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

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Nexus

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 the nexus — the connections which are made between any two or more issues, concepts, evidence, etc. — which raises a Federal Disability Retirement application to meet the standard of required proof under the law. Such connections to be made are vital, and determine the success or failure of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

We have all encountered eccentric individuals in our lifetimes — whether of the proverbial “batty-aunt” who talks incessantly about things which nobody understands; or the “flighty friend” who can talk a mile-a-minute about a thousand disconnected issues all in one breath; or perhaps it is a chance-meeting with a stranger who, after a long conversation, one realizes didn’t make a bit of sense in anything that was said.  In conversation, one can engage in such language games which have little to no correspondence to reality, and not have to pay a price for such engagement.

In the world of Federal Disability Retirement, failing to make the necessary connections will most certainly lead to a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Thus, the persuasive connection between one’s positional duties and the medical conditions; the argumentative connection between the prevailing law and one’s factual statements; the impacting connection between the medical reports and the entirety of the submitted case; and multiple other connections — each must be carefully crafted.

In a world where we come upon a “noumenal” world (as Kant would state), and where our cognitive categories organize the disparate world we discover, establishing the necessary nexus between X, Y & Z is something which the Federal Disability Retirement applicant should never overlook.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Essential Points

Becoming embroiled in the minutiae and complexities in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application is important and necessary; however, in doing so, it is important to make sure that the foundation — the “essentials” — are not overlooked in the process.

Thus, while preparing and formulating the Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, for submission to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, always go back to the three (3) essential elements of a Federal Disability Retirement case:  First, the medical condition itself.  Preparation by the treating doctor of a sufficient medical narrative report is essential to the successful outcome of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Guidance as to the elements which must and should be contained in the medical narrative report is crucial to the endeavor.  

Second, the position description.  Always remember that it is not only what one is actually doing in a Federal or Postal position (although that is also a part of it), but also what the official position description states that one should be doing, or may be asked to do at any moment (this can become an important part of the argument later against OPM if OPM decides to bring up any issues concerning Agency Accommodations).

Third, the Bridge or Nexus between the Medical Condition and the Position.  This is the important “third rail” of the entire process, which should be delineated first in the medical narrative report prepared by the doctor, as well as described effectively in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  Of course, throughout the process, it is important to attend to the details; but never let the complexities of the details sidetrack you from the important essentials in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits whether under FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: First Steps

With almost everything in life, it is that metaphorical “first step” which is the most difficult in the process of beginning, enduring, and accomplishing anything.  This is no different in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  The task at the outset can appear daunting:  the multiple forms; the ability to formulate the necessary connection between one’s medical conditions and the job which one performs; having the Agency fill out their portion; having the doctor formulate, in a precise and meaningful manner, the narrative report which will meet the legal criteria for successful eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  It is as challenging as the first step for a child; as intimidating as the first step in any life changing event.  To ease the process, it is often a good idea to do some preliminary research, including speaking with an Attorney who specializes in the process of preparing, filing and fighting for Federal and Postal Disability Retirement benefits.  As with everything in life, proper preparation is the key to success, and it is no different for a Federal or Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits: Forms & the Total Picture

Ultimately, it is the difficulty of encompassing and coordinating all of the administrative details which boggles the mind when one is confronted with filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  To have a medical disability is hard enough; to then have to wade through the Federal Disability Retirement multiple forms and to coordinate the necessary evidence, documentation, paperwork, and delineation of facts, circumstances and bridging the connection to the essential elements of one’s job — the totality of the picture, coordinated in a rational, understandable and coherent picture, such that the application as presented to a stranger at the Office of Personnel Management:  that is the art of putting together a Federal Disability Retirement packet

As I often tell clients and potential clients:  If you believe that filing for OPM Disability Retirement is merely a matter of filling out the forms, don’t hire a Federal Disability Attorney.  Anyone can fill out forms.  It goes well beyond that; it is the coordination of the details, facts, circumstances, the coalescing of medical opinions with descriptive interpretation, and conveying a word-picture which, in its totality, is true and fits the person’s actual human condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The Family Doctor and the Surgeon

I am often asked whether or not a medical report from the “specialist” will have a greater impact than a family doctor.  Implied in such a question, of course, is a perspective which tends to see the family doctor as somehow “less qualified”, sort of like comparing the technical deficiencies of a “country doctor” as opposed to a “real doctor” — one who works in an emergency room in a large metropolitan hospital.  Perspectives and prejudices have a way of defining judgments, and assumptions, presumptions and long-held beliefs, whether valid or not, often rule our lives. 

How can I answer such questions?  In the course of a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board, I have had family doctors testify who were unbeatable, and certainly overwhelming in his or her expertise and medical knowledge.  The years of experience in having to deal with thousands of patients, and confronting and treating medical conditions of every imaginable sort — and making decisions (including referring patients to “specialists” for concurring or confirming diagnoses and opinions) involving the “whole” patient’s medical condition and treatment — came through with such persuasive force and overwhelming confidence, that it was indeed the “family doctor” or the “country doctor” who ruled the day. 

Similarly, I have had the “specialist” testify in cases, who barely were able to coherently describe the connection between the medical condition and the essential elements of the job.  And, of course, sometimes the opposite is true — good surgeon, mediocre family doctor; mediocre specialist, great country doctor.  As in all things, in Federal Disability Retirement applications under FERS or CSRS, it is not so much that the credentials matter, as the character, experience, and “heart” of the doctor who treats the patient.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire