Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Events

Society often proceeds in starts and fits; from one event to the next; from a noted day off on a calendar; from that three-day weekend to the next; from a noted celebration; and time is then marked off and set in our minds as details to fill into the wide linear void of time. But chronicity of medical conditions counters such attempts to neatly bifurcate time into segments of comprehensible packages, precisely because there is no break in the duration of progressive deterioration.

Chronic pain is an equalizer of time; it negates and nullifies, and throws one into the deep abyss of a time when time did not exist; of a prehistoric state of being where sensation, events, environmental dangers and the necessity to survive by reacting consume and overwhelm any sense of segments of time.  Civilization and societal niceties create the neat packages of time-oriented existence; like pristine lawns in a suburban neighborhood, property-lines establish our lives like time-lines on an itinerary of a corporate employee.

How does one break that abyss of timelessness?

Federal Disability Retirement through the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, allows for that recuperative segment of time in which a Federal employee may turn to, in order to break the chronicity of a progressively deteriorating medical condition.

At least Federal and Postal employees have that option.  For many in the rest of society, the niceties of a segmented life will continue to determine one’s ability to escape that prehistoric time of timelessness.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Wind Chime

Wind chimes are interesting objects; at once created to provide a soothing, mellifluous sound, they are often the product of artificiality attempting to mimic nature, and normally presented in the guise of nature’s own pleasantries.  Because the world has become a composite of artifice, we attempt to recreate that which we have destroyed or lost.  It attempts to “sound like” the real thing.  But it is the very mimicking which fails to meet the standard of the original, no matter how hard we try.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, if the Federal or Postal worker is attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits without the assistance or expertise of an attorney, then the one caveat which should be applied is as follows:  Do it as a layman, not as an attorney.  In the end, the paper presentation to the Office of Personnel Management should be decided based upon the merits of the case.  However, when a Federal or Postal employee, unrepresented, attempts to “sound like” a Federal Disability Attorney, it creates an impression — sometimes of comical proportions — of bluster and lack of credibility, which detracts from the merits of the case.

In reviewing cases which have been denied at the First or Second Stages of the process, there are Disability Retirement filings which have attempted to follow certain “templates” based upon information provided, and which purport to cite legal authorities.  Obviously, the denial itself is proof enough that such attempts at “sounding like” fell on deaf ears.  Take the time to listen to the original; as in art, paintings, music and human contact, the “real thing” is almost always irreplaceable.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Substance versus Process

In every endeavor, there is the substance of activity, as distinguishable from the process which surrounds the activity (which is further differentiated by the issue of appearance versus substance).  The former encapsulates the essence of what the activity involves; the latter is characterized by the entirety of preparation, formulation and engagement in participating in the activity.

Thus, as there is the “actual activity” of the sport which one engages in; there is also the “process” part of it, such as paying a participant’s fee, negotiating a contract, submitting proper forms in a timely manner, etc.

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 unfortunately both aspects which the Federal or Postal worker must contend with.

There is the substantive activity of preparing the application itself, with all of its attendant responsibilities of obtaining the proper medical documentation, preparing one’s statement of disability (SF 3112A); completing the Application for Immediate Retirement (SF 3107 & Schedules A, B & C for the FERS employee; SF 2801 & Schedules A, B & C for CSRS employees), as well as a multitude of other such substantive issues to be addressed.

Then, there is the “process” activity, of the long wait while the Federal Disability Retirement application winds its way through the bureaucratic maze, first through the agency, then the finance office, then to Boyers, PA for the intake processing part of it; then, forwarding it to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C.

Unfortunately, inasmuch as filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is something which is voluntarily engaged, it is seen as a necessary evil to be subjected to both the substantive, as well as the procedural (or “process” aspect) portions of the administrative filing.  In many ways, substance and process cannot be separated or identifiably bifurcated; they come together as inseparable twins, and must be dealt with as such.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Autobiographical Slice

Every story is unique.  Uniqueness is a characteristic of each human life story, precisely because there are no two sets of facts which are identical.  Assuming that parallel universes do not exist, the autobiographical details of each human story defines a distinctive and identifiably different set of sequential life experiences as to any given human narrative.  But uniqueness does not mean relevance, or even imply significance or of great interest.  The reason why the minutiae of the personal lives of the “rich and famous” are of such titillating interest is not because they are unique; rather, it is because they are distinctively different — in a voyeuristic sort of way.

In preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the autobiographical details should, for the most part, be left out.  As this author has often referenced Anton Chekhov’s famous short story entitled, “Grief”, it is a given that everyone wants to share the human narrative of one’s story, and more than that, to share it abundantly.  But it is the slice of one’s life, in a meaningful, relevant manner, which must be streamlined in order to ensure relevance and a focused audience — the very attention of the caseworker from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which must be provided.

Federal Disability Retirement is a specific submission; it is not the time to convey the unique story of one’s autobiographical details beginning in years past; rather, it must awaken the empathy of the reader — OPM — by the very hypnotic force of the medical conditions as they relate to one’s inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.

The human story in a Federal Disability Retirement case must be a compelling one, indeed, but within the context of uniqueness distinctively different from the boring autobiographies of mundane stars.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Last-Minute Application

If one fails to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (i.e., the Statute of Limitations for all Federal and Postal employees in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, is 1-year from the time of separation from Federal Service) within the time prescribed, then one cannot make any legal arguments or supplement one’s case — precisely because the Federal or Postal (former) employee has failed to meet the minimum statutory deadline.

However, once filed, the case can be supplemented and “added to”; additional evidentiary documentation may be submitted; but amendment to the Federal Disability Retirement application will be severely limited, because you cannot withdraw the application in order to change it — if the withdrawal is effectuated after the 1-year Statute of Limitations passes.  This is because the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant is restricted by the rules governing SF 3112A, where one cannot “add to” the list of diagnosed medical conditions once it is received by OPM (although there are ways to characterize such identified conditions to somewhat circumvent the restrictions).

Sometimes, because of the medical condition itself, or for unforeseen circumstances which are beyond the physical, emotional or cognitive control of the potential applicant for Federal Disability Retirement, such procrastination is simply a fact which must be dealt with.  Whether the day before the 1-year cut-off, or 10 months before, once filed, at least the Federal or Postal employee will have the opportunity to make legal arguments, and for the most part, the ability to supplement his or her case.

It is only if it is NOT filed on a timely basis, that such additional activity will then be precluded.  Thus, the obvious rule:  File before the deadline.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Timing

Once the decision has been made to prepare, formulate, and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal Worker will often want to “time” the event of filing with the agency.

While this is certainly “do-able”, one must take into account that there is very little control, if any, as to the ultimate timing event:  The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is backlogged at every stage of the process — at the intake point in Boyers, Pennsylvania; in assigning a Case Worker to begin “handling” the claim (whatever that may mean); to actually reviewing, analyzing and evaluating the submitted Federal Disability Retirement packet; to making an actual decision, rendering the decision, and mailing out the decision-letter itself.

Thus, whether for personal or professional reasons — some (or most) Federal Workers are so dedicated as to have a desire to complete projects, make sure that certain responsibilities are delegated properly, etc. —  it is perfectly acceptable for Federal Disability Retirement packets which are prepared and ready to be filed, to be temporarily held or suspended for a timing reason, so long as medical reports and records do not become stale.

Further, in some cases it may take a period of months in order to develop the case fully, where the treating physician may need to order additional tests, try other palliative means of treatment, etc.

Whatever the reasons may be, there is nothing wrong with attempting to “time” the submission with the agency, so long as the Federal or Postal Worker understands that there is no such thing as timing the event with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Genre of the Narrative

Different genres purportedly possess internal mechanisms and tools of the trade which distinguish one art form from another; thus, fiction writers use various forms which, in the eyes of the “professionals” will elicit oohs and aahs regarding the technical beauty which heightens the art form; biographers invoke poetic license in recreating scenes and human expressions and emotions from an omniscient vantage point; then, there is the admixture of truth and fiction, of “true crime novels” which are allegedly “true” but in novelistic form, easily readable, commercially successful, and universally enjoyed — but in essence, it all comes down to good writing.  

Readability is the whole point of writing.  Yes, to remain true to the art form is important to the genre; and, yes, to be technically proficient in utilizing the mechanisms and tools of the trade engenders professional acclaim and self-aggrandizement.  But ultimately it all comes down to the ability and capacity to express what one wants to, and needs to, in order to convey to the audience the desired effect.  

So it is in Federal Disability Retirement.  For, as in the various forms of literary genres, the narrative form must be engaging, readable, succinct and streamlined.  Salacious details need not be included to get the attention of the OPM case worker.  

A FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement narrative in the form of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability should be the penultimate form of the art:  part biography, part non-fiction, part logical analysis, and certainly analogous to the true crime fiction — that is the narrative which will draw the OPM case worker into the world of the Federal or Postal Worker who is trying to persuade a bureaucrat to have a spoonful of sympathy in exchange for a cup of truth.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire