Writing an Effective Federal Disability Retirement Application

According to Ludwig Wittgenstein, the identification of context-appropriate language games is instructive in this linguistic-focused society.  With the explosion of information through the internet, via twitter, Facebook, texting and email, the changing and malleable nature of language is quickly evolving into a populace of blurred lines, where the virtual world and the substantive, Aristotelian world no longer possess clear bifurcations.  However language changes; whatever the form of communication; the need to convey clarity of thought will still and always exist.

It is one thing to experience life; it is another to tell about it.  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 be able to “tell about it”.

Yes, the primary satisfaction of the legal criteria necessarily requires the substantive experience of the medical condition; but there is a conceptual distinction to be made between “living it”, “telling it”, and “proving it.”  It is presumed that the Federal or Postal employee who is preparing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits already satisfies the first of the three; it is the second, and especially the third, which presents a problem.

Don’t think that just because you “should qualify” because of the nature, extent and severity of one’s medical condition, that such experiential phenomena justifies the proving of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  Ask OPM about it; if you can even get a response back.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Knowing the Terms

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to have some clarity on conceptualizations of physical and psychiatric medical conditions or, to put it quite simply, to “know your terms”.  

While one must obviously obtain the necessary medical documentation in order to meet the eligibility requirements for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, and such medical documentation — a narrative report providing for the “bridge” between one’s medical condition and the particular type of duties and positional requirements one is engaged in with the Federal government or the Postal Service, as well as office notes, treatment notes, etc. — reliance upon the medical documentation to expand upon, delineate, explain, illustrate and elucidate upon the narrative story of how the medical condition impacts upon one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, may be expecting too much from the doctor and medical documentation itself.  

On the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A), there is an opportunity for the Applicant to provide information concerning the impact of one’s medical condition upon the essential elements of one’s job, as well as upon one’s personal life.

Knowing the “medical jargon” and being able to extrapolate, apply, expand upon, and describe in terms which are cohesive, understandable, illustrative, and with sufficient emotive impact, yet maintaining a sense of rational perspective and sequential, logical application, is an important part of providing useful information to the Office of Personnel Management.

Keeping it simple is important, but at the same time being able to use the medical terms comfortably in describing the impact upon one’s positional duties, in a technical but comprehensible manner, is the key to effective communication.  For, after all, “communication” is what this is all about — of presenting a case which is persuasive to the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Speaking with the Doctor

Communication is the key to a successful outcome:  such a trite truism is certainly applicable in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS.  The primary focus when a Federal or Postal employee has a medical condition which is impacting his or her ability to perform all of the essential elements of his or her job, is to take care of the medical condition — i.e., to have the necessary treatments, to undergo the proper prescriptive treatment modalities, including surgery, medication regimens, pain management treatments, psychotherapeutic intervention, etc.

Beyond such treatment modalities, however, there may come a point in the life of a Federal or Postal employee when it is becoming apparent that the medical condition is simply “incompatible” with the useful and efficient retention in the Federal or Postal Service.  Such a determination is best made by the Federal or Postal employee, if possible, as opposed to having the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service suddenly and unceremoniously make such a determination — in the form of a proposed removal based upon one’s failure to maintain a regular work schedule; or because of taking “excessive leave“; or putting a Federal or Postal employee upon a Performance Improvement Plan.  Such a determination may best be made by the Federal or Postal employee by communicating one’s concerns to the treating doctor, and asking some incisive questions.  Another trite truism:  The only stupid question is the one not asked.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Flexibility of Language

Language is inherently a flexible tool; it is meant to communicate, and while precision in communication is the defining purpose in the use of the tool, often the essence of language must nevertheless be flexible enough to embrace other, correlative concepts. To limit the tool of language often will lead to undermining the very purpose of the use of such language.  

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the use of language in preparing, formulating and describing the interaction between the medical conditions and how it impacts one’s job duties, must allow for some level of flexibility.  For example, if certain chronic symptomatologies result in a mis-diagnosis of a medical condition, should a later (revised) diagnosis be allowed to be argued to the Office of Personnel Management after it has been filed?  

The answer to the question is contained in how the Applicant’s Statement of Disability on Standard Form 3112A is formulated.  If one merely lists the diagnosed medical conditions without describing the symptoms, then the language used has restricted the flexibility of post-filing inclusion.  On the other hand, if one combines the various medical diagnoses, but also includes a descriptive discussion of the symptoms, then the answer is likely, “yes”.  The use of language should be one of precision; how one utilizes the tools of language, however, should remain flexible.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Communication

As in all areas of law, a truism which may be applicable to a particular kind of practice of law applies both generally, as well as specifically to the process spoken of.  That is the nature of what constitutes a universal truth.  In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, the governmental agency which makes the decision in a case (the Office of Personnel Management), will often communicate directly with the applicant regardless of whether the applicant is or is not represented by an Attorney.

Indeed, OPM will often go so far as to completely ignore the attorney, thereby failing to send a copy of the decision letter, or to request additional documents.  All such communication is directly to the applicant/client first and primarily, without regard to the representing attorney, in many cases.  With that in mind, it is very important that the applicant communicate with the attorney.  Further, because the Office of Personnel Management is a Federal Agency which oversees thousands of cases, files will often sit dormant on some desk, or letters and decisions will be sent out without checking on updated addresses, etc.

Because of this, it is important that a total effort in communication be engaged in, which means:  communicating with one’s attorney on any correspondence or contact with the Office of Personnel Management.  A Federal Disability Retirement case under FERS or CSRS must be a “total effort”; it is ultimately the responsibility of the applicant, in the eyes of OPM, to respond properly.  The attorney in a Federal Disability Retirement case may have the technical knowledge on how best to approach a case; it is the applicant who must still continue to be engaged in the process, in order for the entirety of the process of be workable.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire