Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Foreigner

The “foreigner” reflects a dual-edged phenomena:  on the one hand, the individual perceives the strangeness of his or her surroundings; on the other hand, those strangers from the “other” land may similarly view the foreigner with interest, suspicion, hesitation, etc.

It is a mutual encounter of cultural clashes.  The singular traveler into untried waters would welcome a friendly face, and thus is often susceptible to criminals and scammers in foreign parts who prey upon unwary tourists.  Within the context of the tourist industry, the “business” side of the industry wants to appear personal and attending to individualized needs, while at the same time dealing in large volumes through a bureaucracy of efficiency.

But being a “foreigner” can occur in one’s own country, too — as in the context of engaging an unknown entity, or an administrative process which is strange and different.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who has been a productive member of the Federal workforce for many years, it is a strange encounter indeed to have to contemplate filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The entire administrative and bureaucratic process is like stepping onto a foreign land and trying to navigate the streets, towns and cities within the context of trying to understand a language heretofore unfamiliar.

Filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an entrance into a land of peculiar and unknown foods and attractions.  For the foreign traveler, it is often best to seek the guidance of a tour guide.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Close Encounters of the Third Kind

The title reference, of course, is to the old Spielberg film concerning contact with an alien being; but such a remote, rare and unique experience need not be with an entity from another galaxy or planet, but can be closer to home.

Most people will never need to experience engagement with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, OPM Division of Disability, Reconsiderations and Appeals, in order to apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits (whether under FERS or CSRS), leaving aside having to file an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

But when the Federal or Postal employee finds him/herself in such a unique situation such that contact with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management or the MSPB becomes necessary, such an experience will be as peculiar and strange an an encounter of the “third kind”.  Moreover, the experience itself may be an unwanted and unpleasant one, because it is something accomplished and pursued while experiencing a personal crisis involving a medical condition.

The encounter itself — however strange, unpleasant or unwanted — nevertheless is a reality which must be dealt with, and in so doing, it should be done in as efficient a manner as possible.

In an initial encounter with an alien being, one would assume that there might be some trepidation and reluctance, mixed with a great amount of suspicion.  That would be natural.  In a similar encounter with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is best to also have a healthy dose of skepticism; better yet, you might want to contact an expert who has had some past experience in dealing with the entity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Language, Truth, and the Agency

Wittgenstein’s conceptual identification of society’s creation of various “language games” is indicative of a relativistic approach to truth and reality.  For, Wittgenstein rejected the classical tradition of the correspondence theory of truth, where language corresponds to events in the “objective” physical realm, and in the course of such correspondence, arrives at a notion of objective truth.  Instead, the world of language is an artificial creation within the consciousness of societies, and is tantamount to board games which we play.

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 often interesting and instructive to view the entire bureaucratic process as a kind of “language game” which one must master and engage in.  Indeed, encounters with how one’s own agency views the game, then how OPM views the game, can be quite shocking.

The fact that it is not a “game” per se, for the Federal or Postal employee who is depending upon the Federal Disability Retirement annuity for his or her livelihood for the short-term, does not undermine the fact that agencies and OPM act as if it is just another board game — say, for instance, chess, in the the manner in which various strategic moves and counter-moves are made to try and corner the Federal or Postal employee; or the classical game of go, in which territories are asserted and surrounded in order to “defeat” the opponent.

Language is meant to convey meaning and to communicate human value, worth, emotions and factual occurrences as reflected in the physical world; it is only us humans who create a universe of artifice in which we sequester ourselves in order to torment the weaker members of such participants.  But because language is the only game within the realm of human living, we must contend with the language games played by Federal agencies, and especially the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Agency Independence

Each agency is tooled with a statutory mandate as to its mission and purpose, and from the origination of the statutory mandate, Federal Regulations and policies are formulated.  The independence of each agency within the Federal Government results in the anomaly of a patchwork of Federal Agencies, few of which are coordinated in their efforts or purposes.  

Conceptually, this is thought to be a good idea — precisely because by preserving the independence of each agency, it can singularly focus upon the mandated purpose and goal — and better accomplish its “mission”.  But the flip-side to the positive consequences of such conceptual formulation is that there is often an overlap between missions, and where the logical result of one action should almost automatically (logically) result in another, such is not the case because of the wall of separation between agencies, preserving their independence from each other.  

In Federal Disability Retirement issues, one would think that where a stricter standard of eligibility is imposed in one agency (e.g., the Social Security Administration for disability determinations), an approval based upon that stricter standard should automatically result in an approval by the Office of Personnel Management for purposes of evaluating and deciding upon a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  

Such is not the case, however.  

Hypothetically, it is possible to conceptualize a case where a Federal or Postal employee is deemed “totally disabled” by a doctor, but still be able to perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.  Conversely, it is possible to think of a case where an individual is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job (FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement) and yet not be considered “totally disabled” (SSDI).  The latter, of course, happens all the time; the former continues to occur — although, to actually come up with a true case involves mental gymnastics which exists only in the world of myths and language-games.

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

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Agencies & SF 3112C

Agencies have an amazing ability to be inquisitive, especially into those areas which really do not concern them.  Often, Agencies will insist that, despite all of the relevant, pertinent, and desired medical documentation already having been attached to a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the applicant/Federal employee “must” sign the Standard Form 3112C (“Physician’s Statement) , which becomes superfluous and irrelevant.  They insist that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) “requires” the form, which is an erroneous statement.  OPM has never required a signed SF 3112C so long as the Federal Disability Retirement application is accompanied by sufficient medical documentation to support the application.  Sometimes, the insistence by the Agency is merely based upon ignorance; other times, it is based upon an administrative and bureaucratic inflexibility to longstanding “procedures” which the Human Resources personnel cannot adapt to, or change, because “this is the way we’ve been doing it for X number of years”.  Still, there is a suspicion that in some instances, the “requirement” of SF 3112C is because of a more nefarious reason:  The Agency wants full access to all medical records, notes, treatment notes, etc.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Not all Agencies are Equal

No names will be named.  Not for purposes of “protecting the innocent”, because it is doubtful that there are any innocent entities, anyway.  Rather, the knowledge that there are some agencies which are worse than others, is widespread knowledge, anyway; and, indeed, if the agencies are “outed”, it would merely be a redundancy to name them.

There are Agencies which, when the name is spoken, it sends shivers down one’s spine, because of the mean spiritedness, the uncooperative attitude, and the sheer incompetency of the Human Resources Department which is designated to process a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Then, there are agencies where the H.R. Department — no matter who in the department is contacted — goes out of their way to assist throughout the entire process. They understand the traumatic nature of a Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS. They realize that the designation, “Human” and “Resources” and “Department”, when taken collectively, means that it is the point where employees come to in order to obtain assistance, to engage in a process which may be very personal, and that the resources sought after require the understanding and compassion of individuals.

Ponder that for a moment — that one’s job may entail, as part of the “essential elements of one’s job” — a showing of understanding and compassion.  Imagine that.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire