Federal Disability Retirement: The Legal Language Game

Wittgenstein’s contribution to Western Philosophy was an extension of a line of English linguistic/analytical approach to unraveling substantive issues of confounding puzzlement.  Leave it to the British to resolve all problems through the correct usage of language — or, in his case, of Austrian-British conversion.

Within every context of societal constructs, there are unique conventions of linguistic acceptance.  Thus, the “language game” when engaging a Rapper will necessarily be different from that of having a polite dinner conversation with the Pope, and discussion with a computer geek will take on a different tone and content than speaking to a 2-year old.

Similarly, there is a specific language game when entering the legal arena — often characterized by aggression, subtle threats, compelling force and the Roman Centurion admixture with troubadourian  characteristics ready to paper-massacre the opponent.  Words like “liability”, “sue”, “court order”, “subpoena”, “deposition”, “money damages” — they comprise the extensive corpus of the language game of lawyersAdministrative law is a sub-facet of that legal route, but involves a bureaucratic maneuver which involves just as a great a level of complexity and specialized knowledge.

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is an administrative legal process which asserts the right to, and compels the attainment of, a Federal benefit from OPM for Federal and Postal employees under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.  It is not simply “given away”, and must be secured through proof of a level rising to a preponderance of the evidence.  There are legal precedents to follow, statutory and regulatory components which must be adhered to, and laws both stated and implied which encapsulate the whole of the language game of OPM Disability Retirement.

As a subset of the greater language game of “The Law”, it is a winding route of mazes within precipitous promontories involving a complexity of conundrums — not quite as esoteric as the language game of mathematics or physics, but somewhat akin to computer geekery and macro-economics.  Add to that the sword of yore utilized by a Roman Centurion ready to attack, transformed into the mighty pen (or, in modern linguistic update, the laptop computer).

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Analogy of Games

Games created and imagined by societies will likely reflect societal values, beliefs, fears, and generally the character and personality of the social structure of the time.

That is why life situations are often described and elaborated upon by reference to particular games, by analogy, to elucidate the reality of a specific situation, or perhaps even the absurdity — because by describing the game, it removes the need to discuss a present reality, and instead to speak of it in terms of a third-person phenomena.

Thus, one might refer to the game of Go — and instruct the novice that, as in life, every time you “pass”, the opponent gains a move, and the more you pass, the greater gains, until victory occurs.  Or the oft-quoted game of Chess, in which one must always think in terms of 5 moves ahead, lest your opponent already has mapped out the path to checkmate before you have even considered your options.  And so we live life as we play games.

For the Federal or Postal Worker who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, such analogies are instructive.  “Passing”, as in the game of Go, will only allow the two opponents — the agency, and the medical condition against which one is battling — to gain the upper hand both in terms of time and closing potential options.  Failing to consider future moves, as in the game of Chess, will only increasingly limit and restrict one’s future ability to act; and so one’s future is diminished by the enemy of time.

In the end, games are created merely for recreation; but life itself is more than a period of fun and games, and failure to consider the seriousness of an analogy is only to the detriment of he who fails to consider the applicability of parallel universes.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Sports Metaphors

The abundance of metaphors comparing life with sports has pervaded throughout in literature, opinion pieces, articles, etc.  We can relate to sports, because many have been active participants in their youth; continue to engage in it via playing in various adult leagues, or coaching their kids, or perhaps just passively enjoying watching various sports on television, etc.

As a metaphor, it is seen as a “life-lesson”.  It is supposed to teach all aspects of “building character” — of the value of hard work, proper preparation, ethical conduct and behavior, etc.  In pragmatic terms, when one actually plays a sport, it merely becomes a one-to-one adversarial encounter with an opponent, and sometimes teaches merely that the “playing field” is not always level, and the opponent does not always follow the same rules of the game as one is taught to do.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, a comparative metaphor to any sports would be to characterize the entire administrative process as one of the battle between David and Goliath.  The Office of Personnel Management has its own set of rules — of a criteria which is allegedly applied, but which often has limited rational basis; of a time frame within which they say they attempt to meet, but which is systematically ignored; of following rules and regulations as they interpret them, etc.

What would one say about a sport in which one side makes up the rules and then ignores them?  Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is like a professional football team (representing OPM) going against a high school chemistry class deciding to put together a team (the Federal or Postal employee).  The teams are unequal; the playing field is never level; and the outcome of the encounter must therefore be decided by careful preparation, a cohesively formulated plan, and a filing deliberation which results in a compelling total package.

Such is the metaphor with sports:  to prepare, formulate and file — in an effective manner.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: The Futility of Waiting for an Agency

In Federal Disability Retirements, the general rule is as follows:  waiting for your agency to act in some way that may prove to be beneficial to your case, is an act of futility.  Whether it is to wait for a performance appraisal; whether to see if the Agency will accommodate you, or not; whether you are waiting for a response from your Supervisor to see if he or she will support your Federal Disability Retirement application, etc. — in the end, a disability retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a medical issue.  It is not an “Agency Application for Disability Retirement”; it is not a “Supervisor’s Application for Disability Retirement”.  It is a medical disability retirement, inseparable from the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for the benefit.  As such, the proper focus should be placed upon the sufficient and substantiating medical documentation.  If the medical documentation, combined with the applicant’s statement of disability, are persuasive with respect to the correlative force of being unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, then such a combined force makes all other issues essentially moot and irrelevant.  Don’t wait upon an agency to act; to act affirmatively without depending upon the agency is always the best route to follow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Disability Retirement: OWCP & the Postal Service

For many years, being on Worker’s Comp when injured while working for the Postal Service, worked fairly well. The Postal Service, in conjunction with, and in coordination, would offer an acceptable “modified position”, delineating the physical restrictions and medical limitations based upon the treating doctor’s clinical assessment, or in accordance with the OWCP-appointed doctor. The Postal employee would then work in that “modified position”, and so long as the Postal Supervisor or Postmaster was reasonable (which was not and is not always the case), the coordinated efforts between OWCP, the U.S. Postal Service and the Postal employee would result in years of “quiet truce”, with the tug and pull occurring in some of the details of what “intermittent” means, or whether “2 hours of standing” meant two hours continuously, or something else – and multiple other issues to be fought for, against, and somehow resolved. 

The rules of the game, however, have radically changed with the aggressive National Reassessment Program, instituted in the last few years in incremental stages, nationwide. Now, people are summarily sent home and told that “no work is available”. Postal Workers are systematically told that the previously-designated modified positions are no longer available — that a worker must be fully able to perform all of the essential elements of his or her job. This last point, of course, is what I have been arguing for many, many years — that the so-called “modified job” was and is not a permanent position, and is therefore not a legal accommodation under the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement for FERS & CSRS employees. After so many years of having the Post Office and the Office of Personnel Management argue that such a “modified job” is an accommodation, it is good to see that the truth has finally come out.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire