OPM Disability Retirement: Directing the Cinematic Chaos of Life

We tend to believe that life must travel along a linear path of consistent activity.  Perhaps such a belief system is derived from the Western philosophical tradition of Aristotle’s Metaphysics, which first proposed the conceptual universe of things moving from states of potentiality to actuality, and where the unmoved mover attracted all physical substances to its presence.

But life rarely unfolds as planned; and instead, a retrospective view of most lives reveals one of missteps, pauses, turns of trepidation and wrong and directionless travels to dead ends and strange neighborhoods.

We like sitting and watching movies and shows which are well-directed, with a thematic coherence and a nicely packaged beginning, middle and end. But what of our own lives? Who directs it, and what thematic presence dominates the cogency of one’s own existence? The difference between such fictional production and “real life”, of course, is that the former is created through artificial control of what happens and who enters each scene; in the latter, there can never be total control, as interaction with a chaotic and vibrant world cannot ultimately be refuted.

We try, of course, by remaining within the cocoons of our own making; by following a well-established daily routine, and never diverging from the treadmill of daily living. But then, those unexpected and unwanted anomalies of life intrude, such as a medical condition.

For Federal and Postal employees who find that a medical condition impacts the ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s livelihood, the option of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits will often be the only alternative left in order to remain on some semblance of a coherent, linear path of life.  It is a benefit accorded to all Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS or CSRS, and must ultimately be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

To be a movie director is one thing; the more important role is to have some authority in directing one’s own life, and that is by far the more difficult job in maintaining a thematic cogency in this universal chasm of chaos.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Coordinating the Elements of Success

Coordination is something taken for granted; it is only when there is a visible lack of coordination that one comes to appreciate that which has been taken for granted.  Thus, when a disjointed presentation is viewed; a play or a movie without a coherent theme; an unskilled person attempting a skill-based sport; a person trying to “wing it” when such an endeavor cannot be accomplished without prior practice and perseverance:  it is the bad play which brings to the fore the importance of coordination.

Thus, for the Federal and Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is the disjointed application, the one without a coherent structure or lacking of the necessary connections between the primary three (3) elements:  the law, the personal narrative, and the medical foundation; that is when a Federal Disability Retirement application is in trouble at the outset.

Coordinating the necessary elements will greatly enhance the chances of a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.  It is when there is a lack of such coordination that the inherent inconsistencies and lack of evidentiary substantiveness will become apparent; sort of like the minor leaguer who tries to reenact the play of a major league type, only to find that it isn’t quite the same.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Left and Right Hands

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, part of the successful process of preparation and formulation is the ability to coordinate everything for the sake of consistency.  Indeed, “consistency” — or the lack thereof — is precisely the issue which often defeats a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Whether it is the inconsistency of a medical report submitted and the office/doctors’ notes attached; whether how the Agency views the employee and what the Federal or Postal employee claims as to one’s ability or inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; or at a macro-level, a settlement agreement between the Agency and the Federal employee to determine the nature of a removal or resignation, and how cooperatively the Agency will complete SF 3112B and SF 3112D.

Such inconsistencies are the “fodder” of a denial for the Office of Personnel Management, who takes great effort in comparatively analyzing all aspects of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Further, if the medical conditions noted on one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) are not supported by the medical documentation attached, or perhaps the treating doctor focuses upon medical conditions X & Y while the applicant/patient thinks it is C & D, such internal incompatibilities can impact the outcome of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Non-Existence of Life’s Linear Line

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 often a valid concern that the Case Worker at the Office of Personnel Management will review a Federal Disability Retirement application for internal “consistency” of the application.  

By “consistency” is meant the comparative analysis and evaluation of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability as described and narrated on SF 3112A and its continuation attachment, and the medical records and reports and the substantive content of what the treating medical providers are stating.  

Such comparison and comparative analysis may involve the level and extent of treatment; whether there are any notations concerning non-compliance with medication regimens; whether the findings of clinical examinations may contradict the ultimate conclusions of the treating doctors, etc.  

The unfortunate part of such an approach is that life normally does not travel in such a consistent, linear line of events.  On some days when a patient visits the doctor, it may well be that he or she is in the “best health” of one’s slice of life, and it may be reflected as such in the mental status examination, or in the physical examination given by the doctor.  Or, conversely, on any particular day, the treating doctor may not be as “aware” or attentive to the patient, and may simply mechanically jot down notes without putting much thought into it.  Whatever the case, such linear consistency rarely reflects the reality of life.  

To counter such non-existence of the linear line of expectation, it is often a good idea to provide, if possible, a history of the medical condition, treatment regimens and modalities, in order to show that a day’s slice of life is not reflective of the greater medical history one has suffered from, and is currently suffering from.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Coordinating the Various Elements

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to coordinate the various elements necessary in its core formulation and preparation, to the extent possible.

Aside from simply declaring that there is “insufficient medical documentation” to warrant an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application, such that one’s case does not provide “compelling medical evidence”, the Office of Personnel Management will often cite various inconsistencies between the medical documents, including comparing what Doctor X stated as opposed to Doctor Y, or by noting internal inconsistencies where a particular medical note states “improvement” on a specific date, and contrasting that singular note with the body of the narrative report which the doctor has submitted for purposes of Federal Disability Retirement; or with the lack of performance deficiencies, or in comparison with what the Supervisor stated, etc.  

The problem with attempting to correct all inconsistencies, whether apparent, minor, or substantive, is that most issues in life contain inconsistencies.  Think about it — in normal situations of everyday life, do people act and speak in perfect narratives, where everything and everybody is coordinated in speech, action and motive?  Or are there always some inexplicable inconsistencies where one simply throws up one’s hands and says, Nevertheless, that is what happened?  Yet, the Office of Personnel Management will focus upon such inconsistencies and attempt to compare, contrast, and form the basis for a substantive denial.  

At the Reconsideration Level, of course, the Federal or Postal employee is given the opportunity to explain or to unravel such inconsistencies; but to the extent possible, the effort to coordinate between all of the various elements should be engaged in at the outset.  However, such coordination should be real, and one should never force an artificial coordination of efforts.  

Truth must always be the guide; but that the Office of Personnel Management, in reviewing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, would also be guided by the same criteria, as well as by a balanced approach of fairness.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Basic Elements

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important for the Federal and Postal worker who is contemplating filing for such benefits to keep in mind certain basic elements before engaging in the entire process:  

First, it is a long and arduous process, involving multiple stages (potentially) and requiring a great amount of patience.  

Second, the Federal or Postal employee should mentally expunge from one’s mind any view that Federal Disability Retirement is an entitlement — it is not.  The conceptual distinction between an “entitlement” and a “benefit” should be clear from the outset.  The former requires one to simply satisfy certain requirements in order to obtain the benefit; the latter requires that one prove all of the legal criteria, and submit evidence showing that one is eligible by a preponderance of the evidence.  The former requires nothing more than meeting certain basic requirements, which are normally automatic (age, for example); the latter mandates that one prove one’s eligibility.  

Third, there is almost never a “slam dunk” case, where one merely gathers the most recent medical records and reports, fills out the forms, and sends in the application.  Yes, there are certain limited cases, perhaps — i.e., of a Letter Carrier or a Special Agent who becomes bedridden — but these are rare and unique cases, and even then, it is still possible that the Office of Personnel Management will find a reason to deny such a case.  

Fourth, one must always prepare a case both for success at the First Stage of the Process, while at the same time laying the foundation for subsequent stages of the process.  

And Fifth, one should attempt to avoid inconsistencies, both internal and external, in the application, as OPM always targets inconsistencies as the basis for a denial, and likes to extrapolate and use such issues to base their denials.  

These are just some basic elements to keep in mind in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire