OPM Medical Retirement: Consistency

For over twelve years, the lack of intervening language contradicting the narrative as put forth by the NBC news anchor allowed for an intended image to prevail; it was only when language from other sources began to intersect, and to refute or otherwise unravel, the factual underpinnings as propounded by the individual, that retractions, admissions and apologies had to be declared and conveyed.  But for those other intervening statements, the language game as played by the news anchor would have continued to dominate, and history would have been remained unquestioned.

Language games, as described and discussed by Wittgenstein, are funny animals; there are, of course, the “facts” and the reality as first encountered in the objective world surrounding us; but once that encounter has occurred, what is left is the correspondence and communication through the medium of our language.  It is through language that past historical occurrences are communicated; and so long as the language used by all others do not contradict or otherwise make misfits of the language game one is playing, all goes well.

It is like the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle; the longer one stays at it, the greater the picture becomes entrenched; but once a piece of the greater puzzle manifests a misfit, or it becomes clear that there are either pieces missing or ones that don’t belong, then the entirety of the whole begins to crumble. We tend to place all of such occurrences under the general aegis of “consistency“.

Submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application by a Federal employee or a U.S. Postal worker has a parallel effect.  You begin with a factual basis:  the medical condition.  Beyond the factual basis, one must then begin to formulate a “Statement of Disability” as propounded on SF 3112A, where the description and delineation must include the logical connection to one’s positional requirements and why you cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal position.

Here, consistency is crucial; how one characterizes the nexus between the medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job; the manner of one’s description; the consistency of application and bridge between the two elements of the case, the medical condition and the positional requirements of the job.

It is, ultimately, a language game precisely because a Federal Disability Retirement application is a presentation submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and whether the applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the pieces of the puzzle which make for an effective Federal Disability Retirement application all must fit to make up the wholeness of that which matters most in any language game:  consistency.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Effective Negations

Why is it that some words are known primarily by their negation?  For example, we use the word “unfettered” to convey the meaning of freedom and release, but rarely see the usage of its non-negative form, as in, “He is fettered”.  Perhaps it is because we no longer approve of placing chains or manacles upon prisoners, and instead have become more civilized, with a concurrent alteration in the usage of the term for more genteel societies.

Often, it is the very negation of X — whether through minimization or leaving out completely that which we originally thought to be so indispensable — which makes for the effective case.  Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the problem is normally not one of what to write about or how much to submit; rather, it is the editing process and the paring down and streamlining of a case which is the hard part.

Most people who suffer from a medical condition which has come to a crisis point where it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, are not at a loss for words or volumes of documents ready to submit.  But not everything which is material to a case is relevant, and in order to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is always best to streamline on the basis of relevance per statutory criteria.

Thus, we come full circle:  negation of a concept is often the most effective avenue of discourse; the un-negated bundle, left alone, may include too much baggage for the untrained eye.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal OPM Disability Retirement: Answering the Question Is Merely the Beginning

The question itself is obviously the starting point; however, whether answering the question is enough, presents a greater problem.

In any arena of law, the wider context of legal requirements will include the statutory authority upon which regulations and standard governmental forms are based upon; then, there are case-law opinions of judges — in the area of Federal Disability Retirement, this would include the administrative opinions of the Merit Systems Protection Board, both at the Hearing level, as well as from a Petition for Full Review; and further, Court opinions from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must obviously complete multiple Standard Forms. Chief among the forms is the “Applicant’s Statement of Disability“, or otherwise identified as SF 3112A.  There are multiple questions requesting information about one’s medical condition and the impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  The questions may seem straightforward enough; the answers can be; but the greater conundrum is whether completion of answers to such questions will be adequate in proving, by a preponderance of the evidence (which is the legal standard in meeting the adequacy of proof in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS) one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

It is precisely because there is a greater context of legal expansion in the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement, that merely answering the questions represents a beginning point.  In other words, we meet head-on the age-old distinction between that which is necessary, as opposed to what constitutes sufficiency in order to satisfy the criteria.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: A Distinction to Be Made

Lawyers are taught — whether at Law School, through observation as a young associate or “apprentice” under the wings of a seasoned attorney — to ask questions in a persistent, methodological manner.  Whether in “direct examination” or “cross examination”, the question asked is meant to be goal-oriented.

We often make the mistake, however, in concluding that the question asked constitutes something more than a question — that it contains some substantive value, intrinsic in the very intonation and deliverance of the question itself.  The question asked, must be distinguished from the answer given.  Thus, the mere fact that a question is asked, does not in and of itself contain any relevant evidence or substantive import.  It is in the answer given which must determine the content and context of relevance.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, applied through one’s agency and ultimately submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, multiple and varied questions will be posed, indicated and conveyed to the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for the Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Such questions must be answered — and answered truthfully.  The questions themselves, however — whether posed in the Standard Forms which must be completed (SF 3107 & SF 3112 series for the FERS employee; SF 2801 and SF 3112 series for the CSRS employee); or in correspondence form from the Agency or the Office of Personnel Management; or by the Administrative Judge or the OPM Representative at an MSPB Hearing — should have a stream of consistency throughout the process.

This is normally a simple matter — but always remember that “truth” is distinguishable from “consistency”; and it is often the latter which creates some doubt as to the former.  Unfortunately, life is very rarely consistent. That is why a coordination and comprehensive outlook upon the entire administrative process, from beginning to end, must always be kept in mind.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Privacy, Social Media and Detracting Information

In the modern age of social media, where information on what previously was considered “private” details of personal and family life is widely disseminated, freely provided, and affirmatively shared, such publicly declared information can be accessed by private, public, and government entities.  

A Federal or Postal worker who is preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, should take care that publicly disseminated information does not contradict the assertions and statements made on an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  While the Office of Personnel Management does not systematically engage in researching information on an applicant displayed in the social media forum; nevertheless, it is certainly “fair game” to obtain such information.  

The problem with social media information posted and freely provided by individuals, including Federal and Postal Workers, is that there may be absolutely no connection between the reality and accuracy of the information posted, and the truth of the individual revealing and posting such information.  

Anonymity, having a different identity — acting like a different person from the true “you” is an easy thing to do on the internet.  But if a wide disparity becomes evident between what one asserts in one arena from what is stated in an official government form under penalty of perjury, there may come a day when one is asked to explain the discrepancy.  

Just a thought, for those Federal and Postal employees who are preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Exaggerated Applicant’s Statement

The preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application to the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a paper presentation to OPM.  

Paper presentations are quite different from a personal appeal or an “in-person” presentation to a group of individuals, or to a singular audience, in the following ways:  With a paper presentation, the “audience” (in this case, the Office of Personnel Management Case Worker) has the opportunity to review the various aspects of a Federal Disability Retirement application, in order to evaluate, compare, contrast, and cite-check facts, legal authorities and internal documents.  

With that in mind, it is important in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application to strike a proper balance of tone, content, and narrative voice — and to make sure that the Applicant’s Statement on SF 3112A is accurate, without an appearance of exaggerated storytelling.

Think about it this way:  In describing an event, or a series of events, it is important to capture an audience’s attention by telling a “good story”.  But in telling a story, there is a natural difference of approach when telling it “live” to a person, and writing a narrative about it.  By “exaggeration” is not meant to necessarily imply stating an untruth; rather, credibility and believability is often based not upon the substance of a story (for truth is often of greater absurdity than fiction), but upon the conveyance and manner of the narrative voice.

Truth itself should always be the guide of one’s voice; one’s voice, however, must have the proper inflection and pitch, in making the delivery one of credibility and believability.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: Credibility (Part II)

Ultimately, then, credibility of a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application will often come about based upon an initial perusal and superficial, “first-time” look at a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  That is why it is often important to thoughtfully and sequentially place information in a methodological, coherent manner. That is why superfluous, peripheral material, opinions, statements from non-medical third parties, etc., should be kept to a minimum, at least in any initial attachment.  Now, if it is thought to be necessary and if it is determined to be helpful additional information, then an addendum attachment, or perhaps an attachment chronologically listed as “additional helpful information” can be part of the packet.  However, it should be clearly identified as such, and even the “additional information” should be streamlined, coherently structured and qualitatively and selectively utilized.  Remember that the essence of a Federal Disability Retirement case is the interconnection between a person’s medical condition and the type of work which one engages in.  As such, aside from the personal “I” statement, the medical reports and records should be the central focus.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire