Federal Disability Retirement: The Dependence of Meaning

Wittgenstein believe that it was not possible to have a private language held by an individual alone; for, as language by definition is a means to communicate, any language which is kept in private from everyone else would be a meaningless tool.

Private, insular worlds are dependent upon their functioning upon the receipt by third parties to impart meaning and interaction; otherwise, left within the void and chasm of pure privacy, they remain nothing more than the slow drip of a distant echo of spring water deep within the hollows of an undiscovered cave.  For those of the rest of us who live and interact within a world of words, writings, and regulatory compendium of laws and statutes, the ability to convey meaning in a meaningful way is paramount for the successful progression of our every day lives.

For the Civilian Federal or Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of his or her Federal or Postal duties, conveying what one means becomes a critical exercise:  putting together an effective Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, in a manner which persuades and entitles, is the penultimate goal which must be accomplished.

How one gets from point A to point B; what material and evidence to compile and include; what legal arguments to bring up and point out; these are all elements which must be considered. Concurrently, the privacy of one’s medical conditions must be protected to the fullest; but that is where the compromise must be attained, between the private and insular world of necessity, and the public world of reality which must be encountered and engaged.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Someone Else’s Argument

Have you ever sat with company at a dinner table, and engaged in a conversation where it appears as if you are continuing someone else’s conversation?  Or your presence is merely a substitute for an extension of a previous debate or discussion?  Where a topic is brought up, and immediately a barrage of critical attacks — of arguments you have never made, and of statements you don’t recall disseminating (and where this is only 5 minutes into the salad and you’ve barely tasted the first glass of wine)?

The problem with unfinished business is that the transference of what one wanted to say is normally unloaded upon the wrong subject.  Conversations, debates, forums of intellectual exercises in linguistic battles — it is a rare person who has been able to convey the full force of one’s collective thoughts and beliefs on the matter, and it is more often the case that one leaves with the regretful remorse of, “I wish I had brought that point up…”  But rarely do second chances present themselves in a satisfactory follow-up forum; unless you are the unfortunate object for an unexpected dinner invitation.

In responding to a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the applicant — through his or her Federal Disability Retirement attorney — needs to understand that the person who issues the denial will not be the same person who will review any additional submissions or legal arguments at the Reconsideration Stage.

It will be reviewed, in legal parlance, de novo.  As such, while the basis of the denial as issued by the Caseworker at OPM at the First Level should be taken into consideration, one should approach the case in light of the following question: To what extent will the Reconsideration Branch care as to the original basis of the denial of the first caseworker?  If it is being reviewed de novo, the approach should be to go over all of the elements — and to reinforce and amend those weak points, some of which may overlap what the first caseworker pointed out, others which may not.

It may not be the best approach to argue to a dinner guest who wasn’t present at the first round of arguments; the points you are trying to make may not be heard because the bell has already rung, and the fighter in the second round has been replaced with someone upon whom you have never previously landed a punch.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Persuasion and Diatribes

Methods of argumentation require one to embrace a tripartite approach:  Regard for who the audience is; consideration of what the intended goal is; selection of the effective methodology of presentation.

Diatribes will often consider the first two points, while disregarding the third — for, the intended audience is the targeted person or group who must bear the vitriolic attack; the goal is to let loose a torrent of one’s beliefs and (in all likelihood) upset the recipient; but it is rarely an effective approach for any intended purpose other than to gratify one’s emotional turmoils.

Persuasion, on the other hand, must by necessity include the third element — for the very sign of success not only regards the intended audience and considers the goal of changing another’s mind; most importantly, it must do so in a subtle, quiet sort of way — by allowing for the recipient of the presentation to think that he or she is changing a perspective based upon one’s own volition, when in fact the presentation itself is the vehicle of the alteration.

It is this distinction between a diatribe and persuasion which one must keep in mind when preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS. The bull-in-a-china-shop approach in presenting one’s Federal Disability Retirement application before the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will rarely win them over; on the other hand, a carefully-crafted presentation based upon a streamlined narrative; upon medical evidence which is concise; and with legal arguments which are precise — leads to a methodology of persuasive impact.

Diatribes serve their self-centered purposes; persuasive argumentation allows for the unseen thread to pull the levers of effective results.  In the end, the short-term gratification of a diatribe will leave one hungry and dissatisfied, whereas the fruits of persuasion will always fulfill the needs of the audience, and the desire of the presenter.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Persuasiveness

The ability to persuade requires two components:  One who utilizes the tools of persuasion; and a receptive audience, open to an alternative perspective, and willing to regard and consider the arguments of the first.  

Power is often the single most obstructive obstacle placed in the path of persuasion, precisely because it makes an individual, entity, organization or agency believe that it does not need to be persuaded to change course.  Watching news shows and political interviews is quite instructive in the loss of society’s ability to either listen, or to persuade.  The rule today is to talk, and as long as the monologue lasts, the opponent is given no opportunity to respond.  He who talks the most, and the loudest, wins the debate.  

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 recognize the mechanisms already in place, and to use them to one’s persuasive advantage.  

The Office of Personnel Management is the entity which must be persuaded.  Inasmuch as it is easier to approve a case, than to deny it and have it Reconsidered or appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, the approach must be one of:  What can be submitted to make your job easier, and to relieve you of your heavy caseload?  For one thing, a concise and streamlined Federal Disability Retirement packet.  For another, a Disability Retirement packet which is clearly proven.  And for a third, legal and other arguments which are simple but to the point.  

Meandering arguments and voluminous biographies, as well as diatribes of complaints, will not win the day.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Persuading with Persuasive Arguments

The question is often asked concerning whether or not and to what extent other collateral agency decisions can impact a Federal Disability Retirement application filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), whether under FERS or CSRS.

The only answer which can be provided is the standard, “It depends…”  The reason why “it depends” is precisely because utilization of any persuasive information or evidence is primarily dependent upon the persuasive efficacy of the evidence itself.

There is certainly legal case-law support for collateral evidentiary submissions, including SSDI, Department of Veterans Affairs ratings, Military Board findings, and DOL/OWCP second opinion and “referee” findings, etc.  Thus, the issue is not whether or not there is a basis for using such third-hand sources to support the primary evidentiary foundation of a Federal Disability Retirement application; rather, the issue becomes one of how effectively should one use such evidence.  Such a question, of course, can only depend upon the particular and unique circumstances of each case, by analyzing and reviewing the strength, applicability, and relevance of the documented information.

Sometimes, use of such collateral evidence can somewhat backfire, in that OPM will actually point to such evidence and discuss it in a way which supports a denial.  Care and discretion must always be taken in using collateral information; it is always the primacy of the primary information which must be used, and used effectively.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Danger of the Sure Thing

The danger of any “sure thing” is that, aside from the potential reversal of fortune if the assumed certainty fails to come to fruition, the acceptance of the claim of certainty in and of itself undermines the motivational factor in the very process of attempting to reach a goal.

A recent article in the New York Times told of another high school basketball prodigy who was “destined” for greatness in the NBA, only to descend into the ranks of the “has-beens” and those who had “great potential” but somehow never realized and actualized such potential greatness.  Rare is the Lebron James in any walk of life; rarer still is the one who recognizes the distinction that a “sure thing” becomes a certainty only on the precondition that one must vigilantly ascertain and safeguard such certainty of outcome.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is often a misguided view that one’s own particular medical condition is so serious, and so debilitating, that it is a “sure thing” in the approval process with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Yes, there are rare cases where the identity of the medical condition is such that it warrants an automatic approval from OPM; but such cases are few, and that is why we refer to them as cases of certainty.  The problem often rests in the fact that the sufferer of the medical condition is the same person who attempts to be a proponent of the Federal Disability Retirement application.

Certainty is clouded by judgment; when it’s your own horse in the race, one wants to judge a certainty.  When that horse is not only one’s own, but moreover, the person himself/herself is in the race itself, then a clouded judgment becomes a misguided view of how the world operates.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Laws, Facts & Persuasive Argumentation

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to distinguish between laws, facts, and persuasive argumentation, as well as the targeted audience to whom such distinguishing elements are being conveyed.

For the first two “stages” of the administrative process, the Federal or Postal employee will be addressing personnel at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  This is merely at the “administrative”, or “agency” level of the process. Thus, the initial review, analysis, and application of the legal criteria will be performed by a non-lawyer, and any application of a legal criteria to determine the eligibility of the Federal Disability Retirement application will be done in a rather mechanical manner.  

By “mechanical manner” is merely meant that the criteria to be applied is merely an extrapolated generic form of interpretation, and will be applied by comparing the “list” of legal criteria against the submission of the Federal or Postal employee.  Whether there is sufficient justification in the medical report and records; whether the description of the Federal or Postal employee’s job comports with the official position description; whether the agency has offered an “accommodation”, and if so, in what form; whether a reassignment to another position at the same pay or grade was offered and declined — and other applicable criteria will be applied, analyzed and annotated by the OPM Representative.  

If the Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at this initial stage of the process, then it will again be reviewed at the Reconsideration Stage of the process — assuming that the Federal or Postal employee files a timely Request for Reconsideration with the Office of Personnel Management.  

It is at the next stage of the administrative process — an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board — that any legal argument will ultimately begin to carry significant and relevant weight.  For, at the MSPB, an Administrative Judge will review the entire file, and proceed to conduct an administrative hearing “de novo”, or “fresh” or “anew”, and weigh the evidence, the legal arguments, and determine the persuasive impact of either or both.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire