OPM Disability Benefits: The Eyes Which Betray the Laughter

Plato noted the significance of the eyes; as windows of the soul, they reveal the depth of emotion, character, empathy, interest, boredom, meanness, etc.; and just as true, the lack thereof.  Laughter provides the concordance of mirth to context; cacophony occurs when the harmony between the two somehow fails to connect.

The pinnacle of sadness is represented when one looks upon an individual, hears the laughter, and sees the revelatory sadness deep within the eyes of the soul.  The discordant contrast takes us aback; it is perhaps the height of self-contradiction, where the parallel universes which are never supposed to transect, suddenly violate the very content of definition, and betray the consciousness of self-doubt.

What has transpired?  What tragedy has befallen?  It brings to mind the poignant story by Chekhov, entitled “Grief” (or otherwise translated as “Misery”), where the death of the son is magnified by the haunting question, “With whom shall I tell my grief?”  As the world he continues to encounter is filled with passengers who laugh and carry on with life, the father must continue within the disharmony of his own tragedy.

Medical conditions tend to do that to people; it remains silent, but for the sharing beyond the perfunctory response to the passing, “Hello, how are you?”  We are expected to say merely, “Fine, thank you,” and move on.  Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers know about the emotional disjunctive between the eyes and the emitting laughter.  When the sound of mirth and the sight of pain clash, it is probably time to make an exit by filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

While often not the “best solution”, it allows for the Federal or Postal worker to leave one’s employment, secure a disability annuity, and seek a restoration of one’s health, in order to reinvigorate the soul behind the eyes of tragedy.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is a long and arduous journey through a bureaucratic maze.  There is the process itself; the need to substantively put together and formulate an effective and persuasive disability retirement packet; and then the long wait before the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Every Federal and Postal employee must make the decision of when and how; but as to the “why” of the foundation, it is when the eyes begin to betray the laughter, that affirmative steps need to be taken to begin to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Form SF 3112C and the Sufficiency of the Physician’s Statement

Confusing necessity and sufficiency is always a precarious matter. That which is necessary may not be sufficient for a given purpose, and failure in understanding such a fundamental distinction can be fatal to a Federal Disability Retirement claim.

SF 3112C requires that a physician complete and provide essential medical information in the pursuance of a Federal Disability Retirement application. The form itself — SF 3112C — is the vehicle by which the medical documentation is obtained. It is “necessary” in the sense that SF 3112C delineates a guideline of the type of information which is needed in order to become eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The form itself — SF 3112C — however, is to a great extent irrelevant (although, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has recently required that a signed SF 3112C be included in the final Federal Disability Retirement packet, despite SF 3112E clearly stating that an “equivalency” of the form would satisfy the lack thereof, as in the attachment of the medical documentation itself), and it is instead the medical documentation through which SF 3112C is obtained, which is what is important.

Regardless, while the OPM SF 3112C constitutes the vehicle, is necessary, but is ultimately irrelevant in and of itself, it is a necessary form to the extent that it mandates the delineation of what information is required for eligibility and entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Will following the guidelines in accordance with what SF 3112C states, result in a successful OPM Disability claim? That is the question of “sufficiency”, as opposed to “necessity”.

Over the years, case-law and statutory interpretation and expansion of Federal Disability Retirement laws have greatly altered the landscape of a Federal Disability Retirement claim. SF 3112C is the vehicle of necessity, although the form itself is an unnecessary one. The greater question is whether it is sufficient to meet the legal weight of preponderance of the evidence, and that question must ultimately be answered by questioning the efficacy of the form itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

End Things & Federal Government Disability Retirement

The end of summer comes too quickly; the final period of a sentence; the last paragraph of a novel enjoyed with pleasurable ease; the end of an activity once started without regard to the fruition of completion. Then, there is the “other” end of things, as in a positive goal to achieve, or the end result of hard work.  In either sense of the word, there is a moment of finality, when a recognition of cessation occurs, and one cannot go on any further, as in a road which has a dead end.

For Federal employees and Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition requires the Federal or Postal worker to file for a CSRS or FERS Disability Retirement claim because the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job and, further, where the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service is unable, or unwilling, to provide an accommodation for the medical condition, the sense that an inevitable end is forthcoming leaves one with a foreboding feeling of disquietude.

Whether to preserve one’s mental health, or to get control of the angst and anxiety one is overwhelmed with, the recognition that one must do something in order to get beyond an end-state of being, is often accomplished by the “doing” of pragmatic steps. Preparing and formulating to file for Federal OPM Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under the CSRS or FERS Retirement System, is a positive step in that direction.

For the Federal employee and the Postal worker who must file a Federal disability claim, the use of the word “end” comes to the fore in both senses of the term: It likely means the end of one’s career with the Federal government or the U.S. Postal Service, but concurrently, the filing for Federal Government Disability Retirement benefits is a positive goal to attain for a specific end.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Citing Case-Law

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to provide a guiding cover letter to the Office of Personnel Management — whether termed as a “Legal Memorandum”, a “Cover Page”, or some other designation — in order to introduce a “road map” to the OPM Representative who will be reviewing the case.  

While the OPM Representative will ultimately be able to “figure out” the documents to be reviewed (i.e., the Standard Forms are obviously familiar; the medical documentation should be self-evident, etc.), there is a distinction to be made between the documentation submitted, and the persuasive effect of the documentation.  There are times, of course, when the strength of a case is so irrefutable and unrebuttable that no guidance is needed; most cases, however, require some persuasive authority.  

The best road map will cite some relevant statutory authority or judicial cases of known precedence.  If one is to cite relevant legal authority, however, it is important to do so properly.  To mis-cite a case, its relevance, or its correct interpretive impact, can do more harm than good, especially if the case proceeds to the later stages of being argued before a Merit Systems Protection Board Administrative Judge.  

Knowing what one is speaking about is the basis for credibility; credibility in making a persuasive presentation of one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job is crucial to the effectiveness of one’s case.  Citing cases properly, forcefully, and with technical appropriateness is important in presenting a road map for OPM to follow — from the point of initial introduction, to the final conclusion of agreeing that the Federal or Postal employee is indeed eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Time to Make the Decision (Part 2)

The medical condition known as “Fibromyalgia” is analogous to the manner in which Federal and Postal employees approach the decision-making process in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.  Let me explain:  Fibromyalgia, as the Office of Personnel Management often likes to characterize, often manifests itself with chronic and diffuse pain which “waxes and wanes” — meaning, in simple terms, that there are good days and bad days; days when the pain is unbearable, excruciating and debilitating; and days when one can “manage” the extent of the pain and mental dysfunction and confusion. With that context, the Office of Personnel Management often tries to argue that it is not “so bad” as to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS. 

By analogy, people with all sorts of medical conditions — from physically debilitating neck and back pain; from Orthopaedic injuries, arthritis, chronic pain, visual impairment, etc.; to psychiatric disabilities of Major Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD — some days, one can seem to manage the disability; on other days, one cannot get through the day, let alone perform the essential elements of one’s job.  But deep down, one knows that one cannot continue forever on the same course.  To continue is to slowly wither away by a thousand cuts, one cut at a time, one cut per day.  And so, just as the Office of Personnel Management is plainly wrong (for Fibromyalgia is a chronic and debilitating medical condition which clearly qualifies for disability retirement), so the person who procrastinates in making the decision to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS is simply waiting for the inevitable.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: A New Beginning

After representing so many Federal and Postal employees over these many years, there are stories which continue to sadden me; as with all professionals, I attempt to bifurcate my life, and not get “personally” involved with my cases.  To blur the lines between providing sound and effective legal advice, and getting “involved” in the personal tragedies of my clients, would certainly undermine the professional effectiveness needed in providing for my clients.  To a great extent, I am successful. Every now and then, however, I am informed of a tragedy — and it touches me. Perhaps that is a good thing; for one can become insensitive, or “de-sensitized” in a way that can be detrimental.

I try and explain to many people that getting Federal Disability Retirement benefits should never be a judgment upon one’s career — let alone one’s life. A career can span a lifetime, or it can extend for a couple of years (i.e., at least the 18 months of Federal Service that is needed to even qualify under FERS). However long, to come to a point in one’s career where it becomes necessary to acknowledge to one’s self that certain medical conditions are directly impacting one’s ability to perform the essential elements of the job — such an admission should never be interpreted to mean that such a circumstance has somehow devalued the worth of a person.  Human beings are complex entities, bundled up by personality, uniqueness, family, job, hobbies, thoughts — a compendium of a history of one’s life.  Note that I merely inserted the concept of “job” within a sequence of many facets.  And, indeed, one’s job is important — it takes us away from the many other bundles of our lives, and forces us to expend 8, 10, 12 or more hours per day, Monday thru Friday, and some weekends, too.  But that which takes up a large quantity of our time does not necessarily or logically result in the definitional essence of a human being; the fact that we spend a great deal of time in the bathroom does not mean that such an activity defines our “essence”.  “Worth” of a human being attaches to each of us, and is inseparable from each human being.  One’s job and career constitute only a small part of us.  Let’s keep that in mind, and in its proper perspective.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire