Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Genre of the Narrative

Different genres purportedly possess internal mechanisms and tools of the trade which distinguish one art form from another; thus, fiction writers use various forms which, in the eyes of the “professionals” will elicit oohs and aahs regarding the technical beauty which heightens the art form; biographers invoke poetic license in recreating scenes and human expressions and emotions from an omniscient vantage point; then, there is the admixture of truth and fiction, of “true crime novels” which are allegedly “true” but in novelistic form, easily readable, commercially successful, and universally enjoyed — but in essence, it all comes down to good writing.  

Readability is the whole point of writing.  Yes, to remain true to the art form is important to the genre; and, yes, to be technically proficient in utilizing the mechanisms and tools of the trade engenders professional acclaim and self-aggrandizement.  But ultimately it all comes down to the ability and capacity to express what one wants to, and needs to, in order to convey to the audience the desired effect.  

So it is in Federal Disability Retirement.  For, as in the various forms of literary genres, the narrative form must be engaging, readable, succinct and streamlined.  Salacious details need not be included to get the attention of the OPM case worker.  

A FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement narrative in the form of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability should be the penultimate form of the art:  part biography, part non-fiction, part logical analysis, and certainly analogous to the true crime fiction — that is the narrative which will draw the OPM case worker into the world of the Federal or Postal Worker who is trying to persuade a bureaucrat to have a spoonful of sympathy in exchange for a cup of truth.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: SF 3112A, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability

Each genre retains its own internal customs, traditions and acceptable characteristics which, in their idiosyncratic ways, defines for itself why the specific genre is distinctively different from another.  Content, length, volume, and literary mechanisms may be acceptable within certain defined parameters; a recent biography by Edmund Morris attempted to utilize a literary artifice which, by most accounts, was not well-received within the genre.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must first and foremost understand the “audience” to which the Federal or Postal employee is “writing” to, and thereby custom-fit the “genre” of the writing.  

The reviewing clerks at the Office of Personnel Management have dozens, if not hundreds, of files from Federal and Postal employees.  At the First and Reconsideration stages of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM, the reviewing clerks must sift through the case-file by analyzing the medical documentation submitted, and most importantly, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability as reflected in SF 3112A.  A Dickens-like autobiographical background is not needed, and will likely be ignored.  A mere listing of the medical conditions, while short and to the point, will likely be insufficient.  Thus, the old adage:  neither too hot, nor too cold.  Somewhere in the middle is the proper “genre” to apply.  

As for the specific characteristics of an effective submission, a general comment:  Stay on point; connect the dots between one’s medical conditions and the positional requirements; and don’t bore the reader.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: How the Historical Background Is Stated Can Make All the Difference

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must address the issue of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A), and answer questions regarding the medical conditions, their impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform the essential elements of one’s positional duties as slotted; impact upon other areas of one’s life, etc.

The problem with many respondents to such a form (by “respondent” is meant to identify the Federal or Postal employee who is completing the form and filling out the SF 3112A for filing of a Federal Disability Retirement Application) is the manner in which it is responded to — the “how” it is stated.  In journalism, there is the standard approach of providing information:  Who, what, when, where and how.  Such satisfaction of a journalistic approach provides the reader with the necessary information required to complete a story.  In that type of forum, however, the penalty for providing the wrong “how” is merely bad penmanship, and some potential criticism by the general reading public.

In applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, however, the penalty for a wrong “how” may be a disqualification from being able to receive Federal Disability Retirement benefits, because the historical context of the medical condition can impact the legal criteria for eligibility.

Be careful in formulating the applicant’s statement of disability; what one says matters; how one says it may matter most.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Effective Narrative

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to compile an effective narrative on Standard Form 3112A, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  

The narrative presentation, in response to specific questions which are posed on SF 3112A, should encompass a wide range of writing tools:  clear identification of the diagnosed medical conditions; concise description of the symptoms which manifest themselves; an understandable delineation of the type, nature and essential elements required in one’s position with the Federal government or the Postal Service; and a connective narration of the impact of one’s medical conditions upon the performance of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.  

All of those writing tools which one learned in grammar school — and hopefully perfected over the years — should be utilized in the process of formulating the narrative.  By “narrative” is meant the story of one’s medical conditions and its impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  

The narrative form should be clear, concise, comprehensible, and minimalist to the extent that the range of irrelevant tangents should be limited, but the story should be compelling enough to contain the details to captivate the OPM Representative who is reviewing the case.  Moreover, it should be a short story as opposed to a novel; one should not have to tell about the pain, but rather, allow the story to reveal the physical and emotional devastation of the medical condition, its impact upon one’s job, and upon other aspects of one’s life.  Further, it should answer the questions posed, but go beyond the questions, and answer the essential foundation without argumentation:  Why one is eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Words

Words are peculiar entities; a mode of communication in a world of multiple methods of choosing which vehicle of conveying a concept, a descriptive word picture, an anticipated action; a historical event; a desire, a need, a want; and thus, the choice of which modality of communication to use, based upon effectiveness, utility, and context, is important.

The macro-choice of mode of communication, once chosen, then leads to the micro-choice of which words will be plucked from the universe of words. Whether from a Wittgensteinian perspective where language games merely parallel the “real world” out there, or the classical approach of words as representing such a world, the utility and effectiveness of words is an important determination in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Ultimately, for purposes of a Federal Disability Retirement application, the Federal or Postal employee is seeking the usage of the most effective word-choices.

In preparing and formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A), it is important to extrapolate from the total universe of words, those which will convey the meaning, delineate the concept, and evoke the proper emotive responses, as reflected accurately in comparison and contrasted with the words utilized by the doctors, the Supervisor, the Agency, etc.

Word choice is important.  Preparing and formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application is not just a matter of gathering the medical documentation and filing it. If that were the case, anyone and everyone could compile the data and submit it. Rather, it is the efficacy of words chosen which determine the success or failure of the entire endeavor; for, as words evoke a response, the person to whom a case is assigned at the Office of Personnel Management must read, analyze, evaluate, and ultimately decide based upon the words chosen.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Distinguishing between Diagnoses and Symptomatologies

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS (Federal Employee’s Retirement System) or CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System), in preparing and formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability on Standard Form 3112A, it is important to distinguish between the medical conditions which are diagnosed, from the symptoms which are experienced by the Federal or Postal employee.  The focus is often upon the latter (the symptoms) as opposed to the former (the officially diagnosed medical conditions), as it should be because of the nature of the requirements in proving a Federal Disability Retirement case with the Office of Personnel Management.

By that is meant the following: Because one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM, by exhibiting a nexus between one’s medical conditions and one’s medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, the descriptive analysis of such bridging between one’s medical condition and the impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s particular job, is quite naturally focused upon the symptomatologies which one experiences.

The blurring of the lines between the “official” medical condition as itemized in a list of diagnoses, as opposed to the descriptive delineation of the exhibited symptoms, or the symptoms which are subjectively experienced and (often) correlated by objective radiological reports, is a natural occurrence. Often, the two are (and should be) deliberately intermingled in the narrative description of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability. However, one should always write the narrative portion of the SF 3112A with the view towards the future potential issues which may arise: that of being “disabled” for a specifically-identified medical condition.

Sometimes the OPM Representative will specifically identify a medical condition; sometimes, no such identification will occur. Then, there are times when the lines between “diagnosis” and “symptoms” naturally crosses — as in, “Chronic Pain Syndrome” as distinguished from “chronic pain”. Blurring the lines in a discussion is expected and should be applied in formulating one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability; but such blurring should occur with deliberation and purpose, and not just because one does not recognize the distinction between the two.

As with everything in life, the consequences of doing something by accident are quite different from that which results from a purposive and deliberate action.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire