Federal Employee Disability Information: OPM’s Methodology

There may be a single criteria to meet, with subsets of requirements that must be complied with; yet, multiple methodologies in approaching the singular.  How can that be?  Isn’t it all simple, where you read what is required, then gather up all of the evidence that appears to meet it and simply send it all in?  That is the “volume methodology”.

Can a single sentence in a medical report ever meet the legal criteria in an OPM Disability Retirement case — i.e., a “qualitative” methodology, as opposed to a quantitative one?  Sometimes.

Isn’t the law clear in what is required, and isn’t it a matter of just amassing the medical evidence to meet the requirements as stated?  Hmmm…. For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical conditions prevent the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, it is important to understand, somewhat, OPM’s Methodology in reviewing and deciding upon a case.

First of all, not all medical conditions are equal.  Perhaps that is self-evident, but for the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from one or another medical condition, and must endure the daily pain, restriction and limitations imposed thereby, it may not be so self-evident.

Second, OPM is not some “neutral” Federal Agency that reviews a Federal Disability Retirement application with dispassionate objectivity, ready to grant an “approval” because you “believe” your medical evidence is “sufficient” to meet the legal requirements as stated.  Sufficiency is the gatekeeper that denies many a Federal Disability Retirement case — and it is not a methodology that is satisfied by quantitative (volume) means, not even necessarily by qualitative standards; rather, it is the reviewer (i.e., the “Medical Specialist” at OPM) who determines by some unknown and unknowable standard when the goal-post has been crossed.

Thus, in an OPM Disability Denial Letter, one may read a reference to one’s doctor’s note or a quotation from a medical report from one’s doctor, and think, “Good, this is very supportive” —then, with an appended end to the paragraph stating, “Such medical evidence does not sufficiently meet the standards to qualify for OPM Disability Retirement”.  Huh?

Think about it this way: “Sufficiency” may mean different things to different audiences; for example, what is a “sufficient” amount of food for a lion, as opposed to a domesticated kitten?

OPM’s methodology is, at best, malleable, as language in law is likewise changeable.  It is good to know this for Federal and Postal employees who are either getting ready to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, or who are in the middle of a fight to obtain it; for, in the end, consulting with an OPM Disability Retirement lawyer allows you to arm yourself with knowledge for the battle that OPM’s Methodology in determining Federal Disability Retirement cases must be prepared, like any legal battle that involves “criteria” to be interpreted.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Disability Information: The unknown

What is it about “the unknown” that terrifies us?  Is it merely from the stories of childhood that kept us up late into the night with limbs and face under the heavy blankets, hoping that those goblins wouldn’t suddenly pounce upon the flesh that remained uncovered, with sweat and suffocation preferable to the gnawing of a hungry predator?

Or from insecurities that remained despite the best efforts from parents who were clueless but wanted a dissimilar approach from their own childhoods; yet, despite those efforts to “never be like my mom and dad”, such exertions were merely untested applications from tentative and unlearned methodologies, leaving the insecurities manifesting through thoughtless hesitations because no one knows what they are doing?

The unknown is always, by definition, an uncertainty, and thus a conundrum that instills fear, prefatory pause and trembling of confidence.

When a medical condition enters into the picture as a factor to contend with, the unknown becomes a depth of fear and loathing, precisely because there can never be concretized stability within a wrapping of the unknown.  Suddenly, with the medical condition present, the unknown becomes an uncertainty; the uncertainty compels anxiety and an angst that cannot be controlled.

People enjoy watching horror shows and movies depicting the supernatural; of monsters and goblins that suddenly pop up from nowhere and frighten; because, once removed as a spectator who can fear and yet know simultaneously that you are merely an observer of the horror and mayhem, the fear of the unknown is recognized in the third person, and therefore separable enough from the reality of the virtual.

When one suffers from a medical condition, however, the observer and the sufferer become one and the same, inseparable, unable to merely act as a dispassionate spectator.

For Federal and Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the unknown is the uncertainty of a future undetermined.

Thus, what needs to be focused upon is what is known, and let the unknown unravel — by preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, so that the Federal or Postal worker suffering from a medical condition can focus upon the known quantities of life: One’s health, one’s happiness, and the present circumstances that cannot continue perpetually into the future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: Avoiding the repetitive in a narrative

Why do we believe that adding the repetition of words, especially adverbs, will create a compelling narrative?  If you ascribe an adjective to an object, then ad an adverb – say, “very” – does repeating and inserting another magnify the significance of the narrative itself, or detract by placing a grammatical marker by bringing attention that the very necessity of the addition undermines the efficacy of the noun to which all of the additions point to, in the first place?  May not the noun itself stand on its own two feet, so to speak; or, at least with the supportive crutches of an adjective?

If a person posits that things are “very bad”, does the person responding who adds, “No, things are very, very bad” contribute to the discourse in that singular addition?  And what of the third in the discussion, who says, “Yes, I must agree, things are very, very, very bad”?  And what if a fourth person – unassuming and generally unemotional, who puts a sense of finality to the entire conversation by declaring:  “No, you are all right.  Things are bad.”  Did the last statement without the adverb and the repetition of additional tautological ringers, say anything less in the utterance, and conversely, did the third contributor add anything more to the discourse?

Often enough in life, that which we believe we are enhancing, we are merely detracting from in the very repetition of discourse.  It is like a signal or a marker; the red flag that arises suspicion is sometimes waved through the unintentional attempt to bring about attention through repetitive enhancement, and it is often the noun with the singular adjective that evinces the quietude of force in grammatical parlay.  Pain, anguish and medical conditions often seek to descriptively reveal through unnecessary repetition.

For the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker who is working on preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted through one’s own agency or the H.R. Shared Services Center (for Postal employees) in Greensboro, N.C. (if the Federal or Postal employee is still with the Federal Agency, or not yet separated for more than 31 days), preparing adequate and sufficient responses on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, must be embraced with care, fortitude, forthrightness and deliberation of factual, medical, legal and personal weaving of a compelling narrative.

Inclusion of too many adverbs may be a distraction; meanderings of thought and unnecessary information will undermine the entirety of the construct; and while the linguistic tool of repetition can be effective and compelling, too much of a “good thing” may undermine the singularity of a narrative’s natural soul.

In the end, the Statement of Disability prepared by a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant should be a compelling narrative delineating a discourse of bridging the nexus between medical condition and one’s positional duties.  It should be descriptive.  It should be very descriptive.  It should be very, very descriptive.  It should also include the descriptive, the legal and the personal, just not very, very, very so.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

 

Medical Retirement from Federal Employment: Leaving that legacy behind

We hear about it from ‘high-end achievers’; and every President now builds large temples to themselves, like some Greek gods with immortal canopies and call them “libraries” for the common minion to think that it is like those warm and fuzzy buildings we once visited in order to escape the ravages of our sordid childhoods.

Perhaps it is the realization of that which has come back to haunt us:  Darwinism, pure materialism, and the abandonment of faith in hobbits, gnomes and angels from beyond, that leaves us with the stark nakedness of our own mortality, and the need to fulfill that vacancy by building lasting memorials that only crumble with the decadence of time.

The traditional definition connoted a lasting gift by an ancestor, where history, lineage and human relationships provided a context of meaningful inheritance, and not merely as a tombstone to admire.  The wider, secondary meaning refers to any accomplishment or lasting residue of one’s self constructed to remain beyond a temporal season, or until that next great ego tears it down and replaces it with an image made in a reflecting pool of self-aggrandizement.

We all have a desire and a need to leave a legacy; whether a memento gifted through countless generations, or a memory of multi-generational gatherings for an adventure, a once-in-a-lifetime trip, and perhaps nothing more than some pearls of wisdom handed down from a rocking chair worn by the vanished paint on the floorboards of time.

Even then; as value is rarely attached to memories invoked, people either hock the wares on eBay or the local pawn shop, and convert it into cash, where the societal glee for power is defined by paying bills and possessing goods.  Do people inscribe books and hand them down as a legacy left behind?  Or have they been replaced with electronic tablets and kindle versions where even the monks of Tibet answer to the melody of a smartphone?

Legacies are overvalued, or so we are told; and those who leave them for others to judge, never stick around to witness the lasting or temporal effects of residual emotional consequences.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition “forces” one to cut short one’s career and vocation by preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is the pull that holds one back and makes one pause, an artificial and wholly unfounded sense that one hasn’t “completed the mission” and the legacy that would be left is not quite up to par?

Such thoughts invoke a false sense of values.  For, in the end, it is one’s health that should be of paramount concern, and not what is left behind.

In Federal agencies and U.S. Postal facilities all across the country, that legacy left behind is often nothing more than the shattered lives who clung too long and waited beyond the point of medical necessity, when in fact the true legacy to leave behind is a focus upon one’s health in order to move forward into the next phase of one’s life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

 

Federal Disability Retirement Representation: Substance and Process

In any bureaucratic, lengthy administrative process, one can become embroiled in the procedural aspects of an endeavor, and overlook the substantive elements which form the foundation of any case.  Conversely, one can make the mistake of approaching a case and declare to one’s self, “This is so obviously a good case,” and take shortcuts in the process of putting together an effective and persuasive case.

Either approach is one fraught with grave errors, and for Federal employees and Postal workers who are beginning the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Medical benefits, first through one’s own agency (if still on the rolls of the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service or, if separated, for not more than 31 days), and ultimately submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, Pennsylvania (directly, if the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker has been separated from Federal service for more than 31 days), it is important to keep the balance between the substance of a case, and the process of the case.

Substantive issues involve everything from the factual, informational content required on all standard forms (SF 3107, along with Schedules A, B & C, and the required attachment of one’s DD 214 showing prior active military service; SF 2801 for CSRS employees; and the substantive content of the description of one’s medical conditions to be considered, as required in SF 3112A, etc.), as well as the medical documentation needed to provide the evidentiary support for one’s case.

“Process” issues involve the timeframe in filing a case, the administrative procedures of where the disability application must be submitted through, as well as the myriad of sequential steps required for satisfaction of accommodation issues with one’s agency.

Substance and process — they are the necessary sides of a single, inseparable currency of an administrative reality known as Federal OPM Disability Retirement, and both must be attended to in order to reach the heights of efficacy mandated for a successful outcome in the preparation, formulation and submission of an OPM Medical Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire