Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Magnification of a Reputation

The person whose reputation precedes him/her has the disadvantage of having one’s actions immediately placed into categories defined by the perspective of prior judgments.  And so it is with Federal and Postal employees who begin to exhibit chronic medical conditions which impact one’s ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

The Federal or Postal employee who begins to use up sick leave; who is viewed as doing less than his or her coworkers; who has taken LWOP and invoked the protection of FMLA; the reputation itself becomes magnified, to the extent that nothing which one does, accomplishes, or sets out to do is judged on its own merits; rather, it is within the perspective of, “Well, you know how it is with that person…”

Many a career path have been ruined because of the inability or unwillingness of an organization, an agency or a department to allow for a recuperative period of rehabilitation for a worker who suffers from a medical condition.  Medical conditions have an insidious way of not only debilitating a person physically and mentally; moreover, it infects the very environment of the workplace with gossip and malicious suspicions of motives and intentions.

Federal Disability Retirement is an option available for Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition such that the condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, and further, if the condition will last a minimum of 12 months.  The chronicity of the condition is often more than physical or mental; it may well have extended into the nefarious universe of workplace hostility, and such an infection can only be cured by the extraction of the Federal or Postal worker from the workplace itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Gathering All of the Pieces

Multi-tasking is a concept which suddenly came about, but always existed. The idea, the concept — the identifying name itself — is secondary; ask any mother caring for her children throughout the day, whether or not she has to “multi-task” and you will be given a look of puzzlement.

When a medical condition is impacting one in performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, or in performing the daily activities, chores and life-requirements on one’s “to-do” list, then the concept itself begins to have some relevance.

Most of us not only do 2 or 3 things at a time; we must, in this technologically fast-paced society, do that and more.  But in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the attempt to gather the necessary pieces in putting together one’s case, and in an effective and persuasive compilation of proof, becomes not only difficult, but another obstacle.

For, not only does the Federal or Postal employee need to continue to work in attempting to remain employed (for most Federal or Postal employees who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, continuation of work is a financial necessity), but further, the added burden of gathering all of the medical documentation, putting together a compelling enough Disability Retirement application, etc., becomes an overwhelming feat.  But the pieces do need to be gathered; the puzzle needs to be carefully crafted and put together.

It is another task in the multi-tasking world of today– one which is necessary to secure one’s future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Art of Argumentation

The Art of Argumentation is a dying form.  Watching any “debate” forum on television or the radio; viewing the Presidential debates; it has become, instead, a time of pontification, where the loudest, most vociferous voices, and those who can filibuster the time, seemingly “wins” the debate.  

For the art itself to be effective, it must be accomplished in a manner where the opponent is unaware of the subtle impact of the argument itself; it needs to be conveyed in a manner of a conversation, where persuasion is mixed within the content of a narrative.  Of course, there are numerous forms of argumentation —  a strict, logical proposition; a legal citation where one argues that the opponent has little to no choice but to abdicate a position because of what a case-law states; but in most instances, the subtleties must be observed because of the obfuscation of the circumstances and the lack of clarity of the law.  

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 compose one’s argument as a conductor would an orchestra:  the facts, the evidence, and the law must be gathered and coordinated; streamlining should be an inherent part of the process; and the tone and tenor of the various instruments will need to be brought together into a coherent whole.  

No one likes to sit and listen to a screechy violin, no more than to listen to the drone of a tuba.  The art of an argument must bring together all of the instruments into a melodious whole, where the listener — in this case, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — is lulled into a state of rapture, to the extent that an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application is granted with a smile.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Rationality Still Exists

One may well disagrees with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management on its decision to deny a Federal Disability Retirement application, and yet find a rational basis for its denial.  Indeed, the fact that OPM may offer some rationality to its denial, does not mean that they are correct in their decision.  Often, there is a misunderstanding as to what “rational” behavior consists of.

On a recent Sunday morning talk show, a couple of political pundits were proposing the idea that certain hard-line regimes were not acting “rationally”.  The problem with such an analysis is that one assumes that if an individual or a country fails to act within certain universally-accepted normative behavior, that such actions constitute “irrational” conduct.  That is simply not true.

First of all, rationality — which finds its foundation in logic, whether propositional or syllogistic — depends upon the major and minor premises advanced.  Thus, if the major premise entails a person or country that cares for the welfare of his neighbor or its citizenry, then the logical conclusion may well be one which encapsulates rationality — of acting to protect its people, to safeguard human rights, etc.  On the other hand, if the major premise begins with the primary assertion of retaining authority and absolute power, then the conclusion would involve shooting or massacring its countrymen.  The latter logical trail is no less “rational” than the former. Such a mistake in defining and understanding the concept of “rationality” is often found in all areas of life.

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, the fact that there has been evidence of “irrational” behavior on the part of those parties involved in the administrative process, should not result in a conclusion that the process is “arbitrary” or dependent upon some non-legal criteria.

Ultimately, all human endeavors embrace some semblance of rationality.  While one may disagree with the analytical thought-processes of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which often strays far beyond what the law requires and allows for, nevertheless, one can recognize the rational analytical procedures used in every denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS — albeit, one in which radical jumps from premise-to-conclusion with gaping chasms of generous implications may have to be provided, in order to be able to say that such argumentation incorporated a rational basis of explanatory analysis.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Unfortunately, like a Toothache

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is analogous to having a toothache — a gnawing sense of foreboding during the entire process, especially during the long period of waiting for a decision from the Office of Personnel Management.  Then, like the extracted tooth which cures all ills, an approval from the Office of Personnel Management solves many of the problems, clears up much uncertainty for the future, and allows for a good night’s sleep for the first time in many months.

The difference between filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and having a toothache, however, is that while the latter can have a solution fairly immediately, the former will linger for many months, and it is precisely the longevity of the process which is the most disconcerting.

Further, the fact that one’s own Federal agency, or the U.S. Postal Service, and specifically the Human Resources office of many agencies (there are, of course, exceptions to the general rule, though such exceptions are rare and delightful when found — sort of like coming upon a near-extinct species and recognizing the aberration of the moment) will deliberately and with purposive intent attempt to obfuscate and create unnecessary obstacles (isn’t that precisely why such euphemistic designations like, “The Office of Human Capital” is applied?) is itself disturbing, puzzling, and infuriating.  But like the toothache, all that can be done during the long administrative process is to wait for that moment of extraction — or approval, as the case may be.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Concerns of Confidentiality

There is often an expressed concern regarding how confidential the medical records submitted through one’s Agency are kept.  It is a valid concern, but one which must be weighed and considered in light of the ultimate goal:  to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS.

There are multiple instances of confidentiality breaches — both at the agency level and at OPM.  OPM has sent out letters in the past to the wrong individual, and in the letters they discuss details of medical conditions, contents of medical reports, etc.  Such mistakes, while (fortunately) rare, do occur at times.

At the Agency level, of course, the concern is of greater import.  If a Federal or Postal employee is still on the rolls of the Agency and has not been separated from Federal Service for more than thirty one (31) days, then a Federal Disability Retirement packet, with all of the attached medical reports, must be submitted through that Agency.  Disclosure of such medical reports and records are to be kept to an “as needed” basis — for the limited purpose of seeing whether the Agency can accommodate a medical condition, for instance.

Federal and Postal employees who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits often express the concern that unauthorized individuals may be able to view the confidential medical reports, and sometimes use them for alternative, unauthorized purposes.  One such concern, of course, is if there is a pending collateral case ongoing — such as an EEOC case or some similar filing, where the evidence gleaned from the medical records can be used against the Federal or Postal employee in another forum.

Ultimately, the Federal or Postal employee must weigh the pros and cons, and do the best to ensure confidentiality, and view any concerns of confidential breaches as merely an intermediate step of necessity to attain the ultimate and more important goal, of obtaining an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Goal of Perfection

The problem with perfection is that it requires the imperfect to fail to act.  Fear of failure is a pervasive problem resulting in inaction.  The unrealistic paradigm which society imposes both in explicit ways as well as in not-so-subtle ventures, leaves the rest of us wondering whether there is any distinction anymore between the “real” world and the virtual world.

Have you ever noticed, for example, how foreign actors actually have crooked teeth?  It is doubtful that there exists an American actor with a tooth out of place, but that is the standard we are presented with, in this world of perfection.  But the need to be perfect, or the thought that X should not proceed until and unless perfection is achieved, can be both an excuse, as well as a psychological obstacle, in acting at all.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, while the goal to attempt to achieve is to put together the “best” Federal Disability Retirement application for submission to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, such a goal should not be hindered by a false concept of perfection.

If the Statute of Limitations is about to run out, it is better to submit an imperfect application, than to submit nothing at all.  A Federal Disability Retirement application can always be supplemented with additional information; and as life itself is never perfect because human beings are imperfect beings (excusing those entities in the virtual universe), it is best to accept a level of reality, and proceed to ensure that one has prepared, formulated and filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the “best” application possible, and not necessarily the “perfect” one.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Football, Fair Play, and Federal Disability Retirement

Obviously, with the Super Bowl upcoming this weekend, any references to the game itself, whether by forced analogy or metaphor, is nevertheless an appropriate one.  I will play the politically safe game by not offending any of my clients — current, former, or future potential — by declaring, “May the best team win”.

I often wonder at people who claim to “never watch sports” — how an individual in this society, in this day and age, learns about what it means to distinguish the conceptual paradigms of “fairness” and “unfairness”.  As Wittgenstein consistently reminds us, much of what we learn is through repetitive observation and application; applying and utilizing the elasticity of language is merely an afterthought.  But when a person declares that “X is unfair”, in a generic, universalized statement of admonishment, the proper response before any further reaction is provided, is to ask the pre-textual question:  What are the rules of the game?  Thus, if a particular play in a football game is questioned as to its fairness, the proper response is to identify the “rules of the game” which delineate and define whether or not there was a violation of such rules.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, fairness or unfairness in the evaluation, analysis and determination of the application — as well as the timeliness and the amount of time that an entity takes in making such a determination — can be assessed based upon the “rules of the game”.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application, such rules have to do with the Statutes, regulations and court cases which evolve, which define the limits and boundaries of decision-making.  Thus, if a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied, it is appropriate to respond with, “It is not fair,” if the Office of Personnel Management has failed to apply the rules, statutes and case-law in an appropriate manner, thereby violating the very rules which define whether an action is “fair” or “unfair”.  This requires knowing the “rules” of the game.  It is ineffective to merely declare that Action-X is “unfair” if one fails to understand and properly evaluate Rule-Y which applies and governs such actions.

Now, back to football:  whichever team one roots for, I predict the following:  the supporters of the losing team will declare:  “Unfair”.  Why?  Not necessarily because of a violation of rules, but because losing, in and of itself, has been accepted in society as being a state of unfairness.  So it goes (as that prominent author, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., once said).

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: When a Mistake is Made

Mistakes made in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, are usually correctable, and for a number of reasons:  most mistakes merely require additional clarifications; some “mistakes” are only apparently so, but substantively valid otherwise; and ancillary mistakes of an innocuous nature can reflect the inconsistencies of reality, as opposed to a direct contradiction between two or more persons.

While blinders cannot be placed upon the Case Worker at the Office of Personnel Management once a Federal Disability Retirement application has been submitted, nor does it usually require such drastic measures.

The question to be asked, of course, is whether or not the alleged “mistake” should be addressed, to what extent, and how prominently?  For, the old Shakespearean adage that “thou protesteth too much” can apply in a Federal Disability Retirement application, where too much emphasis upon a particular issue can unduly magnify the issue itself, as opposed to dealing with the issue in a passing manner.

Thus, a statement made in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, or by a treating doctor, which indicates an undermining of meeting the legal criteria of eligibility in a Federal Disability Retirement application, should probably be addressed.

A direct statement made in a Supervisor’s Statement may or may not be relevant.  Often, such statements are merely opinions meant to undermine a Federal Disability Retirement application, but whether it is worth addressing is a discretionary issue.  The real issue concerning discrepancies or mistakes have to do with who is making it into a loud noise; and the one who makes the loudest noise, is often the one who attracts the greatest attention.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: As a Process

It is often a necessity to be reminded that the preparation, formulation, and ultimately the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is an administrative process.

By “process” is meant that it involves multiple levels of time frames and stages, and is not merely constituted by a single “filing” of paperwork.  It is not a defined “right” to a benefit which is triggered by a certain event — such as age, filing of a form, etc.  Rather, it is a benefit which is determined by an administrative process of eligibility.

One must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is “eligible” for the benefits.  In order to do that, one must, of course, meet each of the legal and regulatory criteria as set out by statutory authority, regulations propounded by the Office of Personnel Management, and case-law authorities handed down by the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

As such, time frames for issuing determinations are made by the agency granted such authority — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  And, further, the process will often necessarily involve multiple stages — the Initial Stage, the Reconsideration Stage, an appeal to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, then a Petition for Full Review, and if necessary, an appeal to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals.

Time frames, stages, applicability of the law, meeting each of the statutory requirements — they all constitute a long and complex “process”, and one which must be dealt with whether one agrees with it, wants to, or is somehow unprepared to do so.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire