USPS and Federal Civil Service Disability Retirement: Human Beings and Railroad Tracks

The metaphor of trains and railroad tracks are numerous and infinite in their applicability and relevance:  train wrecks; inability to stop; actions which proceed with a directional course towards a cliff; predetermined path of existence; and many others, some which invite ontological and teleological issues concerning free will and the ability to have an omniscient vantage point.

For Federal and Postal employees who are suffering from a medical condition such that the medical condition(s) impacts one’s ability/inability to perform all of the essential functions of one’s job, the analogy to a train ride is quite accurate.  For, the course of one’s career is often one which is set at the very beginning — an upward trajectory with expected grade-promotions and regular step increases; a sense of working for an agency with a mission, a purpose, and (perhaps most importantly) a steady paycheck.  But a pre-set course has a disadvantage:  a track from which one cannot stray; yet, if continuing onward, a certainty for a collision, headlong into subpar performance evaluations, a PIP, disciplinary actions, and potential terminations.

A train wreck waiting to happen.

About the go over that proverbial cliff.  Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit available for all Federal and Postal workers, whether under FERS or CSRS, if you meet the minimum eligibility requirements.  Fortunately, humans are not trains; free will and the ability to change course in life is an innate potentiality of the human soul.  But free will, in order to have any effect, must be acted upon.  Mere thought is not the same as action; it is, ultimately, human action which leads to change.  Just some thoughts to ponder.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Continuing Care

A medical condition never has a simple solution; depending upon the nature, extent and severity of the condition, it must be “managed” and attended to throughout one’s life.  Similarly, while “filing” for one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit is an “event” which may constitute a series of actions which results in the “approval” of a Federal benefit, the benefit itself must be “managed” and cared for throughout a process of continuing retentive procedures.

One cannot assume that once the benefit of OPM/Federal Disability Retirement is obtained — given the hard fight which one must engage in — that the process is thereby over.  That is the reason why the foundational building-blocks which form the underlying administrative process — of the decision of which initial medical conditions to include in one’s Statement of Disability; which medical evidentiary documentation to include; how one should linguistically characterize the impact of the medical condition upon one’s job, tasks, positional duties, etc. — is of great importance in establishing the pattern of management for the future.

For, as other issues, both economic and medical, may potentially intrude upon one’s Federal Disability Retirement annuity (i.e., whether one has earned income above or below the 80% rule; whether one has been restored medically such that OPM could argue for termination of one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit, etc.), it is important to maintain a stance of managing one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefit throughout one’s life, until one reaches the bifurcation point at age 62 where it becomes “converted” to regular retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Price One Pays

One hears the familiar refrain:  trying to “game” the system; taking handouts; being on the government’s dole; and multiple similar allegations and assumptions.  Perhaps there are some who receive benefits which may be considered welfare-type compensation; and, maybe there are those who attempt to obtain something for nothing — or very little.  But one must be firm in making the conceptual distinction between those “others” and Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

First, the Federal and Postal employee works — and works hard and long hours.  Second, Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit which is part of the total compensation package for the Federal or Postal employee.  Third, Federal Disability Retirement pays a pittance in comparison with the compensatory standard of living which the Federal or Postal employee has been used to, and no sane person would take a voluntary reduction of one’s livelihood merely to get on the “dole”.  Fourth, many — if not most — of those who receive Federal Disability Retirement benefits pay back into the system, by getting a part-time or full-time job in another vocation, thereby paying taxes, FICA, etc.  And Fifth, it is the Federal Disability Retirement annuitant who is the one who pays the price — by having endured the repetitive work to such an extent that he or she has become debilitated; or withstood the abusive mental and physical requirements of one’s position which ultimately necessitated the drastic reduction in pay and forced to take a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.

It is the one who must pay the price — the Federal and Postal employee — who should be complaining; those who stand on the sidelines merely utter words.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Those Intersecting “Other” Determinations

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 useful to understand the impact — if any — provided by the approval of any of the “other” compensation programs available to all Federal and Postal employees.

Thus, inasmuch as a Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS must also file, sometime during the administrative and bureaucratic process, for SSDI benefits, in the off-chance that SSDI approves the application before OPM makes a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application (which, because of OPM’s extended timeframe for making decisions, is less rare these days than one may think), can it have any impact in the Federal Disability Retirement process?  And what about OWCP/FECA?  Does the fact that a Second-Opinion doctor, or what is sometimes euphemistically referred to as a “Referee doctor”, rendering a medical opinion (and therefore a narrative report) stating that the injured Federal or Postal worker is “permanently” disabled, or that he or she is unable to go back to one’s job, relevant to a Federal Disability Retirement application?  How about a VA Disability Rating?  Does the determination provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs have any relevance to the Federal Disability Retirement application?

These are all potential “tools” to be used in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and the Federal or Postal employee should be aware of the case-laws which provide for persuasive impact — not determinative — to the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Pushing the Reset Button

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is like the proverbial phrase of pushing the “reset” button.  While the phrase is overused and in many ways has lost its useful meaning, the conceptual underpinning implies that it allows for a fresh start.

The decision itself is often the largest hurdle to overcome; once made, it allows for a goal-oriented outlook on a different course of action, and often compels the Federal or Postal worker to manage one’s “life-affairs” with greater determination and incentive, perhaps because one is provided with another proverbial gift:  the “light at the end of the tunnel”.  For, the darkness which pervades is often characterized by the morass of daily pain, the chronicity of the pain, the endless and incessant meaninglessness — of the vicious cycle of coming to work only to survive; then to go home only to recuperate in order to turn right around and go into work for another day of survival; and, often, to an agency which eyes the Federal or Postal worker with suspicion and with little or no loyalty, compassion or sympathy.

Federal Disability Retirement is meant as a mechanism for recuperation from one’s medical condition — a medical condition which prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s particular kind of job, but which will allow for future work in another vocation.  It is the ultimate “reset button” — to allow for the beginning towards a different tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Tidbits

The term itself is an interesting one; for, unlike its corollary, it refers to the “choice” or “pleasing” morsel of food, as opposed to “leftovers” or “crumbs”, which imply food which has either been rejected or left behind after the table sitter has made the prime decision.  “Tidbits” in its secondary meaning, of course, implies information; the conceptual applicability has transferred from one within the exclusive context of foods, to include information, facts, statements, etc.

Thus, a tidbit:  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to understand and recognize that, while most mistakes in the preparation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application are “correctable” (what an ugly word — both in appearance and in phonetic structure), what one cannot do is to put “blinders” on the eyes of OPM or before an Administrative Judge, once certain information has been submitted to OPM.

Thus, if an individual wants to attempt the First Stage of the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement on his or her own, without the assistance of an OPM Disability Attorney, thinking that it is an “easy” case, that is all well and good, but while the tools of representation for an attorney include use of the malleability of language, such that “linguistic gymnastics” will be engaged in as the primary sport of the attorney; nevertheless, elasticity of language does have its limits.

Facts, once exposed, can be explained and amended, but the essence of the fact or statement remains in the hands of OPM.  This constitutes and comprises the tidbit of the day; a choice and pleasing morsel?  Perhaps not in consequential substance, but hopefully in terms of informational relevance.  Ah, but to have been offered instead a morsel of apple pie!

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Efficiency and Effectiveness

What does it mean to be “efficient”?  Is it distinguishable from being “effective”, or are the two inseparable?  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 important to be effective in submitting a paper presentation to the Office of Personnel Management.

Efficiency, while helpful, is not necessarily a precondition in order to be effective.  In an inverse manner, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is very effective in its procedural approach — the laws support such effectiveness, in that their decisions, timeframes and arguments are effective in their very finality (leaving aside the issue of appeal rights, of course).  But is OPM efficient?  Most would argue that because of the recent inefficiencies reflected by their case-load backlog, that one could hardly describe OPM as being very “efficient”.

Thus, “effectiveness” and “efficiency” are two distinct concepts which are clearly separable.  If one were to choose which of the two characteristics one should embrace in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it would clearly be the former (effectiveness), as opposed to the latter (efficiency).  For, while time will fade, the final decision of whether one gets an approval or a denial in a Federal Disability Retirement case will not.

Being effective in fighting a case is the more important of the two characteristics, and sometimes, when one needs to be effective, one is not terribly efficient in the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: A Word about Approvals

It is the general policy of the Office of Personnel Management to withhold releasing of information concerning a pending Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, via telephone.  

This is a good policy, in that a potential conflict and mistake can occur between an action taken on a case (i.e., an approval or a denial) and what is inputted into the computer system; or, as has been the case in the past, where the secretary or receptionist divulges the decision over the telephone — and is mistaken.  

Generally, one must wait for the Office of Personnel Management to send the hard copy of the decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Receipt of the actually letter of approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management, constitutes the official notification of the decision on a pending Federal Disability Retirement application.  If the Federal or Postal employee’s representative or attorney receives the decision of approval or denial from the Office of Personnel Management, that also constitutes official notification.  

The problem of telephone notification of an approval is that, if what is told over the telephone differs from the actual notification and decision rendered by the Claims Representative who is handling the case, then obviously that would be an upsetting matter to the Federal or Postal employee who is anxiously awaiting the decision.  

For the Federal or Postal employee who has waited many, many months for a decision on a pending Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management, waiting a few more days in order to receive the actual approval letter (or a denial letter, whichever the case may be) is well worth the wait.  

It is better to wait a few more days to get the decision in person.  As the old adage goes, “A bird in hand is worth two in the bushes”…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Words

Words are peculiar entities; a mode of communication in a world of multiple methods of choosing which vehicle of conveying a concept, a descriptive word picture, an anticipated action; a historical event; a desire, a need, a want; and thus, the choice of which modality of communication to use, based upon effectiveness, utility, and context, is important.

The macro-choice of mode of communication, once chosen, then leads to the micro-choice of which words will be plucked from the universe of words. Whether from a Wittgensteinian perspective where language games merely parallel the “real world” out there, or the classical approach of words as representing such a world, the utility and effectiveness of words is an important determination in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Ultimately, for purposes of a Federal Disability Retirement application, the Federal or Postal employee is seeking the usage of the most effective word-choices.

In preparing and formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A), it is important to extrapolate from the total universe of words, those which will convey the meaning, delineate the concept, and evoke the proper emotive responses, as reflected accurately in comparison and contrasted with the words utilized by the doctors, the Supervisor, the Agency, etc.

Word choice is important.  Preparing and formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application is not just a matter of gathering the medical documentation and filing it. If that were the case, anyone and everyone could compile the data and submit it. Rather, it is the efficacy of words chosen which determine the success or failure of the entire endeavor; for, as words evoke a response, the person to whom a case is assigned at the Office of Personnel Management must read, analyze, evaluate, and ultimately decide based upon the words chosen.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire