Beginning the Federal Disability Retirement Process

The Chinese proverb, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step”, is meant to remind us that looking at a process in its entirety can result in self-defeat even before starting, and every daunting journey must begin with the small, almost insignificant, effort of initiation.

Facing a bureaucracy and an administrative process can feel like that metaphorical journey of a thousand miles.  The multiple and complex standard forms to complete; the legal criteria to meet; the need to gather, compile and consolidate the medical documentation into a linear, coherent whole; and all of this, in the face of voluntarily reducing one’s income by applying for an annuity and having to deal with the debilitating medical condition from which one suffers.

But the successful way to approach the entire administrative process known as Federal Disability Retirement, is to bifurcate it into workable portions. The SF 3107 series (reissued in May, 2014, where previous editions are now outdated) is merely informational in nature.  It is is the SF 3112 series of forms which one must take care in preparing and formulating, and especially SF 3112A, which requests for detailed information concerning one’s medical conditions, the impact of the medical conditions upon one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; and other pertinent information needed to convey compliance with a legal criteria established through many years via legal opinions issued by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Yes, it is a difficult process, and one which can be eased by legal advice and expertise. But as with all journeys, to look upon the landscape and obstacles as mere hindrances to overcome, will serve one better, than to stand at the foothills and refuse to begin the journey at all.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

The Basic Question Of “What?” during the Federal Disability Retirement Application and Process

“Why” evinces a quality of curiosity, and perhaps of disbelief; “who” indicates a need to establish an identity and source; “how” demonstrates a pragmatic approach in determining a future course of action; and “what” reveals the yearning to unravel the foundations of basic principles, as in Aristotle’s methodology in his Metaphysics.

Before the first storyteller or shaman put on a mask to enhance the mysteries of healing and divination; long before the wide-eyed children gathered with the adults around the village center where the bonfire roared with flickering shadows of unknown powers beyond the periphery of the fireflies beaming in the distant darkness of dangers beyond; and well preceding the written account of human history, where anthropology and narrative fantasy melded to provide reminiscences of prehistoric days created in the imaginations of youth, the question of “what” was uttered in innocence.

What is the meaning of X? What happened? What makes a thing become itself? What is the essence of being?  Thus for any entrance into a fresh endeavor, the human need for satisfying the “what” of a matter is the prefatory step towards progress.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the initial question might be: What constitutes a “disability”?  In that question is the key which often opens wide the conventional confinement which so many people are locked into.

For, in the traditional sense, the focus of the answer to such a question is contained in the definition and diagnosis of a medical condition.  For FERS and CSRS Federal Disability Retirement, however, the expansion of the answer goes well beyond the strictures of a diagnosis.  It is the nexus, or the connection, between the medical condition and symptoms, on the one hand, and the positional requirements (whether physical, mental or emotional) of one’s Federal or Postal work, which establishes the answer.

Once the Federal and Postal employee gains an understanding of this differentiating concept, then the doors open wide beyond the confinement of OWCP benefits or Social Security Disability benefits.  Thus does one approach Federal Disability Retirement with trepidation in asking, What qualifies as a disability?  For, contained within the question is the implicit and unspoken answer: such a query already implies a problem, and the problem likely is an impact already being felt upon one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties of one’s Federal or Postal employment.

As with the first causative rumblings deep in the consciousness of one’s soul, as a child first begins to question the complexity of the universe surrounding the inner self of the “I”, the question uttered alters the relationship between the being of “I” and the objectivity of “others” in a perplexing world of unanswered questions; but in the end, the “what” is a first step, and so it is also for the Federal and Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: Substantive versus Linguistic Redefinition

Once the acceptance of dissociative dichotomy between language and the objective world became entrenched, the path of ease with which to tinker with language in order to adeptly fit language to reality (i.e., redefine words, concepts and meanings) became a simple next step in the process.

There are, of course, limitations.  A rock thrown and shattering a bottle is difficult to avoid, no matter how much linguistic gymnastics may be engaged.  For reality-based situations which must encounter the language game, one cannot come closer to the correspondence necessary than when one encounters a medical condition.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who must confront the reality of a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s life, livelihood and future financial security, the reality of the importance of “getting it right” is never more certain.

Often, the question is asked on a purely linguistic level: Will medical condition-X qualify me?  That is the wrong question.

For, Federal Disability Retirement, whether under FERS or CSRS, filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the question must be asked in an alternative manner, because the entire process of proving one’s case is unlike Social Security Disability and other forums.

In those “other” criteria, the identification of the medical condition itself — i.e., the linguistic identification of the issue — will often be enough to determine qualification criteria.  But for Federal Disability Retirement purposes, it is the direct encounter and confrontation between language and reality which must be faced and embraced: Not “what” identified medical condition, but rather, “how” the medical condition impacts, in the real world, the essential elements of one’s job and how one can adequately perform them.

Thus, Federal Disability Retirement cannot avoid the correspondence between language and reality; it is that very question touching upon the nexus between language (the identified medical condition) and reality (how that medical condition impacts the physical or cognitive ability of the worker to engage in the world) which must be answered.  Thus, no matter what linguistic deconstructionists declare: language does require a correspondence with reality, and truth does still matter despite the hard-fought and persistent attempts to otherwise make irrelevant that which we all accept in the everyday world.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Non-nexus

Meeting an adequacy test may constitute sufficiency for some purposes, but not for others.  Thus, it may be enough in completing an FMLA form to have a diagnosis, along with answers to other questions on WH-380-E.  But mere identification of a medical condition via a diagnosis, along with a description of symptomatologies will not be enough to meet the sufficiency test in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

People often assume that having a medical condition in and of itself sufficiently explains the severity of one’s condition, and any implied “blank spaces” can be filled in by the mere existence of such a medical condition.  But Federal Disability Retirement, whether under FERS or CSRS, filed through, reviewed by, and approved or disapproved by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the medical condition itself prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.

As such, the identification and description of a medical condition fails to comply with the adequacy standards in proving eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  One must establish, through the conduit of a medical professional, the “nexus” or “connection” between one’s identified medical condition and the inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

The weight of the proof is upon the Federal or Postal applicant.

The foundation of such evidence begins with the identified medical condition, but in and of itself, it is a non-nexus — until it is squarely placed in the context of one’s official position and the duties required by one’s duties.  Thus, the non-nexus become the nexus-point when combined with the identification and description of one’s positional duties.

It is this realization of the step-by-step sequence of proof which constitutes adequacy and sufficiency of evidence, and one of which the Federal or Postal applicant for OPM Disability Retirement benefits must be aware.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Gov. and USPS Disability Retirement: The Story Genre

There is quite obviously a human need to relate the narrative; of one’s community events, tragedies and triumphs; from the days of cave paintings to rote retelling of the group’s identity and character of historical form and content, the telling of one’s story is, and remains, a vital part or any community.

Technology has now replaced the gathering of the group around the community center with emails, tweeting, mediums of blogs; of electronic tablets and voice conveyers; but regardless of form, that sense of need in the “telling” and “listening” remains. The methodology of the “telling”, however, has changed in form and content over the years, as technology has greatly undermined the genre of the human narrative with distractions and diversions beyond the story-form. Our focus and attention, quite frankly, is not what it used to be.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, part of the preparatory phase of the process is to compile the “telling” of one’s narrative. How effective; how succinct and of manner of logical sequence; how coherent and persuasive; all depend upon the form and content of the genre of the human narrative. Factual foundations aside, it is the penultimate culmination of the telling of one’s story which will form the substantive basis of the administrative process.

It is not only a necessary part of the process of preparing and formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application; it is merely the continuation of satisfying that innate human need — of the “telling” of one’s story.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Fingerprints of an Ineffective Disability Retirement Presentation

Rushing through something is often a sign of attempting to make up for something lacking; if excellence is the goal, then one must take the time to cultivate the means of achieving it; if completion is the sole achieving end, then almost anything will satisfy such an undistinguished crown.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one can discern from the quality of the disability retirement packet the psychology behind the packet itself.  Much like fingerprints left behind by a burglar, or a work of art created by a craftsman or an amateur bumbler merely attempting to make a few extra dollars in one’s spare time, the collateral context of a presentation can be very indicative.

If such indicators manifest a negative vibration to an objective observer, what could it be stating to the OPM Representative who is reviewing the case?  Whether it is a Federal Disability Retirement packet which is sloppily put together; is presented with generalizations in offering a diagnosis or symptoms; is disconnected or barely coherent in its reasonings; or a multitude of other linguistic symptoms implying lack of attentiveness — these will not do.

Excellence should always be the goal; as the craftsman must take care at each stage of the creative process, so a Federal Disability Retirement packet must reveal the fullness of the medical condition, its impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, and why one has met all of the legal criteria in being entitled to the Federal Disability Retirement benefit.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Symptoms & Diagnosis

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the medical reports and treatment notes, office notes, etc., will often bifurcate and conceptually distinguish between a “diagnosis” of a medical condition, and the description of “symptoms” which the patient experiences.  

Thus, as a simplified example, on a physical level, one might have the diagnosis of “Shoulder Impingement Syndrome” or “Rotator Cuff Tendonitis” in a specific category in a medical report under “Diagnosis”, but in a narrative paragraph discussing the history of the symptoms manifested by the individual, there may be a reference to “chronic pain”, or “radiating pain”.  Similarly, in psychiatric cases, one might be diagnosed with “Major Depressive Disorder” or “Generalized Anxiety Disorder“, without being officially diagnosed with “Panic Disorder” or “Agoraphobia”, but in a discussion concerning the Federal Employee’s symptomatologies, there may be a reference to having “panic attacks” or being fearful of leaving the house or going out into the public.  

The conceptual bifurcation between “diagnosis” and “symptoms”, however, may (and perhaps should) be carefully brought together in completing the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  Thus, while “pain”, “chronic pain”, “radiating pain”, etc., may not officially qualify as the officially diagnosed medical condition in a medical report, in preparing and formulating an Application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, it is important to interweave such symptoms if they are a prominent part of one’s medical conditions.  Similarly, “Panic Attacks”, even if merely described as a symptom, may be an important part — if not the “essence” of a psychiatric condition — of one’s medical condition, and it is important to include it as part of the diagnosis.  For, when an approval is granted from the Office of Personnel Management, the identified medical diagnosis should, if at all possible, include the most debilitating of medical conditions.  

That which is conceptually distinguished on a medical report need not necessarily dictate what is described and delineated on one’s Application for Disability Retirement.  Just some thoughts.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire