The Effective Use of Language in the Federal Disability Retirement Application

As a paper presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Federal Disability Retirement must by necessity be based upon the effective use of language. Language — that all-encompassing compendium of vocabulary, grammar, word-choice, topical selection, verbs, descriptive ascriptions, use of nouns and action verbs, etc. — is the vehicle of requirement, all within the constraints of providing validating evidentiary proof in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application; and it must be delineated within the purview of factual validation and guided by truth within the context of a methodological approach of persuasive force.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement, whether the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is a test of one’s use of language — a vehicle of communication provided in written form, to be reviewed, analyzed and evaluated for persuasive impact and convincing force, by an unknown entity, represented by a person who is merely a stranger with a title allegedly having technical expertise and validating credentials within a greater bureaucracy of a complex administrative process.

Put in this way, it can be a daunting, hair-raising process; and, indeed, the mere superficial perusal of the Standard Forms (SF 3107 series for FERS employees; SF 2801 series for CSRS and CSRS Offset employees; SF 3112 series for all employees, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset) provides a glimpse into the complexity of the process.  For the initial stage of the process, the onus is entirely upon the Federal or Postal applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement.

Then, if it gets denied at the First Stage by the Administrative Specialist at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there is a double-duty whammy (no, the latter is not a legal term or even a term of art), in that the Federal or Postal worker whose Federal Disability Retirement application is denied, must contend with attempting to comprehend the basis of the denial as propounded by OPM — again, understanding, evaluating and analyzing language, and the necessity of replying with the complexity of using that language.

Thereafter, one must then, in essence, “start all over”, and reengage, and apply the vehicle of effective language again, but this time not only in reworking the persuasive vehicle to provide additional evidence to meet the requisite legal criteria, but at the same time to answer the concerns the arguments as stated in OPM’s denial — which is customarily the use of worn and dated templates used by Federal Disability Specialists over and over again in all OPM Disability Retirement application denials.

To take liberties and paraphrase Wittgenstein, this is a language game of epic proportions, and the masters who play the game must know and apply the rules, and understand the various strategies which result in the successful and effective force of play in preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Paper Presentation and the Nuance of Language

Whether through illiteracy or the natural evolution of our language, it is becoming more difficult to convey meaning through the vehicle of language. Text messaging; grammatical irrelevance; lack of widespread rigor in linguistic disciplines; and the legal profession pushing to bend the outer limits of what language allows for — these are all contributing factors to the changing face of the English language.

Paper presentations present a peculiar problem, however, in that the words conveyed can be reviewed and re-reviewed multiple times by the reader.

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 strive for precision, clarity, and focus upon the centrality of the issue, and not to deviate too far from the essence of one’s narrative form.  Nuance may be effective in love letters; it is rarely of value in formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application.  The causal connection between one’s medical conditions and the essential elements of one’s duties must be firmly and clearly established.

There is no singular “technique” in putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application, other than to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that which is necessary in meeting the applicable legal criteria.  It is a genre in and of itself, requiring technical competence and expertise.  Not the time for a “hit or miss” approach; a paper presentation, with inherent problems of potential scrutiny, must be conveyed with conceptual constructs of clarity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Problem of Coordination

The world of language is a peculiar universe of artifice; while comparisons to other primates may provide indicators for the origin and foundational beginnings for the evolution of language in order to better understand where we came from and how we came to be where we presently are — it is the complexity of the present which confounds and amazes.

The conceptual constructs of language lends itself to misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and misuse; as precision is no longer a standard of usage, so malleability of language now lends itself to clever tricks in order to avoid commitments, breach contracts, and take advantage of unsophisticated opponents.  Thus, the classic statement:  “It all depends upon what the meaning of ‘is’ is”.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application before the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the compilation and coalescence of differing language games (to borrow a Wittgensteinian phrase) must be presented:  Language of the lay person (the Federal or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits); language of the medical profession (doctors’ reports, technical diagnostic test results, office notes, etc. must be submitted); and legal jargon (legal citations and arguments should also be garnered for support).

Once gathered, the various components of the tripartite language games must somehow be made to complement each other.  This is indeed a difficult task, as each language game constitutes a self-contained artifice of complex meanings.  But coordination of the three spheres of linguistic artifice is key to a successful outcome.  To do this, one must take on the role of being a technician, a conjurer, and a pseudo-artist all at once — in other words, to juggle the three balls such that one may understand that what “is” is indeed that which is and is not.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Language Used

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a “paper presentation” which must be “proven”.  It is thus not technically an “entitlement”, but rather an accessible benefit which must meet certain legal guidelines as set forth by Statute, subsequent Regulations propounded by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and Case-laws and Court opinions as rendered over a long course of time by various courts and administrative agencies, such as the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

When one steps back and observes the entirety of the process, it is — from inception of the administrative procedure to its conclusion in receipt of payment of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity — a massive compendium and compilation of “language”.  Throughout the process, little need be spoken of or to; rather, the written word — that malleable tool of communication — is placed from mind-to-ink-upon-paper, to be presented to another receptive mind, in order to evaluate, analyze and ultimately conclude with a decision, whether as an initial approval or a denial.  If a denial, then the process continues without interruption as heretofore described.

As such, because Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is comprised by the linear, sequential and persuasive use of language, it is important to utilize the tool effectively, and to apply all of the forces of language which will make for an effective presentation:  brevity, but with emotive force; succinct, but with logical persuasiveness; comprehensible, but with descriptive expansiveness. Language is the tool to be used; as the preferred and necessary tool, it must be applied with careful choosing, in order to be effective in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: A Semantic Battle?

One may wonder, in any process of the stage of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, as to whether an approval is based merely on a “semantic” battle with the Office of Personnel Management.  

Inasmuch as a submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application to the Office of Personnel Management is a “paper submission” (yes, I know, we are quickly moving towards an age of paperless technology, but you know what is meant by the term), and no actual presentation or contact will be made with the personnel at OPM (unless it goes to a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board); as such, the query is sometimes posed as to whether it is merely a semantic battle.  

In the days of Plato and Aristotle, “lawyers” were called “sophists” or “rhetoriticians” — thus, the modern terms of “sophisticated” or “sophistry”, and “rhetoric” or “rhetorical”.  Either or both of the terms imply a negative connotation, that through semantic sleight of hand, one can be fooled into being persuaded to adopt a certain viewpoint or opinion.  

While it may be true to a certain and limited extent that obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS may involve some semantic quibbling, the underlying substantive basis in granting or denying a Federal Disability Retirement application, either under FERS or CSRS, continues to remain in “the law” — based upon statutory and regulatory criteria, upon legal opinions from cases decided by the Merit Systems Protection Board and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.  

While “how X is said” may have some persuasive effect, it is ultimately still “what is said” that retains the most powerful impact.  Substance over appearance still wins the day — the identical philosophical concerns of Plato and Aristotle continues to remain true today.

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