Federal Disability Retirement: Dependent Contextual Information

The historical context of one’s medical condition is an issue which is mostly irrelevant for the First and Second Stages of a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS. This is because OPM is not interested — or, more accurately, the law does not recognize as relevant in analyzing the eligibility criteria applied in a Federal Disability Retirement application — of “how” or “why”.

While such contextual information may be relevant for OWCP/FECA cases because of the issue of causality and its importance in such cases, the overriding and determining factor in a Federal Disability Retirement application is whether a Federal or Postal employee has a medical condition; how that medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; and whether the medical condition will last a minimum of 12 months.

Outside of that contextual information (actually, such information is more accurately identified as content-information), OPM in pragmatic terms has no patience for the historical background of such information.  Obviously, however, some contextual narrative should be included in any Applicant’s Statement of disability, in order to make the statement meaningful.

One last point:  While historical context may not be relevant for the Initial Stage and the Reconsideration Stage, it may be very important if one finds oneself before an Administrative Judge at the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: How the Historical Background Is Stated Can Make All the Difference

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must address the issue of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A), and answer questions regarding the medical conditions, their impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform the essential elements of one’s positional duties as slotted; impact upon other areas of one’s life, etc.

The problem with many respondents to such a form (by “respondent” is meant to identify the Federal or Postal employee who is completing the form and filling out the SF 3112A for filing of a Federal Disability Retirement Application) is the manner in which it is responded to — the “how” it is stated.  In journalism, there is the standard approach of providing information:  Who, what, when, where and how.  Such satisfaction of a journalistic approach provides the reader with the necessary information required to complete a story.  In that type of forum, however, the penalty for providing the wrong “how” is merely bad penmanship, and some potential criticism by the general reading public.

In applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, however, the penalty for a wrong “how” may be a disqualification from being able to receive Federal Disability Retirement benefits, because the historical context of the medical condition can impact the legal criteria for eligibility.

Be careful in formulating the applicant’s statement of disability; what one says matters; how one says it may matter most.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: OPM & History of Medical Conditions

There is a distinction to be made between one’s medical history and an extensive discussion of workplace issues which may have contributed to a causal impetus for a medical condition.  

The Office of Personnel Management is rarely interested in receiving information concerning the history or causation of a medical condition — especially from the Applicant in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  While the treating doctor may briefly refer to the historical genesis of a medical condition in a narrative report, it is the focus of the present-to-recent-past impact of one’s medical conditions upon the essential elements of one’s job which the Office of Personnel Management is interested in reviewing.

Again, remember that a Federal Disability Retirement application is a “paper presentation” to an onerous, overbearing and overworked Federal bureaucracy, where one’s private affairs (the most private of all — one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s personal and professional conduct of affairs) are to be presented, received, and ultimately reviewed.  

History of the inception, origin and impact of a medical condition may be peripherally relevant to the treating doctor, and it would be appropriate to include such historical background in a medical report; but for the Applicant, to delve too deeply and extensively upon such historical context may place the peripheral into a central focus where it should not be.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Opinions, OPM and Power

In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one must always be aware of the distinction between the two — opinions and power — and apply it with that awareness in filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  

There will be multiple opinions involved in any Federal Disability Retirement packet — the opinion of the medical doctor who is treating the applicant; the opinion of the applicant as to one’s ability or inability to perform some, which or all of the essential elements of one’s job; the opinion of the Supervisor or someone at the Agency on multiple issues, rendered in the Supervisor’s Statement and the Agency’s Certification for Reassignment and Accommodation; and the “opinion” handed out by the Office of Personnel Management as to whether all of the compendium of opinions, collectively gathered to present the evidence for approval in a Federal Disability Retirement application, constitute sufficient evidence such that it meets the preponderance of the evidence in proving one’s case.  It is thus helpful to understand that all of these identifiable propositions are all “opinions”.  

The one distinction, however, is that the opinion of the Office of Personnel Management carries with it the power of approval or disapproval, and so one may designate it as carrying more “weight” because it contains an inherent authority which all other opinions lack — that of the power to say yea or nay.  But remember that such power, fortunately, is not absolute, nor necessarily arbitrary and capricious, and there is ultimately an appeal process to have such raw power reviewed for viability and sufficiency.  That is why the validity and force of the “other” opinions is important to maintain — the medical opinion and the opinion of the Applicant — so that when it is reviewed by an Administrative Judge, the integrity of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS may be properly adjudicated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Coordinate the Supporting Documentation

An Applicant’s Statement of Disability in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS must always attempt to coordinate the statement with the supporting medical (and other) documentation, taking care that the statement does not undermine the supporting documentation, and conversely, to deliberately and with purposeful intent to make sure that the supporting documentation does just that — “supports” and complements what the Statement of Disability states.  Thus, the Statement of Disability must find a careful balance between overwhelming the supporting documentation and undermining the supporting documentation.  It must do neither; it must, instead, strike the middle ground, allowing for the supporting documentation to provide the focal emphasis of the substance and content of the claims inherent in the Statement of Disability, and at the same time, must validate the Statement of Disability.  In this way, an applicant’s Statement of Disability in an OPM Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS conveys the validity of a submission.

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