Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Frameworks

To be successful in any endeavor, one must identify the relevant issues, sift through and discard the peripheral contents, and maintain a thematic thread throughout in order to keep the focus upon the essence of the project. Anyone who has attended a meeting which lacks a subject-matter focus, and where a free-for-all is allowed, without a circumscribed set of agendas, can attest to the importance of setting priorities and understanding the difference between points of significance and irrelevant detractions.

Frames are important, and sometimes as much as the painting itself.  For, art is merely a slice of the greater exposure to life, and it is the frame which distinguishes that parcel of perspective and allows the viewer to participate in a moment of time and a pause for reflection.  For the Federal or Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to provide a “roadmap” to OPM, and thus circumscribe the framework of the relevant attachments, medical and legal issues to be evaluated, and the pathway to resolutions preemptively proposed.

Thus, the three tiers of an effective framework should include: (1) A clear and concise Statement of Disability (here, one must be careful because of the legal consequences of failing to include and fully describe the medical conditions), (2) A reference to the relevancy of the attached documents which support the statement, and (3) the pertinent legal foundations which are satisfied by the first two tiers.

He who frames the picture has the power to direct the viewer’s perspective; for, it is the frame which enhances the content of the artistry, and directs the appreciation to an irrelevant empty sky in a schematically unimportant corner of the painting, or to the central theme where the brilliance of bursting colors explode forth in magnificent reflections of a masterpiece’s slice of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Relevance & the Intended Audience

Relevance within the context of a particular subject can branch out into parallel areas of substantive issues; thus, it may be “relevant” that in Set-X, subset a,b,c…w be included in the discussion of the  primary issue.  But relevance may not be the proper criteria to apply; rather, it may be important to consider the “intended audience” in an effort to tailor, streamline, and make succinct that which can become potentially unwieldy.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the compilation of the evidence needed in order to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the Federal or Postal employee is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement, will necessarily involve the selective customization of the evidence to be presented.

One can argue, in compiling a case, that everything is “relevant” — from one’s history of a personal nature (which then resulted in one’s education, one’s background, how one came to become a Federal employee, etc.), to the historical genesis of one’s agency (to the extent that the Federal Disability Retirement applicant’s involvement and intersection with the agency came into being); and many other “relevant” facts.

By such logical connections, one can argue that every event which occurs around the world has some logically relevant connection to every Federal Disability Retirement application.  Obviously, such an approach would be absurd, and ultimately untenable.

How to temper the inclusion of all that is “relevant”?

Always keep in mind the intended audience of one’s submission.  Then, ask yourself the questions:  What is the intended audience seeking?  Will this information help or obfuscate the main point of my application?  Will the intended audience have the time to read through this corollary issue?  And many other similar questions.

Questions are asked not only to seek unknown answers; they are also pointedly applied in order to self-correct the potential pitfalls which the questioner may be advocating.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Misunderstanding Leading to Irreversible Detriment

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 must first engage in a general foraging for information.

The act of gathering information is of importance; for, just like the animal in the wild who must “learn” to forage for food before the first winter comes, so the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal medical/disability retirement benefits must develop the keen sense of how to gather the necessary, pertinent and relevant information concerning the entire bureaucratic process, and once gathered, to sift through the vast array of information to determine truth, falsity, relevance, effectiveness, and that which is erroneous or misleading — to one’s detriment.

Foraging is a learned tool, necessary in the wild, and a key component of the natural process of selectivity.  It begins with an inborn part of an animal’s nature, but must be honed in the wild — to be clever, quick, and be able to distinguish between that which is good for one’s diet, as opposed to that which may be poisonous.

By analogy, in the vast array of the universe of information “out there”, one must be able to quickly discern and bifurcate information concerning Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits, dividing between relevance and irrelevance, substance versus fluff, for purposes of failure versus defeat.  As information gathering leads to action upon the knowledge gained, so one must be cautious in determining the source of such information.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Quantifying Quality & Qualitative Quantity

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 make discretionary decisions concerning multiple aspects of a Federal Disability Retirement application — including the volume, extent, nature, and quality of the medical documentation to be submitted.

Because it is the Applicant (the Federal or Postal employee who is submitting the application) who has the “burden of proof” — that burden which states that by a preponderance of the evidence, one’s Federal Disability Retirement application is more likely to be so than not so — it is therefore up to the Applicant to make determinations as to the quality and quantity of the medical documentation and any other relevant attachments.

Qualitative sufficiency is often a difficult measure to determine; quantitative significance is equally difficult — as in, how much is enough? On the one hand, to submit a thousand pages of medical notes, reports, etc., would probably be “too much”.  But a case which only includes 5 pages of medical reports and notes, while seemingly “too little”, can be more than sufficient if the quality of the records and reports is indisputable and irrefutable in determining that a Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Ultimately, the discretionary decision will come down to a matter of experience — for it is based upon prior experience that one can make better decisions for the future.  To that extent, to be inrepresented in attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits is obviously a disadvantage, because an unexperienced Applicant is merely entering into the arena of Federal Disability Retirement law based upon a “hit or miss” history of inexperience.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Quantitative Approach

The problem with submitting a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS based upon the “quantitative approach” (submitting a voluminous medical file which, by the sheer weight, extent and thickness of the file, reveals the severity of the multiple medical conditions) is that it often fails to provide the proper bridge between the particular medical condition a Federal or Postal employee suffers from, and the impact upon the essential elements of one’s job.

Certainly, medical records, notes, diagnostic test results, etc., can provide a narrative delineation of one’s continuing medical conditions — but the question becomes, a narrative to what end?  The Office of Personnel Management will often review a large stack of medical documentation and simply conclude that there has been insufficient medical documentation, and further, that the medical documentation submitted fails to show that such conditions are severe enough to prevent one from perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job. That is because the mere existence of a medical condition — no matter how extensive such medical conditions have required in terms of hospitalizations, testing, surgical or other procedures, etc. — is not enough to satisfy, by a preponderance of the evidence, the criteria applicable for eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

Remember, always use the golden rule:  quality over quantity.  And in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, quality means the bridging of that conceptual gap between the medical condition, and the essential elements of one’s job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement Application: Starting with Basics

The complexities inherent in preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, are well-documented.  It can indeed be a daunting, intimidating encounter — for, while the Standard Forms themselves (SF 3107 series for FERS; SF 2801 series for CSRS; SF 3112 series — 3112A, 3112B, 3112C & 3112D for both FERS and CSRS) are rather simple in their outlook, it is the questions which are posed, and how one answers them, which will determine the success or failure of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Further, the laws themselves have evolved over time into a complex compendium of technical modifications and adjustments, as various legal issues have arisen in response to different determinations and decisions rendered by the Office of Personnel Management.  

When one first approaches the possibility of preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application, a view of the entire process and procedure is helpful, but then to step back and ultimately start the meticulous formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement packet with the “basics” in mind.  What are the basics?  Proper and compelling medical documentation; a description of the essential elements of one’s job; then the proper bridge between the two.  Without the proper bridge, it will lead to nowhere.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: OPM’s Arsenal

The names have been changed to protect the innocent.  Or, perhaps those who are impliedly involved herein are not so innocent after all.  Nevertheless, the names must be changed to protect confidentiality of sources, etc.  Every now and then, the Office of Personnel Management discloses their arsenal of weapons.  For instance, such an arsenal might be that a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application was based upon a review by a retired contract doctor.  Now, let us analyze such an arsenal.  First, the term “retired” reveals an interesting concept.  It means that the individual no longer sees hundreds of patients on a daily basis, nor is actively practicing medicine.  Next, on a superficial level, we take the word “contract” — meaning thereby that the individual is paid to review the paper submissions — not to examine the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  And, finally, the concept of a “doctor” — let us be certain as to the two preceding words, “retired” and “contract”, and that is the extent which one needs to understand in accepting the definition of the word “doctor”.  As opposed to:  the treating doctor of an applicant for Federal Disability Retirement.  Who would you choose to treat you?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire