CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Refinements, Redux

A “refined sense of taste”; refineries which take crude oil and extract and leave out the waste; perfecting and polishing that which is roughly hewn.  What always needs to be focused upon, first and foremost, however, is the foundation which allows for such refinements, and to ensure that the “base” is solidly built, upon which such “refinements” can be made.

Thus, 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 put one’s energies into building the proper foundation at the outset — and, in practical terms, that means obtaining an excellent medical report.

Federal and Postal workers inquiring about Federal Disability Retirement benefits often get sidetracked with agency and employment issues which, while having some corollary or peripheral relation to one’s medical conditions and work-related concerns which may have prompted an adverse action, or even perhaps discriminatory behavior on the part of the agency; nevertheless, the focus must be upon the foundation, with all else being recognized as secondary matters to be dealt with separately.

Thus, the story of the three piggies:  remember that it was the one with the solid foundation which survived the attacks.  By analogy and metaphor:  The agency is the Big Bad Wolf; the Federal or Postal employee is the piggy; the house to be built is the Federal Disability Retirement packet.  For that, a solid foundation must be created; window dressings can come later.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Efficacy of an Argument

If a security system is never triggered, can one conclude that it has been effective?  Is the failure of a system more telling than its lack of use?  Can the negation of a fact be used to prove its existence and the validity of a theoretical construct?  Can one argue, See — X did not occur; therefore Y must have occurred?  In terms of pure propositional logic and its internal system of validity, one can conclude that certain logical constructs are on their face invalid and contain fallacies.

This was one of Wittgenstein’s points concerning human language games:  the very self-contained artifice of the universe of meaning possesses no reflective correspondence to the physical world; and, in today’s parallel universe of the Internet, Facebook, Twitter, emails, etc., the technological artifice which encapsulates so much of our lives only serves to exponentially magnify such lack of corresponding significance.

In making legal arguments in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is often important to understand the context within which the legal argument is being made.  One never knows whether, and to what extent, any particular legal argument is effective; and sometimes all that can be made is the pretext of the argument, and to leave the substantive impact for future application.

For example, does the fact that a person has received a “proposed removal” have the same impact as one who has in fact been removed for his or her medical inability to perform one’s job?  Or, similarly, does a person who receives a VA rating determination of “unemployability” have the same impact as one who is allocated with a 90% disability rating, arrived at through various lesser ratings and combinations thereof?

The effectiveness of any argument will depend upon the level of persuasion employed; the level of persuasion will be contingent upon the validity of the sequential connections of often independent logical statements; and the force of a conclusion will be determined by the strength of its weakest link.  If an argument of negation must be employed, take care to do so by linking it to an undeniable fact.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Legal Argument

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must always be cognizant of the “legal aspect” of the entire bureaucratic process.  For, ultimately, FERS & CSRS is based upon a statute, which has been further expanded and delineated in regulatory explication, and additionally, evolved through judicial decisions called “case laws“.  It is the compendium and compilation of a legal framework of administrative law which comprises the entirety of eligibility and entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Within this context, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management must make its decision upon a review of each and every Federal Disability Retirement application.  If in any single aspect of applying the law, OPM goes counter to, or misapplies the substance of, the legal framework — whether against the originating statute; in non-compliance with the regulations; in failing to apply the clarifications mandated by case-law; then, a decision by OPM denying a Federal Disability Retirement application can be reversed based upon an error in applying the law.

Thus, the importance of making a proper legal argument in a Federal Disability Retirement application cannot be overemphasized.  As “the law” is the basis of any civilized society, so the proper application of the law ensures the fair and equitable process due to each citizen who fits within the framework of the law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Necessity of the Legal Argument

Disparate facts, placed in the same vicinity, aggregated in order to formulate a composite of conceptual constructs, can provide to the recipient information concerning a specific issue, resolution of a problem, perspective on a viewpoint, etc.  However, when a particular issue is governed by statutory authority, history of case-law interpretation, and multiple sets of regulatory issuances from a Federal Agency — and, further, where it involves an application to prove eligibility, as opposed to merely filling out a form to ascertain entitlement — in such an instance, it is necessary to argue “the law” , as opposed to merely reciting a set of “facts”.

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 sometimes questionable as to the value of making complex legal arguments, especially at the initial stage of the process, and sometimes at the Second, or “Reconsideration” Stage of the process.  But that is the point, isn’t it — that it is a “process“, as opposed to a singular filing event?  For a process necessarily involves preparation and formulation not only for the “present”, momentary event; rather, it entails and encapsulates potential future considerations.

OPM cites “the law” right back at you in a denial letter; the Federal or Postal employee must be able to adequately respond by understanding, applying, rebutting and answering with the very laws which are referred to, implied by, or otherwise referenced in OPM’s denial.  Furthermore, preemptive recitation and reference to laws governing specific issues is always an effective methodology of arguing a case.  Remember:  Facts alone only arbitrarily provide information; information recited without context fails to make a case; it is through logical argumentation that the persuasiveness of a set of facts can be effectively conveyed in order to win a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Cogent Argument

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS and submitting it to the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to formulate a cogent argument for approval.  

There are different methodologies of persuasive argumentation — including logical argumentation; appeal to emotional elements; presenting a compendium of multi-faceted sub-arguments; overwhelming the listener with volumes of facts and issues, etc.

A cogent argument, however, involves persuasiveness by means of the logical structure, believability and inherent clarity and incisiveness of the argument itself.  It is the argument, in the context of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, which creates the necessary “nexus” between one’s medical conditions and the essential elements of one’s job.  For, whether one agrees with, or understands this (or not), in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, and specifically when one writes the narrative presentation on the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) , in describing one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, you are arguing for persuasive effect.  

Cogency is the key to an effective argument.  Clarity of logical and sequential dependent clauses building upon an ultimate conclusion — or a conclusion which will systematically follow from the premises which are presented in a clear and concise manner — is important in making one’s “case” to the Office of Personnel Management.  

A cogent presentation is an effective one; lack of clarity only muddles the issues; and when a Federal or Postal employee is attempting to persuade, by means of a paper presentation, to a faceless bureaucracy, it is important to make the impact of cogency felt immediately.

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 Disability Retirement: Beyond the Bruner Presumption

The methodology of making extended legal arguments beyond the explicitly stated statute or case-law is a natural event, accepted and expected by Judges and opposing counsel.  However, there are unspoken but circumscribed limits to such arguments, and when an individual attempts to go beyond the parameters of rational argumentation, the entire argument loses its underlying credibility.  

Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one may argue for the application of the Bruner Presumption once a proposal to removal a Federal or Postal employee for his or her medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job has been  initiated.  Such an argument would certainly be a logically viable one.  

Further, there is certainly legal authority and precedent for use of Social Security Disability approvals, and Veteran’s Administration ratings, as persuasive arguments in a Federal Disability Retirement case.  But how far can an argument — often “by analogy”, which has a long tradition of acceptance in the legal arena — be taken?  For instance, can an email discussion between supervisors within an agency discussing and admitting a proposed removal of an employee based upon his or her medical inability to perform the job be used?  Probably, but sparingly.  Can the Bruner Presumption be applied in such a hypothetical?  Probably not, but the principles underlying the case of Bruner v. OPM can certainly be argued as “further evidence” of the agency’s inability to accommodate the Federal or Postal applicant.  

These all constitute the boundaries of legal argumentation, which can be pushed to their limits, but with care and the tool of logical force.  But one must, of course, always be careful — because, to use a tool based upon logic implies that the user has been trained in logic and logical argumentation, which in and of itself is a discipline sorely lacking in many people, including many attorneys.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire