FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Striving for an Unobtrusive Life of Quietude

When first entering the adversarial universe of trial lawyers, a kindly but seasoned opposition who easily made foolish mincemeat out of the flustered composite of inexperience and youthful exuberance, but later approached to compliment the young whippersnapper to give some sagely advice: “You have a yellow pad. That is good. You kept looking down at it as if it was a security blanket. That is revealing”.

Whenever I see a man with a roadmap, and it is my job to disrupt the travel route from Point A to Point Z, it makes my job easier to make the opposition take some circuitous routes to force the journeying adversary onto more interesting pathways, to make him take in the sights and travel in a zig-zag manner, rather than in the straight line he desires to take. Point taken.

Revealing too much can have the negative effect of allowing the opposition to know one’s travel route; and if the purpose of one’s mission is to make miserable any goal-tending individual and preventing him or her from attaining a life of unobtrusive quietude (as is often the superficial purpose in life of Supervisors, Managers and other minor dictators who control multiple miniature fiefdoms throughout the Federal and Postal Sectors of employment), then providing an insight into one’s itinerary is like posting a copy of the newly discovered treasure map on Facebook and expecting secrecy because you clicked on a few privacy settings.

It is, indeed, a sad world in which we live; for, if the goal of most is merely to attain an unobtrusive life of quietude, the minimalism of expectation is for each to respect the privacy-space of one another. But perhaps that is asking too much of humanity.

For Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS or CSRS, who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition has interrupted the unobtrusive life of quietude, filing for FERS Disability Retirement benefits through one’s agency (if one is not yet separated from Federal Service, or has been but still within 31 days of such separation) is the administrative requirement. If separated for more than 31 days, then the Federal Disability Retirement application needs to be filed directly with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

In either event, of course, all Federal Disability Retirement applications end up at OPM.  But in so doing, timing, the extent of any prefatory information to be revealed to the agency; to whom; for what purpose; and the ultimate question: When? These are all questions and concerns which must be dealt with in a sensitive, thoughtful manner, and particularized to each situation.

Mapping out a strategy on the proverbial yellow pad is an intelligent approach to take; providing a copy of what one has prepared, to whom, when, and to what extent, will determine whether one’s journey is an unobtrusive straight line from point A to point B, or a zig-zagging line of confusions beset with multiple points of disquietude.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Correlation, Correspondence & Causation

How we assert and connect disparate facts reveals the extent of one’s understanding of the conceptual distinctions to be made between correlation, correspondence and causation.

Correlation, in its normative usage, refers to the relationship between two or more things, and will often involve statistical dependence between entities.

Correspondence, on the other hand, will entail the agreement of one or more things with one another, or encapsulate similarities and reflective agreement.  Thus, one may discuss Russell’s and Moore’s “correspondence theory of truth“, for instance, where the proposed argument would involve the “agreement” between what one says, and its reflection upon the objective world which it is attempting to describe.

Causality, as a distinctive concept from the other two Cs, involves the sequential occurrence of one event followed by another, where the second event is accepted as a consequence of the first.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand the conceptual distinctions between these words, precisely because the Federal and Postal employee formulating the nexus between one’s medical condition and one’s position description must show the relationship between the two.

Thus, one may argue that a correlation exists between poor performance and one’s medical condition; or one may establish that the corresponding actions on the part of the agency involved references to medical reports and records; or that the position itself caused the exacerbation of the medical condition — although, the latter may be more relevant in a Federal Worker’s Comp case.

In arguing for eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, use of all of the linguistic tools available will provide a decided advantage; but usage must be preceded by understanding, and understanding must involve the careful analysis of the specialized application of conceptual constructs.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Approaching the Entrance to OPM’s Thought Process

The attempt to predict an opponent’s approach in an endeavor — whether in competitive sports; in debate; in an adversarial forum — is a practice which can have favorable results, or one which ends with disastrous consequences.  For the prediction itself must be based upon known factors, such as the applicable standards which the opponent will rely upon, relevant elements which will be utilized, and human, unpredictable quirks which seem to always come into play.

In approaching an opponent, it is always a good idea to study the opposition; but too much reliance upon attempting to out-maneuver the opposition can have the negative impact of taking away from valuable preparation-time one may need in order to prevail.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, many Federal and Postal applicants attempt to analyze the questions posed on the Standard Forms (SF 3107 series for FERS employees; SF 2801 series for CSRS employees; SF 3112 series for both FERS & CSRS employees) perhaps too deeply, in attempting to “understand” the opponent — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Yes, the questions must be analyzed; yes, there is an implicit trickiness to many of the questions (especially on SF 3112A); and, yes, a cautious approach must be taken in answering the questions.  But such caution should never detract from spending the necessary time in preparing the crux and foundation of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application — that of formulating the logical nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional duties which one can no longer perform.

Ultimately, the substance of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application must be given the greatest of focus and effort:  attempting to approach the opponent’s thought processes — in this case, that of the “collective” efforts of multiple individuals at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — may be an act of futility; better to spend the needed hours solidifying one’s own case than to try and understand an incomprehensible entity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Basic Approaches

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is always best to begin the formulation and preparation of a case by attending to the basic approaches.

Complexity of a case should not be inherently obvious.  The ease with which the professional in any field of activity makes such an activity appear to the spectator, is merely an attestation of the time and preparation expended.  

If a case is so complex that the Federal or Postal employee is unable to convey the interactive bridge between the symptoms and diagnosed medical conditions, and the type of positional duties which one must be able to function at, then how is the Claims Representative at the Office of Personnel Management going to be able to comprehend such complexity which the Applicant himself/herself is unable to effectively delineate and describe?  

Extraneous complexities, outside issues, peripheral concerns, and intra-agency squabbles, including allegations of discrimination, unequal treatment, etc., are normally irrelevancies which must be forced from the center of a Federal Disability Retirement case, to a mere passing footnote, if that.

Remember that one does not want to be pigeonholed into asserting a “situational disability” claim, which is a valid basis to be denied in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Keep things simple. Approach the case with the basics in mind.  Formulate the nexus between one’s medical conditions and one’s positional duties.  Always keep in mind the essence of a case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Compounding Complexities

As with most things in life, preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management is an engagement of a process which should be affirmatively sought without delay.  Delay and procrastination results in further compounding the complexities which result from a medical condition.  

Dealing with a medical condition while attempting to perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position is complex enough; when it becomes apparent that one’s medical condition will last for a minimum of 12 months, and further, that one or more of the essential elements of one’s job can no longer be performed as a result of the medical condition, then it is time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

The cumulative effect of delay and procrastination becomes progressively compounded in both complexity and unintended consequences:  the Agency begins to put greater pressure as work has to be shifted to others; greater mistrust arises; Agencies begin to react with adverse, punitive measures, such as imposing unreasonable leave restrictions, placing an individual on a PIP, proposing suspensions and other adverse actions; all of which results in greater anxiety and exacerbation of one’s medical conditions, which become deleteriously impacted because of the health, financial and professional pressures felt.  

Unless a delay upon making a decision in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is “planned”  — for a viable, reasonable and rationally-based purpose — such delay and procrastination will only accelerate and compound the problems of one’s life.  The benefit of a medical retirement under FERS or CSRS was created and offered by the Federal Service for a specific purpose.  It is well to embrace that purpose with purposefulness. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Approach

In the busy lives we lead, it is often a temptation to simply adopt a generic approach to each event, for purposes of ease and convenience.  It is easy to think that most distinctions in life do not contain relevant differences — at least not enough to make much of an impact.  

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is certainly useful to utilize the paradigm of successful past filings, and there is enough information “out there” by multiple attorneys and “specialists” (whatever that may mean) to gather a composite model of a Federal Disability Retirement application which has a good chance of becoming approved.

However, one must always remember that each individual case is unique because of the multiple factors which must interact, and the uniqueness of the approach must match and be tailored to the distinctions which are inherent in each case.  Not only are the medical conditions different; the job description, the essential elements of a job, the symptoms which manifest themselves; whether the Federal Disability Retirement application should be based upon a single medical condition or a combination of multiple conditions; whether psychiatric conditions are primary or secondary; the intersecting impact between the medical conditions and the essential duties of one’s job; and, beyond all of this, if a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage of the process, or even at the Reconsideration Stage, the methodology and approach of responding to such a denial is important.  

Generic approaches are sometimes useful, but in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize that most distinctions do in fact make a difference.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: “The Grab-bag”, “Volume” and the “Last Minute” Case

Procrastination leads to filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS at the last minute, which leads one to simply attach a volume of medical documentation and list a grab-bag of medical conditions

Sometimes, such an approach is thought to be the only way of preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, especially when there is little or no time left in which to meet the statutory deadline for filing (a Federal or Postal employee must file within 1 year of being separated from Federal Service).  It may well be the only way to file, given that a Federal or Postal employee has only days left to submit the Federal Disability Retirement application

The fact is, one can only argue the merits of a case if, and only if, one has met the Statute of Limitations; if one fails to file in a timely manner, then there is simply no opportunity at all to argue the substantive basis for the Federal Disability Retirement application.  Yet, even in “Last Minute” cases, it is important to pause and attempt to streamline a case.  Why?  Because once a case has been filed, and the Statute of Limitations has passed, a Federal or Postal employee is unable to change or otherwise amend the stated and identified medical conditions, as listed on Standard Form 3112A

As such, even at the last minute, the grab-bag volume case should be — and can be — prepared and formulated with some thought.  In the end, it will serve the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, well.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The “Mixed Case”

The “Grab-bag” approach of annotating every medical condition on an Application for Federal Disability Retirement should be distinguished and differentiated from a “Mixed-Case” approach.  The former contains some unintended consequences (i.e., of being approved for a minor medical condition), while the latter is a formulation of multiple medical conditions, any one of which may be a basis for a Federal Disability Retirement application, but the combination of which will strengthen the case as a whole. 

By “Mixed-Case” does not necessarily include a mixture of psychiatric and physical conditions (although it might); rather, the conceptual term which is used here is meant to be a compendium of the primary medical conditions from which a Federal or Postal worker suffers, along with a descriptive narrative of the symptoms which are manifested. 

By preparing, formulating and completing an Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) in this manner, it satisfies the concerns which lead to the “Grab-bag” approach, but prevents the danger of having a Federal Disability Retirement application approved based upon a “minor” medical condition, by conceptually differentiating between diagnosed medical conditions v. symptoms, while at the same time including all of the medical conditions relevant to one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

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 Employee Medical Retirement: Objectivity

In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, a level of objectivity in making one’s case is a goal which must always be in the purview of formulating an application.  If a Federal or Postal Worker is attempting to formulate and prepare a FERS or CSRS disability retirement application without the assistance or representation of an OPM Disability Attorney, this becomes a difficult task — for the identity of the person making the affirmative argument for approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application is the same person who is describing the medical condition, the impact upon one’s Federal or Postal job, and the legal reasons why such an application under FERS or CSRS should be approved.  

There are methods to avoid the appearance of “self-promotion” — a term which may not seem applicable to formulating a FERS or CSRS disability retirement application, but one which simply cannot be avoided completely. For, representation and being a proponent for one’s “cause” — however valid, and however arguably sustainable — nevertheless necessarily may imply a self-interest which engenders self-promotion.  If a Federal or Postal employee insists upon formulating, preparing and submitting an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS without proper representation, then one’s focus should be upon an “objective” basis — what the medical reports, narratives, diagnostic tests, psychological tests, etc., reveal, and to attempt to discuss such medical documentation in an objective, independent and dispassionate manner.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire