Epistemological Privilege and Federal Medical Retirement

The unique position of the individual in the greater world of objectivity — where the “I” dominates the subjective world but with a recognition that such a peculiar feature of the ego represents an almost insignificant, singular entity in a greater world of objects and other subjects — often results in a duality of opposing and contending, irreconcilable and incommensurable conclusions:  the centrality of a unique person, but a necessary and humbling recognition that in comparison to an infinite universe, one is merely a speck of irrelevance.

Bureaucracies tend to do that to a person.

The cold, indifferent and uncaring attitude of systematized control, requiring almost meaningless steps in order to complete a process mandated in order to achieve an end; you are merely a number to account for, in a greater administrative process of files to be audited.  For the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker who must consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, the issue is how best to attempt to reconcile the need to speak about one’s self in the crucial and ever-important Statement of Disability, as required on the bureaucratic form SF 3112A, yet, at the same time convey a sense that “what” is being said is objective, scientific, and medically verifiable.

Too much of the “I” in the Statement of Disability will tend to undermine the validity of the narrative; too little of it, and it is merely a regurgitation of conveying to a disinterested individual, medical facts which fail to compel, persuade and convince.  The concept of epistemological privilege is one encompassing the unique privacy of the subjective person.  Left within that universe, it fails to reveal the impact of one’s interaction with the greater world.

But in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, it is important to recognize that remaining within the insular universe of epistemological privilege, may well undermine the efficacy of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application filed through OPM, and it is crucial, therefore, to recognize the dualism, attempt to strike the proper balance, and consider the weight of the narrative statement one must convey, including bridging the gap between one’s uniqueness in the subjective universe (the “I”), and the impact upon the greater world of objectivity (the description of one’s capacity and ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job).

Otherwise, the epistemological privilege will remain just that — lost in a world of subjectivity, and potentially to be rejected by the faceless bureaucrat in a world where you are merely one amongst many.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement and the Inescapable Bureaucracies

The gargantuan of Leviathans is the Federal entity with a bureaucracy so expansive that identities of Federal employees are not merely never recognized, but to a great extent, irrelevant. Certain agencies fall into that category: The Department of Defense; The Department of Homeland Security; the Department of Veterans Affairs; The Department of Agriculture, with all of their subsidiary services, including the U.S. Forest Service; The U.S. Department of Justice; and, further, the U.S. Postal Service probably qualifies in that category of large, subsuming organizations where one’s identity of any sense of “self”is lost within the overwhelming size of the bureaucracy.

For the Federal employee or the Postal worker who is employed by such organizations, or any of the lesser ones (i.e., U.S. Department of Transportation, Federal Aviation Administration; Department of Commerce; NOAA; Department of Energy; Department of — and one may almost be able to simply insert any pragmatic noun or adjective, and there is a department or agency which fits the bill), the intersection of a medical condition which begins to impede one’s ability and capacity to perform the full positional duties of one’s job, becomes a double-edged sword: On the one side of the equation, being an employee of a large organization can mean that one can, with some success of anonymity, continue to work without much notice, so long as the immediate supervisor or other coworkers do not take note; on the other side of the sharpened sword, is the reality that if such an organization begins to take punitive and adverse actions, it is difficult to fight against the compendium of agency tactics.

Whether the agency notices or not, the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker has an absolute right to file for CSRS or FERS Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, so long as certain prefatory legal criteria are met.  For the Federal employee or Postal worker under FERS, a minimum of 18 months of Federal Service is required. For the quickly-fading dinosaur of CSRS employees, the minimum requirement of 5 years of Federal Service is required. In either case, if a Federal employee or Postal worker begins to suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, then it is time to consider filing for Federal OPM Disability Retirement benefits, especially if it becomes fairly evident that the medical condition is going to last a minimum of 12 months.

Then comes the next hurdle and realization: While the ill Federal employee or the injured Postal worker is employed by one of those gargantuan entities, the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application must ultimately be submitted to another Leviathan of sorts: The U.S. Office of Personnel Management. C’est la vie.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement from U.S. Federal Agencies: Creatures of Leviathan Proportions

Leviathan is both a mythological sea creature, as well as the title of a famous book authored by Thomas Hobbes. It represents that uncontrollable entity of gargantuan proportions, unstoppable and thoughtlessly destructive. It takes on many forms, many faces; or none at all. It is an entity of nondescript characteristic, and engulfs countless lives marked by unidentified graves.

For the Federal employee and the Postal worker who is lost in the bureaucratic shuffle of loss of identity, the concept of a Leviathan is both familiar, daunting and dismaying. There are countless tentacles of agencies and departments within the Federal Government, the largest of them including the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Justice, The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, and the umbrella Department of Defense, to name just some of the larger ones.

Becoming a part of the mission of those, or any of the multiple lesser ones, can be an exciting venture. But when a medical condition begins to reduce the stature of one’s potential accomplishments and contribution to the mission of an agency, it becomes easy to get lost in the very size of the agency. Most such agencies have a centralized Human Resources Department, such as a “Civilian Personnel Advisory Center”, which is another faceless and gargantuan bureaucracy.  Personalized Human Resource offices are being gobbled up by the Leviathan of so-called efficiency of centralization; the “personal touch” is left on the side of the road to bigger is better.

For the Federal employee and the Postal worker who needs to file a Federal Disability claim, it is precisely that “personal touch” which is often needed, but is lacking because of the Leviathan of modernity.  Then, of course, the very agency which makes the decision of an approval or a denial — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — is itself a sea creature of sorts.  Difficult to access and even more of a problem of finding information concerning one’s case, the Leviathans of the modern-day world must be constantly battled and confronted with effective swords and shields.

When a Federal employee or Postal worker suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition necessitates filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand the nature of the beast, and the fact that one’s own agency is merely one of many, and the modern-day David in a world of Goliaths may need more assistance than a mere handful of stones.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Different Agencies

The question is sometimes asked as to whether, in filing for a Medical Retirement from the Office of Personnel Management, it makes a difference whether the Attorney has previously dealt with a particular Agency of the Federal Government.  

Ultimately, whether it is the Department of Homeland Security, Transportation Security Administration, Customs & Border Protection, Department of Agriculture, Department of the Army, Navy, Air Force, etc., or the multitudinous variety of other departments, including the U.S. Postal Service, Department of State, Securities & Exchange Commission, Social Security Administration, NASA, NOAA, NIH, etc., it matters not. Agencies are made up of individuals.

Whether individual supervisors or Human Resources Departments are “helpful” or not, depends not upon an Agency, but upon the very individuals who comprise the corporate culture of the agency.  Certainly, the tone and tenor of the Department head, and the deliberate compilation of an unpleasant group of supervisors can make a difference in the cumulative culture which conducts business, but for purposes of a medical retirement under FERS or CSRS, the focus needs to be upon the medical conditions, the impact of the medical conditions upon one’s positional requirements, and obtaining the proper documentation to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

Having prior experience with a multitude of different agencies, over many years, is helpful in recognizing those issues which are central to a Federal Disability Retirement case, and those issues which are and should remain peripheral to a case.  Whether a particular agency or department has been specifically encountered in the past is of far less relevance.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Denial at the First Stage

I would like to state that none of my cases have ever been denied at the Initial Stage of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; not only would such a statement be untrue; it would also be unbelievable.  And yes — even the cases that I file on behalf of my clients, get a similarly formatted denial:  a restatement of the criteria for eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS & CSRS; a discussion with an elaborate reference to doctor’s notes, dates of treatment, targeted extrapolations of statements by the doctors which are not only selectively chosen in a narrow manner to favor the decision of denial, but further, which are often taken out of context.  Some might wonder:  Doesn’t OPM have greater respect for Mr. McGill?  The answer is:  At the First Level, the representative from the Office of Personnel Management is merely making a decision on one of thousands of files, and a template is being used to process and get rid of cases.  However, one must always remember (as I try to remind everyone) that this is a “process”.  A denial at the First Stage of the process is merely part of the greater process.  It is not something to get annoyed at, or concerned about; it is a stage and a decision which must be dealt with, argued against, and rebutted in the proper, rational, legal manner. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Doctor

Doctors hate administrative duties.  They went to medical school, and they want to practice medicine, not law.  If they wanted to engage in vast amounts of paperwork, they would perhaps have gone to law school.  As such, paperwork, writing medical narrative reports for their patients, providing medical opinions in a report — they are part and parcel of the dreaded “paperwork” — somewhat like filling out all of the forms for medicare, medicaid, insurance, etc. to get paid. Such paperwork is often left to the “administrative staff”, and therefore doctors are only sporadically required to actually prepare any paperwork.

This presents a peculiar problem for a potential disability retirement applicant, because in order to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, an applicant must have a doctor’s narrative report which delineates certain issues, addresses certain issues, and renders certain opinions.

Thus, the crucial question becomes: How does one approach a doctor and convince him or her that preparing a proper medical report is an integral aspect of treating the patient? The answer: It must be done with diplomacy, sensitivity, caution, guidance, and understanding, all bundled into one. Above all, it begins with a relationship — a patient-doctor relationship that has been formed over many, many years. And, indeed, that is the requirement under the case-laws at the Merit Systems Protection Board governing disability retirements — that those opinions rendered by treating doctors of long duration are accorded greater credibility than single-examination doctors. And it all makes sense.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability: The Disabled Federal and Postal Worker

As with most attorneys, I try to maintain an appearance of detached professionalism. It is my job to provide sound legal advice; to guide the client/disability retirement applicant with logical argumentation, rational perspective, and legal foundations as to the strength or weakness of a case, and to guide my client over obstacles, around legal landmines, and through the briars and thickets of “the law”. I try to remain aloof from the inherent emotionalism which arises from the human story of my clients, because not to do so would be to defeat the essence of why a client hires me: to maintain and retain an objective perspective, in order to provide the best legal advice possible. However, to maintain that wall of professionalism is not always possible.

The human story of the Federal and Postal employee is indeed one of encompassing a juggernaut of loyalty, professionalism, dedication, hard work, and the driving force behind and undergirding the economic might of the United States. Yes, of course the United States is built upon the economic principles of the free market system of the private sector; but the services which the government provides are not accomplished by some faceless or nameless entity; each such service — from the letter carrier through “rain, sleet or snow”, to the Special Agents who investigate and put criminals behind bars; from the border patrol agents who guard our security, to the IT Specialist who safeguards our internet viability — is provided by a competent and dedicated worker. That is why I am often humbled by my clients; because, truth be known, the disability retirement applicants who come to me have come to a point with his or her medical condition, where there is no other choice. It is never a question of dedication or hard work; the Federal and Postal Worker has already proven his or her dedication and hard work through the decades of service provided, prior to coming to me.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire