CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Bureaucracy and the Objective Algorithm

On the one hand, objectivity can be viewed as a positive thing; for, with it, one is assured that all applications are treated equally, by the implementation of identical criteria across the board.  “Gut feelings”, personal beliefs, and that “sixth sense” is eliminated; and thus is fairness achieved by the equal treatment of all cases, and “exceptional circumstances” are not, and cannot be, considered.

What such an approach gains in large-scale application, however, may lose out in individual cases.  For, if experience and age accounts for anything, it should allow for decisions made outside of the mainstream of thought, based upon those very factors which make up the difference — wisdom from years of engaging in a particular endeavor.

The problem with the bureaucratization of a process is precisely that it fails to allow for exceptions; but concomitantly, it is precisely those unique circumstances which cry out for a carved-out exception.  In a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there are always cases where all of the facts and circumstances reveal eligibility; but in applying the mathematical (and thoughtless) algorithm of criteria-based analysis, there may be something missing.  Perhaps the doctor would not, or could not, say exactly X; or the test results revealed nothing particularly significant.

In some ways, the medical conditions identified as Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome represent such scenarios.  In those instances, it is important to descriptively convey the human narrative in a particularly poignant manner.

The administrative bureaucracy is here to remain among us; to rise above the level of thoughtless application of a criteria, however, one must creatively encourage the phoenix to rise from the ashes of boredom, and span its wings to include those others who deserve the benefits of Federal Disability Retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Art of Argumentation

The Art of Argumentation is a dying form.  Watching any “debate” forum on television or the radio; viewing the Presidential debates; it has become, instead, a time of pontification, where the loudest, most vociferous voices, and those who can filibuster the time, seemingly “wins” the debate.  

For the art itself to be effective, it must be accomplished in a manner where the opponent is unaware of the subtle impact of the argument itself; it needs to be conveyed in a manner of a conversation, where persuasion is mixed within the content of a narrative.  Of course, there are numerous forms of argumentation —  a strict, logical proposition; a legal citation where one argues that the opponent has little to no choice but to abdicate a position because of what a case-law states; but in most instances, the subtleties must be observed because of the obfuscation of the circumstances and the lack of clarity of the law.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to compose one’s argument as a conductor would an orchestra:  the facts, the evidence, and the law must be gathered and coordinated; streamlining should be an inherent part of the process; and the tone and tenor of the various instruments will need to be brought together into a coherent whole.  

No one likes to sit and listen to a screechy violin, no more than to listen to the drone of a tuba.  The art of an argument must bring together all of the instruments into a melodious whole, where the listener — in this case, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — is lulled into a state of rapture, to the extent that an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application is granted with a smile.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Systematic versus Haphazard

The latter term (“haphazard”) is marked by a lack of planning, and connotes a loss of direction and depicting disorderliness.  The first term in the bifurcated title represents a purposeful and planned event; one which possesses a goal from the beginning of an initiated process, and in an ordered manner, goes about to execute that goal by taking and completing pre-planned steps in order to reach that endpoint.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to approach the completion and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application in a systematic manner, as opposed to a haphazard one.  By “systematic” does not necessarily mean “sequential”, however — as in the sequence of the standard forms which one receives in a packet of governmental forms.

Thus, for instance, if one simply picks up the 3112 series of forms, it would not make sense to fill out and complete 3112A first, then to send out the Physician’s Statement (3112C) to the doctor (side note:  this author has widely, systematically, and for some great amount of time, counseled against using the 3112C because of the potential wider consequences of allowing for unfettered access by the agency to a Federal or Postal Worker’s medical records, so be forewarned) for completion.

Indeed, to do so would not make any sense:  why would one complete questions about one’s own medical condition prior to having, in hand, medical reports from one’s own treating doctors?  By “systematic” does not mean getting the forms and filling them out in as quick a time frame as possible.

While completion of a Federal Disability Retirement packet is certainly a goal, a far greater goal is to prepare, formulate (systematically), and then file — but not in a haphazard manner.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Logistics, Strategy and Substantive Paradigm

In any and every endeavor, whether on a large scale or of little consequential impact, a tripartite approach must be devised:  the logistics of the case (the “how” and the mundane mechanics of procedural actions involved); the strategy of it (the methodological plan of action, involving the choice of which issues to prioritize and tackle, etc.), and finally, the substantive paradigm of the case.

It is often the latter which is overlooked, precisely because everyone is always too busy trying to immediately figure out what to do and how to do it.  In a pragmatic sense, the logistical plan and the strategic outlay are crucial in any legal action; as a persuasive foundation for winning, however, devising a substantive paradigm of a case may be the essence of a winning path.

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 who encounters the myriad of voluminous standard forms to be filled out, the need to obtain medical reports and records, and to simply survive the morass of administrative and bureaucratic requirements, leaves one merely attempting to stay afloat in the logistical mandates — of trying to satisfy all of the Agency demands and requirements.

Additionally, to even contemplate devising a “strategy” of how to go about proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, one’s Federal Disability Retirement case, becomes an obstacle and a burden, especially when one is having to deal with the medical condition and treatment of that condition concurrently with the stress of trying to complete a Federal Disability Retirement application.

As for the substantive paradigm of a case?  That may be the customary casualty of a Federal Disability Retirement case — that coordination of all issues, of the medical, the position one occupies, the persuasive legal argumentation, in a compendium of interconnected sources, arguing to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management the what, where, why and irrefutable how, in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The “Grab-bag” Approach

In preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is always the question of which medical conditions to include in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (prepared on SF 3112A).  One approach which many Federal and Postal employees take (which, in my opinion is the wrong one to embrace), is to name every medical condition, symptom and suspected symptom one has suffered from, or is suffering from.  This might be characterized as the “shotgun” or “grab-bag” approach. 

One must be sympathetic to this approach, of course, if only because of the following reason:  OPM regulations and case-law supports the position that once an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits has been filed with the Office of Personnel Management, a Federal or Postal employee cannot amend or add any further medical conditions without withdrawing the application and re-filing. 

Thus, a Federal or Postal employee who prepares and files an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is “locked into” what is stated on one’s SF 3112A.  Because of this, many Federal and Postal employees who prepare the application without the assistance of competent legal representation will take the “grab-bag” approach of listing every possible medical condition known to man. 

While this may seem like a reasonable, “safe” approach to take, remember that such an approach can have unintended consequences:  Upon an approval of the Federal Disability Retirement application, the approval letter may approve the Disability Retirement application based upon a minor medical condition which you no longer suffer from.  This, of course, can have negative consequences down the road.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire