Federal Disability Retirement: Indexicals

It is indeed the specific context of a situation which provides for referential data giving individualized meaning to a case. But for Federal Disability Retirement cases, the unique contextual information concerning where, by whom, in what timeframe, may be perfectly allowable in a “for instance” or “for example” type of descriptive enhancement, but ultimately what the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is looking for is the example which represents a medical condition or symptom thereof that is chronic, is of consistent duration, and which is not merely a singular event.

Yes, indexicals of referential relevance represented by “here”, “when” and “where”, with the inclusion of epistemological privilege and the insertion of “I” in repetitive manner, can convey the personalized account which touches upon a sensitive soul; but in the end, it is the scientific, objective coldness of diagnoses, symptoms and delineations of chronic descriptions which establish the viable connection between one’s medical condition and the inability to perform the essential elements of one’s positional duties.

Thus, in formulating one’s Statement of Disability as configured on SF 3112A, it can be an effective tool of one’s narrative to weave back and forth between the indexical and the objective third person, and even extrapolating and including statements from medical documents, treatment notes, etc.

Ultimately, in the preparation and formulation of an OPM Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, it is best to set aside the constraints of space as imposed by SF 3112A, and to provide a concise but detailed narrative which fully satisfies the questions posed and queried by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: A Bridge Too Far

It is an indelible comment in history, marking a failure of calculations resulting in catastrophic consequences in the unwise attempt to quickly end the war.  As a tactical consideration, the attempt to outflank German defenses by securing key bridges in order to isolate the enemy, constituted a brilliant idea; in practical application, the unconfirmed attribution of the comment that the Allied Forces may be going “a bridge too far” proved to be the very downfall of such a bold military strategy.

M-2 Treadway Pontoon Bridge under construction across the Po River near Ostiglia (National Archives)

M-2 Treadway Pontoon Bridge under construction across the Po River near Ostiglia (National Archives)

Bridges represent vital and necessary supply lines between two entities, organizations, populations, and even ideas.  They allow for the free flow of supplies and communication; they constitute the “lifeline” between two otherwise disparate groups.  It is such a bridge, or “nexus”, which is similarly of great importance in all formulations of Federal Disability Retirement applications. For the Federal or Postal Worker who is preparing to submit a Federal Disability Retirement application through one’s agency (if still employed by the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, or otherwise separated but not more than 31 days since the effective date of separation), and ultimately to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, making sure that the “bridge” between one’s medical condition and the impact upon the positional duties of one’s job is a vital and necessary part of the process.

Like physical bridges which connect various populations, the nexus which brings together the Federal Disability Retirement application in a FERS or CSRS submission, will determine the very persuasiveness of one’s presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  A bridge which is inadequate will fail to establish that the medical condition impacts one’s capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal position; and one which overextends itself may raise red flags of overreaching and exaggeration, undermined by a Supervisor’s Statement or the Agency’s contention that they have attempted to accommodate an individual to a legally viable degree.

While a 1-to-1 ratio of a medical condition-to-an-essential element is unnecessary in establishing eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits (see my multiple articles on the Henderson case), nevertheless, a linguistic construction of an adequate bridge between the two must be firmly established.

In the end, as with the Allied attempt to swiftly conclude the war resulted in the unnecessary cost of human lives, so one must take care in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, such that one does not go “a bridge too far” in making one’s case in a Federal Disability Retirement claim.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Non-nexus

Meeting an adequacy test may constitute sufficiency for some purposes, but not for others.  Thus, it may be enough in completing an FMLA form to have a diagnosis, along with answers to other questions on WH-380-E.  But mere identification of a medical condition via a diagnosis, along with a description of symptomatologies will not be enough to meet the sufficiency test in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

People often assume that having a medical condition in and of itself sufficiently explains the severity of one’s condition, and any implied “blank spaces” can be filled in by the mere existence of such a medical condition.  But Federal Disability Retirement, whether under FERS or CSRS, filed through, reviewed by, and approved or disapproved by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence that the medical condition itself prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.

As such, the identification and description of a medical condition fails to comply with the adequacy standards in proving eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  One must establish, through the conduit of a medical professional, the “nexus” or “connection” between one’s identified medical condition and the inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

The weight of the proof is upon the Federal or Postal applicant.

The foundation of such evidence begins with the identified medical condition, but in and of itself, it is a non-nexus — until it is squarely placed in the context of one’s official position and the duties required by one’s duties.  Thus, the non-nexus become the nexus-point when combined with the identification and description of one’s positional duties.

It is this realization of the step-by-step sequence of proof which constitutes adequacy and sufficiency of evidence, and one of which the Federal or Postal applicant for OPM Disability Retirement benefits must be aware.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Bridge

The “bridge to nowhere” has become a metaphor for wastefulness and needless expenditure, both in terms of effort and resources.  It is a phrase in politics which has become overused and bandied about for political gain, attack ads and undermining of an opponent’s credibility.  As a political tool, in its very repetitiveness of its incessant utilization and reactive assignation against opponents, it has lost its efficacy.  Yet, in a very real sense — while the phrase itself may have become conceptually emptied of meaning — the foundation of what it represents still applies, and is relevant in all walks of life.

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must create a “bridge”, or a “nexus”, between one’s medical condition(s) and the positional duties of one’s job.

The underlying and inherent self-contradiction in the phrase itself is fascinating, if one pauses to reflect:  a “bridge” by definition” is intended to connect two or more points — from A to B, to perhaps other destinations. Yet, because a “bridge to nowhere” fails in its very definitional inception by only going from point A to … (?), as such, it undermines its own definition and purpose.  It is not a bridge.  The “nowhere” destroys the conceptual integrity of the “bridge“, and therefore the phrase itself is a conceptual conundrum of nonsense.  In order to regain its conceptual identity, one must go back to the foundational purpose of what a thing “is”, in order to regain what it must become and why it has lost its identity.  As in most things in life, we must go back to Aristotle’s “first principles”.

In Federal Disability Retirement, one needs to go back to what the question is that is being asked on Standard Form 3112A, its purpose, its directive focus, and why it is that the Office of Personnel Management is asking the question.  Only then can one begin to effectively formulate the bridge between one’s medical conditions, and the impact upon one’s positional duties, whether as a Federal employee or a Postal worker.

In a Federal Disability Retirement case, the “bridge to nowhere” will result in a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  The bridge must begin from a point of relevance, and end in its intended destination.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Corresponding Bridge

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee must always keep in mind the overriding connection throughout the entire administrative process — the correspondence between the medical condition and one’s positional duties.

Thus, redundancy and reiteration of the impact and connection between the two elements should be seen at every turn — in the medical reports; in the applicant’s statement of disability; in the Supervisor’s Statement (if possible); in the SF 3112D, Agency Efforts for Reassignment and Accommodation, etc.  

As Social Security bases its decision in determining the disability of an applicant upon factors which involve the medical condition itself and its impact upon daily living abilities, so Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS takes a different focus and approach:  it emphasizes and evaluates the necessary connection between the medical condition one suffers from, and the impact upon one’s positional duties in the official slot held by the Federal or Postal employee.  

As the law focuses upon that “necessary connection,” so the evidence which is presented to the Office of Personnel Management, in meeting the legal criteria by a preponderance of the evidence, must emphasize and repetitively, where possible, delineate such a connection.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Essential Points

Becoming embroiled in the minutiae and complexities in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application is important and necessary; however, in doing so, it is important to make sure that the foundation — the “essentials” — are not overlooked in the process.

Thus, while preparing and formulating the Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, for submission to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, always go back to the three (3) essential elements of a Federal Disability Retirement case:  First, the medical condition itself.  Preparation by the treating doctor of a sufficient medical narrative report is essential to the successful outcome of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Guidance as to the elements which must and should be contained in the medical narrative report is crucial to the endeavor.  

Second, the position description.  Always remember that it is not only what one is actually doing in a Federal or Postal position (although that is also a part of it), but also what the official position description states that one should be doing, or may be asked to do at any moment (this can become an important part of the argument later against OPM if OPM decides to bring up any issues concerning Agency Accommodations).

Third, the Bridge or Nexus between the Medical Condition and the Position.  This is the important “third rail” of the entire process, which should be delineated first in the medical narrative report prepared by the doctor, as well as described effectively in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  Of course, throughout the process, it is important to attend to the details; but never let the complexities of the details sidetrack you from the important essentials in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits whether under FERS or CSRS, from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: A Bridge Too Far

The step-by-step process which the Federal or Postal employee must engage in for purposes of formulating an effective Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, is defined by the bridge, or “nexus”, which one must formulate, connecting the two separate entities:  on the one side are the medical issues; on the other, one’s positional duties which one has been engaging in and successfully performing all these many years for one’s agency or the U.S. Postal Service.  

The job of the potential Federal Disability Retirement applicant is to bring the two separate and distinct entities together, by preparing and formulating a connecting “bridge” or “nexus” between the two.  This is because one of the most important evidentiary showings that one must prove, by meeting the legal standard of “preponderance of the evidence“, is that the Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s official positional duties.  

The problem with any such bridge which must be constructed and carefully formulated, however, is that many Federal Disability Retirement applicants put forth too much information, to the extent that some information may in fact defeat or otherwise damage the connection, by providing information which may be irrelevant (less damaging, but creates peripheral problems and confusion), of ancillary legal issues (may be more damaging, depending upon whether the Federal Disability Retirement applicant has brought in work-related issues which may point to a description of “situational disability”); or, provide information on certain medical conditions which contradict other information provided (again, often more damaging to a case).  

It is always important to provide enough information to the Office of Personnel Management to meet the burden of proof, of a preponderance of the evidence, in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application; too much information will sometimes be damaging; too much of the wrong kind of information may be very damaging.  As the title of the well-known book implies, one must be careful not to construct a “bridge too far”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire