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

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Burden

Ultimately, a Federal Disability Retirement application is a paper-presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Yes, yes, we are entering into a “paperless” technological society, and that is fine; but by “paper presentation” is meant in a generic sense, that the proof necessary to obtain eligibility and entitlement to a Federal Disability Retirement benefit, must be presented in a format which is readable, comprehensible, and coherent — whether on a computer screen or in paper format.

The burden of providing such proof is upon the “applicant” — the Federal or Postal employee who is attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  That “burden” is both a legal one, as well as a regulatory one.  There are different levels or requirements of what constitutes proof, depending upon the requirements of what must be proven.

In a general sense, one can assert that all that is necessary in a Federal Disability Retirement case is to gather together one’s medical records, wrap them in a secure bundle, and forward them to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Will such an approach “prove” one’s Federal Disability Retirement application?  It might — depending upon the seriousness of one’s medical condition, and whether the Disability Retirement Specialist assigned to such a case will take the time to infer and imply.  But to make an inference, or to expect an implication to be discerned, takes an unnecessary chance at misunderstanding, failure, and the unwanted “denial”.

Instead, the better approach is to explicitly explicate.  Always 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, there is a difference between suffering from a medical condition, and proving that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  It is the latter which is necessary to be approved for a Federal Disability Retirement benefit.  As to the former — while an unfortunate circumstance — it is not enough to suffer to prove one’s case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Realizing Process

By definition, a process entails multiple procedural steps.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management encapsulates procedural administrative steps, and these include denials and appeals.

Yes, it is true that a certain percentage are approved at the first stage of the process.  Yes, it is also true that not everyone must go to the Second, or Reconsideration Stage of the process, or the Third Stage, the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.  But the fact that “not everyone” must be subjected to X, does not undermine, erase, or otherwise nullify the truism that it still remains a “process”, as opposed to an application for an entitlement benefit.

As a process, one’s Federal Disability Retirement application with OPM must be proven.  In order to prove a case, one must submit certain qualifying documentation.  As the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is the initial and secondary reviewer and determining agency for the first two stages of the process, so they have personnel of differing qualitative abilities — from pure incompetence, to indifference, to superior case workers who understand the full and complete application of the law, the regulatory criteria, and the statutory applicability of case-law interpretation.

Since it is the only process around, it is something we have to live with, and ultimately, follow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Proof

This is a proof-based process.  It is not merely a matter of completing some forms and meeting procedural guidelines in order to obtain a benefit; rather, it is an administrative process in which evidence and documentary support from third parties must be obtained in order to meet the legal criteria imposed by statute, regulation, and ever-evolving case-laws as handed down by the Administrative Judges of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

There are administrative processes which are “entitlements”, such as certain economic assistance programs, Social Security, Medicare, etc., where one has paid into a system, and upon reaching a certain age, or meeting income-qualification criteria, etc., such procedural guidelines are merely shown, met, and approved.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, however, it is not merely a matter of meeting procedural criteria (although that, too, is required), but moreover, one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible, by submission of substantial and adequate documentation that one cannot perform, because of a medical condition, one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

Proof is the lynchpin by which the standard of winning a Federal Disability Retirement case is won or lost.  Proof is a “must”.  As such, never consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits as merely a matter of filling out paperwork; one must prove one’s case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Use of Percentage Designations

The Department of Veterans Affairs does it; in obtaining a scheduled award from the Officer of Workers’ Compensation Programs, administered under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), the amount determined is based upon it; and so it is understandable that confusions may arise as to its relevance, import and various applicable uses.

Disability ratings represent an attempt to quantify the extent of one’s medical condition, injury, or loss of limb or body mobility, flexion, ability to use, etc.  Such attempt at quantification, no matter what mathematical calculus or methodology employed, must by necessity involve a level of subjectivity; for any such attempt is pre-determined by the criteria which is applied, and any such criteria which purports to apply universally will be unable to accommodate the uniqueness of an individualized case.

In a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement case, the benefit provided is a flat rate, and is set by statute.  It does not increase or decrease based upon a percentage assignation of a medical disability.  Similarly, in Social Security Disability, the amount of the annuity received does not change because of an increase in percentage.

Whether one can or should use the assigned percentage rating from the VA or from OWCP, in proving or attempting to prove eligibility in FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement cases, is a matter of discretion.  The amount of the disability rating; whether the gross number is a combination of fairly insignificant fractured percentages; the substantive discussion justifying each number, etc. — all of those factors must be taken into consideration before using it in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Numbers alone rarely mean anything; 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 not the numbers, but the words which support them, which will make the difference.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Proof, Assertion, and the Conceptual Distinction

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 necessary — first and foremost — to understand that the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement is not an “entitlement” under any definition of the word; there is no automatic triggering mechanism by which a Federal or Postal employee becomes a Federal Disability Annuitant, unless one proves, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one has met all of the eligibility requirements necessary to obtain the benefit.

Further, while the standard of proof established by statute is a relatively low one in comparison to others (i.e., “preponderance of the evidence” merely requires that the truth of X is more likely than not, as opposed to other, more onerous standard of proof, such as “beyond a reasonable doubt” or “clear and convincing”, etc.), nevertheless, the mere assertion of a statement of facts will not qualify the Federal or Postal employee for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

A standard — or “burden of proof” — means exactly that:   One must prove it, and proof requires more than the mere assertion that X is so.  Specifically, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, one must prove that one is medically unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position, and in order to meet that burden, medical documentation of a sufficient and persuasive nature must be submitted along with a Federal Disability Retirement application, which includes many Standard governmental forms.

Knowing and recognizing the conceptual distinction between asserting X and proving X is an important first step in preparing, formulating, and successfully filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

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