent power.

That perhaps explains, in part, why each program ignores the extent of persuasive authority the approval of another program should logically have, upon an approval and acceptance by the “other” program.  Does it make sense that being granted “unemployability” status under the Department of Veterans Affairs ascription of percentage disability ratings would only have a nominal impact upon a FERS Disability Retirement application?  Or that an SSDI approval would have, at best, a persuasive effect upon a FERS Disability Retirement?

It is somewhat more understandable that a case accepted by OWCP/Department of Labor would have minimal impact upon a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application, precisely because the former is set up as a program of rehabilitation in an effort to return the Federal or Postal employee back to his or her job.

The only true “coordination” of benefits occurs between SSDI and FERS — and that, only if both are approved, and payments are received concurrently; but even then, there are often overpayment problems, lack of the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing, etc.

Thus Coordination and intersection between departments, agencies and various programs rarely occurs.  Agencies tend to want to remain independent.

Such lack of coordination, however, does not mean that the FERS or CSRS Federal or Postal employee should not force a legal argument upon OPM when a significant finding is made by another agency or program.  For, in the end, it may not be the U.S. Office of Personnel Management which listens, but an administrative judge at the MSPB, or a 3-judge panel on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals; in which case, a precedent will have been set, for all to (hopefully) follow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire