Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Watchmaker

Artisans are scarce in existence, these days.  With the constant drone for the economic push for profits, and the incessant pressures of everyday expenses, the village watchmaker, the goldsmith who personally fashions the engagement rings for the couple whom he saw just a moment ago playing outside his shop window as two children lost in the world of make-believe; that is a world we once read about, perhaps in a Dickens novel, of characters out of an era long lost and forgotten.

But the remnants of the characteristics evidencing quality and craftsmanship must survive, lest perfection be lost as a goal and exactitude no longer an achievement worth applauding.  Of course, there will always be cheap replicas; of digital watches manufactured en masse in factories where labor is inexpensive and the worth of human creativity barely given a moment’s glance.  That is why, when one comes upon a true craftsman, observing the care and skill being put into creating a product of worth is indeed something to behold.

And so it is in every endeavor.

For the Federal and Postal employee who must find, of necessity, that filing for Federal Disability Retirement can no longer be put off, it is well to heed the warnings of those predecessors who have experienced the nightmarish administrative procedures required in attaining the benefit.  While it need not take an artisan to put together an effective case, the approach one embraces should include the characteristics of that unique watchmaker:  care in the details; slowly building from a solid foundation; bringing together all of the variegated “parts”, including the medical documentation, legal arguments, effective factual statements, etc.

The Federal and Postal employee, whether under FERS or CSRS, needs to look at the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits as not only the presentation of the case, but the lasting impact of the finished product.  For, in the end, the true artisan creates not only a timepiece, but a timeless piece of work which should last well into a bright future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Questions Abound

Questions abound when first encountering the possibility of needing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and that is a natural course of events.  It is tantamount to the proverbial admissions that one’s “mouth speaks faster than one can think,” because of the sudden flood of concerns, potential problems, future-oriented probabilities and the anxieties associated with the unknown.

It is thus often important to systematically categorize the questions and concerns into that which needs to be done immediately; that which can be accomplished within the next 30 – 60 days; and that which must be considered for the long-term.

Such time-imposed trifurcation of tasks, questions, concerns, etc. to place into neat segments will help in managing the daunting task of preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application, especially when one considers that attending to the care and treatment of one’s medical condition requires time and attention as a priority.  By categorizing and pigeonholing questions into their appropriate time-slots, it will help to manage the onset of natural anxieties which are always felt by encountering the new, the complex, and the unknown.

Questions will always abound; how and when to answer them is the key to maintaining a sense of calm and competence while retaining an aura of peace.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: The Bad Question

As children, we were encouraged to “ask questions“, and often with such niceties as, “Now, remember, there is no such thing as a ‘dumb question'” (despite all of us, even in tender years, knowing the untruth of such an assertion as we witnessed the facial expressions of horrified teachers, parents and neighbors — and of course, the smug, sidelong glances of those older siblings).

But the problem with taking such childhood experiences long into adulthood, is that it ignores the obvious:  the character and essence of a question determines the outcome of the answer.  Sometimes, a bad question leads to a bad answer.  In such an event, one must consider reformulating the question, or ignoring it altogether.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal and Postal employee encounters multiple ‘bad questions’ — first in the form of the Standard government forms (SF 3107, with Schedules A, B & C for the FERS employee; SF 2801, with Schedules A, B & C for the CSRS employee; and SF 3112 series for both FERS and CSRS employees) and the questions posed in such forms — especially on SF 3112A (Applicant’s Statement of Disability); then, in a denial at the Reconsideration Stage of the process (for, in such a denial are contained inherent questions of what allegedly one ‘must’ do in order to meet the standards of OPM); then, finally, the questions which must be answered in order to satisfy an Administrative Judge at the MSPB.

But questions are funny vehicles of communication; often, it reflects more upon the questioner rather than upon the one who answers, and in the case of an OPM Case Worker, and of certain particular persons, this is all the more so.  Lest we forget another adage we learned in grade school (more on the playground among bullies, tough guys and the ‘cool’ set):  Don’t ask a question you don’t already know the answer to.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Preempting Anticipated Problems

The obvious and self-evident problems of many can be characterized as failing to know what the questions are; for, if the question is unknown, how can one provide an answer?

Thus, in entering into the surreal universe of Federal Disability Retirement benefits, which can be both a procedural, administrative nightmare, as well as a substantive morass of conflicting and confusing legal framework, the novice who first encounters the Standard Forms (SF 3107, with Schedules A, B & C for the FERS employee; SF 2801 with Schedules A, B & C for the CSRS employee; and SF 3112 series for both the FERS and CSRS employee) may well have a perspective that, inasmuch as the questions asked are fairly easy to comprehend, the answers themselves would naturally, likewise, be easy to append.

But as much of law and the success of legal reasoning involves the preempting of anticipated problems (e.g., that is precisely what Estates & Trusts attempts to do — to anticipate any objections of those who are heirs or potential beneficiaries of an estate), so the lack of knowledge of the wide body and historical evolution of how X came to be through the legal evolution and expansion of Y, results in the grave disadvantage of the Federal or Postal Worker who stumbles upon the compendium of the Federal Disability Retirement process.  And, of course, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management loves nothing more than to look upon the unknowing Federal or Postal applicant, with hungry eyes, ready to pounce upon such lack of knowledge.

Preempting a problem requires the anticipation of the question; and knowing the question is the first step to coming up with an answer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Sometimes, It is the Wrong Question

If the question is asked, “Is it difficult to get Federal Disability Retirement benefits based upon a Stress Claim?” — within the context of the poorly-worded question, you may get a wrong answer.  This is because it is the wrong question to begin with.  

The concept and term “stress claim” is more appropriately formulated in the context of an OWCP claim.  It implies that one is claiming for compensation based upon a situation — a hostile work environment, a harassing supervisor, etc. — because the origin and inception of the medical condition generically characterized as “stress” implies that it is the workplace which is the originating responsibility for the very medical condition claimed.  

Such a question would thus imply a multitude of irrelevant considerations for purposes of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, such as the causality of the claim, whether the cause is merely situational (is it the supervisor causing the stress?  If so, if a Federal or Postal worker moved to another office or agency, could he or she work in the same job?), or contained within the context of the workplace. The problem with using the term “stress” in a question is that, whether as a noun or a verb, it implies too much while revealing too little.  If expanded upon (e.g., while stress may be the origin, is the medical condition Major Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc.), then the entire question takes on a new form.  Sometimes, the problem begins with the question asked which is poorly worded; and to a poorly worded question, a wrong answer might be given.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Applicant’s Statement & Essential Elements

When an applicant for FERS & CSRS Federal Disability Retirement benefits begins to craft his or her Applicant’s Statement of Disability, certain foundational questions must be considered before composing the historical, emotional, substantive and impact-descriptive narrative.  For instance, to the legal criteria, To be eligible for Federal Disability Retirement Benefits, one must show that one’s medical conditions prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job — the initial and most foundational question obviously is:  What are the “essential elements” of one’s job? 

Now, that may seem like a simple — even simplistic — question.  One needs only to look at the official position description and pick out the major factors of the position.  If only it were that easy.  For, there are many “implicit” essential elements which are not explicitly stated, and it is often those unspoken, “un – described” elements, which are directly impacted by one’s medical conditions and disabilities, which must be creatively woven into the narrative of one’s disability statement.  Always remember to take care of the “foundational” issues first; thereafter, the narrative can extrapolate from the major factors of the position description.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire