OPM Disability Retirement Attorney: Stress in the Federal Workplace

Stress is a natural and inherent part of everyday and ordinary life.

For the Federal and Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, one needs to always consider its form, content, extent and significance of inclusion in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

As a primary diagnosis, such an inclusion can be considered as merely “situational“, precisely because stress is a factor seen in workplace contexts across the board. As a secondary manifestation of another primary diagnoses, the danger of having the condition relegated to being a situational condition immediately disappears.

Whether the conceptual construct is used as a noun or as a working verb may appear to be merely a linguistically elastic play — a Wittgensteinian language game of sorts — but it is precisely what must be engaged in for a successful preparation and formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

For, in the end, a Federal Disability Retirement application is a paper presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, encompassing a wide spectrum of descriptions, arguments and factual/legal analysis; and such is the nature of a language game, where the conversion of nouns into working verbs may be the difference between success or failure in a Federal OPM Disability Retirement claim.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Substantive Reorganization

It used to be that social conventions, customs, values and mores were deemed inviolable and unchangeable; then, when Western Philosophy realized that complex problems and conundrums could be solved by merely tinkering with language, and that the elasticity of linguistic anachronisms were far more susceptible to alterations than attempting to modify human behavior, all such problems disappeared, and the utopian universe of studying one’s own navel was established.

Whether such creation of a virtual reality and parallel universe will result in the expected quietude and peace of the human condition; and whether linguistic latitude satisfies the bubbling undercurrent of human query, only time and eternity will reveal.

Lawyers probably had a lot to do with it.  Lawyers, on the whole, believe fervently that language is the greatest and most powerful of tools.  Look at the legislative branch of local, state and Federal governments; who populates them?  Why lawyers? Because by going to the heart of the entire process, and controlling and advocating for the statutory language at its inception, one can assert and dominate with the greatest of powers:  the power of language in the law.  But what of reality?  The reordering and reorganization of one’s life cannot always be accomplished by the mere changing of wording, or by redefining what one believes in.

Sometimes, there has to be a substantive reordering of one’s life.  One cannot redefine what illness or medical disability one must face, and expect that a material change will occur.

For Federal and Postal employees who must face a medical condition, such that the medical condition has impacted one’s vocation and livelihood, the duality of language and reality must be faced:  The Federal and Postal Worker must attend to the substantive problems of the medical condition, while at the same time file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, and engage in the administrative process of linguistically persuading the U.S. Office of Personnel Management of the substantive reality of the impact of one’s medical condition upon the ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position.

But be not confused between the duality of efforts; it is the substantive reorganization of one’s life which is by far the more important; the reordering of language to fit the reality of the human condition is mere child’s play compared to the reality of suffering one must go through in attending to the real-life problems of a medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: The Dependence of Meaning

Wittgenstein believe that it was not possible to have a private language held by an individual alone; for, as language by definition is a means to communicate, any language which is kept in private from everyone else would be a meaningless tool.

Private, insular worlds are dependent upon their functioning upon the receipt by third parties to impart meaning and interaction; otherwise, left within the void and chasm of pure privacy, they remain nothing more than the slow drip of a distant echo of spring water deep within the hollows of an undiscovered cave.  For those of the rest of us who live and interact within a world of words, writings, and regulatory compendium of laws and statutes, the ability to convey meaning in a meaningful way is paramount for the successful progression of our every day lives.

For the Civilian Federal or Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of his or her Federal or Postal duties, conveying what one means becomes a critical exercise:  putting together an effective Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, in a manner which persuades and entitles, is the penultimate goal which must be accomplished.

How one gets from point A to point B; what material and evidence to compile and include; what legal arguments to bring up and point out; these are all elements which must be considered. Concurrently, the privacy of one’s medical conditions must be protected to the fullest; but that is where the compromise must be attained, between the private and insular world of necessity, and the public world of reality which must be encountered and engaged.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Paper Presentation and the Nuance of Language

Whether through illiteracy or the natural evolution of our language, it is becoming more difficult to convey meaning through the vehicle of language. Text messaging; grammatical irrelevance; lack of widespread rigor in linguistic disciplines; and the legal profession pushing to bend the outer limits of what language allows for — these are all contributing factors to the changing face of the English language.

Paper presentations present a peculiar problem, however, in that the words conveyed can be reviewed and re-reviewed multiple times by the reader.

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 strive for precision, clarity, and focus upon the centrality of the issue, and not to deviate too far from the essence of one’s narrative form.  Nuance may be effective in love letters; it is rarely of value in formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application.  The causal connection between one’s medical conditions and the essential elements of one’s duties must be firmly and clearly established.

There is no singular “technique” in putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application, other than to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that which is necessary in meeting the applicable legal criteria.  It is a genre in and of itself, requiring technical competence and expertise.  Not the time for a “hit or miss” approach; a paper presentation, with inherent problems of potential scrutiny, must be conveyed with conceptual constructs of clarity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Problem of Coordination

The world of language is a peculiar universe of artifice; while comparisons to other primates may provide indicators for the origin and foundational beginnings for the evolution of language in order to better understand where we came from and how we came to be where we presently are — it is the complexity of the present which confounds and amazes.

The conceptual constructs of language lends itself to misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and misuse; as precision is no longer a standard of usage, so malleability of language now lends itself to clever tricks in order to avoid commitments, breach contracts, and take advantage of unsophisticated opponents.  Thus, the classic statement:  “It all depends upon what the meaning of ‘is’ is”.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application before the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the compilation and coalescence of differing language games (to borrow a Wittgensteinian phrase) must be presented:  Language of the lay person (the Federal or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits); language of the medical profession (doctors’ reports, technical diagnostic test results, office notes, etc. must be submitted); and legal jargon (legal citations and arguments should also be garnered for support).

Once gathered, the various components of the tripartite language games must somehow be made to complement each other.  This is indeed a difficult task, as each language game constitutes a self-contained artifice of complex meanings.  But coordination of the three spheres of linguistic artifice is key to a successful outcome.  To do this, one must take on the role of being a technician, a conjurer, and a pseudo-artist all at once — in other words, to juggle the three balls such that one may understand that what “is” is indeed that which is and is not.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Experience versus Articulation of the Condition

One of the first rules announced in any elementary creative writing course is for the budding writer to “show” the reader through descriptive sentences, as opposed to “telling” the audience what has happened.  The distinction itself is often difficult to describe; it is like the dividing line between light and darkness — we know it is there, but cannot precisely pinpoint the demarcation line.

Similarly, in law, there is a difference between the “facts of the case” and “proving the case“, and indeed, the difference can encounter major difficulties in overcoming the obstacles presented by the distinction (i.e., it is not the proverbial “difference without a distinction”).  Thus, even though one may have all of the facts in favor of one’s case, unless one can prove them (and overcome legal objections, technical obstacles for inclusion and introduction of such evidence, etc.), such an advantageous position may in the end be meaningless unless the articulation of the facts to the jury can be effectuated.

Analogously, in a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the fact that one may experience a debilitating medical condition is merely the foundational basis of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.  Beyond the existence of a medical condition, a series of connecting steps must be established:  treatment of the medical condition; articulation of the medical condition by a treating doctor; a nexus between the medical condition and one’s positional duties with the Federal government or the U.S. Postal Service; information conveyed as to the impact between one’s duties and the medical condition, etc.

In other words, while the experiential value of the medical condition forms the foundational basis of a Federal Disability Retirement application, the articulation of that medical condition in a systematically persuasive vehicle of communication is paramount in “proving” one’s case.  Certainly, experience is the beginning point; but beyond that, one must set about to establish the necessary proof in articulating an experience.

In flying on an airplane, one would certainly rather have an experienced pilot than a brash young pilot who has never flown but who can talk a lot; but in a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is the one who has both — the “experience” of a medical condition, as well as the ability to articulate the condition — which will prove one’s case; and in so doing, hopefully the trip forward will result in minimal engine troubles, and fewer bumps in the administrative ride of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Language Used

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a “paper presentation” which must be “proven”.  It is thus not technically an “entitlement”, but rather an accessible benefit which must meet certain legal guidelines as set forth by Statute, subsequent Regulations propounded by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and Case-laws and Court opinions as rendered over a long course of time by various courts and administrative agencies, such as the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

When one steps back and observes the entirety of the process, it is — from inception of the administrative procedure to its conclusion in receipt of payment of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity — a massive compendium and compilation of “language”.  Throughout the process, little need be spoken of or to; rather, the written word — that malleable tool of communication — is placed from mind-to-ink-upon-paper, to be presented to another receptive mind, in order to evaluate, analyze and ultimately conclude with a decision, whether as an initial approval or a denial.  If a denial, then the process continues without interruption as heretofore described.

As such, because Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is comprised by the linear, sequential and persuasive use of language, it is important to utilize the tool effectively, and to apply all of the forces of language which will make for an effective presentation:  brevity, but with emotive force; succinct, but with logical persuasiveness; comprehensible, but with descriptive expansiveness. Language is the tool to be used; as the preferred and necessary tool, it must be applied with careful choosing, in order to be effective in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Writing an Effective Federal Disability Retirement Application

According to Ludwig Wittgenstein, the identification of context-appropriate language games is instructive in this linguistic-focused society.  With the explosion of information through the internet, via twitter, Facebook, texting and email, the changing and malleable nature of language is quickly evolving into a populace of blurred lines, where the virtual world and the substantive, Aristotelian world no longer possess clear bifurcations.  However language changes; whatever the form of communication; the need to convey clarity of thought will still and always exist.

It is one thing to experience life; it is another to tell about it.  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 able to “tell about it”.

Yes, the primary satisfaction of the legal criteria necessarily requires the substantive experience of the medical condition; but there is a conceptual distinction to be made between “living it”, “telling it”, and “proving it.”  It is presumed that the Federal or Postal employee who is preparing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits already satisfies the first of the three; it is the second, and especially the third, which presents a problem.

Don’t think that just because you “should qualify” because of the nature, extent and severity of one’s medical condition, that such experiential phenomena justifies the proving of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  Ask OPM about it; if you can even get a response back.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: A Semantic Battle?

One may wonder, in any process of the stage of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, as to whether an approval is based merely on a “semantic” battle with the Office of Personnel Management.  

Inasmuch as a submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application to the Office of Personnel Management is a “paper submission” (yes, I know, we are quickly moving towards an age of paperless technology, but you know what is meant by the term), and no actual presentation or contact will be made with the personnel at OPM (unless it goes to a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board); as such, the query is sometimes posed as to whether it is merely a semantic battle.  

In the days of Plato and Aristotle, “lawyers” were called “sophists” or “rhetoriticians” — thus, the modern terms of “sophisticated” or “sophistry”, and “rhetoric” or “rhetorical”.  Either or both of the terms imply a negative connotation, that through semantic sleight of hand, one can be fooled into being persuaded to adopt a certain viewpoint or opinion.  

While it may be true to a certain and limited extent that obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS may involve some semantic quibbling, the underlying substantive basis in granting or denying a Federal Disability Retirement application, either under FERS or CSRS, continues to remain in “the law” — based upon statutory and regulatory criteria, upon legal opinions from cases decided by the Merit Systems Protection Board and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  

While “how X is said” may have some persuasive effect, it is ultimately still “what is said” that retains the most powerful impact.  Substance over appearance still wins the day — the identical philosophical concerns of Plato and Aristotle continues to remain true today.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Flexibility of Language

Language is inherently a flexible tool; it is meant to communicate, and while precision in communication is the defining purpose in the use of the tool, often the essence of language must nevertheless be flexible enough to embrace other, correlative concepts. To limit the tool of language often will lead to undermining the very purpose of the use of such language.  

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the use of language in preparing, formulating and describing the interaction between the medical conditions and how it impacts one’s job duties, must allow for some level of flexibility.  For example, if certain chronic symptomatologies result in a mis-diagnosis of a medical condition, should a later (revised) diagnosis be allowed to be argued to the Office of Personnel Management after it has been filed?  

The answer to the question is contained in how the Applicant’s Statement of Disability on Standard Form 3112A is formulated.  If one merely lists the diagnosed medical conditions without describing the symptoms, then the language used has restricted the flexibility of post-filing inclusion.  On the other hand, if one combines the various medical diagnoses, but also includes a descriptive discussion of the symptoms, then the answer is likely, “yes”.  The use of language should be one of precision; how one utilizes the tools of language, however, should remain flexible.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire