Connective Tissues in Federal Disability Claims

In biology, they are often discussed in contrast to epithelial tissues, which are closely packed cells for dense, often protective purposes.  As the attribution implies, the primary purpose of such tissues is to connect other tissues or organs, for the coordinated and compound workings of the entirety of the organic system.

It is that very connection which allows for the coordination of the whole, and while each individual organ or aggregate of cells may be vital to the life of the entity, without the connective tissues, such individual significance would never reach a level of integral compound complexity of a working singularity.  Individual significance, without the connective support, would result in independent value; and it is the dependency of individual values which in their “togetherness” work to constitute an integrated system.

We can learn much from biology.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division (U.S. Office of Personnel Management), whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, it is important to always recognize the connective tissues which must be carefully recognized and evaluated for their integrated purposes.  For, in the end, that is what the reviewing agency of all Federal Disability Retirement applications — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, or OPM — does. OPM reviews and evaluates all Federal Disability Retirement applications with a particular view towards analyzing the connective tissues, for integration, consistency and lack of contradiction.

While each “organ” of a CSRS or FERS Disability Retirement application may be vital to the entirety of the administrative process, it is precisely the connective tissues which, if diseased, will determine the viability of the working whole.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Legal Standards

Recent decisions issued by the Full Board of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board — specifically, Henderson v. OPM, decided on January 31, 2012, reestablishes the two general standards of applicable evidentiary approaches in proving a Federal Disability Retirement case, whether under FERS or CSRS.  Whether or not the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will “comply” with the applicable standards as set forth by the MSPB is another question.

Often, the “trickle-down” effect of a legal opinion can take years to accomplish — and by that time, further refinements by the courts and by the MSPB may have made such legal opinions moot, irrelevant or otherwise restrictive in its practical application, anyway.  For the time being, however, the two legal approaches can be generally stated thus:  One must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence in all Federal Disability Retirement cases, either (A)  That certain specific medical conditions prevent one from performing certain specific essential elements of one’s job (somewhat like a 1 – 1 correspondence, or more generally, a medical opinion showing that medical condition X prevents job duties Y because of Z) or (B) as stated previously in Bruner and multiple other cases, there is an “inconsistency” between one’s medical condition (or multiplicity of medical conditions) and the type of positional duties one must engage in to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

The former criteria to satisfy may be deemed “particularized”; the latter may be seen as a more “generalized” approach.  While there is certainly a conceptual distinction between the two, in pragmatic terms, such a distinction may be without too much difference, if only because doctors will often go back and forth between the two approaches, anyway, in writing a medical narrative report.

The conceptual distinction is not as apparent as one between “explicit” and “implicit”, but certainly the former approach encapsulates a greater specificity of detailing a connection between X and Y, whereas the latter requires the reader or reviewer (i.e., OPM or the Administrative Judge) to think through and analyze the entirety of the issue.  But that life would not be so complicated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: OPM and the Law

The Office of Personnel Management is the agency which determines all applications for Federal Disability Retirement, whether under FERS or CSRS (or CSRS-Offset).  In making such a determination, a standard of “objectivity” is expected by each and every Federal and Postal employee, in making such a determination.  

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) applies a set of criteria as determined by statute and further expanded upon by the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.  The entirety of “the Law” which governs and guides the eligibility and entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits is thus based upon a patchwork of legal holdings, statutory language, and cases and legal opinions which have “evolved” over the years.  From this patchwork of laws, one expects a “representative” from OPM to apply it fairly, objectively, and without any arbitrariness or capricious intent.  Yet, since the individuals applying “the Law” at OPM — at least at the first and second “Stages” of the process — are not themselves lawyers, how realistic is this?  

Ultimately, legal arguments in persuading OPM to approve a case are best made when they are concurrently explained — explained in their logic, their force of argumentation, and in their applicability to a given issue.  Simply declaring that “the Law” applies will not do; one must sensitively guide OPM to understand the very laws which govern their behavior.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire