Federal and USPS Disability Retirement: First Impressions

The older generation often refers to the importance of “first impressions” — of the firmness of one’s handshake; of whether eye contact is made to betray secretiveness; the clothes one wears; tattoos and the number of body piercings; all are evidence of first impressions left for future judgment.

While such initial encounters may not reveal the true “inner” person, they nevertheless leave an indelible and lasting imprimatur upon those who rely upon such an approach.  Whether one likes it or not is besides the point; first impressions are psychological realities which one must deal with in this harsh world.

For those who prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal applicant must understanding that one’s formulation of one’s case is merely one of thousands, and the Case Worker who is assigned to the case, upon an initial review and analysis, will be left with such a first impression.

The methodology of evidentiary presentation; the conciseness of the Statement of Disability; the coordination and support of the medical evidence; all will depend upon the manner and content of the presentation.  Too many tattoos, and the grandmother-characteristic in the Case Worker may turn up a nose; not a firm enough handshake, and the old-man sense in another Case Worker may pause with concern.

First impressions; it is how one approaches a case, as much as the presentation of the evidence, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Essence of the Case

Ultimately, the “essence” of a thing is defined by a multitude of characteristics; but when a query is made as to what X “is”, as opposed to what it is “not”, the attempt to describe X is almost always rendered inadequate or deficient.  It is not enough to say that X is “not A, B or C”, for it may be equally true that Y is also not A, B or C, and yet X is not identical to Y.  

When an individual asks the unanswerable question, How does one successfully apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management? — the answer cannot be formulated by delineating a list of don’ts (although that may be helpful in a great majority of cases).  Rather, the reason why such a question is untenable, aside from being too generalized a question, is that each particular case requires a different and unique set of answers.  

Yes, there are general applicability standards which one must follow (i.e., sufficient medical documentation; knowledge of the relevant laws; an understanding of the legal concepts involved, etc.).  Yes, there are standard forms to complete (SF 3107 series FERS employees; SF 2801 series for CSRS employees; SF 3112 series for both FERS & CSRS employees) — but how they are completed, and the information provided, must be carefully formulated.  How one puts together a Federal Disability Retirement case is just as important in getting at the essence of a Federal Disability Retirement case, than trying to figure out the different components which make up a case.  

The “essence” of a thing is a sought-after jewel which has been an ongoing event throughout Western Philosophy, from Plato and Aristotle, to Heidegger and Husserl; it has only been in recent years that such a search has merely turned into a Wittgensteinian language game; and with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, perhaps it is proper that it has become so.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: What Are You Trying to Prove?

The word “refrain” is an interesting one for its multifarious definitions — from restraining one’s self (a physical act of self-control) to identifying a phrase or group of phrases which are repeated throughout a verse, song, etc., the application of the word is useful by its very differences.  And, indeed, it is the differences between a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, from the entire administrative process of filing for Social Security Disability benefits, or obtaining a higher disability rating from the Veterans Administration, or even attempting to establish causality in a Federal OWCP, Department of Labor case — which makes all the difference.

Such a tautology and redundancy, while rather puzzling, is what must be kept in mind when preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  It is indeed the differences which make for the difference.  Thus, as to the refrain, “What are you trying to prove?”, goes to the very heart and essence of the differences.  That which one is trying to prove strikes at the essence of how you will approach a Federal Disability Retirement case, distinctly and differently from what you are trying to prove for an increased VA rating, OWCP case or a Social Security Disability case.

Furthermore, normally the “shotgun” approach will not be the most effective — i.e., that approach of shooting at everything and in every direction and hoping that you will somehow hit the mark.  Federal Disability Retirement requires certain specific elements to prove, different and distinct from OWCP, VA or SSDI, and it is indeed that which one needs to prove, which will make all the difference in a case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The “Grab-bag” Approach

In preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is always the question of which medical conditions to include in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (prepared on SF 3112A).  One approach which many Federal and Postal employees take (which, in my opinion is the wrong one to embrace), is to name every medical condition, symptom and suspected symptom one has suffered from, or is suffering from.  This might be characterized as the “shotgun” or “grab-bag” approach. 

One must be sympathetic to this approach, of course, if only because of the following reason:  OPM regulations and case-law supports the position that once an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits has been filed with the Office of Personnel Management, a Federal or Postal employee cannot amend or add any further medical conditions without withdrawing the application and re-filing. 

Thus, a Federal or Postal employee who prepares and files an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is “locked into” what is stated on one’s SF 3112A.  Because of this, many Federal and Postal employees who prepare the application without the assistance of competent legal representation will take the “grab-bag” approach of listing every possible medical condition known to man. 

While this may seem like a reasonable, “safe” approach to take, remember that such an approach can have unintended consequences:  Upon an approval of the Federal Disability Retirement application, the approval letter may approve the Disability Retirement application based upon a minor medical condition which you no longer suffer from.  This, of course, can have negative consequences down the road.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Applicant Tendency

An applicant or potential applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS exhibits tendencies which can range on a wide spectrum of behavior, thoughts, fears, actions and reactions.  Some individuals believe that his or her application is so self-evident and self-explanatory, that all that is necessary is to obtain the medical records, list the diagnosed medical conditions on the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, file it, and…  When the Denial letter appears from the Office of Personnel Management, there is the surprise and shock, and the:  “I thought that…” 

Then, there is the other extreme of the spectrum, where there is an almost irrational fear that unless every ache and pain is detailed in long, explanatory narratives, and pages of pages of “personal experience” diary-like formatted chronologies are submitted with the packet, with tabulated references to justify each and every medical experience from two decades before until the present, that the Office of Personnel Management will deny the application.  Remember this:  It takes just as short a time to deny the first type of application as it does the second.  The Office of Personnel Management does not read through any materials which it deems “superfluous“.  Somewhere in the middle between the two extremes is normally the correct balance.  Or, as Aristotle would say, it is important to achieve the mean between the two extremes.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire