Expanding the Significance of Individual Federal Employee Disability Cases

Lawyers daily engage in it; courts are sometimes receptive to it; the public is rarely approving of it.  Expanding the literal language of a statute by reading meaning into words, phrases and conceptual paradigms not otherwise manifested or obvious in the words enacted, is a language game which some call intellectual brilliance, while others deem to be disingenuous or otherwise dishonest, to be blunt about it.  The “it”, of course, is the compendium of the expanded impact and relevance of consequences resulting from statutory language, some intended, others unintended.

Does it all result from the poor crafting of a statute?  Sometimes.  Is it expected in all statutory construction?  Mostly.  Can constriction, as the antithesis and corollary of an expanded interpretation, ever come about?  Rarely.  It is in the very nature and intuitive construct of a legal statute and inherent principle that expansion of that principle to include avenues and influences not otherwise originally intended is to be expected.  That is the very nature of a law.

Sometimes, legislators knowingly write a statute with intended wiggle-room precisely for the lawyers and judges to wrangle over.  What the general public fails to understand, however, is that each individual can be a singular guardian of the principle of expansion, in each case, with purposive intent and influences beyond, like tentacles on an octopus of fate and fleeting fairytales of justice.

Like the guardian standing at an entranceway, who hears a strange noise or movement emanating from beyond the periphery of his granted authority; how far should he venture?  To what extent should he be curious?  What parameters should preclude his investigation?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the subtle reverberations and almost imperceptible ripples from each case can never be underestimated.  The character of a case can only be properly compared by taking quantum leaps to cases from years ago; but clearly the benefits derived from prior cases, and precedents set from prior expansions of legal principles, cannot be denied.

The general thought is that individual cases represent merely a single raindrop in the expansive oceans of legal turbulence; but it is the individual case which can influence the compendium of legal principles through the unique argumentation of a previously unthought issue, brought in a light untold; viewed at an angle unstated.

Federal Disability Retirement is a parcel of law in a patchwork of quilts still being sewn; and each Federal or Postal employee who seeks to enter into the universe of laws, legal criteria and evidentiary significance, unintentionally walks into a cauldron of Federal Disability Retirement authorities which engulf and encapsulate statutes, regulations, case-laws and underlying legal principles.

How one uses them; to what extent one responds to the Standard Forms, which includes SF 3107 (for FERS) and SF 2801 (for CSRS and CSRS-Offset); and SF 3112 (for all three, FERS, CSRS and CSRS Offset); which evidentiary compendium is utilized; and the extent of legal argumentation and tools assuaged; all make a difference in expanding the significance of an individual case upon the greater universe of the feudal castle originally surrounded by a moat for protection, but where the guardian lowers the drawbridge and enters into territories hitherto uninhabited.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: The Template Approach

The Office of Personnel Management essentially renders both approvals and denials of a Federal Disability Retirement application with a “template” approach.  This is not surprising, but it is little noticed, and this is why:  For disabled Federal and Postal workers who file for Federal Disability Retirements benefits under FERS or CSRS, and who are not represented by a federal disability attorney, it is their “one-and-only” exposure to the Office of Personnel Management.

Thus, if an approval is received, that approval is the first and only time of having any correspondence from the Office of Personnel Management.  Similarly, if a denial is received, then that is the first exposure and contact from the Office of Personnel Management.  There would be no way of knowing whether or not the approval letter, or the denial letter, was or was not a “standard template”.  Certainly, in a denial letter from the Office of Personnel Management, there are references to submitted medical documents, or supervisor’s statement, or some other document which was part of the Federal Disability Retirement application; but the remainder of the denial letter is in “template form”. 

However, when an attorney represents a Federal or Postal worker and receives an initial denial letter, or a denial at the Reconsideration Stage, it is an obvious issue, because any attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law has viewed hundreds, if not thousands, of such letters.  Why is it important to recognize that the format is in “template” form?  For many reasons.  The type of template; from whom the template is received; the extent of the template; the issues presented in the format; these are all helpful for any experienced Federal Attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law, to successfully answer such formatted denials.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Client’s Interests

The Client’s interests is obviously what is always paramount for an attorney representing an individual in any given case, in any arena of law.  In Federal Disability Retirement law under FERS & CSRS, there is the added urgency in addition to the client — that of the continuing medical disability.  For every attorney, there are always competing interests for the limited time of any attorney — taken up by consultation, proper and careful preparation of the Federal Disability Retirement application itself; preparation for a Merit Systems Protection Board Hearing; and many other issues.  Time is the valuable commodity, and the attorney representing a Federal or Postal worker must take care to focus upon the essential aspects of what will ultimately result in the victory for the client:  an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement claim from the Office of Personnel Management

Sometime, read Anton Chekhov’s short story, Grief.  It is about a man whose son has just died.  As with any person with a tale to tell, it must be told.  So it is with any Federal or Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition which impacts one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  There is a story to tell.  At the same time, however, the Attorney who represents a person to obtain disability retirement must focus the story itself; to do otherwise ends up failing to serve the client’s best interest — the focus upon what will end in ultimate victory:  an approval from the Office of Personnel Management granting the Client his or her Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire