FERS Disability Retirement: The formulation

There is, first, the preparation; then, the formulation; and finally, the filing and the waiting.  Are the sequence of steps necessarily separate and identifiable — cleanly bifurcated such that there is no overlapping of concerns?  Of course not; but the three elements in a OPM Disability Retirement application are necessary for the successful outcome of the endeavor.

The “preparation” is often skipped in order to get to the “filling out the forms” portion, which is contained somewhere between the preparatory stage of the process, extends into the formative arena and comes to fruition just before filing, as the finishing touches are placed in refinement of the final product.

The analogies are numerous: of baking a cake — first, one must have a “recipe” (the preparatory stage of the process); then, in between the preparation and the formulation, one must gather all of the ingredients necessary to fulfill the recipe: i.e., the medical documentation; the legal citations to be applied; perhaps other ancillary supportive presentations; the Applicant’s Statement of Disability; and the multitude of other papers which will ultimately accompany the Federal Disability Retirement filing; then, the filing itself — of placing it into the oven and waiting while it bakes to final product.

It is, in many ways, the “formulation” part of it that fails the Federal employee or Postal worker putting together an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset — for, the rush to get it done is often comprised by a furious sense of desperation in gathering whatever medical records can be amassed in the shortest time possible; of quickly jotting down the things “wrong” with you on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability; and then quickly “shoving” it into the oven hoping that it will bake quickly and come out well.

Yet, while the “recipe” is important, and the filing is crucial, it is the “formulation”of the OPM Disability Retirement packet — of the putting together in a thoughtful and persuasive manner the legal memorandum which cites the case-law, argues the evidence and providers a “road-map” for OPM to approve one’s Federal Disability Retirement application — that is often overlooked and becomes the unintended nemesis for a successful outcome in a OPM Disability Retirement application.

In skipping over that part —the formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application — it is likened to that “uh-oh” moment when you realized that you had forgotten to put any butter, milk or other essential ingredients into the cake after you have already put it into the oven.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Responding to Stupidity

Sometimes, one’s initial reaction in a situation — professional setting, social discourse, event gathering, etc. — requires a momentary pause; and it is precisely that couple of seconds of gathering one’s thoughts which saves one from further putting fuel upon a potential fire.

Perhaps you have every right to have responded with a drip of sarcasm; or others would have approved of the lashing back; and still others would say that the response was appropriate and deservedly given.  But the greater question should always be:  how effective was the response; did it evoke the necessary end; and for whose benefit was the aggressive retort given — for the benefit of truth, or for one’s own satisfaction?

In a professional context, of course, it is probably never appropriate to respond in an unprofessional way, if merely by definition alone.  Similarly, in a FERS or CSRS Federal Disability Retirement context, when one receives a denial from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there are statements made — whether one pertaining to mis-application or mis-statement of the law; or perhaps a wrong reference to a medical report; or even more egregious, a selective use of a statement from a medical report or record taken out of context — which can deservedly provoke a response involving sarcasm, a deluge of epithets, or worse, a barrage of ad hominem attacks — and in each case, it would be neither appropriately given, nor proper in a professional sense.

Fortunately, paper presentations and paper responses have the advantage of time over social discourse and person-to-person contact.

Holding one’s breath and counting 3 seconds, or 10, or perhaps an eternity, is an effective way of avoiding catastrophe.  Writing a diatribe of what one wants to say, then trashing it, is also acceptable.  On the other hand, beware of that “send” button; and, moreover, never push that “send to all” button.

That would indeed be unprofessional.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Being Effective is the Point

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to bifurcate the various and multitudinous issues, assign (implicitly) the import, relevance and correlative significance of each issue as it relates and satisfies the criteria for eligibility; then, to proceed to systematically delineate each such issue, yet present them in a narrative fashion such that they constitute a sufficiently human narrative to convey the impact of the medical condition.  

As the Office of Personnel Management often attempts to rebut and argue, the “mere existence of a medical condition does not warrant approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application.”  That being said, a clinical approach to listing a set of diagnosed medical conditions obviously is insufficient to persuade and convince the Office of Personnel Management of one’s eligibility and entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  For, isn’t that ultimately the point — to get it approved?  

It becomes an act of futility to stand on a hilltop and repetitively declare, “I have a medical condition,” without being effective in presenting such a condition and obtaining an approval.  Of course, this is an administrative process; as such, it will often take more than the First Stage of the process before all of the factors coalesce with a resultant approval — the right balance between persuasion, facts, narrative form, medical documentation, legal argumentation, clinical notes, statement of disability, etc. Being “effective” means attaining that right balance between the medical, the legal, and the personal.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Filing

If you believe that preparing, filing, and winning a Federal Disability Retirement case under FERS or CSRS is merely a matter of filling out forms, then don’t hire an attorney. Do it yourself.

On the other hand, if you believe that preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application involves:  gathering, reviewing, and compiling the proper and compelling medical evidence; of drafting and clearlly delineating & describing one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s job; of citing the proper legal authorities to provide the legal backing and forceful persuasion necessary; of being counseled in negotiating removal actions; of rebutting spurious arguments made by the Office of Personnel Management; of preparing the groundwork for subsequent appeals; of ultimately winning a case, as opposed to trying to squeak by with a hope and a prayer, then you might consider hiring an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Perspective from the Office of Personnel Management

In effective argumentation, persuasion, written memoranda, oral presentation, and the entire spectrum of attempting to convince the “other side” of the validity, force, appropriateness, and viability of any administrative or legal filing of any nature, it is often a useful tool to attempt to view an issue from that “other” perspective.

Remember that, in filing a Federal disability retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is good to consider the fact that the OPM representative who will be reviewing your particular application, merely sees your application as one among hundreds of files assigned to him or her. With that in mind, the essential question becomes: How can my particular application, as one among many, be reviewed in such a way that it “stands apart” so that it will be quickly approved? If you ask that question, or any variation of such a question, then you may be taking a wrong approach.

Remember that filing for disability retirement under FERS or CSRS is not like applying for a job; you are not filing a resume that needs to stand out; rather, it is often best if your particular application is nothing more than a “run of the mill” application — with strong, unequivocal and irrefutable medical evidence, along with strong legal arguments to support your case. Yes, of course your Applicant’s Statement of Disability should explicitly describe the human condition of medical disablement; yes, the “nexus” between your medical condition and your job should be carefully constructed; but no, your application should not necessarily “stand out” as uniquely different — for such an application will often be viewed as “suspicious” and “over-stated”, and may well lead to not just a first viewing, but a re-viewing, and a possible denial

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: A New Beginning

After representing so many Federal and Postal employees over these many years, there are stories which continue to sadden me; as with all professionals, I attempt to bifurcate my life, and not get “personally” involved with my cases.  To blur the lines between providing sound and effective legal advice, and getting “involved” in the personal tragedies of my clients, would certainly undermine the professional effectiveness needed in providing for my clients.  To a great extent, I am successful. Every now and then, however, I am informed of a tragedy — and it touches me. Perhaps that is a good thing; for one can become insensitive, or “de-sensitized” in a way that can be detrimental.

I try and explain to many people that getting Federal Disability Retirement benefits should never be a judgment upon one’s career — let alone one’s life. A career can span a lifetime, or it can extend for a couple of years (i.e., at least the 18 months of Federal Service that is needed to even qualify under FERS). However long, to come to a point in one’s career where it becomes necessary to acknowledge to one’s self that certain medical conditions are directly impacting one’s ability to perform the essential elements of the job — such an admission should never be interpreted to mean that such a circumstance has somehow devalued the worth of a person.  Human beings are complex entities, bundled up by personality, uniqueness, family, job, hobbies, thoughts — a compendium of a history of one’s life.  Note that I merely inserted the concept of “job” within a sequence of many facets.  And, indeed, one’s job is important — it takes us away from the many other bundles of our lives, and forces us to expend 8, 10, 12 or more hours per day, Monday thru Friday, and some weekends, too.  But that which takes up a large quantity of our time does not necessarily or logically result in the definitional essence of a human being; the fact that we spend a great deal of time in the bathroom does not mean that such an activity defines our “essence”.  “Worth” of a human being attaches to each of us, and is inseparable from each human being.  One’s job and career constitute only a small part of us.  Let’s keep that in mind, and in its proper perspective.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire