Context, Content and Vacuums in Federal Employee Disability Retirement Applications

Vacuums constitute space devoid of matter.  In the practical world, the mechanical tool used for removal of unwanted substances merely moves matter from one location to another; in theoretical physics, one encounters complex conceptual discussions which will often involve comparative analysis of partial vacuums in relation to pure vacuums.  Discussions involving vacuums, where a proper context is important in understanding the relational significance of subjects focused upon, and the incomprehensible vacuity of meaningless occurs when conceptual connections are lost because context and substance lose their connective importance.

In the context of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, too much focus and attention upon peripheral matters, outside of the context of medical conditions in their relationship to positional duties and essential elements of one’s Federal job, will often create a vacuum of significance.

Context is always important; but the extent of detail required, and necessity of issues to be discussed, and the quantitative value of documentation and evidence submitted, may well prove to attain an opposite effect from the one intended. Unintended consequences resulting from intended actions are to be expected in daily life; but where one has decided to pursue an administrative and bureaucratic process where submission of the evidence can be thoughtfully controlled, it is always important to coordinate the relationships between context, content and vacuums.  The descriptive context of an OPM Disability Retirement application; the substantive content of the evidence to be submitted; and the vacuum created by placing evidence in one part of the Federal Disability Retirement application but leaving it omitted from another, results in the intended whole of an effective Federal Disability Retirement packet.

All Federal Disability Retirement applications are filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, and because the agency which reviews, approves or denies a Federal Disability Retirement claim is different from the one which originates with the source (with the exception of the injured Federal Employee who actually works with OPM, which can of course happen and has happened), it is important to consider the connective relationship between context, content and vacuums created, both in practical life, in theoretical physics, as well as in the preparation, formulation and filing of a CSRS or FERS Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Frameworks

To be successful in any endeavor, one must identify the relevant issues, sift through and discard the peripheral contents, and maintain a thematic thread throughout in order to keep the focus upon the essence of the project. Anyone who has attended a meeting which lacks a subject-matter focus, and where a free-for-all is allowed, without a circumscribed set of agendas, can attest to the importance of setting priorities and understanding the difference between points of significance and irrelevant detractions.

Frames are important, and sometimes as much as the painting itself.  For, art is merely a slice of the greater exposure to life, and it is the frame which distinguishes that parcel of perspective and allows the viewer to participate in a moment of time and a pause for reflection.  For the Federal or Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to provide a “roadmap” to OPM, and thus circumscribe the framework of the relevant attachments, medical and legal issues to be evaluated, and the pathway to resolutions preemptively proposed.

Thus, the three tiers of an effective framework should include: (1) A clear and concise Statement of Disability (here, one must be careful because of the legal consequences of failing to include and fully describe the medical conditions), (2) A reference to the relevancy of the attached documents which support the statement, and (3) the pertinent legal foundations which are satisfied by the first two tiers.

He who frames the picture has the power to direct the viewer’s perspective; for, it is the frame which enhances the content of the artistry, and directs the appreciation to an irrelevant empty sky in a schematically unimportant corner of the painting, or to the central theme where the brilliance of bursting colors explode forth in magnificent reflections of a masterpiece’s slice of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Simplicity of the Case

The initial telephone inquiry often involves an apologetic explanation that one’s particular Federal Disability Retirement case “is a very complicated one which involves…”  Then, of course, there is an extensive history of events.  But complexity is often made so because of the lack of understanding of what direction the Federal or Postal employee must pursue in order to obtain an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and it is assumed that the reason why the Federal or Postal employee contacts an attorney is to unravel and unscramble the complications which were created precisely because of such lack of understanding.

Remember that in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the bundle of complexities was created, more often than not, because of an admixture of agency issues, a history of adverse contact between the agency and the Federal or Postal employee, coupled with the rise of medical issues and their impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform all of the essential functions of one’s job.  As such, it is the job of the attorney to focus the Federal or Postal employee upon the foundational “essence” of a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Whether it is to “cut to the chase”, or strip away any peripheral issues to get to the “heart of the matter”, or whatever other pithy niceties which may be applicable, it is the job of the attorney to set aside the complexities, and simplify the process in order to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement approval for the Federal or Postal worker suffering from a medical condition which prevents him or her from performing one or more of the essential elements of his or her job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Ties that Bind

Often, the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is involved in, or considering such involvement in, collateral or ancillary actions against the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.

Litigation is a difficult road to travel; both in terms of emotional drain and financial commitment, a successful EEOC action or some form of lawsuit against a Federal Agency, can take a tremendous toll upon the Federal or Postal employee engaging in such parallel legal universe.  Further, when a medical condition is involved, the ability of the litigant to engage in the protracted, emotionally and physically draining garbage pit of depositions, discovery and endless demands of a Dickensian “Bleak House” endeavor, can detrimentally impact one’s health and ability to recover.  Justice has a high price; perhaps that is why it is rarely achieved.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the engagement of collateral legal avenues often reflects a complex history of an adversarial relationship between the Federal or Postal employee, and the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.  Yet, such ancillary litigation is often anathema to obtaining Federal Disability Retirement and in many ways defeats the purpose.

As part of the review of the entirety of the process, it serves you well to consider the toll of such collateral litigation once the Federal or Postal employee files for, is waiting for, or receives a Federal Disability Retirement.  At what price, and to what end?  Or is it a tie which continues to bind, and merely squeezes the life that is left?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: OPM’s Methodological Application

Since prior to the time of Plato’s Dialogues, the questions distinguishing between “appearance” and “reality” have pervaded Western philosophical thought, and through that tradition, to the common culture we inhabit.  What a person, entity, organization or group “appears” to do, think, become motivated by, etc., as opposed to the underlying teleological focus, the substantive “substratum” which, in the progressive evolution of philosophical thought, culminated in Heidegger’s explosion and unrevealing of true “Being” as being.

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 have a rudimentary understanding of the methodological approach of the agency one must deal with — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  To do so, as one might take Aristotle’s analysis, it is well to understand and evaluate “first principles”.

Yes, OPM is required to apply “the law“.  Yes, certain aspects of “the law”, such as questions concerning accommodations, whether a job offer was ever made by the agency; whether a case appears to have some semblance of situational disability; whether workplace harassment played a role in a Federal or Postal worker’s medical condition — all of these are “considered”.  But that is merely the “appearance” of how OPM approaches a case.

Ultimately, the “reality” of consideration focuses upon the effectiveness and persuasive efficacy of the medical report and records.  Where law, medicine, and common sense meet and collide, is where the reality of a Federal Disability Retirement case ultimately coalesces, and that is why the combination of what the medical evidence says, what the applicant states, and what the law argues, will be the deciding factors in the “reality” of a case, as opposed to the mere appearance.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Wrong Approach of Not Losing

Both in sports and in politics, the sure-fire way of ensuring a negative outcome is to play not to lose.  Similarly, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there is a logical sequence of events and issues to tackle.

While it is important to become “informed”, and to have a peripheral eye towards potential future problems (indeed, the undersigned author has written numerous articles about building foundational blocks to prevent future issues from becoming obstacles; and of concretizing potential red flags and addressing them before they become actual roadblocks to a successful outcome, etc.), it is also important to maintain a “present” perspective, and to keep the logical sequence of the mechanical aspects of preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement case at hand.

Once the decision is made to go forward, the multiplicity of complex components of putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application can derail an attempt if every inch of minutiae is ruminated over. Move forward with what one has, and do it with a goal of a successful outcome.

Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS needs to be approached, first and foremost, in its most basic components:  A medical condition (the doctor’s narrative report); the applicant’s statement of disability; the bridge between the two.  Everything else is a complexity which encapsulates details which, while important, must remain on the periphery and lend supportive contact to the central issues of the case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Collateral Impact

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is the question of whether collateral or parallel venues of disability benefits can be applied for; whether there is a conflict between such “other” filings; and further, what impact each of the alternative sources have on each other.  

Such other venues of applied benefits could include the Office of Worker’s Compensation, under the Federal Employees Compensation Act/Department of Labor (OWCP/FECA/DOL); Social Security Disability; Unemployment compensation; VA Disability benefits, private disability policies, etc.

As a general rule, there is no reason why all of such benefits should not be applied for concurrently.  Is there a conflict between each?  By the term, “conflict”, would imply something negative or improper in the mere filing.  To that superficial question (and by “superficial” is merely meant an initial, fundamental question, and not as to the depth of any complexity), the answer is a simple “no”.  There is nothing improper in filing for multiple and concurrent benefits, so long as the questions asked by each benefit/entity is answered honestly and truthfully.  

As for “impact” between one or the other, some benefits have exclusive compensation (OWCP & FERS or CSRS disability annuities cannot be paid at the same time), some have offsetting benefits (FERS & SSDI offset each other); some have no impact on each other at all (VA benefits & Federal Disability Retirement benefits can be received concurrently, for example), while still others depend upon the language of the contract (e.g., private disability policies).  

A still further question concerns whether or not medical reports and benefit determinations from one source can impact, and in what way, another source.  That subject will be discussed in another blog.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: A Bridge Too Far

The step-by-step process which the Federal or Postal employee must engage in for purposes of formulating an effective Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, is defined by the bridge, or “nexus”, which one must formulate, connecting the two separate entities:  on the one side are the medical issues; on the other, one’s positional duties which one has been engaging in and successfully performing all these many years for one’s agency or the U.S. Postal Service.  

The job of the potential Federal Disability Retirement applicant is to bring the two separate and distinct entities together, by preparing and formulating a connecting “bridge” or “nexus” between the two.  This is because one of the most important evidentiary showings that one must prove, by meeting the legal standard of “preponderance of the evidence“, is that the Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s official positional duties.  

The problem with any such bridge which must be constructed and carefully formulated, however, is that many Federal Disability Retirement applicants put forth too much information, to the extent that some information may in fact defeat or otherwise damage the connection, by providing information which may be irrelevant (less damaging, but creates peripheral problems and confusion), of ancillary legal issues (may be more damaging, depending upon whether the Federal Disability Retirement applicant has brought in work-related issues which may point to a description of “situational disability”); or, provide information on certain medical conditions which contradict other information provided (again, often more damaging to a case).  

It is always important to provide enough information to the Office of Personnel Management to meet the burden of proof, of a preponderance of the evidence, in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application; too much information will sometimes be damaging; too much of the wrong kind of information may be very damaging.  As the title of the well-known book implies, one must be careful not to construct a “bridge too far”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Central v. Peripheral Issues

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), it has been variously pointed out by the undersigned author at different times, that it is a self-defeating proposition to focus upon workplace issues which may be the originating and/or continuing impetus, cause or exacerbating trigger of a medical condition which has resulted in the necessity of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Just as the problem of an ad hominem attack detracts from the centrality of a point to be made, and instead focuses one’s attention upon an issue which may or may not have any relevance at all upon the original proposition; similarly, to unduly focus upon workplace issues such as harassment, hostile work environment, unfair treatment, mean supervisors, personalities of coworkers, policies which are applied in a discriminatory manner, etc. — all of these issues, while of interest perhaps in another context, forum or jurisdiction, deflects the central and substantive focus of what is necessary in order to obtain an approval for a Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management.

Moreover, such focus upon peripheral issues may actually defeat a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application, by pointing out the “red flag” of what is termed a “situational disability” (those disabilities which can be reasonably said to confine themselves within the context of a specific work environment).  Treat the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application before the Office of Personnel Management as one’s opportunity for 15 minutes of fame — within that short time span, make the best of it, and don’t meander into areas of irrelevancies.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Issue of Discretion

A Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS may also be undergoing concurrent disciplinary proceedings, or engaged in corollary grievances, EEO Complaints, or involved in a lawsuit in a separate forum, either in the Federal Circuit Courts or at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

In either event, the question often comes to the fore as to whether such collateral issues should be brought up in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) or perhaps in a legal memorandum or cover letter which argues the merits of the case, the legal basis for eligibility, etc.  The answer to the question as to whether, how and where is one of discretionary choice, and there is never a singular answer.  

A separate question to be asked of one’s self (with no obvious answer) is whether or not, if the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS does not bring up the fact of a collateral issue being litigated in a separate forum, will the Agency bring it up and discuss it in a way detrimental to the Applicant, and further, will the fact that the issues was not brought up make it appear as if the Applicant is somehow trying to hide the issue?  As with all such hypotheticals, the answer to all of the above is:  It all depends…  

Often, not mentioning a potential “red flag” until and unless it becomes a red flag is the best approach.  Sometimes, making a passing reference to the collateral issue may be appropriate.  In all instances, unless a connection can be made between the collateral issue and the issues central to a Federal Disability Retirement application — the medical basis and the impact upon one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job — it is normally best to leave it alone.  In any case, such discretionary decisions should be made with the advice of an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire