OPM Disability Retirement: Answering the question

What constitutes “answering the question”, and more importantly, how does one determine when its opposite occurs — NOT answering the question?  Does the former occur if the questioner fails to follow up, and does the latter become an issue if the person asking responds with, “That doesn’t answer my question,” or some such similar declarative assertion?

Take the following hypothetical:  Person A asks Person B, “So, where do you come from?”  Person B answers, “The skies of Normandy were grey on that June day in 1944.”  Now, Person A could have various responses to such a statement, as in:  1.  “No, no, I asked where you came from.” 2. “Are you telling me that you come from Normandy, France?”  3.  “That doesn’t answer my question.”  4. Or, silence, with no follow-up.

Person B, of course, could similarly respond in variegated ways, as in:  A.  “I just told you.”  B.  “Yes” or “No” (in response to the follow-up question, “Are you telling me that you come from Normandy, France?”).  C.  Silence, or “Yes it does.”  D.  Nothing further.

It may be that Person B simply has a poetic bent, and from his perspective, the mundane query was answered in a metaphorical, literary manner.  More to the point, however:  Who determines if a question has been answered (leaving aside the further query of whether the answer itself has “sufficiently” or “fully” been responsive to the question) — the one who asks, or the one who answers?

In a normal conversation, of course, the issue rarely comes about; in an argument where one or the other side, or both, are trying to get answers and defeat the other side, the heat of the moment may determine the answer to the question; and the penultimate paradigm of the question, “Who determines whether the question has been answered?” occurs in the highest form during a deposition or cross-examination in the legal arena.

Observing what occurs during a court proceeding is an interesting experience of human behavior; of the back-and-forth between counsels and the witnesses being deposed or examined, as in:  “You didn’t answer the question.”  “Yes, I did.”  “I asked you…”.  “Asked and answered.”  “Objection, the question has already been asked and answered.”  And on and on until a singular point is pursued to an exhaustive level ad infinitum and ad nauseum.

Is the issue of what constitutes an answered question somewhat akin to the question or “original intent” — i.e., that just like an author’s original intent as to the meaning of a written document is what should rule, similarly, the person who asks the question has the sole power to determine whether or not the question asked has been answered, and moreover, adequately and sufficiently answered?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are beginning the process of 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, these questions concerning the “answering of questions” will and should come to the forefront when confronted with the questions asked on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

Inasmuch as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has promulgated the questions in a carefully-crafted manner, there are some inherent pitfalls and dangers in what constitutes an adequate response, a sufficient answer and the complete delineation that rises to the level of a satisfactory statement.

SF 3112A is replete with unanswered questions within the very substance of each question, and the answers you provide are best guided by an attorney who has had the experience of legal encounters previously, and who specializes in the Law of Federal Disability Retirement.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Employee Disability Information: Accuracy

How important is accuracy?  The converse of such a query, of course, is:  Is inaccuracy significant?  One would immediately posit:  It all depends.

Take the following 2 hypotheticals:  An archeological dig is conducted, and it is believed that the site of the ruins is of relevant importance concerning a time-period of “recent” history — say, during the American Revolution.  Given that scenario, the “dating” of the site should be ascertainable within a year succeeding or preceding, such that if the Lead Archaeologist declares that the event in question occurred in 1778, “or possibly in 1779, maybe as early as 1777”, we know that — given the time period in question (1775 – 1783) — such a statement conveys a fairly accurate historical context.

Now, take the same hypothetical, but this time [sic] concerning some form [again, sic] of a fossil that is deemed at least 500 million years old.  If the Lead Archaeologist declares with some hint of irony, “Give or take a few million years more or less” — what would our reaction be?  Is such a “find” just as accurate as in the first hypothetical?  Can a declaration that is numerically off by a few million years (i.e., looking at it in quantifiable terms of 24 hours in a day times 365 days in a year times 2 – 5 million years equals how many hours for those who want a graspable perspective) be called a “science” in any meaningful usage of the term?

Of course, one could argue that even within the first hypothetical, given the limited range of years that comprises the American Revolution (1775 – 1783, or a mere 8 years), to be off by a year or so is also quite an astoundingly inaccurate assessment.  But which is “more accurate” — the one that is estimated within a year, or the one that quantifies it in terms of “millions” of years?  Can one even ask the question of “more or less” accurate, when the very concept of accuracy itself denotes precision and pinpointed, undeviated marksmanship?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the question of “accuracy” can be a crucial one.  How “accurate” does one’s Statement of Disability need to be on Standard Form 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability?  What “precisely” does the treating doctor have to include in the medical report?  How detailed (and therefore, accurately) does the nexus between the medical documentation and the Applicant’s Statement of Disability does it have to reflect?

In all such questions, “accuracy” is a goal to attain in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

For, while the Archaeologist may be “off” by a quantifiable sum of years in a site-dig and suffer little to no consequences, the Federal Disability Retirement applicant must depend upon the accuracy of the law in determining benefits to secure a future yet uncertain, and such an administrative endeavor is likened more to the accuracy of the arrow that is shot towards an apple resting upon the head of a young boy, than of a declaration made that is off by a few million years, give or take, more or less.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Medical Retirement from Federal Employment: If not X, then at least Y

Many such contingent annotations are in the form of:  If not illegal, then at least unethical; or, if not unethical, then at least lacking of propriety, etc.  It is the pathway to a lesser acceptance, where the focus of one’s aspiration is lowered because of the inevitability of discovering that evidence insufficient will be uncovered.  Thus can one go on ad infinitum in various but similar forms:  If not happiness, then at least some semblance of contentment; if not a soul mate, then at least someone to share my experiences with, etc.

But what if that “replacement” standard turns out to be less than acceptable over time, through duration of toleration, and during cold nights when boredom no longer excites in playing pinochle while the kids are asleep?  Or, if the infractions and constant infringements persist with no end in sight, and no appropriate definition of a violation such that there are penalties to be ascribed and consequences to be felt?  Do we then accept an even lesser paradigm, and if so, how do we know that such diminution and diminishment of acceptance won’t again be averted and avoided?  Thus, do we assert:  If not X, then at least Y; but if Y doesn’t work out, then at least Z; and so on?  When first one submits to the acceptance of a lesser standard, the proverbial horserace has already been lost.

In negotiations, in contractual disputes, in attempting to come to terms, etc., the sign first evidenced of conceding the lesser standard is the first indicator that the slippery-slope has just begun.   There are instances, of course, where the opposite is true, as well, except that we can rarely discern beneath the surface appearances.  That is what Federal and Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts the Federal or Postal employee’s ability and capacity to perform the essential elements of the Federal or Postal employee’s positional duties, must face and accept daily – the conflict between an aspirational paradigm of hope, and the reality of daily pain and anguish.

Thus, for the Federal or Postal employee, we have:  If there is lesser pain today, perhaps I can last through the day; If I show that I am productive this week, then maybe the supervisor will just leave me alone, etc.  As if, “lasting through the day”, or just “being left alone” for a week, a day, an hour, etc., are acceptable standards for living life?  That is why abandonment of all prior paradigms must often be employed in the journey of life, career and fortitude of endurance; we tend to cling on to categories of an “ought” no longer applicable.

For the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker who can no longer endure the acceptance of the lesser standard when there is an alternative to the constant suffering and persistent harassment at the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, fortunately, there is the ongoing benefit of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  Even for that, the road is still difficult and arduous, for the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the agency that determines all disability retirement applications, does not merely “hand out” the benefit.  Like everything else in life, it must be fought for.

But, then, the Federal or Postal worker who fights for a Federal Disability Retirement benefit can retrospectively declare:  “If not the constant and daily struggle, then at least an annuity to secure my future” – the “exception” to the rule, where the lesser is in fact the greater, but is not always apparently so.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


OPM Disability Retirement Attorney: Out to Pasture

There is a natural proclivity by the previous generation to resist the transference of authority before its designated time; the conflict arises not as to the inevitability of such change, but rather as to the appropriate context, procedural mechanisms instituted, and the care and sensitivity manifested.  And that is often the crux of the matter, is it not?

The brashness and lack of diplomacy and propriety; the insensitive nature of youth in trying to take over before paying one’s proper dues; and a sense that the young are owed something, without paying the necessary price through sweat and toil.  And the older generation?  From the perspective of the young, they are often seen as intractable, unable to face the reality of the inevitability of generational transfer; the ideas once seen as new and innovative are mere fodder for laughter and scorn.

Such treatment of those on their “way out” are often given similar application for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who show a need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Such employees are viewed as those being “put out to pasture”, and as something less than human, partial in their worth, lacking of completeness, and needing to be shoved aside to make room for the healthy and fully productive.

Resentment often reigns; the insensitivity of the approach of agencies in their bureaucratic indifference is often what prevails; and once the exit is complete, those who were once the warriors and conquerors of yesteryear, are mere vestiges of forgotten remembrances of dissipating dew.

Always remember, however, that there is another perspective than the one which is left behind.  For the Federal or Postal employee who is put out to pasture by one’s agency, there is new ground to break, fresh challenges to embrace.  The pasture that one enters need not be the same one that the former agency considers; it is the one which the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement annuitant plows for himself, and whatever the thoughts and scornful mutterings of that agency left behind, they now have no control over the future of the Federal or Postal employee who has the freedom to follow the pasture of his or her limitless dreams.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


OPM Medical Retirement: The Cackle around Us

Often, the noise emanating and pervading is nothing more than the raucous shrieks and glass-shattering sounds like the cackle of birds; neither intelligible nor pleasant to the ear, it fails to inform, engender pleasure, nor spur substantive advancement for the intellect or one’s emotional well-being.

People talk; talk is limitless; and the louder one talks (or so the theory goes) and endures past all others, the last voice establishes the truth of the matter.  The problem in modernity is not so much the boisterousness and overpowering continuum of noise; rather, it is the inability to recognize the lesser argument, the weaker factual basis, and the mesmerizing conduit of enjoying the sound of one’s own voice.

There is, indeed, much information “out there”; the question is not one of volume, but rather of quality in the vast overload of content dissemination. When one seeks  information, how does veracity get established?  When one chooses representation, what criteria is applied?  And when one receives answers to queries put forth, where does the confirmation begin to concretize?  The world is replete with information; what parcel of it is useful; how much of it is relevant; and to what use or pragmatic application can it be devised?  In the practical world of living, the cackle of information must be sifted through in order to survive any given ordeal.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, the preparation, formulation and filing of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management must by necessity encapsulate the issue of relevant, pertinent and substantive information.

Gathering the proper medical document; formulating an effective Statement of Disability on Standard Form 3112A; presenting updated and relevant legal argumentation in order to persuade OPM into approving one’s Federal Disability Retirement application; these are the criteria in the pragmatic application for sifting through the cacophony of information clutter, and it matters not whether the cackle avoided represents that originating from crows or vultures; the point is to keep from being the meal of prey, and instead to prepare one’s meal of information in the quietude of thoughtful reflection, away from the disturbances of those who seek merely to hear the sound of their own voice, as opposed to the satisfying sonata of substantive and helpful information that will actually help the Federal or Postal employee secure one’s future in the preparation, formulation and filing of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire