OPM Disability Retirement: The Flexibility of Language

Language is inherently a flexible tool; it is meant to communicate, and while precision in communication is the defining purpose in the use of the tool, often the essence of language must nevertheless be flexible enough to embrace other, correlative concepts. To limit the tool of language often will lead to undermining the very purpose of the use of such language.  

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the use of language in preparing, formulating and describing the interaction between the medical conditions and how it impacts one’s job duties, must allow for some level of flexibility.  For example, if certain chronic symptomatologies result in a mis-diagnosis of a medical condition, should a later (revised) diagnosis be allowed to be argued to the Office of Personnel Management after it has been filed?  

The answer to the question is contained in how the Applicant’s Statement of Disability on Standard Form 3112A is formulated.  If one merely lists the diagnosed medical conditions without describing the symptoms, then the language used has restricted the flexibility of post-filing inclusion.  On the other hand, if one combines the various medical diagnoses, but also includes a descriptive discussion of the symptoms, then the answer is likely, “yes”.  The use of language should be one of precision; how one utilizes the tools of language, however, should remain flexible.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Merry (Snowed in) Christmas

For those who read my blogs on a regular basis, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.  I am snowed in over the weekend, and the accumulation of snow is expected to be over 10 inches.  Now, in many parts north and in the mid-west, I am told that such minimal amount of snow fails to constitute a “snow storm”, and many laugh at how we react here in the D.C.-Maryland Metropolitan area.  Everything is relative, and in my area, anything over an inch is responded to with panic and a rush to the grocery stores to stockpile our kitchen and cupboards. 

Such relative comparisons remind me of how pain and medical disabilities are often misunderstood by one another; that while “pain” is a subjective phenomenon, no matter how hard we try, we are often unable to convey the sensation that we experience.  The difference, of course, is that while there is an objective basis in determining the extent of snowfall, there is no such measure for pain. But how we react to pain is often an individual experience, one which we should not be quick to judge.  Unfortunately, agencies are often quick to judge, and therein lies the problem.  Hopefully, the snow here will let up soon, and I will be back in my office on Monday.

Merry Christmas

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: OPM and a Delicate Balance

The Office of Personnel Management, as a Federal Agency, always maintains a “public face” of stating that they welcome inquiries and telephone calls to check on the status of a pending Disability Retirement application.  Yet, we all know that Agencies, Departments and the personnel and offices which comprise all Federal entities, are made up of “people”, and people are complex bundles made up of different and differing personalities.  There is a fine and delicate balance to be maintained between an “inquiry” and a “bugging”, and further, between an acceptable level of “bugging” and one which crosses the line into annoyance.  It is good to recognize and know when and if the lines are crossed.  A power struggle is a fine thing to get into, where there are two camps of equal power.  Where there is an imbalance of power, however, it is often unwise to insist upon the tug-and-pull of such a struggle. A word to the wise:  in dealing with any Federal Agency, be it the Office of Personnel Management or a Supervisor at a given Agency X, maintain a voice and tone of professionalism; the person on the other end of the telephone, no matter how friendly, is not your next-of-kin; be courteous, always, even if you want to insist upon something.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire