Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Assumptions and Presumptions

At what point does a house of cards collapse, when based upon assumptions and presumptions?  The words are used interchangeably; the slight conceptual distinctions may be of irrelevant import to justify differentiation.  One can perhaps quibble that assumptions point more toward the conclusory stage of an argument, whereas presumptions often involve the prefatory issues in a logical sequence of argumentation.

Both engage suppositions not based upon “facts”; and, of course, there is the problematic issue of what constitutes facts, as opposed to mere assertions of events and opinions derived from such facts and events; with the further compounding and confounding task of sifting through what was witnessed, what was thought to have been observed, when, who, the intersection between memory, event, and sequence of occurrences, etc.

Presumably (here we go using the very word which we are writing about, which is rather presumptuous to begin with), Bishop Berkeley would have allowed for either and both to be used in order to maneuver through the world without bumping into chairs and tables which, for him, were mere perceptual constructs in the subjective universe of “ideas” in the heads of individuals.  And Hume, for all of his logical deconstructionism concerning the lack of a “necessary connection” between cause and effect, would assume that, in the commonplace physical world we occupy, presumptions are necessary in order to begin the chain of sequential events. Waking up and walking down the stairs to get a cup of coffee, one need not wait for the necessary connection between thought and act in order to begin the day.

For Federal and Postal employees who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, proceeding through the administrative morass of one’s agency and ultimately into the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, based upon the dual deterrents of assumptions and presumptions, can be a harrowing experience.  It is not the factual basis which defeats a Federal Disability Retirement application filed with OPM; rather, it is always the baseless presumptions and assumptions which kill the successful outcome.

Medical facts must be established; narrative facts about the impact upon one’s inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job can be asserted; but it is always the connective presumptions and unintended assumptions which complicate and confuse. Always remember that a narrative based purely upon presumptions and assumptions cannot possibly exist without the concrete adhesives of some foundational facts; like a house of cards, it waits merely for the gods of chance to blow a puff of unforeseen breath to topple the structure that was built without an adequate foundation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Refinements

One often hears of a “refined” or “cultured” person; such a description often provokes an image of one who has had the leisure time in order to engage in the arts and of higher society; and the word itself leaves connotations of perfecting the rough edges of a person, thing or work.  But if the focus of one’s efforts is upon refinement at the outset, then there is the danger that the core of the focus will not have been adequately worked upon.

Refinements should come only after the essence of a work has been produced, just as leisure time should be enjoyed only after one has completed the necessary work.  Refinements should not be the focus of one’s attention if the centrality and essence of the issue is not first attended to; and so it is with all things in life.

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 focus upon creating, formulating and producing an excellent Statement of Disability; expending the effort to obtain an effective medical report; promulgating the applicable legal arguments which support the substantive underpinning one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

Refinements can be made; but such a focus should only be engaged once the core essence of a case has been formulated.  Leisure time is just that — only after the essence of a case has been attended to.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Legal Responses

There is of course the old adage that “good fences make good neighbors“.  It is meant to magnify the importance of demarcations, and how societal mores, rules, and accepted dictates of common etiquette provide for social boundaries without which the breakdown of common decency occurs.

Fences and boundaries not only contain; they provide markings which restrain others.  The white powder placed on a football field; the painted lines on a basketball court; the pitcher’s mound from which the pitcher must throw the ball; these are all accepted boundaries — symbols of containment as well as of restraining devices to the “others”.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, imagine what the outcome would be for the Federal or Postal Worker if all that existed were the originating statutes governing the criteria for a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Imagine a world in which OPM was the sole arbiter of its own statutes — of having the right to interpret the dictates of its own mandates.

Look at the recent case of Stephenson v. OPM, in which OPM interpreted the statutes of another agency (the Social Security Administration) and decided that an offset of SSDI benefits against a FERS Disability annuity could still be perpetrated even though no actual receipt of funds was received.

Laws are like fences and boundaries; they are to be used both as a shield, as well as a sword.  Use of legal arguments not only restrains a Federal Agency from acting and stepping out “too far”; they can also be used to attack and force a retreat.  But remember that, just as the fence-building should be left to the carpenter, so the sword should be used by a warrior.  In today’s parlance, don’t think that anyone and everyone can be a courtroom lawyer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Viability of the Case

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the initial question for the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating such an endeavor — i.e., he or she is in the “preparation” state of the administrative process — is whether or not one has a “viable” case.

Viability of a Federal Disability Retirement case is based upon the supportive input of a treating doctor — whether it is one’s Primary Care Physician, Orthopaedic Specialist, Neurologist, Psychiatrist, etc. Because Federal Disability Retirement is not an entitlement, but rather a benefit which must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence, as such, one must approach the preparation and formulation of the case based upon factors pointing towards the viability of “winning”. There is never a guarantee that a Federal or Postal employee will be approved for a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Each case must be evaluated in light of the uniqueness of the facts, circumstances, and relevant positional requirements involved.

As part of any such review and analysis of a case, one must look at the extent of support one can expect from the treating doctor.  As such, a case will often require some further development; of persuasion on the part of the doctor that all reasonable modalities of treatment have been engaged in; that the condition will reasonably last for a minimum of 12 months (which can be part of the prognosis of the patient); and that it meets the legal standard in accordance with OPM, the MSPB and the statutory authorities which govern such standards — that, essentially, the medical conditions are inconsistent with the particular type of job which the Federal or Postal employee must perform.

Viability is determined by multiple factors — medical, legal, and the rational nexus between one’s medical condition and the particular kind of job one is required to perform.  It must be evaluated with a knowledge of all three — the law, the medical condition, and the unique, intimate connection to the Federal or Postal position.

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