Identifying the Right Bridge to Reach Your Destination: Federal Employee Disability Retirement

When considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, the natural inclination is to ask the seemingly primary question of: Does medical condition-X qualify as a disability? But such a question is in actuality secondary; it is the reverse-order and counterintuitive process which is often confusing for the Federal and Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The primary question, making the previously-stated questions secondary, is to ask: Does medical condition-X prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job?  By inverting the primary-secondary sequence, one can then attain a better level of understanding as to the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Further, such a switch in sequence of questions-to-answers allows for an important paradigm shift.  For, in the very asking of the proper question, one can reach a level of understanding to such a stage of comprehension that the question almost answers itself.

Medical conditions in and of themselves do not necessarily qualify the Federal or Postal Worker who is otherwise age or service-eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; it is the nexus which must be established between one’s position and the medical conditions one suffers from.  It is the crossing of that bridge which will reveal the extent of success or failure in attempting to go down this path; but first, the Federal or Postal Worker must correctly identify which bridge to cross, before even starting the long and arduous trek of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: A Bridge Too Far

It is an indelible comment in history, marking a failure of calculations resulting in catastrophic consequences in the unwise attempt to quickly end the war.  As a tactical consideration, the attempt to outflank German defenses by securing key bridges in order to isolate the enemy, constituted a brilliant idea; in practical application, the unconfirmed attribution of the comment that the Allied Forces may be going “a bridge too far” proved to be the very downfall of such a bold military strategy.

M-2 Treadway Pontoon Bridge under construction across the Po River near Ostiglia (National Archives)

M-2 Treadway Pontoon Bridge under construction across the Po River near Ostiglia (National Archives)

Bridges represent vital and necessary supply lines between two entities, organizations, populations, and even ideas.  They allow for the free flow of supplies and communication; they constitute the “lifeline” between two otherwise disparate groups.  It is such a bridge, or “nexus”, which is similarly of great importance in all formulations of Federal Disability Retirement applications. For the Federal or Postal Worker who is preparing to submit a Federal Disability Retirement application through one’s agency (if still employed by the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, or otherwise separated but not more than 31 days since the effective date of separation), and ultimately to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, making sure that the “bridge” between one’s medical condition and the impact upon the positional duties of one’s job is a vital and necessary part of the process.

Like physical bridges which connect various populations, the nexus which brings together the Federal Disability Retirement application in a FERS or CSRS submission, will determine the very persuasiveness of one’s presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  A bridge which is inadequate will fail to establish that the medical condition impacts one’s capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal position; and one which overextends itself may raise red flags of overreaching and exaggeration, undermined by a Supervisor’s Statement or the Agency’s contention that they have attempted to accommodate an individual to a legally viable degree.

While a 1-to-1 ratio of a medical condition-to-an-essential element is unnecessary in establishing eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits (see my multiple articles on the Henderson case), nevertheless, a linguistic construction of an adequate bridge between the two must be firmly established.

In the end, as with the Allied attempt to swiftly conclude the war resulted in the unnecessary cost of human lives, so one must take care in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, such that one does not go “a bridge too far” in making one’s case in a Federal Disability Retirement claim.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Magnifying Event

The notable characteristic of a medical condition is that they rarely go away via wishful thinking and, moreover, while rest may provide a restorative period of relief, the return to performing activities which further exacerbate one’s condition further magnifies not only the chronicity and severity of the condition, but the need for additional restorative periods of relief.

That is why, in a Federal Disability Retirement case, the focus is upon the nexus between one’s medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job.  For the former, the nexus pinpoints the type of medical condition by focusing upon the primary aspects of the work; for the latter, that very connection between the former and latter magnifies the impact of the medical condition and why it is that Federal Disability Retirement benefits are needed and justified.

Whether a person is on furlough during this temporary period of insanity, or whether one has previously taken an extraordinary amount of Sick Leave, Annual Leave, or Leave without Pay, is an irrelevant issue in the end; for, the very need to take such excessive time off, as well as the inverse issue of growing work performance questions, both are magnifying events of the same revelation:  the medical condition is further exacerbated by the continuation of certain activities, and the activities are progressively prevented by the medical conditions.

Preparing the steps to formulating an effective Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, begins with the recognition that the ultimate answer lies not in the temporary and palliative nature of a week’s time off, but in the realization that one is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, for the long term.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Lexical Nexus

The lexical expansion of the English language and the evolution of meaning, the transition of words and application, is a subject worth investigating.  One needs only to read a Shakespeare play to recognize that language refuses to remain static; and a culture which desires to progressively develop and advance will systematically reflect the changes of a society’s culture, ethos and normative infrastructures.

There is something to be praised for a static society — one which steadfastly refuses to alter its traditional ways; but as technology is the force of change, and as capitalism is defined by progressive advancement of development at all costs, so we are left with a Leviathan gone berserk and unable to be stopped, and language reflects such revolutionary upheaval.

For the Federal or Postal employee suffering from a medical condition, one needs only to pick up an old medical dictionary to realize the exponential explosion of identified medical conditions.  Yet, the interesting aspect of comparative historical analysis, even on a superficial level, is that the symptoms described in an old dictionary prompts recognition of all such “new” medical conditions.

This leaves one to believe that the reality of the world does in fact remain static; it is only our language which must adapt and reflect in order to adequately account for the reality of the physical universe.

In preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the inadequacy of one’s lexical universe may be a hindrance to the proper formulation and delineation of the nexus which must be created between one’s medical condition and the impact upon one’s job.  It is thus the lexical nexus (if one may coin a unique phrase) which must be created in order to effectively prevail in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

While having a medical dictionary may aid one in such an endeavor, the better approach is to first understand that it is not the correspondence between language and reality which matters, but that language is a universe unto itself in which man is the ultimate master of such, caught in that unreality which Heidegger attempted to unravel, and which Kant successfully bifurcated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Different Approaches

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there are different approaches which one can take within the limited universe of available time which each Federal and Postal Worker possesses.

One approach is to fight every wording and each action which the agency undertakes or engages in.  A different approach is to ensure that the core and central foundation of one’s case is effective and — whether explicitly or implicitly — answers any of the collateral issues which may be brought up by the agency.

Thus, for example, if a medical narrative report effectively addresses all of the essential questions concerning a Federal Disability Retirement application, then whatever the agency attempts to argue or infer in an argument, concerning accommodations, light duty, or even adverse actions which have previously been imposed, will all become essentially irrelevant and immaterial, precisely because this is fundamentally a medical issue, and not an issue concerning who did what or tried what.

Much of what is within the purview and control of the Federal or Postal employee putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application is lost when the focus is unduly placed upon trying to correct, attack, or explain what the agency is doing.

By creating an excellent firewall of that which is within one’s own control,  the Federal Disability Retirement application that is prepared, formulated and filed by the Federal or Postal employee effectively answers anything and everything which the Agency may attempt to insert with a subversive motive.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Application of a Neutral Legal Criteria

The application of law upon determination of a Federal Disability Retirement application is based upon a set of criteria which focuses upon the impact of a medical condition on the Federal or Postal employee’s ability or inability to perform all of the essential elements of his or her job.  Thus, it is different from other government programs or compensation benefits, in that it ignores such issues as causality or prima facie accepted medical diagnoses.

Indeed, one can have a serious medical condition and still be denied one’s Federal Disability Retirement application if one fails to show the nexus, or the impacting connection, between the serious medical condition and one’s ability/inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.  In that sense, the applicable legal criteria is neutral in its very essence:  first, the Office of Personnel Management should (obviously) apply the law in a “neutral” manner, without regard to the person who applies, or be influenced in any way by the agency; but, moreover, and more importantly, the law itself is neutral to the extent that it makes no judgment upon the medical condition itself — only upon the medical condition in conjunction with the impact to one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.

As such, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the primary focus in attempting to prove this point — both from a medical perspective as well as from the applicant’s approach — should be to emphasize the connection between the diagnosed medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job, and not merely upon the seriousness of the former.  Only in this way can the neutrality of the legal criteria properly assess the viability and force of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Bridge

The “bridge to nowhere” has become a metaphor for wastefulness and needless expenditure, both in terms of effort and resources.  It is a phrase in politics which has become overused and bandied about for political gain, attack ads and undermining of an opponent’s credibility.  As a political tool, in its very repetitiveness of its incessant utilization and reactive assignation against opponents, it has lost its efficacy.  Yet, in a very real sense — while the phrase itself may have become conceptually emptied of meaning — the foundation of what it represents still applies, and is relevant in all walks of life.

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must create a “bridge”, or a “nexus”, between one’s medical condition(s) and the positional duties of one’s job.

The underlying and inherent self-contradiction in the phrase itself is fascinating, if one pauses to reflect:  a “bridge” by definition” is intended to connect two or more points — from A to B, to perhaps other destinations. Yet, because a “bridge to nowhere” fails in its very definitional inception by only going from point A to … (?), as such, it undermines its own definition and purpose.  It is not a bridge.  The “nowhere” destroys the conceptual integrity of the “bridge“, and therefore the phrase itself is a conceptual conundrum of nonsense.  In order to regain its conceptual identity, one must go back to the foundational purpose of what a thing “is”, in order to regain what it must become and why it has lost its identity.  As in most things in life, we must go back to Aristotle’s “first principles”.

In Federal Disability Retirement, one needs to go back to what the question is that is being asked on Standard Form 3112A, its purpose, its directive focus, and why it is that the Office of Personnel Management is asking the question.  Only then can one begin to effectively formulate the bridge between one’s medical conditions, and the impact upon one’s positional duties, whether as a Federal employee or a Postal worker.

In a Federal Disability Retirement case, the “bridge to nowhere” will result in a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  The bridge must begin from a point of relevance, and end in its intended destination.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire