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

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Flexibility in a Plan

“What is the game plan?”  That is the question which, when posed, is evidence that one recognizes that engagement in an activity or process should have a logistical and strategic paradigm from which to proceed.

Such an overarching plan need not be a formally drawn, meticulously detailed one; it can be fairly general in its guideposts, with some specificity in milestones.  But to formulate a plan which is discernibly comprehensible is an important first step before initiating any process, whether legal, recreational or otherwise.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the plan of action is important to the overall administrative facet, if only to respond to outside pressures which will almost certainly prevail upon the Federal or Postal employee — from one’s agency; from the financial pressures which will continue to remain a factor; from the ongoing medical condition itself.

Yet, within any “game plan” or “master plan”, one must also figure in a necessary component of flexibility.  Just as the future is never a certainty or a predictable development, so changes in a process where one is attempting to file for a benefit will often incur and involves unforeseen changes and malleable circumstances.

An unseen event or trigger, however, does not necessarily mean that one cannot proceed; it merely require the ability to circumvent the obstacle, if indeed it is an obstacle at all.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Preempting Anticipated Problems

The obvious and self-evident problems of many can be characterized as failing to know what the questions are; for, if the question is unknown, how can one provide an answer?

Thus, in entering into the surreal universe of Federal Disability Retirement benefits, which can be both a procedural, administrative nightmare, as well as a substantive morass of conflicting and confusing legal framework, the novice who first encounters the Standard Forms (SF 3107, with Schedules A, B & C for the FERS employee; SF 2801 with Schedules A, B & C for the CSRS employee; and SF 3112 series for both the FERS and CSRS employee) may well have a perspective that, inasmuch as the questions asked are fairly easy to comprehend, the answers themselves would naturally, likewise, be easy to append.

But as much of law and the success of legal reasoning involves the preempting of anticipated problems (e.g., that is precisely what Estates & Trusts attempts to do — to anticipate any objections of those who are heirs or potential beneficiaries of an estate), so the lack of knowledge of the wide body and historical evolution of how X came to be through the legal evolution and expansion of Y, results in the grave disadvantage of the Federal or Postal Worker who stumbles upon the compendium of the Federal Disability Retirement process.  And, of course, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management loves nothing more than to look upon the unknowing Federal or Postal applicant, with hungry eyes, ready to pounce upon such lack of knowledge.

Preempting a problem requires the anticipation of the question; and knowing the question is the first step to coming up with an answer.

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

OPM Disability Retirement: Burden of Proof

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, a considerable amount of effort goes into anticipating any objections which may be encountered by the Office of Personnel Management, and to “preempt” such anticipatory objections by addressing them at the outset.  

A proper balance must be maintained in engaging in such preemptive accounting, because one does not want to address the issues which would unnecessarily create a “red flag”, yet at the same time, discussing and explaining reasonable areas of potential concern should be a part of any Federal Disability Retirement application.  

The problems always arise because it is the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits who has the affirmative burden of proving one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The Federal or Postal employee must, by a preponderance of the evidence, prove his or her “burden of proof” affirmatively.  

Conversely, the Office of Personnel Management has the authority to review, criticize, analyze, and ultimately approve or deny a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  They can merely sit back and take pot shots at an application, point out that this particular legal criteria was not “sufficiently met”, or simply make a generic statement that the medical evidence did not present a “compelling enough” case (what in the world could such a generalized non-statement possible mean?).  

Yet, one must play the language game, and play it well, and the best way to play it is to attempt to preempt and anticipate OPM’s potential objections, and to meet one’s burden of proof by jumping ahead, and predicting how an OPM Representative might view the Federal Disability Retirement application that is being prepared.  Predicting the future is always a tenuous endeavor; nevertheless, one must engage the potential pitfalls, and anticipate the actions of the Office of Personnel Management, if one is going to be successful.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Details

Ultimately, it is not the “devil” which is in the details; rather, the details of a Federal Disability Retirement application often determine the success or failure of a case.  

Attention to the details — of coordinating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability with the submitted medical reports and the legal/analytical arguments to be made; of distinguishing between “facts” and “arguments”; of anticipating any issues which an Agency might bring up; of making the determination as to which anticipated issues should be focused upon and preempted (if at all); of whether to utilize collateral sources of documentation, whether they be statements from a denied SSDI application or the ascription and allocation of a Veterans Administration disability rating; whether, if a concurrent OWCP case has generated a Second Opinion or Referee Medical Report; which medical reports to request and submit; which legal and analytical arguments to engage in at the outset; whether or not additional, non-medical but (potentially) supportive documentation should be attached — these are the details which make up for a devilish time.  

In preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is not a question of whether the details make any difference; for the most part, they constitute all the difference.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire