Federal Disability Retirement: Game Changers

Often, it is not the substantive material submitted, but the approach to an endeavor which alters the character of an encounter, and results in victory by acceptance and submission, in contradistinction to victory and defeat.  Such is the essential difference between the games of chess and of Go — the latter, originating in ancient China some 2,500 years ago, and employing a strategy of subtle surroundings, rarely including a direct frontal assault.  The Game of Go requires a perspective of the whole; and while (like chess) anticipation of future moves can help, it is the last move in relation to the whole of all prior moves, which will determine the future success.

With this, there is a parallelism with Federal and Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.  As in the Game of Go, it is the past which has brought one to the present circumstances; one’s future will be determined by how one approaches what is occurring in the current presentation of the board.

The battle against the medical condition itself may have taken many years; such is the nature of battling the subtleties of a medical condition, where much of it involves bearing the pain, remaining quiet through turmoils, and attempting to silently pass through life unnoticed.  But as with the Game of Go, a critical juncture arrives, where the wrong move will determine the future course of territories lost, or gained.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS-Offset, is often the critical point of departure for the Federal or Postal worker suffering from a medical condition and finding the need to separate and find that plateau of places where rehabilitation for the future becomes a necessity.

Future security depends upon moves made in the present; present strategies are based upon grounds gained or lost depending upon past moves; and recognizing that now is the time to prepare for the future, is the first step, both for the Federal and Postal worker needing to file for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, as well as for the player who dares to master the Game of Go.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Game of Go

The game of Go involves planning, strategy, finesse, a sense of when to aggressively pursue, and a lesson of when to withdraw.  It is a game originating from China, thousands of years old, yet identical in play and rules today.  It is a game of daily living; and, indeed, even the tactile component of feeling the soft smoothness of each stone as you place them on the surface of the playing board, along with the geometric beauty of the patterns which your opponent complements as you lay your handiwork — all with the attribute of two basic colors:  black and white.

One can always make too much of an analogy between sports and life; fiction and reality; a mere game, and a process.  Games ultimately are what they are:  a play which, in the end, has no significance beyond the entertainment of the moment.  But some games help to sharpen one’s sense of daily living.

The metaphor and analogy to be applied between the game of Go and practicing law, including preparing, formulating and filing on behalf of Federal and Postal employees to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is the need to understand the process; to present the evidence in a bold and unabashed manner; and to understand the “opponent” and what the opposition represents and will likely do.

Preempting what the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is likely to do in response to one’s handiwork, is an essential part of both the game of Go and of any practice of law.  That is why a legal strategy is important and relevant in the preparation of a Federal Disability Retirement application — for, like the game of Go, unless you make the proper connections between the medical evidence, the law, one’s positional duties, and one’s statement of disability, you will be surrounded by your opponent’s tactile placement of experienced handiwork, and find that all of your efforts have come to naught.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Power, Persuasion and the Legal Argument

FERS & CSRS Disability retirement is no different, in kind, than other areas of law which intersect with individuals and personalities.  As an area of administrative law, and specifically, where a government entity (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) is involved, the Federal or Postal worker must encounter an agency which is large, powerful, and often immovable (sort of like Aristotle’s Primum movens, or the Prime Mover).  

The singular Federal or Postal worker may find the encounter with the Federal government to be a daunting, almost insurmountable task.  It is the classic meeting of two unequal forces; and, as such, there is always a question as to who will prevail.  

Fortunately, however, there are some mechanisms in place which allow for persuasive argumentation.  If a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage of the administrative process, then there is the Second, or Reconsideration Stage of the process, which places the disability retirement application in the hands of a different OPM case worker, in a different section.  If it gets rejected a second time, then it is taken entirely out of the hands of OPM, and will be placed before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Throughout the entire process, however, the Federal or Postal worker may feel lonely, small and irrelevant.  That is why the Federal or Postal worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement must engage in substantive and persuasive legal argumentation.  Persuasion is the key where power is unavailable.  It is OPM which has the power; it is the Federal or Postal Worker who has the persuasive tools, and must use them to his or her advantage as the law allows.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Overwhelming Resources of the Bureaucracy

The advantage which the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has over the individual Federal or Postal disability applicant in a Federal Disability Retirement application is self-evident:  they control the timeframe of the decision; they are not subject to any repercussions or consequences for a decision contrary to law; they possess multiple templates in disapproving a Federal Disability Retirement application, and a single template upon approving a Federal Disability Retirement case, thereby making it administratively easy, simple, and without the necessity of expending much effort, either way.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating preparing, formulating or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is a daunting task to go up against such a behemoth of a Federal administrative bureaucracy.

Indeed, one only needs to review a denial letter from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to comprehend the near-impossible obstacle which OPM can present:  in some denials, there is merely a brusque and short “discussion”, barely touching upon providing any rational reason for a denial; yet, in other denials, there are long and detailed templates — however erroneous or misplaced, and however lacking of any legal or factual basis — which purportedly “explains” the legal basis of the denial.  In either case, OPM has the “upper hand”, at least for that time and stage, because it is merely kicked-up to the next Stage in the process, and handed over to another OPM employee.

Against such an entity, it is important to be prepared with knowledge, legal tools, and the ability to cut through the administrative nonsense which passes for legal authority.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Peripheral Issues

The reason why it is important to keep the peripheral issues where they belong — outside of the primary focus of a Federal Disability Retirement application, and not inject such issues, complaints or narratives — is because they can have multiple unintended consequences.

If a Federal or Postal employee is engaged in collateral litigation, complaints, grievances or other outstanding administrative filings, including EEOC Complaints, lawsuits, formal grievances, MSPB appeals, etc., while for the most part such collateral filings will not directly or indirectly impact a Federal Disability Retirement application, they can if you directly inject such issues into the application for Federal Disability Retirement.

In other words, if in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) , you refer directly to an outstanding EEOC Complaint, then it may spring forth a red flag that your case is one of “situational disability“.  Just a thought.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire