Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Simplification of a Complex Process

It is the simple things in life which provide the greatest amount of pleasure; but simplicity often conceals the underlying complexity inherent in that which merely appears so.  

The child who first observes the vivid pictures on a computer screen has little to no understanding of the complex hardware and software network interfacing which, in the long history of computer design and evolving creation of computers, resulted in the seemingly simple result, produced by a push of a button.  Thus, the complexity behind the microchip and the human endeavor which designed, created and manufactured the product is what makes for the simplicity of the complex.  

As with all other things simple and complex, Federal Disability Retirement must be approached with caution. The questions which are required to be answered on Standard Forms (SF 3107 series for FERS applicants; SF 2801 series for CSRS applicants; SF 3112 series for both FERS and CSRS applicants) may appear quite simple in form; the content of what must be provided will necessarily require a complex interaction of thought, foresight, knowledge of the law, and carefully chosen words to provide information, argument and documented evidence which proves, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Federal or Postal worker is entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  

To compile and produce a product which appears “simple”, from the myriad of administrative complexities, is the key to a successful outcome in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Simplicity betrays complexity; that which appears so, may not reveal the underlying and compound complexities which must be cautiously approached.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Confronting the Change

The transition from being a Federal or Postal employee to one of a disability retirement annuitant will inevitably spawn questions — not only concerning the process itself, but the impact, response, reaction and collateral events with which an Agency will engage the Federal or Postal employee.

The process itself can never be entered into, or participated in, within a vacuum.  Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a complex decision, and one which involves so many facets — impact upon one’s economic circumstances; the transition to a different career or vocation; the severing of ties to coworkers and supervisors; a change in the way one lives one’s life, etc.

Thus, it is not merely a matter of filing paperwork; it is not just a recognition that one has a medical condition such that you cannot any longer perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, although that is also a large part of it.  Rather, it involves the emotion, mental, and physical toil and turmoil of “change”.  And, indeed, change itself is a stress; change of any sort means an end of something, and a beginning of something else.

It is often that “something else” — the unknown of the future, which represents and greatest fear and challenge.  But the question one is left with is often:  What choices and alternatives do I have?  Once that question is asked, the road through Federal Disability Retirement often takes an easier path.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Certainties and Presumptions

Life presents conundrums of certainties and presumptions; the former in order to retain sanity; the latter in order to appear sane.  A certain event is one which is expected to occur because of a natural law, a habitual repetition of reliance, or because the daily routine has engrained it upon our consciousness.  A presumption is a wish for certainty which may not even be rationally-based, but one in which we conclude will likely occur because of past events, contextual probabilities, and a sense that the present should reflect the historicity of the past.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is best to establish the strict bifurcation between certainties which are clearly so, and avoid presumptions.

It is certain that Federal Disability Retirement is a process which will likely require multiple stages to obtain; it is certain that the Office of Personnel Management will scrutinize each Federal and Postal employee’s application and find it deficient or inadequate; it is certain that one’s agency will likely be two-faced and feign loyalty and support but act in ways which defy such declarative embracing of the Federal or Postal employee.  Conversely, one should never presume that one’s case is a “slam-dunk”; nor that OPM will make a decision sooner than later; nor that OPM will provide a rationally-based reasoning for denying a case.

Hume and Berkeley aside, we live in a world where cause-and-effect are relied upon, and where the world does not merely depend upon our perceiving it; but certainties should always be tempered with an understanding that Federal Disability Retirement is an administrative process which must be fought for, then protected, and presuming an easy path with any Federal agency is to defy the logic which both Hume and Berkeley took to the extreme.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Jump from Theory to Application

Language is an anomaly; as an intermediate tool, it can spur action; as a direct means of causation, it can have an immediate impact (as in argumentation and persuasive rhetoric), or merely appear to do so.  We all know of people who incessantly talk; of things planned; of goals dreamed of; and when one sees such grandiose narratives in a child, it reflects admiration because of the motivating factor and the positive effects of language-to-world connection for the future.  But when an adult speaks without the correlative productivity of real-world application, one begins to wonder.

The beauty of language can be in the very spoken word; yet, language without application can merely result in beauty to be admired, but subject to withering over time, and a deterioration which ultimately concludes in waste.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is the danger of procrastination, of allowing for the “talking” about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, to dominate the actual preparation and practical steps to take. Because medical conditions are subjective in its penultimate sense — i.e., while it is “real”, it is possessed by the subject to whom it impacts — the very act of “talking about it” can create a false impression that something is being done in the very act of talking.

In the modern age, where updating one’s Facebook is considered a substantive accomplishment in life, one can deceive one’s self by talking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM.  But there is a difference and a distinction between “talking about X” and “doing X”.  And when the collision between language and the real world come into contact, through (for example) agency termination proceedings, refusal to allow for any further LWOP, or other agency actions, then the conceptual distinction between theory and applicability becomes pronounced, and sometime irreversibly so.

There is a time for thought, reflection and words; there is also a time for action; and the chasm between the two should never be confused.  When the time comes to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM, thoughtfulness needs to convert to actionable steps of pragmatism.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Chekhov’s Short Story, “Old Age”

Anton Chekhov is perhaps the singular master of the genre known as the “short story”, and it is owing to his background as a physician that he possessed the insight and sensitivity to be able to capture the plight of the human condition, with all of its suffering, loss of hope, and emotional turmoil, through cruelty, disregard, unforeseen circumstances, and unintended pathways to disaster.

In his short story, “Old Age,” there is the point where one of the two old men shook off a moment of feeling, setting apart and brushing aside a poignant and appropriate time when the shedding of tears would have allowed for the humanity of the old man to show, to reveal itself, and to expiate himself of the pain of the past.  Instead, because of pride, or perhaps shame, because he stood before the other old man, he hid the emotion and went about his business.  Later, when he comes back to the same spot, the old man tries to recapture the moment, to replicate and reconstruct that lost emotion.  It could not be done.  It is a lesson for all, that there is an appropriate time, place, and moment for everything.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is the “appropriate time” to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Each Federal or Postal employee knows that time.

Indeed, each “feels” the time, but will often just shake off that nagging sense.  One always hears of the hope for a miracle — “perhaps I will get better”; “perhaps it will be better tomorrow”; perhaps…   But when the time comes, to procrastinate is merely to compound the problems of the day, only to revisit the same issue later, but encountering an exponentially magnified issue:  time is running out; that moment of doing it with optimal circumstances has passed; and now we must deal with the greater problems of the present.

Chekhov is relevant because, while human beings — whether in Russia or here, whether years past or today — change in names and appearances, the essence of humanity remains constant.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Rationality Still Exists

One may well disagrees with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on its decision to deny a Federal Disability Retirement application, and yet find a rational basis for its denial.  Indeed, the fact that OPM may offer some rationality to its denial, does not mean that they are correct in their decision.  Often, there is a misunderstanding as to what “rational” behavior consists of.

On a recent Sunday morning talk show, a couple of political pundits were proposing the idea that certain hard-line regimes were not acting “rationally”.  The problem with such an analysis is that one assumes that if an individual or a country fails to act within certain universally-accepted normative behavior, that such actions constitute “irrational” conduct.  That is simply not true.

First of all, rationality — which finds its foundation in logic, whether propositional or syllogistic — depends upon the major and minor premises advanced.  Thus, if the major premise entails a person or country that cares for the welfare of his neighbor or its citizenry, then the logical conclusion may well be one which encapsulates rationality — of acting to protect its people, to safeguard human rights, etc.  On the other hand, if the major premise begins with the primary assertion of retaining authority and absolute power, then the conclusion would involve shooting or massacring its countrymen.  The latter logical trail is no less “rational” than the former. Such a mistake in defining and understanding the concept of “rationality” is often found in all areas of life.

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, the fact that there has been evidence of “irrational” behavior on the part of those parties involved in the administrative process, should not result in a conclusion that the process is “arbitrary” or dependent upon some non-legal criteria.

Ultimately, all human endeavors embrace some semblance of rationality.  While one may disagree with the analytical thought-processes of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which often strays far beyond what the law requires and allows for, nevertheless, one can recognize the rational analytical procedures used in every denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS — albeit, one in which radical jumps from premise-to-conclusion with gaping chasms of generous implications may have to be provided, in order to be able to say that such argumentation incorporated a rational basis of explanatory analysis.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Concerns of Confidentiality

There is often an expressed concern regarding how confidential the medical records submitted through one’s Agency are kept.  It is a valid concern, but one which must be weighed and considered in light of the ultimate goal:  to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS.

There are multiple instances of confidentiality breaches — both at the agency level and at OPM.  OPM has sent out letters in the past to the wrong individual, and in the letters they discuss details of medical conditions, contents of medical reports, etc.  Such mistakes, while (fortunately) rare, do occur at times.

At the Agency level, of course, the concern is of greater import.  If a Federal or Postal employee is still on the rolls of the Agency and has not been separated from Federal Service for more than thirty one (31) days, then a Federal Disability Retirement packet, with all of the attached medical reports, must be submitted through that Agency.  Disclosure of such medical reports and records are to be kept to an “as needed” basis — for the limited purpose of seeing whether the Agency can accommodate a medical condition, for instance.

Federal and Postal employees who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits often express the concern that unauthorized individuals may be able to view the confidential medical reports, and sometimes use them for alternative, unauthorized purposes.  One such concern, of course, is if there is a pending collateral case ongoing — such as an EEOC case or some similar filing, where the evidence gleaned from the medical records can be used against the Federal or Postal employee in another forum.

Ultimately, the Federal or Postal employee must weigh the pros and cons, and do the best to ensure confidentiality, and view any concerns of confidential breaches as merely an intermediate step of necessity to attain the ultimate and more important goal, of obtaining an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire