Attorney Representation for OPM Disability Claims: Fair Games

It depends upon how you read the concept, which word or syllable you place the accent or emphasis upon, doesn’t it?

In one sense of the concept, it has to do with games found at the county or state Fairs — you know, where cotton candy is sold and prizes are awarded for the largest potato grown or the fattest pig shown.  In another sense, it is in contrast to its opposite — of games where you have a good chance because rules are imposed and upheld, as opposed to “unfair” games where the proverbial deck is stacks against you.  It is in this second sense of the term that we apply.

Fairness itself is a difficult concept, precisely because of its malleability.  One concept of fairness is an arguable delineation based upon rules, perspectives, and even perhaps of cultural backgrounds.  Rules themselves can be attacked, and are “fair game” when it comes to disputatious boundaries, where there are essentially none to circumvent.

You can argue that such-and-such a call was unfair, and that obnoxious fan sitting next to you might counter, “But that’s within the rules of the game,” and you might then counter to the counter, “Then the game is rigged and the rules are unfair!”  What would be the counter-answer to the counter of the counter?  Perhaps, to say: “Listen, buddy, I don’t make up the rules.  It’s fair by definition if everyone who plays the game has to play by the same rules.”  Is that the silencer — the conversation-stopper — that cannot be argued against?

But what if everyone theoretically has to “play by the rules of the game”, but the rules are administered in a lopsided manner?  Is that what makes the game “unfair”?  Isn’t that what fans the world over complain about when the umpire, for example, sets the “strike zone” (or in other contexts, the “foul zone” or some such similar animal) too wide for some pitchers and too narrow for others?

Or, wasn’t there something like the “Jordan Rule” where a certain player was allowed to take an “extra step” (or two or three, for that matter) and no “traveling violation” was called, because the beauty of his fluid movements surpassed and transcended any “rules” that might disrupt the mesmerizing effect of such human defiance of gravity right before our eyes?  Could you imagine what an uproar that would have caused, where the player-in-question flies through the air with such acrobatic display of gravity-defying beauty, slam-dunks the ball to the rising wave of appreciative fans, and a whistle is blown — and the basket is disallowed?

That awkward motion that the referee engages in — you know, where both hands are balled up into a fist and made into a circular motion, indicating that a traveling violation has occurred — and then pointing to the scoring table and telling them to subtract the 2-points just previously awarded…is it “fair”?  Should fairness sometimes be overlooked when beauty-in-mid-flight entertains us to such ecstatic delights?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, where the medical condition begins to prevent the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, life often begins to appear as if “fairness” is no longer an applicable rule — for, is it “fair” that one’s health has deteriorated despite doing everything to take care of it?  Is it “fair” that others seem to have lived a life of excess but seem not to be impacted at all by the abundance of maltreatment?  Is it “fair” that others appear to be receiving favoritism of treatment, while your Federal Agency or the Postal Service appears to be targeting you for every minor infraction of the “rules”?

Life, in general, is unfair, and when a Federal or Postal worker seems to be the target of unfair treatment because of a progressively deteriorating medical condition, it may well be time to prepare, formulate and file an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Life is often unfair in general; but when it comes to applying and enforcing “the Law”, it is best to consult with an experienced attorney, especially when seeking to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM.  And like the “Jordan Rule” concerning extra-rule-violation treatment, it is best to make sure that your attorney makes the Rules of the Game enforced — and fair.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement under FERS & CSRS: Deviating and adapting

How does one deviate or adapt, if one is approaching something anew?

Such concepts as modifying or altering a methodology presumes that one has encountered the process before, and thus it stands to reason that a person who has never previously experienced something before can hardly be expected to provide new insights when the experience itself is new to the individual.  That is why we often refer to a person’s ability and capacity to “think on his or her feet” — meaning, to quickly encompass and adapt to new and fluid circumstances, despite a lack of familiarity with an onslaught of speedy changes.

Deviating, of course, can be a negative component, in that it may imply altering from a true-and-tested course of action, and unless one is certain of one’s confidence in a new path taken, there may ensue disastrous consequences when following a rebellious path that can lead to the unknown.  Many a trailblazer who knew not the way of the unbeaten path have perished by starvation or thirst.

On the other hand, we consider the capacity and ability of “adapting” to be a positive characteristic, in that it implies a characteristic of being able to respond to external circumstances that are changing, and requires a willingness to bend with the winds of change.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition begins to prevent the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the dual concept of deviating and adapting comes to the fore precisely because of the need to change — both on the Agency/Postal Service’s side, as well as from the perspective of the Federal or Postal employee.

For the Federal Agency or the Postal Service, the issue of deviating and adapting comes about in terms of “accommodation” — for, it is necessary for the Federal Agency and the Postal Service, by force of law, to “deviate” from the former ways of behaving, and to “adapt” to the medical conditions and changes that the Federal or Postal employee is undergoing.

From the viewpoint of the Federal or Postal employee, deviating and adapting may encompass a wide range of issues in terms of accommodations — whether the situation and conditions posed are temporary or permanent by nature; whether the medical conditions suffered are able to be accommodated at all, either temporarily or permanently; and whether attendance is an issue; of how much SL must be taken; of FMLA issues and extensions of LWOP beyond, etc.

In the end, deviating and adapting from the “norm” may not be possible, in which case preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, may become necessary.

For all Federal and Postal employees, what is important to remember is that suffering from a progressively deteriorating medical condition will require deviating and adapting, and that may include the need to have expert legal guidance by an attorney who has previously had the experience in preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application so that any and all deviations and adaptations can be initiated from the perspective of previous experience, and not as a trailblazer off of the beaten path where getting lost in the complexities of Federal Disability Retirement Laws can lead to disastrous results.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The mythology we create

Folklores and mythologies we have read as children; they stir the imagination, of gods in faraway lands in times now forgotten, and of tales of daring and courage in the moral plays of a universe now turned between the tides of time and the ebbing of history.

We are told that they were a manner in which to explain the unexplainable; that, until the great Age of Science came along and placed everything in its logical perspective, we once believed in the mythology of gods, superstitions and the folklore of our own imaginations.

But what of the mythologies we create in modernity?  Of the infallibility of science, when the very judgment and discourse is still based upon human frailty and self-interest?  Of phenomena which we cannot explain but somehow ascribe words that sound meaningful and complex to the understanding of others, and so we continue on in the mysteries we create?

And of mythologies we create — whether in our own minds without ever sharing with others, or the daydreams we are trapped in which we repeat almost daily, as an escape from the drudgery of the reality we must endure; or, perhaps of the lie that began as a pebble in the stream but kept growing over the years until it became a boulder that stemmed the tide of discourse and created a dam which fed a lake?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to prevent the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the mythology we create can be somewhat on a lesser scale of mischief or criminality.

It need not tell the story of a civilization’s origins or in explaining some overwhelming phenomena of the universe.  No, it can be a story that is created to explain away the excessive use of Sick Leave or Annual Leave; it can be the mere telling of a tale that tomorrow the medical condition will miraculously go away; or it can be in the very self-deception that you can continue to endure the pain and suffering and hide it from your coworkers, supervisors and the Agency as a whole.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit that allows for the Federal or Postal worker to retire early based upon one’s medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, however, it may require you to shatter the mythology we have come to create, and face the reality that the gods of thunder and lightening no longer throw down the zigzagging bolts of anger and revenge from high above, but rather, the rains of today may give way to the sunshine of tomorrow, explainable by the natural causes of science and that this amazing world of causality may yet be defined without purpose.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The content

It is ultimately the content that matters, especially in a technical, administrative procedure where tone and context become secondary.  After all, we are addressing a “medical” issue – a cold, clinical subject when it comes to filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

What should be included?  How far back?  What is meant by the “essential” or “core” elements of a job?  Does the capacity and ability to arrive at work for the duration of completing assignments in and of itself constitute an “essential” element of the job?  What if the job can be performed, but one simply cannot drive to the job?  Must I address failed efforts by the agency to “accommodate” me, and does the term “accommodation” have a narrower legal meaning than the way it is loosely used by my agency?

These and multiple other questions go to the heart – the content – of the issues presented when preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Content is all important, and the audience to whom the Federal Disability Retirement application is intended is relevant to keep in mind.  If you are standing in line at a grocery store, or at a Post Office, and someone remarks to you, “You are obviously in pain.  Go ahead in front of me” – such kindness and consideration may prompt you to explain, in somewhat abbreviated form, the content of what your medical condition is.  However, if that same person who showed such consideration turned out to be a close family member, who either already knows about your condition or is otherwise intimately familiar with the circumstances and the history of your medical condition, your response may be somewhat different.

How much history of the medical condition needs to be related to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; what medical records need to be attached and accompany the narrative report that creates the “bridge” and “nexus” between the medical condition and the essential elements of the job duties – these all fall under the general aegis of “content”, and must be carefully considered in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The title itself

Sometimes, it is good to go “back to the basics”.  Throughout these blogs for these past and many years, the attempt has been to relate common everyday experiences and life’s challenges to the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker struggling daily to maintain one’s career and to extend a career in the face of a medical condition.  Yet, the primary focus has always been to try and remain informative; to give some sense of the process of filing a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Sometimes, however, the title itself is sufficient, and one does not need the additional analogy, metaphor or “connectedness” to try and understand the process, and instead, all that is required is the title itself.

OPM Disability Retirement is a “medical” retirement.  It is based upon a medical condition that prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.  Yes, it can be a very, very complicating process, especially because there are potential pitfalls throughout the multiple administrative steps.  At each step of the procedural paths, there may be legal consequences that may not be correctible once the Federal Disability Retirement application has been submitted and a case number has been assigned at Boyers, Pennsylvania – i.e., a “CSA number” that begins with the number “8” and ends with a seemingly irrelevant “0” appended as the last of series of numbers.

Aside from the inherently complex questions posed on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, the initial question that one must face and answer is (A) Whether, as a practical matter, Federal Disability Retirement is worth it, and (B) Whether there is a good chance to become eligible for it.

As to the first question, the factors that must be considered are: One’s age (for, at age 62, all disability annuities are recalculated based upon the total number of years of Federal Service, including the time that one is on Federal Disability Retirement, and as it now takes at least a year to get approved by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the question needs to be asked as to how old one is, how close one is to reaching regular retirement, and whether one can last until such age of retirement and the accrual of enough service computation years of Federal employment, etc.), how many years of Federal Service, and whether the Federal agency or the Postal Service is threatening to proceed with termination or separation.  And as to the second question, issues concerning the type of medical condition, the severity, the impact upon the Federal or Postal positional duties, the extent of support, how much reliance of such support is based upon a VA disability rating, and multiple other factors.

The “title itself” is often quite simple; it is the subtexts, the parenthetical unknowns and the hidden potholes along the road to filing a Federal Disability Retirement application (here we go again with the analogies and the metaphors) that makes for a complex and complicated journey.  But, then again, hasn’t that always been the case throughout life – facing the title itself that seems simple enough, but finding out that it is a bit more difficult than first thought?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Disability Retirement: The Habit

No, this is not about that peculiar creature that Tolkien created who used to rule the earth but now hides in little dirt hutches in the deep recesses of forests (don’t all children and adults who have read his works believe in their heart of hearts that Hobbits still exist, and we just don’t see them?); rather, this, too, is a creature of sorts, just not the imaginary creation that gave joy to so many.

How is it that we come to learn it?  Is there a numerical value that must be first ascribed before the regularity of X becomes a Habit-Y?  What constitutes a definition of the repetition, and how is it learned, as opposed to unlearning certain types of constancies?  Is there a numerical value that further transforms a habit into an obsession, and where is the dividing line and what demarcates the distinction we thus impose?

If a dog, each morning upon the awakening by an alarm clock set by his master, rolls onto his back and waits until he gets a nice tummy-rub, and never deters or detours from such a habit, can he, too, unlearn it?  Is a habit, moreover, merely a settled tendency, such that the rest of those around may expect it to occur, but when it does not, is not necessarily a surprise or a disappointment, but a mere reliance that “normally” occurs but is not mandated by a turn to another direction?  When the expectation does not come to fruition, do we simply say, “Well, normally it is his habit, but perhaps he changed his mind”?

Kant, for instance, was known to take his walk at a specific time, and it was said of him that the townspeople set their watches against his daily routine and habit.  Does not that sound more like an obsession?  Is the difference one where there is greater ease to “break” the regularity, whereas an obsession is where such a tendency cannot, and is no longer a “voluntary” act?

Additionally, is there a difference with a distinction between a “habit”, a “ritual” and an “obsession”?  Or, is there no clear line of bifurcation (or is it “trifurcation”?), but the lines can cross over easily – as in, when we engage in a habit, sometimes there are rituals that are performed – washing one’s hands in the same way as always; combing one’s hair a set number of strokes; skipping over a particular crack in the sidewalk on the way home; and are rituals merely of greater intensity with obsession than with a habit?

And what of necessities that arise?  Such as filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for Federal and Postal employees – do people not file because their “habits” are entrenched in a belief-system that one must just “buck up” and ignore the warning signs of a medical condition that continues to deteriorate and progressively debilitate?  When do habits stand in the way of doing that which is “reasonable” under the circumstances?

Here is a thought: For Federal and Postal employees suffering from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing all of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job, let not habit become an obsession, and instead, allow for the rituals of life to free you from the habitual obsession of ritualistic redundancy, and instead, begin preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Different gradations of form and tint

The former often refers to architectural structures; the latter, to the exterior or interior paint, color and hue; and, together, they present to the observing eye the sensible objects that we experience through sight, smell and at least as to the former, tactile encounters.

Words are funny things; we not only create and apply them, but concurrently establish rules for utility and usage such that restrictions apply, expansiveness beyond certain boundaries become prohibited, and modifications for allowances in the placement of a particular sentence are constrained.  Can concepts concerning different gradations of form and tint be applied to human lives?  Yes, but we allow for such deviancy by imputing analogy, metaphor or simile, and the distinction is created through the parallel thought processes which are invoked by such literary devices.

Narratives have that sense of gradations, both of form and of tint, but in somewhat of a different sense.  “Form” in that context goes to the structure of sentences and how the story is molded for presentation to the listener, while the “tint” is more likened to the “feel” and aura manifested by the speaker, whether first person, third person; is the narrator omniscient or limited in knowledge and scope?

Structures are inanimate obstructions presented by three dimensional appearances manifesting color and hue; human beings, by contrast, are complex structures who present more than mere unmoving or unmovable obstructions, but instead embody form otherwise characterized as essence, tint often revealed as complicated personalities, and a psyche shrouded in mystery.

Thus, for Federal and Postal employees considering filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, that narrative written in response to the questions on Standard Form 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, should always consider what gradations of form and tint should be presented.

How much of the complexity of a human being should be infused, beyond the “inanimate” manifestation of cold medical facts and circumstances likened to the different gradations of form and tint?  Or, should there be a flood of emotionalism that reveals the “feel” and impact of a medical condition?

Human narratives are indeed complex, and can never be pigeonholed into predetermined categorizations without some aspect of a person’s subjective experience.  Ultimately, however, no narrative can be completely “cold”, like the inanimate structure based purely upon architectural integrity of form and tint, but must by necessity encompass the complexity of the human psyche.

Take care, however, that the narrative presentation does not border upon the maudlin, but instead presents a balanced admixture of facts, circumstances, legal precedents, symptoms of medical pain or psychiatric deterioration, with a clear pathway on a bridge to the positional elements of a Federal or Postal position.  For, in the end, it is an “effective” Federal Disability Retirement application that should be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and one which reflects well the different gradations of form and tint.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire