Medical Retirement from Federal Employment: Of August Reminders

As an adjective, the accent is placed upon the second syllable, and recalls of supreme dignity and grandeur, with images of a Roman Centurion with his breastplate shining in the full sun of power and prestige.  As a noun, it is the doldrums of the eighth month, but where a breath of coolness always invades and reminds us of the possibilities, and of the coming winter still to arrive.

The inflection upon the first syllable makes all the difference; yet, the word remains the same, and only the harkening echo of a meaning concealed by mere intonation of voice.  What reminds of possibilities yet to be revealed?  Do smells, sounds and memories of potentialities unseen but foretold by parents, uncles and relatives, of the limitless anticipation of a world still before us?  Or of that cool respite, when the heat of summer turns suddenly a winter’s reminder, and allows us to bask in the sweat of our own memories, when toil was but a lazy dream in the midst of shadows by the stream’s edge?

There are times in life when possibilities seem endless, and the potentiality for happiness, joy, and sheer pleasure are limitless but for the darkness of our inner essences; when childhood memories once granted the wishes of a butterfly’s dream, and love was still the scent of flowers yet blooming in the valley below. But life tends to intrude and intercede; interruptions of august dreams in the doldrums of August nights; but for us, dreams are the escape from the reality of today, where tomorrow only brings sorrows but for lonely nights where the unity of solitude interrupts the daily grind of reality.

We never could precisely pinpoint when childhood ended; only, that adulthood “is”, and forever was.  Those summer dreams when the first kiss awoke our inner stirrings; when innocence was lost forever; and, somehow, we grew up with august reminders in those lazy August days when the fireflies died, and darkness enveloped the universe of possibilities.  There will still be days when we believe in ourselves; but as lives pass by, we watch and listen, and rarely see.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who feel the heat of summer’s suffocating dawns, those few days when the blast of reminders come our way, we relish and believe that the August doldrums are now behind us, only to realized that the days ahead will still embrace the sweat and toil of endless streams of treadmill repetitions.

When a medical condition begins to prevent the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal worker’s positional duties, it is time to harken back to the days when august thoughts pervaded, and leave behind the August doldrums of sweat-filled concerns.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is often the best option left as a reminder that August is the month of possibilities yet unfulfilled, and where august thoughts must emphasize the syllable following the doldrums of past reflections.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: The “Cover” of an FCE

Most doctors are unfamiliar with the process of obtaining Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, but are more often than not familiar with the process, procedures, and correlative headaches associated with Worker’s Comp benefits.  Because of this greater familiarity, there is often an underlying suspicion that comes along with it — that rendering any medical opinion must be accompanied by some underlying justification and “objective” methodology of supporting the medical opinion.  And this is understandable. 

In this day and age of malpractice lawsuits, of questioning every test, procedure and opinion, it is rare that a medical doctor is comfortable and secure in rendering a medical opinion about one’s ability or inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, based solely or primarily upon clinical examinations and reviewing of diagnostic results.  Enter the FCE — the “Functional Capacity Evaluation”.  The FCE provides “cover” for a doctor’s medical opinion, because the doctor can point to an apparently “objective” evaluation — a third party rendering a number of physical tests, exertional exercises, physical capacity movements, etc., which serve to provide a framework from which a doctor can render an “objective ” opinion.  Why it is accepted that pointing to someone else’s evaluation — as opposed to relying upon one’s own clinical examinations, reviewing one’s history, reviewing diagnostic test results, etc. — is any more valid, is a great mystery.  But if it makes the doctor feel more comfortable, then a person considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS should go ahead and agree to submit to an FCE, if that is what it takes to get the doctor on board.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Social Security Disability

Under the rules concerning FERS disability retirement applications, one must file for Social Security Disability.  As most people already know, there is an interaction/offset between Social Security Disability benefits and FERS disability benefits, if both are approved (100% offset in the first year of annuity, 60% offset every year thereafter).  One would assume (dangerously, as it turns out), that if an application for Social Security disability is approved, that it would automatically render an approval under FERS disability retirement a “sure” thing.  Nothing could be further from the truth. 

The fact that Social Security has a higher standard of proof — where one must be considered “totally disable” as opposed to (under the legal standards for FERS) “disabled from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job”) — one would think that, legally and logically, if you have met the higher legal standard of proof, then the lesser standard would have been automatically met.  Unfortunately, because the two standards are applied in different, independent agencies, the fact that Social Security Disability benefits are awarded is not a guarantee that the FERS disability retirement application will automatically be granted.  However, there is clear case-law stating that OPM must consider the approval by SSD as one factor among many in the consideration of FERS disability retirement applications.  It is important to cite such cases in support of your application for FERS disability retirement.

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

CSRS & FERS Disability: an Art Form

As with all effective submissions — pleadings, motions, legal memorandums and, alas, Federal Disability Retirement applications — it should never be approached in a mechanical, one-to-one ratio-like, mathematical manner.  Of course it should contain the technical terms, the medical terms, and the legal arguments.  However, disability retirement under FERS & CSRS — especially the Applicant’s Statement of disability and any legal arguments — should not be matter of matching up a one-to-one correspondence between the medical condition and the particular essential elements which it prevents or impacts.  Certainly, the effect and the conclusion should contain that conceptual correspondence; however, as all good writing contains a technical side, it is also important to weave the story of the human condition and see the writing as an “art” form.

The impact of the human story is important in convincing and persuading the OPM representative to not only understand the medical condition, but to get a sense of empathy for what the applicant is going through.  It is a delicate balance to achieve; yes, the hard legal arguments should be made in order to “force” OPM to see that, legally, they are obligated to approve a disability retirement application; at the same time, if you can touch the empathetic nature of the OPM representative, so much the better.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire