Federal Disability Retirement: Returning to the Boredom of Health

Everyone desires to attain a path of certainties, where life has a rhythm of regularity, predictability and consistency.  We often complain of a life of boredom, but there is a distinction to be made between “being bored” and having what some would consider a “boring existence”.

One need only encounter a life-threatening emergency, or a crisis impacting self, family members or friends — or a serious medical condition.  Then, one yearns for those “boring” days of yore, when living a daily existence of merely being pain-free, when one could bend, reach, turn, twist, pick up a cup of coffee — without a thought of invasive and excruciating pain; of a time when focusing upon a task did not require one’s utmost energy and stamina; where the intrusion of nightmares, anxiety and panic attacks did not paralyze one’s totality of being.  Living a boring life for those encountering the “excitement” of a medical condition, as opposed to “being bored”, found a consistency of a rhythm of certainty.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is the goal of the Federal or Postal employee to enter into a period of a recuperative universe, in order to get back to the days of a boring existence.  Boredom is not necessarily a negative thing; indeed, when one is beset with a medical condition which prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s job, the very notion that one’s prior existence of health was somehow less than exciting, is a puzzle to those who have lost their health.

Federal Disability Retirement is a chance to attain the boring life of yore; preparing properly the application for submission; formulating it effectively; and filing it to attain the goal of returning to that former self, is a consideration worth making.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: When a Mistake is Made

Mistakes made in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, are usually correctable, and for a number of reasons:  most mistakes merely require additional clarifications; some “mistakes” are only apparently so, but substantively valid otherwise; and ancillary mistakes of an innocuous nature can reflect the inconsistencies of reality, as opposed to a direct contradiction between two or more persons.

While blinders cannot be placed upon the Case Worker at the Office of Personnel Management once a Federal Disability Retirement application has been submitted, nor does it usually require such drastic measures.

The question to be asked, of course, is whether or not the alleged “mistake” should be addressed, to what extent, and how prominently?  For, the old Shakespearean adage that “thou protesteth too much” can apply in a Federal Disability Retirement application, where too much emphasis upon a particular issue can unduly magnify the issue itself, as opposed to dealing with the issue in a passing manner.

Thus, a statement made in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, or by a treating doctor, which indicates an undermining of meeting the legal criteria of eligibility in a Federal Disability Retirement application, should probably be addressed.

A direct statement made in a Supervisor’s Statement may or may not be relevant.  Often, such statements are merely opinions meant to undermine a Federal Disability Retirement application, but whether it is worth addressing is a discretionary issue.  The real issue concerning discrepancies or mistakes have to do with who is making it into a loud noise; and the one who makes the loudest noise, is often the one who attracts the greatest attention.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Medical Disability Retirement and Agency Promises

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is often easy to confuse the varying roles of the individual and agency entities which are involved in the process.

First and foremost, the Agency for which the individual works, has certain administrative obligations which must be met — of completing certain forms, such as the Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) and the Agency Efforts for Reassignment and Accommodation (SF 3112D).  The Office of Personnel Management, on the other hand, is the ultimate arbiter and deciding entity determining the viability of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, as to meeting the legal criteria for eligibility for the benefit.

The agency cannot make promises to the Federal employee, or the Postal employee (if the case happens to be the U.S. Postal Service), as to “getting” the individual Federal employee or Postal employee, a Federal Disability Retirement.

There can certainly be actions taken by the agency, or the representative of the agency, which may help to “enhance” the chances of an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement.  However, enhancing the chances of an approval is quite different from promising to “give” or to “get” a Federal or Postal employee a Federal Disability Retirement from the Office of Personnel Management.  Only the latter entity can accomplish that.

As for any promises by the agency that “he said X” or “he promised Y” — get it in writing.  It may only be worth the paper it is written on, but at least by asking, you can determine the truth or falsity of such a promise.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Compounding Medical Condition

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the concern often revolves around the compounding effect of a medical condition, when a Federal or Postal employee continues to persevere in performing duties which clearly exacerbate and exponentially magnify the originating medical condition and the manifesting symptomatologies.

Whether as secondary depressive symptoms, or as increasing anxiety, uncontrollable panic attacks; chest pains; radiculopathy; sedation which occurs from medication or lack of sleep over weeks and weeks, resulting in profound and overwhelming fatigue; the problems of unmitigated and unaccommodated medical conditions become worse, and begin to attain a “hump-back” effect, where the Federal or Postal worker attempts to increase the productivity output by working that much harder, ignoring the originating medical condition yet, concurrently, becoming more and more suspicious that the Supervisor, the coworker, the “others” in the Agency, are recognizing and quietly commenting upon the deteriorating work ethic of the Federal or Postal employee.  

Most medical conditions, precisely because of the inherent nature of the medical condition itself, cannot be accommodated.  What medical conditions need most are the self-evident and obvious, but which society lacks the patience for:  treatment, time for recuperation, and space away from the daily stresses of the multi-tasking workplace.  

Disability Retirement criteria under FERS & CSRS requires that a medical condition last for a minimum of 12 months.  Such a requirement is rarely difficult to meet.  For, in this world of stress-work-productivity-result-orientation, one rarely has time to pause for a medical condition.  Such lack of pause, however, only increases the likelihood of the compounding effect of a once-singular medical condition, which over a short period of time, progressively deteriorates into a “hump-back” of multiple conditions, exacerbated by stress, magnified by an environment which has little or no time for such blips as the sorrow of the human condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Agency Collateral Actions

Often, in the preceding years before preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is a “history” of events between an Agency and the Federal or Postal employee.  Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and such a trite adage is certainly true for the Federal and Postal employee.  

Whether in the form of an EEOC complaint or a response to an adverse action which promulgates an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, or multiple other legal forums and responses, actions, etc., there may be a settlement of the issue, and the settlement of such collateral issues may involve a provision concerning Federal Disability Retirement.  

If in fact there is a reference concerning Federal Disability Retirement by the Agency as part of a “global settlement” of collateral issues, it is important to make sure that there is enough specificity in the language to make it worth one’s while to have the provision inserted in a settlement agreement to begin with.  Thus, a generic statement such as, “Agency endeavors to assist the employee in filing for Federal Disability Retirement” would not be very helpful, precisely because the term “assist” can be interpreted in multiple ways, and normally the way that an Agency will interpret the term will not in the least be helpful to the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Language is a tool which must be used carefully; the effectiveness of language, as with any tool, depends upon the competence of the user.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Proper Balance

The Office of Personnel Management has sent out a number of denials in recent weeks, and the undersigned attorney has had multiple opportunities to review many of the cases which have been submitted at the Initial Stage of the process, by Federal and Postal workers who are or were unrepresented by an attorney.  

The spectrum of the quality of the applications vary; some have obviously engaged in some research, and attempted to put together a Federal Disability Retirement application by following some guidelines which have been put forth.  But in most cases, there is still the problem of an “imbalance” — of not reaching the correct median between the subjective and the objective; of an inability to stay away from the workplace issues, of harassment, of complaints about the Agency, etc.  

Remember that this is first and foremost a medical disability retirement application, and the operative term which should always be focused upon and emphasized is the “medical” aspect of the formulation.  While there is ultimately no formulaic Federal Disability Retirement packet (precisely because the particular medical condition which is unique to each individual resists any such attempt to package a Federal Disability Retirement application in a generic sort of way), nevertheless, there are certain key points which should be addressed and emphasized, while other “non-key points” should be avoided.  

Put in a different way, in proving that a medical condition prevents a Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, one must include multiple “essential elements” in meeting the burden of proof.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Stress

“Stress” is always the “problem child” in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  If a Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job because of an intolerance to a certain level of stress, then certainly it should be considered as a basis for preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, either under FERS or CSRS.  However, treatment modalities must be engaged — normally, via a psychiatrist or psychotherapy.

Further, there are always issues which will come about in basing the primary medical condition as “stress” — aside from the fact that it is a generic designation which will often have corollary designations, such as Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, etc.  For example, can one define “tolerance to stress” as an essential element of one’s job?  It is certainly an inherent element, implicit in many multi-tasking jobs and ones which require a high level of responsibilities or is subject to timeliness in quotas and work production.  But when issues concerning stresses which arise as a result of “personnel issues” (i.e., interaction with supervisors, coworkers, etc.), then it becomes a “problem-child” which is best avoided, for numerous reasons, including the possibility and danger of having one’s Federal Disability Retirement application denied based upon a “situational disability“.  Concepts and thoughts to ponder, when preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Formulating an Effective Statement

Writing can be a chore; writing to convey an abstract idea clearly and concisely can be draining; but, further, if writing is about one’s self, and the self-referential “I” is the central theme of the written formulation, it can be a draining chore.  In formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A) in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to convey the multiple elements of “proof” which must be presented before the Office of Personnel Management.  

To this end, it is helpful to understand the eligibility elements under the law, including those elements which have been discussed in various Merit Systems Protection Board cases where Federal and Postal employees have been denied their initial and Reconsideration attempts at obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits. The heart of such cases always discuss, analyze, and evaluate the why, when and what of a Federal Disability Retirement case, and that is where the “meat” of the essential elements are contained.  Lawyers who practice in the area of law generically entitled, “Federal Disability Retirement Law” should and must study the “new” cases which are handed down, and this is why an attorney who practices in this area of law can be helpful — both in formulating the Applicant’s Statement, as well as in meeting all of the eligibility requirements under the law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: What Others Said

Often, during a consultation with a Federal or Postal employee, the issue comes up about what “X said” about “Y-issue”.  Information is plentiful, and especially in this age of the internet, the plethora of information, abundant in volume and scope, can seemingly provide the generic and universally appreciated mass of unidentifiable vacuity called, “Information“.

The problem is no longer the lack of information; rather, the problem is to be able to discern the difference between “useful information”, “relevant information,” “effective information,” and “peripheral information”.  In preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to make the distinctions.  However, in this world of unlimited sources of information, a person who first approaches a subject — especially a subject involving legal consequences such as Federal Disability Retirement law — may have a difficult time in distinguishing between the various “types” of information.  

Further, it is important to recognize the “source” of information — Who said it?  Where did it come from?  Is there statutory authority to back it up?  Is the source reliable?  These latter questions must also be asked, and the way to determine the credibility and reliability of information is often to take some time and cross-check information from various sources, and decipher as to whether a particular source provides a consistency of information which can be trusted.  When it comes to preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, where one’s future may depend upon the information gathered, the Federal or Postal employee would be wise to “check out the source” before proceeding forth.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Don’t Overlist Medical Conditions

The natural inclination, taking all factors into consideration, would be to list all medical conditions, and to take the chance that the Office of Personnel Management will intelligently discern and ascertain such medical conditions in the order of their severity.  This would be a mistake.  For, in filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the arbitrary nature in which the medical conditions are selected by OPM, makes it into a dangerous gamble.  What must be decided early on, is to take into consideration all factors and circumstances, looking at the medical conditions in their priority of severity, and assessing the impact of each, or the combination of several, and placing them into a “pool” in which medical conditions comprise a generic designation which would “cover” or “identify” a number of subcategories — then to list them in the order of how they specifically impact one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  This must be done intelligently, with foresight, and with deliberation.  Otherwise, to rely upon a presumed rational methodology by the Office of Personnel Managment will ultimately backfire in an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire