OPM Medical Retirement: The Process of Decision-making

Have you ever wondered how decisions are made?  What is the process, and who determines whether or not the methodology engaged is the “right” one or the “wrong” one?  What data is analyzed?  How is the evaluative input assessed, and to what extent does “missing” information impact the process?

On a spectrum of decision-making, there is on the lower side of an imaginary graph the “process” of choosing a flavor of ice cream.  Most would agree that it is based upon a purely subjective, appetitive basis, where the foundation of the process of decision-making (if you can even call it that on such a rudimentary level) is based upon one’s taste for a particular flavor, and whether or not one has a present desire for the intended food.

Can other factors come into play?  Of course – for example, say you just read an informative article that all flavors in category X contain a carcinogenic compound, however slight in volume, that over time may cause harm, whereas all other flavors (“Category Y”) are exempted and are considered “safe”.

Now, how much of that data enters into the decision-making process of choosing the ice cream flavor?  For, in order for such information to enter into the equation, one must first engage in the prior decision-making process upon the article itself – i.e., is it factual or does it contain unfounded opinions?  How “scientific” is the evidence?  Does the author have a conflict of interest – i.e., is he being paid for writing the article, and by whom?  Perhaps the author works for the industry that produces all Flavors Y and wants to advance a competitive edge over all Flavors X by harming or destroying, or placing seeds of doubt into the minds of customers who might consider those other flavors?

Placing weight and credibility upon the article itself must first involve a process of decision-making; then, even after such a judgment on the information received, how much of it will impact upon the decision-making process of choosing a flavor of ice cream?  One might conclude, for example, that the article on carcinogenic ingredients is pure bosh and disregard it – but even in that instance, if you chose the category of Flavors Y, can you ever be sure that you discarded it completely, or perhaps in your subconscious mind you attached your allegiance out of fear and caution?  How will you ever know?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the process of decision-making in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application can be a complex and complicated one.

One’s future is involved; one’s investment in a career; the health concerns, the deteriorating capacity to continue in one’s chosen line of work, and the increasing difficulty of hiding the medical condition – all, and so much more, must be considered before initiating the process of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

With all of this in mind, of the jumble of information and the complexity of the process itself, the best and first step is to consult with an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law, in order to gain a balanced perspective, receive all of the necessary information, and to begin to gather the foundational data necessary in order to ultimately make the “right” decision in the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement for Federal Employees: Perspectives, now and then

We all have them; and, like opinions and other discarded detritus unworthy of further consideration, we can replace them with others.  It is what Plato warned against in his allegorical narrative about the shadows against the Cave walls, and how the true form of reality was presented only after we were unshackled from our lying eyes.

Perspective, now and then, or “now” as opposed to “then”, can change.  It is the “now and then” and how you interpret that dependent clause that often matters.  Is it something that comes along once in a blue moon, or a changed, modified and altered perspective that differs now, as opposed to that obscure “then” – perhaps in youth, in early adulthood or in middle age?  When does a perspective remain constant, wise, worthy and consistent with reality such that we can grasp a hold of “it” and never let go? Or, are perspectives changeable, mutable, subject to reality’s compelling of alteration based upon the fluid circumstances of life’s misgivings?

In law school, there is the classic lesson taught in Criminal Law 101, where the professor has two actors come into the class all of a sudden, struggle, argue, then a loud “bang” is sounded, and one of them runs and the other falls dead.  Then, the students are asked to write down what they saw.  The notoriety of eye-witness accounts being so unreliable is quickly shown by the disparities revealed.

Nowadays, of course, with body cameras and video mechanisms running nonstop , we are subjected to a replay of scene after scene, and perspectives can change – except, of course, as to camera angle; what is actually seen no matter the constant replay; and of when the “record” button was pushed and how much contextual evidence had been left out before, or sometimes even after.

Medical conditions, too, alter perspectives.  Sometimes, when “subjective” medical conditions such as chronic pain or psychiatric conditions of depression and anxiety are never noticed until the severity became too great to bear, the other side of the perspective has to do with believability and veracity of acceptance.

Remember that there is always a difference between having a medical condition, and proving it.  That is why in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the Federal or Postal employee must take into account the differing perspectives, now and then (in whichever form and whatever context) of your medical condition, how others see it, how it is proven, how your agency or the Postal facility views it all – in other words, perspectives far, wide, now and then, in preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Disability Retirement Law: The Steps to Take

Life is often overwhelming enough.  Then, when a medical condition make its initial entrance, remains for more than a fortnight and begins to impede, curtail and prevent one from doing the things one has taken for granted –  the problem becomes more than just a nuisance, but a magnification and exponential exaggeration beyond that which was a burden to begin with:  another problem adding to a host of problems.  In life, we often know what needs to be done, and sometimes even the “how” in going about solving problems.  But the capacity to prioritize and organize, to sort a jumble into a linear coherency, and to gather the necessary components into a cogent whole, is often the problem that prevents one from moving forward.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the condition (or multiple medical conditions) begin to prevent the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position, the normal sequence of events often take on the following incoherent pathway:  An inquiry is made with the Human Resource Department; two sets of Standard Forms are presented to the Federal or Postal employee (SF 3107 series; SF 3112 series); the Federal or Postal employee is told to read through them and “fill them out” and bring the entire sets back to the H.R. Office.  They will be there “to help”.

When such a development occurs, 2 issues immediately come to one’s attention, or should.  First, is there a sequence and methodology one should follow, that is better and more effective?  Second, if the Federal Disability Retirement application is submitted and denied at the initial stage of the process, will that same Human Resource Office or person be held accountable, and continue to “help” for the second and subsequent stages of the process?

The answer to the first question is an unequivocal “yes”; the answer to the second question is a bit more complex.  There are, indeed, many helpful H.R. offices and personnel.  The point of creating an H.R. Office is to guide, help and assist the employees of the agency or organization.  But filing a Federal Disability Retirement application is a different “animal” from most other processes.  Think about it; it is not like setting up an allotment from one’s pay, or changing the number of deductions for tax purposes.  No, it is a complex administrative process that, once out of the hands of the agency’s H.R. Office, is under the direct control of a separate agency – the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Further, filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, can become a contentious issue – once a denial is issued by OPM, and even a second denial at the Reconsideration Stage, then an appeal will need to be filed with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board within 30 days.  Then what?  Will the Human Resource Office that was so helpful, represent you there?

Every future holds a pathway for successful maneuvering, and yes, there are sequential steps to take in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.  For that, a knowledgeable lawyer who is experienced in Federal Disability Retirement law can be helpful in guiding the Federal or Postal employee onto that pathway.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Faking it

We often judge the complexity and sophistication of a species by evaluating the extent of negative capacities.  Thus are humans considered to be advanced creatures because of the capability of lying, subterfuge, dissimulation, pretense of behavior, and other such undesirable characteristics. But other species can “lie” as well, if one accepts faking matters and circumstances as constituting that sort of advancement of evolutionary behavior.

Predators can “act like” they are asleep, or even dead or noticeably unaware, in order to lure the prey into a somnolence of cautionary approach.  Birds can mimicry others; and chameleons can adapt and change in order to engage in subterfuge.  But the true test of sophisticated advancement is the ability to defy an inevitable reaction to a cause, and to simultaneously suppress it.  As pain is a natural alarm system which the body necessitates a reaction to, so the act of concurrently concealing it requires an enormity of self-discipline rarely found in species other than in humans.

Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition engage in such subterfuge on a regular basis.  Whether in attempting to extend one’s career for a period greater than self-interest, or of necessity to survive among the pack of hyenas comprised of Federal agencies, their cohorts and co-conspirators, the Federal and Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, faking it becomes a daily routine requiring self-containment and discipline of an extraordinary capacity.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is an avenue of relief where the threshold and intersection between concealment and level of pain can no longer be tolerated.  It is the exit by which Federal and Postal employees find where once there was none.  For, in the end, the predator wounded and laying in wait for the injurious cause to approach with lesser caution, in order for the prey to become the aggressor, the danger is that one may wait too long and bleed to death, and unknowingly reverse the intended fortunes of the day.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement Lawyer: That Spare Tire

We rarely think about it; and it is somewhere “back there”, in the event of, in case, if it happens, as a contingency, as an insurance policy, for the rare occasion of a potential mishap.  But with the modern ingenuity of reinforced rubber with a manufacturing process of innerliner calendering, one rarely even sees a car on the side of the road with a lone figure attempting to locate the spare tire, with the car unevenly perched upon a device secured in a dimensionally precarious manner, to change that flat tire.

But it does happen, and even with all of the advances in technology which resists direct punctures and roadside hazards pounding away at the four (or more) elements which keep the vehicle running, the flat tire and the need for a spare requires the safety net to ensure that secure sense of a peaceful mind.

Like life insurance, fire and catastrophic umbrella policies, the spare tire will always remain, no matter any future inventions or guarantees of outdated necessity.  For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are part of FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, Federal Disability Retirement is precisely that spare tire which provides a semblance of security if and when the need arises.

Most Federal and Postal employees continue their careers to the end, until the time of retirement, or a transference of talents and abilities to the private sector for more lucrative venues; but for that small percentage of Federal or Postal employees who find that, during the course of one’s career, a medical condition has interrupted one’s goals and prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, then preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a necessary contingency to trigger.

Suddenly, the benefit looms larger than ever, is more important than previously recognized, and becomes lauded as the lifesaver of the moment.  That is precisely what we do with the spare tire — we do not even think about it, nor are aware of its precise whereabouts (except that it is under the vehicle, in the trunk, or somewhere “back there”), but travel about with the peace of mind that, in the rare hypothetical event of “if”, it is there to be accessed, so that once the change is made, we are again well on our way down the road of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Agency’s Attempt

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the issue of “accommodations” will necessarily surface, if only because the Agency must complete SF 3112D — the Form which is entitled, “Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts” (which bureaucrat came up with that title?).

Agencies will often choose the wrong box to check because they will either misread the choices or misunderstand what the statements mean.  For instance, in the third choice of Question 4, it states, “Yes, describe below the accommodation efforts made, attach supporting documentation and provide narrative analysis of any unsuccessful accommodation efforts.”  The problem with the choice itself is that the entire concept of “accommodations” has been clarified, modified, and thoroughly discussed in cases which have been brought before the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and such court opinions have been issued subsequent to the original meaning of the term when the Standard Form was first issued.

But when the Agency completes the form, they will often answer the question in terms of “allowing for liberal use of sick leave” or “letting the employee refrain from doing X, Y or Z”,  etc.  But allowing for temporary, light duty work does not constitute a “legal accommodation“, and thus does not go to the requested information.  In fact, the loosely-used term of “accommodation” is actually no accommodation at all.

What to do about it when it happens?  One must be discreet in how to approach it.  For most cases, the agency’s lack of understanding will have no impact at all, and it should not be responded to.  In other instances…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Continuing Confusions

In Federal Disability Retirement law under FERS & CSRS, the issue concerning accommodations can continue to remain a rather confusing area of law.  This is especially true when an Agency allows for an individual, either in the Postal Service (which is becoming rarer because of the prevailing winds of the National Reassessment Program) or in the non-Postal, Federal sector, to remain in a position and perform much of the lighter duties of the job, and to allow for one or more of the essential duties of the job to be delegated to others, or not be performed at all.  Now, such a situation can continue on for years, and there is nothing inherently wrong with such an arrangement (aside from the fact that the other Federal workers to whom such work is “delegated” may grumble and complain about fairness or, more likely, that some of the work is never completed), especially if the work which the injured individual performs is valuable to the Agency — even in such a “light duty” status.  

What must be kept in mind, however, regarding the relevance and significance to filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, is that throughout the entire time-period of being on such light duty, the Federal or Postal worker could have, at any time, filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and should have been approved.  This is because such temporary “light duty” arrangements never constituted an “accommodation” under the law, and the Federal or Postal worker was eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits regardless of remaining in the “light duty” job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire