OPM Disability Retirement: The Paper Presentation and the Nuance of Language

Whether through illiteracy or the natural evolution of our language, it is becoming more difficult to convey meaning through the vehicle of language. Text messaging; grammatical irrelevance; lack of widespread rigor in linguistic disciplines; and the legal profession pushing to bend the outer limits of what language allows for — these are all contributing factors to the changing face of the English language.

Paper presentations present a peculiar problem, however, in that the words conveyed can be reviewed and re-reviewed multiple times by the reader.

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 strive for precision, clarity, and focus upon the centrality of the issue, and not to deviate too far from the essence of one’s narrative form.  Nuance may be effective in love letters; it is rarely of value in formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application.  The causal connection between one’s medical conditions and the essential elements of one’s duties must be firmly and clearly established.

There is no singular “technique” in putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application, other than to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that which is necessary in meeting the applicable legal criteria.  It is a genre in and of itself, requiring technical competence and expertise.  Not the time for a “hit or miss” approach; a paper presentation, with inherent problems of potential scrutiny, must be conveyed with conceptual constructs of clarity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Settlement of Collateral Lawsuits

Appearance versus reality has been an ongoing philosophical issue within the Western Classical Tradition for centuries; it involves the very essence of the culture and heritage of the West, beginning with the Pre-Socratics (e.g., Parmenides), and continuing with Plato, Aristotle…to Heidegger; and until the dawn of modern Philosophy, where linguistic hermeneutics began to prevail, constituted the dominant foundation of philosophical inquiry. How a thing is presented, or “looks”, as opposed to what a thing “really is”, or the “essence” of being, forms the fundamental philosophical inquiry.  

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 often the case that the Federal or Postal employee is involved in some collateral lawsuit or adversarial process — often directly with the agency itself, in an EEO forum, MSPB or U.S. District Court.  

Inevitably, settlement negotiations will often occur, and the issue of whether a Federal or Postal employee can be retroactively “separated” for his or her medical inability to perform one’s job may be offered.  How the settlement is formulated; what is stated in the settlement agreement; what promises are made, etc., are all important in order for such agreements to effectively assist in the Federal or Postal employee being able to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  OPM objects to the Federal Retirement fund being used as a tool for settlement of collateral lawsuits.  

Any settlement agreement must not “look” like it is merely a carrot for enticement to medically retire.  The reality of the situation is important.  As always, we go back to our Western roots — appearance versus reality.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: When the Agency Promises…

The Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service for whom the Federal or Postal employee works, cannot “promise” the granting of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  Such promises are presumptuous and ultimately vacuous, precisely because it is on the independent agency — the Office of Personnel Management — which is the sole agency and arbiter for determining the viability, sufficiency and legal adequacy of all Federal Disability Retirement applications under either FERS or CSRS.

While agencies can be somewhat “helpful” in the processing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is important that if there is an ongoing collateral litigation (e.g., EEOC action; a pending parallel lawsuit; a grievance procedure invoked, etc.), that any settlement or discussion of settlement not state, infer or otherwise imply that the agency can provide the applicant with a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  

Instead, the agency should complete certain forms consistent with the terms of any settlement; and, further, a separation from Federal Service based upon one’s medical inability to perform one’s job can invoke the Bruner Presumption, which can certainly be a plus in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  But recognizing the independence of OPM, and staying away from any appearance of “collusion” through promises that an Agency can somehow “promise” the Federal or Postal employee an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, is important to maintain.  

Agencies cannot promise a Federal Disability Retirement approval, and any such promise in a collateral source is only worth the cost of the paper it is printed upon — or, in most cases, even less.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Agency Collateral Actions

Often, in the preceding years before preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is a “history” of events between an Agency and the Federal or Postal employee.  Life doesn’t happen in a vacuum, and such a trite adage is certainly true for the Federal and Postal employee.  

Whether in the form of an EEOC complaint or a response to an adverse action which promulgates an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, or multiple other legal forums and responses, actions, etc., there may be a settlement of the issue, and the settlement of such collateral issues may involve a provision concerning Federal Disability Retirement.  

If in fact there is a reference concerning Federal Disability Retirement by the Agency as part of a “global settlement” of collateral issues, it is important to make sure that there is enough specificity in the language to make it worth one’s while to have the provision inserted in a settlement agreement to begin with.  Thus, a generic statement such as, “Agency endeavors to assist the employee in filing for Federal Disability Retirement” would not be very helpful, precisely because the term “assist” can be interpreted in multiple ways, and normally the way that an Agency will interpret the term will not in the least be helpful to the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Language is a tool which must be used carefully; the effectiveness of language, as with any tool, depends upon the competence of the user.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire