Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Lexical Nexus

The lexical expansion of the English language and the evolution of meaning, the transition of words and application, is a subject worth investigating.  One needs only to read a Shakespeare play to recognize that language refuses to remain static; and a culture which desires to progressively develop and advance will systematically reflect the changes of a society’s culture, ethos and normative infrastructures.

There is something to be praised for a static society — one which steadfastly refuses to alter its traditional ways; but as technology is the force of change, and as capitalism is defined by progressive advancement of development at all costs, so we are left with a Leviathan gone berserk and unable to be stopped, and language reflects such revolutionary upheaval.

For the Federal or Postal employee suffering from a medical condition, one needs only to pick up an old medical dictionary to realize the exponential explosion of identified medical conditions.  Yet, the interesting aspect of comparative historical analysis, even on a superficial level, is that the symptoms described in an old dictionary prompts recognition of all such “new” medical conditions.

This leaves one to believe that the reality of the world does in fact remain static; it is only our language which must adapt and reflect in order to adequately account for the reality of the physical universe.

In preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the inadequacy of one’s lexical universe may be a hindrance to the proper formulation and delineation of the nexus which must be created between one’s medical condition and the impact upon one’s job.  It is thus the lexical nexus (if one may coin a unique phrase) which must be created in order to effectively prevail in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

While having a medical dictionary may aid one in such an endeavor, the better approach is to first understand that it is not the correspondence between language and reality which matters, but that language is a universe unto itself in which man is the ultimate master of such, caught in that unreality which Heidegger attempted to unravel, and which Kant successfully bifurcated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: OWCP Doctors, and Others, Etc.

Can a doctor with whom one has been treating, but one which was obtained through the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act, Department of Labor (FECA/DOL), Office of Workers’ Compensation Program (OWCP), be an effective advocate for one’s Disability Retirement application?  Of course.

Often, however, there is a complaint that the “OWCP doctor” is not very responsive to a Federal or Postal employee’s attempt to approach the question of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.  As FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement is based upon proving by a preponderance of the evidence one’s medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, it is crucial that the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits have a supportive doctor.

While the Merit Systems Protection Board’s expanding case-law holdings continue to reinforce the idea that the most effective advocate in a Federal Disability Retirement case is a “treating doctor”, as such, medical reports obtained through 2nd opinion or “referee” consultations, or via filing for Social Security Disability benefits, may have some limitations on their usage; nevertheless, the weapons of arguing that an “independent” source of medical review also found that one could not perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, can be an effective substantive argument.

As for the OWCP-treating doctor, sometimes those forms completed by such a doctor will be enough to meet the eligibility requirements for OPM Disability Retirement — but that is an individual assessment based upon the uniqueness of each case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Conceptual Clarifications of Duties

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is helpful to make an initial conceptual distinction between the type of positional duties which one performs for the Federal Service — whether sedentary and administrative; whether it involves the necessity of on-demand travel or deployment; whether the particular medical condition requires special medical care or technology and apparatus which is not available upon travel or deployment; how physical; weight lifting requirements; how repetitive; whether driving is required; whether and to what extent it is cognitive-intensive; and multiple other considerations.

Such bifurcation and conceptual distinctions are important for purposes of informally categorizing a descriptive analysis for correspondence of duties-to-medical-conditions.  Thus, when the time comes to formulate the narrative portion of one’s application for Federal Disability Retirement, it becomes easier to effectively delineate the impact of one’s medical conditions upon one’s positional duties.

It is one thing to experience a medical condition; it is quite another to effectively describe the medical condition, utilizing the proper and accurate adjectives and descriptive word-pictures to a third party; and it is even further another matter to describe one’s medical condition and its impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  To perform the intellectual exercise of mentally delineating a list of one’s positional duties in one column; a list of symptomatologies in a separate column; a correspondence of impact between the columns (but remember, it should never be simply a one-to-one correspondence,and cross-overs and multiple overlays reflect the “real world” of medical conditions and their impact upon one’s positional duties), is a helpful exercise in the presentation of the “final product” to the Office of Personnel Management.

In preparing and formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to “think through” the administrative process, in order to exponentially increase the chances of success at each stage of the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: The “Almost” Medical Inability to Perform Termination

Often, Agencies will proceed to propose a removal of a Federal or Postal employee based upon reasons which clearly “imply” one’s medical inability to perform one or more of the essential functions of one’s job, but explicitly, based upon other stated reasons — e.g., “Failure to Maintain a regular work schedule” or “Being Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL)“.

Then, the frustrating scenario is when the Agency — in the body of the proposed removal letter — refers to and acknowledges the existence of multiple medical conditions which form the foundation, reason and justification for being unable to maintain a regular work schedule or being absent from the job (whether with or without official sanction or approval).

The key in such circumstances, of course, is to try and attempt to make the “implicit” (references to one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s inability to perform one’s job) “explicit” (having the Agency change or amend the reasons to instead state:  “Removal based upon the employee’s Medical Inability to Perform his or her job”).

Such a change, of course, would be helpful in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, precisely because it would invoke the Bruner Presumption, which would then make it that much more difficult for the Office of Personnel Management to deny a Federal Disability Retirement application.  For, that is the ultimate goal:  to obtain an approval of the Federal Disability Retirement application; and any such advantage gained brings the Federal or Postal employee one step closer to that ultimate goal.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Symptoms & Diagnoses

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is not that a formal diagnosis is unimportant; rather, it is that the diagnosis itself is merely a starting point and does not reveal the story which must be told in order to be eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

From a medical viewpoint, for treatment purposes and from the perspective of the treating doctor, identifying the source of the pain, entertaining the various treatment options, considering which treatment modalities will be most effective, etc., all play into identifying the proper source of the symptoms.  Thus, from a treatment perspective, identifying the medical condition by ascribing the proper diagnosis is of paramount importance.  A doctor often cannot begin the proper course of treatment unless and until formal identification is established. To that extent, it is also the beginning point for the treating doctor, in that once a source of pain or origin of symptoms is diagnosed, then various treatment modalities can be considered.  

For purposes of becoming eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is also merely a starting point.  As the Office of Personnel Management often likes to point out, “The mere existence of a medical condition does not mean that a person is disabled from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.”  While quoting OPM as the source of legal authority is normally unwise, nevertheless one must grant that this particular statement is true within its limited context, and must be kept in mind when preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire