Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Door Left Ajar

The image of the door left ajar is one likened to the metaphor of the tree which falls in a forest without a human around to observe the phenomena; the question of whether the event created a sound is a conundrum, and a double-one at that, for the moment we ponder it, we insert a human perspective into the equation, and any attempt to delete our presence only compounds the puzzlement.

A door left ajar implies that someone or some animal partially opened it, or perhaps in reverse; but in either event, the image of a door neither fully shut nor widely open, leaves an impression of some presence.  Moreover, it is that partial opening which represents lack of complete satisfaction, of something left undone, which stirs the emotions of one’s imagination.

For the Federal employee who is reaching certain milestones of Federal or Postal Service, the “light at the end of the tunnel” is often seen within one’s grasp, as a door left slightly ajar, and inviting one to take hold of the doorknob, open it wide, and exit into the sunset of life.  When the door left ajar is within view and reach, the expectation of exiting becomes a magnified potentiality about to be embraced.

But often, with only a couple of years left, unexpected events can occur.  A medical condition can impact one’s ability to reach that magical age of retirement, or be cut short before accruing the years of service needed.  The door left ajar is suddenly beyond reach, and the winds of life seemingly slams shut the once-inviting entranceway.

Federal Disability Retirement, no matter how close one is to regular retirement, may be the option of choice. Whether under FERS or CSRS, Disability Retirement through the Office of Personnel Management is an option left open for all Federal and Postal employees.

The image of the door left ajar is merely a metaphor of life; how one responds to the reality of each particular situation will determine the consequences of one’s future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Gov. and USPS Disability Retirement: Overlapping Patchwork

When multiple hands work on a single project from different directions, the patchwork of designs may reveal the lack of coordination; yet, the beauty of the diversity in pattern, color, dimension and creativity may make up for such lack of uniformity.  Thus, lack of uniformity need not mean that the end-result lacks beauty; and, indeed, lack of conformity can in and of itself be a form of delicate attraction.

But human beings possess an innate desire for a sense of logical comprehension, and while overlapping patterns may possess a beauty of diversity, anarchical presentation of exploding colors and patterns must ultimately be brought together into some semblance of coordination.

There is, of course, a distinction to be made between art and mathematics; between artistic endeavors, which may bend the rules of uniformity, as opposed to a cohesive and comprehensible presentation in the form of a persuasive argument.  In law, an overlapping patchwork of arguments may unintentionally hit the mark; but you would not want to rely upon such an imprecise approach.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the approach of culling together a patchwork of arguments — borrowing a report from one’s OWCP doctor; arguing that because one received a percentage rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the relevance upon an OPM disability retirement application should be of X consequence; extrapolating language from an SSDI decision — while all of these are of some consequence, each must ultimately be garnered into a coherent whole.

It may well be that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application began as a patchwork of information; in the end, however, it should be the hand of a single artist who reworks the pattern into a cohesive whole.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Proactive Development of a Case

The problem with medical conditions is that we tend to regard them passively, as recipients of service at a restaurant, or as victims of an automobile hit-and-run.  There is some limited truth to such a perspective; for, as medical conditions come upon us without notice or invitation, we are merely recipients of a condition of that which we never asked for nor desired. But once it becomes an existential fact, and one which becomes chronic and somewhat irreversible, then the subsequent methodology of what we do with the medical condition becomes the responsibility of the bearer of such bad news.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition(s) prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, whether under FERS or CSRS, consideration must be given to filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Passivity in life will only engender magnification of inactivity; and as one must affirmatively prove by a preponderance of the evidence one’s Federal Disability Retirement case, sitting idly by as one’s agency takes steps to increase the penalties of unsatisfactory performance via leave restrictions, a PIP, suspensions, or other adverse actions, including removal from Federal Service, is simply an ineffective way of formulating and developing one’s Federal Disability Retirement case.

Case development requires a proactive stance; inactivity will only feed upon the devastating medical condition already suffered.  Being a victim of a disease or injury once is bad enough; let not the occurrence be magnified by compounding the problem through inactivity and passivity.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Mechanization, Automation & the Lull of Conformity

Locke and Rousseau both recognized the necessity of the individual human being to enter into civil society in order to escape the theoretical “state of nature” for self-preservation, and once within, conformity to societal norms and orderly constructs became a natural force in the progressive evolution of civilization. But social order need not mandate conformity of a thoughtless drone or loss of creativity.

The term itself — “drone” — is an interesting one. For, in its general usage, it meant a sense of drudgery or monotony; or, in a specific sense, a male, stingless honeybee which produced no honey, and thus a less-than-full entity; and in more recent usage, a non-human, destructive craft, devoid of thought or moral compass.

Social conformity which gave rise to automation and industrial mechanization, has produced a populace given to thoughtless action.  Such conformity, perhaps, is useful; for in a world requiring bureaucratic patience, one is left with no other choice but to wait upon a long and onerous administrative process.

For the Federal or Postal employee who must submit to the long, bureaucratic process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, the conformity to standard forms, the patience required for the long wait, and the necessity to comply to the rules governing eligibility, legal standards, etc., is part and parcel of the social structure.  We are trained to comply; and with no other choice but to go to the singular Federal Agency, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is best to try and prevail in the most effective and efficient manner possible, inasmuch as there really is no other choice in the matter.

Locke and Rousseau were right; self-preservation requires the escape from the state of nature; what we are left with, is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — the penultimate reflection of a civilized and advanced society.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Some Basics

Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an administrative process which one must undergo if a Federal or Postal employee is medically unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s position.

It is a benefit which is accessible only if proven; and proof must meet the legal standard of “preponderance of the evidence“, through a tripartite methodology:  Evidence of the existence of a medical condition; the nexus of that medical condition impacting upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; and that such a medical condition(s) cannot be legally accommodated by the agency such that the Federal or Postal employee can perform all of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job.

While the Federal or Postal employee has up until one (1) year from the date of separation from Federal Service to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the proof of when the nexus formed between one’s medical condition and the impact upon the position of one’s Federal Service, must have occurred during the Federal Service.

These are just some basics of Federal Disability Retirement law; the complexity, of course, resides in the details, and it is always the details which provide the fodder for an OPM denial.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Extras, on Either Side

In performing a job, there is the basic parameter of the official “position description” for the Federal and Postal employee, which provides the foundational overview, the physical and cognitive demands of the job, and the necessary credentials and qualifications required before acceptance.

The reality of the actual workplace may somewhat modify the official establishment of one’s position, and that is to be expected:  generalities are often tailored to meet the needs of individual circumstances and situations presented by the local agency.  Beyond that, however, there is often the question of what constitutes “too much” on the one hand, and on the other side of the equation, what reduced modification of a position constitutes an accommodation under the law.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, such a duality of questions will often be encountered.  Modification by a Supervisor of a position’s duties may well allow for the Federal or Postal employee to continue to remain in a position, without compromising one’s health.  Yet, does such unofficial modification constitute a viable accommodation such that it would preclude one from being eligible for Federal Disability Retirement?  Normally, not.

On the other side of the equation, does adding responsibilities to one’s official position description result in such additional duties becoming part of the essential elements of one’s job, such that the fact that one’s medical conditions may prevent one from performing such added responsibilities impact the eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement?  Again, normally not. But such issues must be approached with intelligence and armed with the tools of knowledge of the applicable laws.

Whatever the answers, the “extras” on either side of the equation must be approached with caution, lest one finds that the earth is indeed flat, and one can fall over the edge into an abyss of administrative nightmares 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

OPM Disability Retirement: The Pathway out of an Untenable Situation

The sensation of drowning is one which horrifies most individuals; everyone has experienced an event involving being submerged in a body of water, and feeling helpless and without control of surrounding circumstances.  It is precisely that sensation of loss of control — where one’s legs cannot locate a foundation upon which to escape; where the steadiness of firm ground is not there to provide the necessary support; and where the body of water continues to overwhelm, surround, and ultimately overtake; the horror of drowning is thus the proverbial metaphor for trials which one faces in life.

For the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from a sudden onset of a medical condition, or from one which has shown to be a chronic condition which slowly, progressively, and intractably deteriorates one’s physical and/or cognitive functions, the phenomena of drowning as an analogy for one’s experiential encounter with life’s difficulties will not be a stranger.

In such circumstances, one is told to “remain calm”, to engage in physical maneuvers in order to keep afloat, etc. — but to panic is the death knell in such situations.  Such advice is easily stated in the calm of one’s life; when one is in the midst of such circumstances, such sage advice is abandoned for the immediacy of reactionary decisions.  However, if an available option is presented to allow for a solution to an exigent circumstance, it would be a natural next step to accept the “other” proverbial, metaphorically oft-used word-picture:  the life flotation device.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit offered for all Federal and Postal employees for the purpose of providing a base annuity for those Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  It is there to provide that foundation for the Federal or Postal employee who is experiencing that drowning sensation within the Federal sector.

Consider it a life-saving flotation device — one which may provide the fertility of the earth in an environment filled with overwhelming circumstances of life’s unexpected encounters — not involving merely the metaphor of water, but all of the sharks which surround us, as well.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Tie that Binds

Often, it is an intangible “other” which can never quite be located or defined.

In philosophy, and perhaps in life generally, one should always approach a subject with the view that, if one is unable to define it, then one has failed to understand it, or to purport to possess any knowledge about “it”.  To understand is to define it; to define it, is to circumscribe the parameters of the substantiality of an object, and to “possess” it by knowing its essence.

In formulating an effective Federal Disability Retirement application and submitting it for approval with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to not only have each of the details in their proper place — of the substantiating medical documentation which are relevant and compelling enough to awaken the senses (especially for that bored OPM caseworker who must sift through hundreds, if not thousands, of case files over the course of any given year); the statement of disability of the applicant; any legal citations and arguments to be made, etc. — but further, to have a comprehensive, overarching “theme” to accentuate the uniqueness of one’s case.

It is that invisible thread, that “tie that binds” a case, which must always be sought after in preparing, formulating, and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.  Once that tie is recognized and identified, then the Federal or Postal Disability application is ready to be submitted.

Like an ending to any short story worthy of reading or publication, or that special “something” between a man and a woman, it is the ethereal tie that binds which makes all the difference.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Logical Fallacies

The problem with logical fallacies is that the people who make them rarely recognize such errancy (otherwise they wouldn’t repeatedly make them), and further, are often the same people who refuse to recognize them even if it is kindly pointed out.

For example:  In a Federal Disability Retirement case, when the doctor’s report clearly and unequivocally points out that the Federal employee’s medical condition is “permanent”, one would logically infer from such a statement that the condition therefore will last a minimum of 12 months (the legal requirement in a FERS or CSRS Federal Disability Retirement case), and therefore would satisfy the legal requirement concerning that particular issue.

However, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will often fail to make such an inference, and claim that the legal requirement that one’s medical condition must “last a minimum of 12 months” has not been satisfied.

Now, one essentially has three (3) choices in responding to OPM’s claim at the Reconsideration Stage of the process (or, if made a second time with a denial at the Reconsideration Stage, then to the Administrative Judge at the MSPB):  (1)  Ignore the logical fallacy, (2) Argue that OPM has made the logical fallacy and failed to make the correct inference, or (3) Have the issue restated in any updated medical documentation.

Of the 3, the last is probably the preferable, if only because one should expect that any failure to recognize such an obvious inference will likely reoccur again within the same organization (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management), and therefore clarity of statement (or restatement) would be the most effective course of action.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Someone Else’s Argument

Have you ever sat with company at a dinner table, and engaged in a conversation where it appears as if you are continuing someone else’s conversation?  Or your presence is merely a substitute for an extension of a previous debate or discussion?  Where a topic is brought up, and immediately a barrage of critical attacks — of arguments you have never made, and of statements you don’t recall disseminating (and where this is only 5 minutes into the salad and you’ve barely tasted the first glass of wine)?

The problem with unfinished business is that the transference of what one wanted to say is normally unloaded upon the wrong subject.  Conversations, debates, forums of intellectual exercises in linguistic battles — it is a rare person who has been able to convey the full force of one’s collective thoughts and beliefs on the matter, and it is more often the case that one leaves with the regretful remorse of, “I wish I had brought that point up…”  But rarely do second chances present themselves in a satisfactory follow-up forum; unless you are the unfortunate object for an unexpected dinner invitation.

In responding to a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the applicant — through his or her Federal Disability Retirement attorney — needs to understand that the person who issues the denial will not be the same person who will review any additional submissions or legal arguments at the Reconsideration Stage.

It will be reviewed, in legal parlance, de novo.  As such, while the basis of the denial as issued by the Caseworker at OPM at the First Level should be taken into consideration, one should approach the case in light of the following question: To what extent will the Reconsideration Branch care as to the original basis of the denial of the first caseworker?  If it is being reviewed de novo, the approach should be to go over all of the elements — and to reinforce and amend those weak points, some of which may overlap what the first caseworker pointed out, others which may not.

It may not be the best approach to argue to a dinner guest who wasn’t present at the first round of arguments; the points you are trying to make may not be heard because the bell has already rung, and the fighter in the second round has been replaced with someone upon whom you have never previously landed a punch.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire