Federal Disability Retirement: The Perfect Wording

There are those who believe that, if only the ‘perfect wording‘ had been in place, then the outcome would have been different.  The problem with that view is twofold:  First, if a perfect word or wording had been chosen, the efficacy of such wording would further depend upon the entirety of the context which surrounds that wording, and second, it would depend upon the receptiveness of the person reading the document, or listening to the person talk, etc.

Grappling with the “perfect word” or phrase is a worthwhile venture and endeavor; more importantly, however, is the effectiveness of the “rest of the story” (as an old radio host would have put it — a man of antiquity and one who always sought the perfect word).

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is often the question (or multiple questions) of:  What should I say?  How should I say it?  Is it okay to say..?”  A singular choice of bad wording will not destroy a Federal Disability Retirement application; a string of bad wording might; the complete delineation of inclusive wrong wording surely will.

Unfortunately, the Federal or Postal applicant will never have the opportunity of a face-to-face encounter with OPM’s representative, in an effort to persuade a favorable Federal Disability Retirement application.  Perhaps one personal encounter would be worth a thousand words — if only OPM could “see” your medical condition — but that is not how the system works.

Wording is important; one word will not make a difference; the compendium of words can, and will.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Medical Support, Belief, Documentation and the Diagnosis

Ultimately, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one must always remind one’s self that this is a “paper presentation” (regardless of the prevailing and inevitable march towards a paperless society) to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  As such, there are certain inextricable components in the presentation itself, which must be reviewed, evaluated, and decided upon before proceeding.

As a “presentation” which is meant to be persuasive — i.e., proving by a preponderance of the evidence that one is entitled to the Federal Disability Retirement benefit, whether under FERS or CSRS — it must obviously have the essence of the proof itself:  Medical Support.  Without the medical support, one need not consider moving forward at all.

Once the Federal or Postal employee has ascertained that he or she has the medical support to proceed, then the question is one of obtaining the documentation which confirms such support.  For, a pat on the back and a wonderful smile from the doctor will not be persuasive to OPM; the doctor must be willing to document, in detailed format, the support which is expressed.

Next, in sequential order, the medical documentation must reveal, convey, and persuasively reflect, a level of belief which will be tested in the event that the Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage of the Process, and further tested if it is denied at the Second, or Reconsideration Stage, of the process.  Thus, in short, the treating or supporting doctor must possess a level of belief in one’s case, and be willing to support that belief throughout the entire administrative process.

Finally, the doctor must be able to make a diagnosis, but more than that, to support the diagnosis, and be willing to make the “nexus” between the diagnosis, the patient’s physical, emotional and cognitive capabilities, and to relate them to one’s positional duties of one’s job.  It is through this process of connecting the dots, where the end-goal is achieved:  of obtaining one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Word Usage

In any endeavor involving a “paper presentation” to a third party, it is important to be fully aware of word-choice and word-usage.  An overuse and overabundance of descriptive adjectives can undermine the efficacy of a presentation; the flow of sentences, the logical connections between statements, and a conclusion which follows from the major and minor premises of an argument — all in composite and aggregate form, create an impression of a linguistic Leviathan which is formidable, and thus unable to be countered.

Obviously, the facts and evidence which provide the foundation of an argument count for much.  There is the old adage that, when a lawyer possesses no persuasive facts, he argues the law; if the law fails to support a client’s innocence, he argues the maudlin facts; if neither supports proof of the innocence of the client, then he merely blusters and argues.

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 recognize that the Disability Retirement packet is a “paper presentation” to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

You will not be meeting with anyone.  You will not be given an “in-person” interview, where one’s charm, charisma and personality may provide the persuasive foundation for an approval.  Rather, it must be by the sheer convincing force of one’s logic, methodology of argumentation, facts presented and the persuasive nexus between one’s medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job — based upon the choice of words and the application of expanding conceptual constructs.  An inadvertent use of a word may become the weak link to such a paper presentation.  Those times when you should have been listening to the English teacher in Grammar Class — it mattered.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: “If Only They Understood”

Preparation of a paper presentation to the Office of Personnel Management must result in a product which is concise, effective and persuasive.  

The last term of the tripartite phrase, “persuasive”, is often the most difficult for the Federal or Postal employee, whether under FERS or CSRS, to objectively assess in a neutral, non-involved manner.  This is because the unrepresented Federal or Postal employee who attempts to prepare, formulate and file a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is identical to the subject of the prepared application, and thus often has the approach and attitude of, “If only the case worker at the Office of Personnel Management knew what I am going through.”

Persuasion, the art of persuasion, and effective persuasion are comprised of a delicate balance between saying too little and overstating a case.  It is the ability to convey a state of facts which are confirmed by the medical records; involving a narrative which touches upon empathy, sympathy and a sense of pain or condition which the reader and recipient can somehow relate to; constrains ancillary issues which tend to detract from the central point of the narrative; and concludes with the idea that all of the “legal criteria” have been met.  

Obviously, it is through the power of words which such a persuasive Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the Office of Personnel Management, must be presented.  When the subject of the words is identical to the author of the words, the emotional turmoil is often mis-directed in the preparation of the Federal Disability Retirement packet.  

In the end, “if only OPM understood” — can become a reality if and only if the applicant understands first the objective legal criteria which must be met; then proceeds to meet those criteria in a systematic, detached manner; yet at the same time understanding the power of persuasion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Human Factor

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the self-contradiction involved in the entire process is that the Federal Disability Retirement packet is being submitted as a “paper presentation” to people at the Office of Personnel Management, yet, concurrently, the preparation of the submission is done with the intent of eliminating the “human factor”, and instead to meet all of the critical elements and the legal burden of proof.  

The human factor necessarily involves human elements, and therefore the potential for errors.  There is no mathematical formula in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application.  It is not an exact science, and one cannot predict the guarantee of a Federal Disability Retirement application as to its approval.  

Because of the human element involved, one can only attempt to formulate the packet by inoculating against the potential of human errors, and that means that one must understand and interpret all of the legal criteria which are necessary for a successful approach to the process.  The human factor is countered by more human factors — that is why there is a process of appeals — before administrative judges, and Judges at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  The appellate process is a further attempt to review the possibility of human errors, and an attempt to correct such human errors.  

If there was a mathematical construct which could precisely determine the eligibility of each Federal Disability Retirement submission, and there was unanimous agreement that the computer model was fair and without error, perhaps such a computer program will one day make the determination of an approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  That is doubtful, however, because we are dealing with human beings, human medical conditions, and human suffering.  As such, the human factor can never be entirely eliminated, and nor should it.

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

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Paper Presentation

As with most things in life, it is helpful to understand the “context” of an event, an occurrence or a process.  In the context of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand that this is essentially a “paper presentation” to an agency which processes thousands of such similar applications, assigned to a person who has a name and (if you are lucky) a voice over the telephone.  

Unless it it denied twice (first at the Initial Stage of the Process, then at the “Reconsideration Stage” of the process), there will be very little direct interaction between the OPM Representative assigned to evaluating and determining a Federal or Postal worker’s Federal Disability Retirement application) and the Applicant.  Even at the Merit Systems Protection Board, the “human interaction” will be limited over the telephone.  

Thus, the underlying “context” of a Federal Disability Retirement application is a “Paper Presentation” of a case.  This is not a criticism of the process — indeed, if one stops and reflects upon it, it may be the fairest methodology of undertaking such a process, precisely because it excludes the possibility of favoritism, of bias in favor of personalities or persuasive personal appearance and presentation.

Instead, it is presented to the determiner of the Federal Disability Retirement application based upon the “cold facts” as described and delineated on paper.  Thus, a certain sense of “objectivity” is arrived at because of the very limitations imposed by a paper presentation.  Understanding this contextual foundation is useful and helpful in making sure that the efforts expended should be focused upon acquiring the best evidence in order to formulate such a paper presentation — to include making sure that the presentation itself is professional, crisp, streamlined, and not filled with a lot of superfluous niceties.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire