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

FERS & CSRS Federal Disability Retirement: Reviewing the Position Description

There may be a wide chasm between what one’s position description states, and what one actually does in the position of the Federal or Postal job slot which one occupies.

Further, the fact that there may be a radical modification to one’s official duties in practical and real terms, does not obviate the fact that one may be required, at any time, to fulfill those duties and responsibilities as described in the official configuration of the position.

Finally, since the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in making a determination on a Federal Disability Retirement application, will never personally assess or observe what a Federal or Postal employee is actually doing in one’s office, out in the field, at the work station, etc., you must therefore always envision the process as one of bureaucratic administration — i.e., of looking at the paper presentation of the position description, and being restricted and constrained by what is contained therein.

That being said, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is often a good idea to review the official position description when beginning to formulate one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A).  Some position descriptions are so generic in nature that it may required more “filling in the blanks” for purposes of describing the pragmatic essential elements which one must work; other descriptions may enlighten the Federal or Postal Worker and make the entire administrative process easier because of the onerous requirements as delineated in the official position description.

In either event, one must always remember that it is from the Federal or Postal position which one is medically retiring from and not what one may actually be doing.  Thus, recognition of the wide chasm which exists between what one ought to be doing, and what one actually does, may be one of the keys to a successful formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Position Description

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to have a good idea of what the position description states — the one which the Federal or Postal applicant occupies, and the one which is reflected in the SF 50 or the PS Form 50, the personnel action form which designates and identifies the official position assigned to the Federal or Postal employee.  For, what the Federal or Postal employee does in a job, in real time and in the actual state of the job, may be significantly different from what is described in the position description itself.

One must understand that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) — the agency which makes all determinations on Federal Disability Retirement applications — does not have an agent sitting in one’s office, taking notes on the duties which one performs.  Thus, the case worker at OPM who receives and reviews the Federal Disability Retirement application, will come to be informed of the essential duties of a Federal or Postal employee, based upon a “paper presentation” that is set before him or her.

The comparison to be made between the medical condition proven and the essential elements of one’s job, will arise from OPM’s review of what is presented — the position description itself; the statement of one’s job in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability; and other documentation.

In making the comparison, it is ultimately from the position description itself from which one is retired, and if the applicant’s statement includes superfluous assertions otherwise not contained in the position description itself, the discrepancy may well go against the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Fortunately, most position descriptions are fairly generic in nature, and one can imply a variety of duties which are not otherwise specified in an official position description.  That is where creative writing and effective presentation comes into play.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire