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

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Beast of Burden

The burden is undertaken by those have little choice in the matter, but who willingly submit to the responsibility and obligation.  Traditionally, the “beast of burden” (other than being a Rolling Stone song) refers to a somewhat-domesticated animal, perhaps a donkey or an ox, who must bear the weight of man’s work.

In law, the “burden” is one of proof — of the affirmative obligation to present one’s facts, persuasive argumentation based upon such facts, and the application of the relevant law which supports both the facts and the arguments.  The “other side” in the litigation has no burden at all, and can simply sit and do nothing, if he or she so chooses, and see whether or not the plaintiff, the appellant or the Federal Disability Retirement applicant has submitted sufficient proof such that he or she has met his/her burden of proof.

As the weight placed upon a beast of burden is often heavy and demanding, so in a similar vein the litigant who has the burden of proof should always expect to exceed what is “necessary” in any given case.  For the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is indeed a heavy burden to bear in order to meet the legal criteria of a Federal bureaucracy who has the unmitigated power and authority to approve or deny.

The burden of proof — it is as heavy as that which we place upon a beast of burden, and the weight of such responsibility can overwhelm us, lest we have the reserve of strength to plod onward.

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

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Facts, Proof & Truth

In a perfect universe, the conceptual distinction between facts, proof & truth would be non-existent:  facts would in and of themselves prove X, and the truth of the factual proof would be self-evident.  But this is neither a perfect world, nor one in which recognition or acknowledgement of true, proven facts are conceded easily.  Other human factors intercede:  self-motivation; possible unspoken quota system (did he really say that?); misapplication of a standard or legal criteria; lack of knowledge; lack of training to be able to recognize the distinction, difference, and intersecting significance of the three, etc.  As such, because we occupy an imperfect world, it is important to understand the conceptual distinction between the three.

In preparing, formulating, and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, many Federal and Postal employees approach the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits as if merely stating the “facts”, however compelling and substantively emotive, will “prove” the “truth” of the applicant’s statement of disability. But “facts” are merely the substratum (to borrow Aristotelian language) of the methodological process of effective argumentation; they must be proven to the Office of Personnel Management, and such proof must be persuasive to a level where the reviewing individual at OPM is persuaded of the truth of such proof.

The key to persuasiveness, of course, is argumentation; and argumentation must involve validity based upon an objective methodology, a logical and sequential statement of relevant facts, and (in the case of an administrative process such as Federal Disability Retirement) reference to statutes, regulations and case-law which provide the foundational reference-point for establishing eligibility.  Human beings are by definition imperfect constructs.  Slightly above the apes (although that is debatable), and certainly lower than the angels (that is not in dispute), one must therefore recognize that facts must be proven, and the truth of such proven facts must be asserted.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Word Usage

In any endeavor involving a “paper presentation” to a third party, it is important to be fully aware of word-choice and word-usage.  An overuse and overabundance of descriptive adjectives can undermine the efficacy of a presentation; the flow of sentences, the logical connections between statements, and a conclusion which follows from the major and minor premises of an argument — all in composite and aggregate form, create an impression of a linguistic Leviathan which is formidable, and thus unable to be countered.

Obviously, the facts and evidence which provide the foundation of an argument count for much.  There is the old adage that, when a lawyer possesses no persuasive facts, he argues the law; if the law fails to support a client’s innocence, he argues the maudlin facts; if neither supports proof of the innocence of the client, then he merely blusters and argues.

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 that the Disability Retirement packet is a “paper presentation” to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

You will not be meeting with anyone.  You will not be given an “in-person” interview, where one’s charm, charisma and personality may provide the persuasive foundation for an approval.  Rather, it must be by the sheer convincing force of one’s logic, methodology of argumentation, facts presented and the persuasive nexus between one’s medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job — based upon the choice of words and the application of expanding conceptual constructs.  An inadvertent use of a word may become the weak link to such a paper presentation.  Those times when you should have been listening to the English teacher in Grammar Class — it mattered.

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

OPM Disability Retirement: Using the Bruner Presumption

Argumentation on a point of law, persuasive argumentation based upon a logical implication of a legal finding, extended argumentation based upon an implicit extension of a finding of law — all can be effective tools in a formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, often the question is posed as to whether the “Bruner Presumption” (that presumption which is derived from being separated from Federal Service based upon  a medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, or a finding of a parallel delineation of being administratively separated while concurrently showing that a medical condition was the underlying basis of such separation from Federal Service) can be applied based upon the proposal of an administrative separation, or whether the actual separation from Federal Service must occur.  

While the application of the legal presumption can be applied only upon an actual separation, certainly a persuasive argument can be made that OPM and the Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board should effectively grant the presumption, inasmuch as the intent of the Agency is (once a proposal to remove based upon the medical inability to perform the job is made) certainly to follow through on any proposal; nevertheless, technically, the Bruner Presumption is applied only after a decision on the proposal to remove is made.  However, as has been previously stated on many occasions, one should never wait upon the Agency to propose anything, let alone to act upon the proposal.  Instead, one should always affirmatively move forward — especially when contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire