Attorney Representation for OPM Disability Claims: Ends and beginnings

It is the linear manner in which we perceive the world; of straight lines as opposed to circular figures; of two points or perhaps three, then again lines of intersection and connecting the dots, instead of arcs that waver and detour beyond the directional certainty of point A to Point B and beyond.  “Ends” we recognize by the symphony that crescendos and the credits that scroll down and display the accomplishments unto the “Assistant to the Assistant director of Operational Assistants”; or, at least when the black screen declares, “The End”.

And of beginnings?  Other than the first breath taken, the consummation of love’s forlorn initial encounters and the memories of childhoods harkening back to hazy summer evenings that may be real or mixed with what was told about you when you were young; perhaps beginnings can never be ascertained with as much certainty as the endings that suddenly come upon us.

We tend to bifurcate our lives with straight and intersecting lines; “Here is when X happened”; “Over there, that is when Y began.”

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who began their careers with the hopes and dreams of all who enter the workforce, full of vigor and enthusiasm, coopted by the “mission of the agency” or the team spirit reinforced by the accolades given in performance reviews, bonuses granted and promotions within sight of tomorrow – the slow deterioration of a medical condition can come to one’s realization as a devastating recognition that an “end” is coming, without the concomitant accompaniment of the clear “beginning” to follow.

Where does something “end”, and something else “begin”?

Preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management because the Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal position is indeed an “end” of sorts, but it must also be viewed as an important “beginning”.

It is the beginning of attending to the priorities of life; of starting to focus upon one’s health and well-being; of recognizing that others at the Federal agency or the Postal service have seen the “end” of your career.

Yet, perspectives matter, and how we view things do make a difference, and it is the “beginnings” that come after the “end” that matters.  For, the “Assistant to the Assistant director of Operational Assistants” hopefully did not end his or her career with that final credit noted at the end of that B-rated movie; hopefully, he became the director of Operational Assistants, or perhaps the director himself or herself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

 

Civil Service Disability Retirement Benefits: Human activity

The dizzying pace of it all defies comprehension.  We are, indeed, busy-bees, always engaged in this project, that protest, intervening in the affairs of others when our own are in such a state of disarray; up at it early in the morning and continuing until exhaustion sets in or wayward dementia in old age where even nursing homes impose human activity every night – bingo, dance, meditation, Tai Chi, family visitation day; not even a break for the aged.

Then, when we see those documentary films in foreign lands, of men taking hours to untangle the fishing net in preparation for the next day’s work; of sitting with family members in gathering for a meal; and of mountainous monasteries where gardening for supplemental food sources is an act of reflective repose, we wonder if the lives we live – so full of human activity supposedly for a purposeful end – is the only, the best, or the pinnacle of options left for us?

Did we ever choose the quantification of human activity we engage in?  Did we, at some point in our lives, sit down and say, Yes, I will accept to do that, agree to embrace this, and refuse all others?  Or, did the incremental, subtle and always insidious wave of requests, obligations and pressure to perform just overtake us, until one day we wake up in the middle of the night and recognize that our time is not our own, the human activity is without purpose or conscious constructiveness, and the projects we think are so dear to us, merely destroy and debilitate the human spirit?  That is the alienation talked about by Camus and the French Existentialists, is it not?

Human activity cannot be so senseless or purposeless; it must be to build, to advance, to secure for the future; and yet, as we lay in the quietude of nightly sweats, it becomes evident that we perform it for means otherwise intended.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to alienate one’s sense of mission and purpose from that of the priority that should be recognized – one’s health and the ability to have joy in life – the contradiction and conundrum is in “letting go” of that which has been a part of our lives for so long:  The job, the career path, the sense of “belonging” to a community of people who believe in the mission of the agency or the U.S. Postal Service.

Like barnacles clinging to the underside of a ship’s belly, we grapple and travel through life without quite knowing why, where we are going, or for what purpose we originally attached ourselves.

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 of CSRS Offset, is a way of:  A.  Recognizing the priority of health, B. Beginning the process of detaching ourselves as mere barnacles upon a ship’s underbelly, and C. Reflecting upon the course of one’s future.  Human activity is great and all – but it is the things we choose not to do that often define who we are in the hubbub of this mindless frenzy.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Employees: The Soul’s need for silence

If the world was merely one constant clatter, would we be able to stand the din of life?  Just as existence needs nothingness in order to have the separation of meaningful discourse, and as sentences need grammatical pauses (except in the cases of Faulkner and Joyce, perhaps), so the soul requires silence in the face of difficulties uninterrupted.

Medical conditions create havoc in lives; at first, perhaps just an annoyance or a nuisance, and the natural inclination is to rely upon the past that we know, and how – in remembrance of youthful vigor and quick rebounding and recuperation by mere strength and steely reserve – we were always able to ignore the pain, get past the turmoil and move beyond the anxious feelings of panic and depressive symptoms.  “It will pass,” we tell ourselves.  But then the long-view sets in; it is not merely a passing season, nor even a brief interlude of a cold north wind.

Instead, like the clinging vine that keeps coming back despite digging and chopping at the base of its roots, the chronic nature of the medical condition tells us that, as the unwelcomed uncle or aunt who has no other home and stays with you “just for a little while”, you cannot get beyond the season of pain and the intercession of turmoil.  It becomes a constancy, a persistence, a monotony of unsettled disquietude.  It is as if the soul’s search for silence finds only a din of unending noises as you search behind door after door for a room where relief and quietude may long for a bit of peace.

Souls need silence; silence allows for the interruption from din and darkness.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from the dual attacks brought on by a medical condition – of increasing workplace harassment as well as the loss of the soul’s quietude and peace – there comes a time when preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, becomes as necessary from a medical standpoint, as it is for the soul’s inner health.

Federal Disability Retirement is a means to an end – a recognition that the Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to produce at the level of acceptability, and a tolerance for allowing that same Federal or Postal employee to “move on” so that a basic retirement annuity can be obtained, and yet remain productive for the future in the private sector, where the (now former) Federal or Postal employee may make up to 80% of what one’s former job currently pays, on top of the amount of Federal Disability Retirement annuity.

It is also the allowance and recognition of another important factor – that the soul’s need for silence is a necessary component in the midst of din and darkness.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Medical Retirement from Federal Employment: The Reconsideration Stage

Much time is often wasted upon rebutting incoherent arguments.  Such a statement is true in a great many sectors of life, as well as with an initial denial received from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The first reaction in response to an Initial Denial received from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is to panic and become disheartened:  The Federal Disability Retirement applicant has waited many, many months, just to get to this point of being denied an application which was thought to clearly meet the legal standard of preponderance of the evidence, and perhaps the medical narratives and treatment records clearly and unequivocally established the nexus between one’s medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job.

What could have gone wrong?  What was deficient?  What unanticipated mistakes were made?

To top it all off, a quick perusal of the denial letter makes it appear as if the application never had a leg to stand on –  seemingly contradictory statements extrapolated; selective quotes from doctors, supervisors, etc., that tend to undermine the proof needed; deficient documentation and multiple garbled references to the “Disability Retirement Law” that has simply not been met.

How does one counter and rebut such an overwhelming denial of one’s carefully gathered and constructed information?

There is the “proper” and “effective” way, but one’s initial inclination in reactive form is normally not the way to go about it.

The Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker who finds himself/herself in such a situation – of facing an initial denial from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management – will often want to just “give up” and try to endure the pain, anguish and cognitive deterioration by going back to work (if that is even possible and the Federal or Postal employee has not yet been separated from service), or just simply walk away from one’s well-deserved Federal Pension and early Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and forego the benefits earned and vested.

Of course, that is precisely the thought-process that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management wants you to embrace.

It is often stated (erroneously) that filing a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is not an “adversarial” process – and that OPM is not there to “fight you”, but rather, to ensure that all Federal Disability Retirement applications fulfill the requirements of the law.

If that were truly the case, then why does an OPM denial point out only the deficiencies, and never the positive aspects of a Federal Disability Retirement application?  Why do OPM denials always present themselves as overwhelmingly unqualified and argued as if there is absolutely no basis or chance of an approval?

Precisely – because, despite stating otherwise, the administrative process of trying to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM is just that:  an adversarial process which requires an advocate to fight for your rights.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Disability Retirement Law: The Steps to Take

Life is often overwhelming enough.  Then, when a medical condition make its initial entrance, remains for more than a fortnight and begins to impede, curtail and prevent one from doing the things one has taken for granted –  the problem becomes more than just a nuisance, but a magnification and exponential exaggeration beyond that which was a burden to begin with:  another problem adding to a host of problems.  In life, we often know what needs to be done, and sometimes even the “how” in going about solving problems.  But the capacity to prioritize and organize, to sort a jumble into a linear coherency, and to gather the necessary components into a cogent whole, is often the problem that prevents one from moving forward.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the condition (or multiple medical conditions) begin to prevent the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position, the normal sequence of events often take on the following incoherent pathway:  An inquiry is made with the Human Resource Department; two sets of Standard Forms are presented to the Federal or Postal employee (SF 3107 series; SF 3112 series); the Federal or Postal employee is told to read through them and “fill them out” and bring the entire sets back to the H.R. Office.  They will be there “to help”.

When such a development occurs, 2 issues immediately come to one’s attention, or should.  First, is there a sequence and methodology one should follow, that is better and more effective?  Second, if the Federal Disability Retirement application is submitted and denied at the initial stage of the process, will that same Human Resource Office or person be held accountable, and continue to “help” for the second and subsequent stages of the process?

The answer to the first question is an unequivocal “yes”; the answer to the second question is a bit more complex.  There are, indeed, many helpful H.R. offices and personnel.  The point of creating an H.R. Office is to guide, help and assist the employees of the agency or organization.  But filing a Federal Disability Retirement application is a different “animal” from most other processes.  Think about it; it is not like setting up an allotment from one’s pay, or changing the number of deductions for tax purposes.  No, it is a complex administrative process that, once out of the hands of the agency’s H.R. Office, is under the direct control of a separate agency – the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Further, filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, can become a contentious issue – once a denial is issued by OPM, and even a second denial at the Reconsideration Stage, then an appeal will need to be filed with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board within 30 days.  Then what?  Will the Human Resource Office that was so helpful, represent you there?

Every future holds a pathway for successful maneuvering, and yes, there are sequential steps to take in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.  For that, a knowledgeable lawyer who is experienced in Federal Disability Retirement law can be helpful in guiding the Federal or Postal employee onto that pathway.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirements: Focus away from ‘self’

The heightened problems emanating from a chronic medical condition cannot be quantified; as the medical issues themselves become exacerbated while attempting to work and engage in other “major life activities”, the pain, psychiatric debilitation and interruption of things once taken for granted, become all the more magnified and exponentially exaggerated in significance, relevance and focus of daily contention.  Or, to put it in more common parlance, it makes us grouchier as the day goes.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit offered for all FERS employees (and any in the older CSRS system who may still be around – a rarity, like dinosaurs and gnomes of past ages), and is meant as a progressive paradigm of inestimable worth.  Unlike other systems of compensation, it encourages the (former) Federal or Postal employee to seek employment in the private sector, because the generous allowance that the former Federal or Postal employee can make up to 80% of what one’s former salary currently pays, on top of the annuity itself, allows for “the system” to be a self-paying entity, because such individuals then pay taxes and contribute “back into” the very system which is being accessed.

The fact that it is such a thoughtful, progressive system is rare – for, government bureaucracies tend not to embrace an insightful program of wider application, but this is a case in point where the system “works”.

That being said, the Federal or Postal employee who continues to try and extend one’s career in the Federal sector or the U.S. Postal Service by “hoping” – and, do not misunderstand, for hope as an element of human focus for events yet to occur, is a good thing – that the medical condition will get better, and thus to delay initiating the complex process of 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, does so at the peril of self-focusing immolation.

The point of getting Federal Disability Retirement benefits is just that – to be able to attend to the medical condition itself; to attain restorative sleep; to not be embroiled in the vicious cycle of having to work at a job where one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties cannot be met because of the medical condition itself, and therefore a stark reminder, on a daily and sustained basis, upon one’s self, the limiting aspects of the medical condition, and the inability to escape the constant gravitational dissection of “me, myself and I”.  That’s the rub, isn’t it?

As you try and get better, those around you – supervisors, coworkers, etc. – begin to harass, criticize and compound the problem by redirecting your shortcomings resulting from the very medical conditions from which you are trying to get better.  Federal Disability Retirement is the next step in that process – where, once attained, the stress of focusing upon one’s self is relieved by being able to actually focus upon what is important:  one’s health, and the pathway to a secure future through getting approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire