OPM Disability: Demythologization of the Process

Beyond being an ugly word, Spinoza attempted it, but closer to the heart of a flawed hermeneutical approach, the theologian, Rudolf Bultmann spent his career attempting to separate the conceptually inseparable narratives encapsulating historical content, context and the meaning behind miracles and metaphor.

All processes are mysterious, until detachedly analyzed, devalued or debunked.  Some merely throw up their hands and reject a subject in its entirety; others spend a lifetime in trying to understand it, and thus do cottage industries emerge.  The peril of pursuing a discipline of futility is that, in the end, the process of one’s own actions may be just as inexorably a conundrum as that which one attempts to unravel; read a single, random paragraph from Heidegger, and one immediately understands such a declaration of frustration.

Often, for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers, the prefatory statements of confusion abound:  ” I’ve heard that…”; “OPM always …”; “Is it even worth it to…”  But there is indeed a practical difference between the bureaucracy itself, and the bureaucratic process; the former is merely a juggernaut of an agency which is impenetrable because of the nature of the Federal system; the latter is an administrative process replete with multiple layers of statutory and regulatory devices which are complex in their compendium of requirements.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits by the lay person, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is a complex, puzzling and often overwhelming process.  It can be likened to handing a complex transactional law case involving multiple Fortune 500 companies attempting to merge for purposes of avoiding specific legal entanglements to a first-year associate; mistakes are bound to be made, as one fails to recognize the inherent complexities or the need to draft preventative safeguards.

Further, when a medical condition already weakens the physical stamina of the Federal or Postal employee, and tests the limits of one’s cognitive acuity, the ability and capacity to engage a large and complex bureaucracy can be, at best, a challenge.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is analogous to the hermeneutical approach of attempt to demythologize a sacrosanct text of unyielding historical import; the difference from theology, however, is in the pragmatic need and practical residual consequences foretelling; and as they say in the fine-print warning of some advertisements, you should probably not try this on your own.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Trying to Act “As If”…

One can act as if a mistake was not made; the problem exists, however, and continues to impact, with the assumption that X did happen, despite one’s best attempts at ignoring the occurrence.

Thus, when the question is posed to the undersigned attorney whether it would be “okay” to try and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, on one’s own, and if it is denied, to then seek the assistance of an attorney, the short answer is, “Of course”.  The silent “but” and qualifier is never necessarily posed or queried.

The caveat is a simple one:  While most mistakes are correctable, there is one thing which cannot be done:  one cannot put blinders on OPM for what they have already received and reviewed.  We cannot play “as if” OPM did not review that specific document which implied a situational disability; or the one which characterized a medical condition as one which “waxes and wanes“; or referred to certain elements in terms of possibilities and potentialities; and other such equivocating conceptual paradigms.

The world of OPM, Medical Disability Retirement, Federal employment issues, etc., does not allow for the playing of the “as if” game.  Thus, to the question of going at a Federal Disability Retirement application alone, yes, we can play as if the Federal or Postal employee will do everything properly; but when the consequences come back with a negative result, we cannot then play as if we are back at the starting gates of the race; we have already entered into the fray, and must deal with the facts as they now exist.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Tidbits

The term itself is an interesting one; for, unlike its corollary, it refers to the “choice” or “pleasing” morsel of food, as opposed to “leftovers” or “crumbs”, which imply food which has either been rejected or left behind after the table sitter has made the prime decision.  “Tidbits” in its secondary meaning, of course, implies information; the conceptual applicability has transferred from one within the exclusive context of foods, to include information, facts, statements, etc.

Thus, a tidbit:  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to understand and recognize that, while most mistakes in the preparation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application are “correctable” (what an ugly word — both in appearance and in phonetic structure), what one cannot do is to put “blinders” on the eyes of OPM or before an Administrative Judge, once certain information has been submitted to OPM.

Thus, if an individual wants to attempt the First Stage of the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement on his or her own, without the assistance of an OPM Disability Attorney, thinking that it is an “easy” case, that is all well and good, but while the tools of representation for an attorney include use of the malleability of language, such that “linguistic gymnastics” will be engaged in as the primary sport of the attorney; nevertheless, elasticity of language does have its limits.

Facts, once exposed, can be explained and amended, but the essence of the fact or statement remains in the hands of OPM.  This constitutes and comprises the tidbit of the day; a choice and pleasing morsel?  Perhaps not in consequential substance, but hopefully in terms of informational relevance.  Ah, but to have been offered instead a morsel of apple pie!

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Law and Language

Language is the playground of the Attorney.  It is the heart and soul of his or her profession.  Through language, the attorney describes, delineates, argues, and provides a sequential (hopefully) rebuttal and attack upon any attempt by the “opposing” forces or the named “adversary” to undermine one’s logically structured application — in this case, an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  While logic and argumentation are the chosen methodology of attack, it is the stringing of descriptive words to create concepts; the sequencing of concepts in order to provide complex compounds of winning arguments; and the totality of language in order to convey meaning, persuade and bring about agreement. 

In Administrative Law arenas, especially in the law of Federal Disability Retirement, it is especially important to have the ability to describe, delineate, argue and persuade — because the package of persuasion is in written format — and the reader (a claims clerk at the Office of Personnel Management) does not know the disability retirement applicant personally, and only comes to know the issues, the person, the medical condition, and the intertwining compexity of the medical condition upon the person, through the words which are put together.  As such, how a Federal Disability Retirement packet is put together, which words are chosen, too few, too many, and what definitional arrows are meant to be conveyed, not only comprise part of a Federal Disability Retirement application; in many ways, it comprises the entirety of the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Waiting too long

My approach to Federal Disability Retirement law is that there are very few, if any, mistakes made by the applicant which cannot be corrected, amended, or explained, especially where the essential ingredients of a “good” case are in existence: a supportive doctor; a position/duties which are incompatible with the type of medical conditions one suffers from, etc.

However, I receive telephone calls periodically where the individual simply has waited “too long”. Thus, to clarify: If you’ve been denied twice by the Office of Personnel Management, and you have a Hearing before an Administrative Judge 3 days from today, then you have probably “waited too long” (although, if you can get a postponement, or suspension of the case, there may still be time). If you’ve been denied by OPM and the Merit Systems Protection Board has already denied your case, then you have probably “waited too long”. Or, if you have been denied by OPM and by the MSPB and by the Full Board, then you have probably “waited too long”. I hope that I am getting the point across by overstating the case — while each individual must decided when it is the “right time” to get a lawyer to help in filing for disability retirement cases, and yes, while I take on cases at all stages of the process, the point is quite simple: It is better to have the expertise of an experienced attorney earlier, than later. In most case, that means at the very beginning of the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Answering OPM’s Concerns at the Reconsideration Stage

Beyond making sure that you have enough time for your treating doctors to provide you with updated medical documentation at the Reconsideration Stage of the process, an applicant must take care in addressing the the underlying concerns expressed by the Office of Personnel Management.

Unfortunately, this is a stage in the process which will probably require an attorney who is knowledgeable in the area of Federal Disability Retirement law. Why? Because the Specialist who denies an application for disability retirement will often provide a “laundry-list” of purported evidence which the Specialist claims would be “helpful” in proving your case. The laundry list provided is often a mis-statement of the law. It is up the the attorney to point out to the Office of Personnel Management what the correct statement of the law is; at the same time, however, it is important to “read between the lines” of a denial letter, and address some of the underlying “missing links” which provided the basis for the denial.

This is where the assistance of an attorney can be crucial. For it is the job of a disability retirement attorney at the Reconsideration Stage to do three things: (1) point out the correct law, (2) provide updated medical documentation to address the concerns of OPM in the denial letter, and (3) correct any errors that the applicant made in the initial stage prior to having contacted a disability retirement attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire