Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Simplicity of Presentation

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to maintain and manage the entire process in as simplified a form as possible, in presenting one’s case to each segment of the process — i.e., to the doctors who will be supporting one’s case; in the formulation and articulation of one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability; in the compilation of the supporting medical documentation; in the entirety of the presentation submitted to the Office of Personnel Management.

Thus, while the process itself may involve multiple complexities because of the bureaucratic morass from which it originates, it is nevertheless the job of the Federal or Postal worker who is preparing and formulating the Federal Disability Retirement packet to keep it within manageable and understandable, coherent and comprehensible limits.  

The art of simplifying the complex is the key to a successful outcome.  By “simplification”, however, does not mean that one should exclude or otherwise deliberately leave out complex aspects of a medical disability retirement case; rather, it means that it is the job of the Federal or Postal employee, or his or her attorney and legal representative, to articulate, convey, and delineate such complexity into an understandable format.  

As the true artist makes his artwork appear simple in its very beauty, so the Federal or Postal employee must present his or her case before the Office of Personnel Management, and potentially before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board, in a format which evinces a response of, “Of course!”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Basic Approaches

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is always best to begin the formulation and preparation of a case by attending to the basic approaches.

Complexity of a case should not be inherently obvious.  The ease with which the professional in any field of activity makes such an activity appear to the spectator, is merely an attestation of the time and preparation expended.  

If a case is so complex that the Federal or Postal employee is unable to convey the interactive bridge between the symptoms and diagnosed medical conditions, and the type of positional duties which one must be able to function at, then how is the Claims Representative at the Office of Personnel Management going to be able to comprehend such complexity which the Applicant himself/herself is unable to effectively delineate and describe?  

Extraneous complexities, outside issues, peripheral concerns, and intra-agency squabbles, including allegations of discrimination, unequal treatment, etc., are normally irrelevancies which must be forced from the center of a Federal Disability Retirement case, to a mere passing footnote, if that.

Remember that one does not want to be pigeonholed into asserting a “situational disability” claim, which is a valid basis to be denied in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Keep things simple. Approach the case with the basics in mind.  Formulate the nexus between one’s medical conditions and one’s positional duties.  Always keep in mind the essence of a case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Simplicity v. Complexity

Each Stage in the process of proving eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS requires a unique approach and methodology of response.  It requires the combination of responding to, and thoroughly completing, forms required to meet the criteria at the initial stage of the process; of responding to any perceived lack of evidence in responding to a denial at the First Stage of the process, issued by the Office of Personnel Management, and therefore requiring a Request for Reconsideration; and finally, an ability to persuade an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board of the completeness of the application for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement, as well as to prepare the case well for submission of further evidence.

There are, in addition to the three stages mentioned, two further stages of the process (a Petition for Full Review to the Merit Systems Protection Board, which is comprised of a panel of administrative judges; and then to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit), but both such appeal stages will only review the issue of whether or not there was an “error of law” committed by the Administrative Judge at the third stage of the process.  

The entirety of the process is comprised of inherent complexities — involving issues of medical (obviously), legal, administrative, agency, credibility, etc. — issues impacting each Federal Disability Retirement application in its own unique and specific manner.  One can try to simplify the process by breaking each component down into its basic elements, but the complexity of the whole process cannot be avoided.

Understanding each relevant component, addressing the specific issues, dissecting each, then compiling the evidence from each to make up the whole, results in wading through the complexity while maintaining the simplicity of each component part.  Keep the application simple, concise, and to the point.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Simplicity of the Process

In becoming deeply involved in the morass of the bureaucratic process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS and CSRS, it is often easy to become frustrated with the inherent complexity of the process.  

Because of the multi-faceted complexities of the administrative process (e.g., obtaining the proper format and language in a medical narrative report in order to meet the legal criteria for eligibility; creating and nexus between the essential elements of one’s position in the Federal Service with the symptomatologies of the interaction between the medical conditions and the essential elements; understanding and applying the various statutory authorities and legal precedents which have evolved over many years; of preempting — if necessary — statements by the Agency or the Supervisor; and multiple other issues to be addressed concurrently), it can be frustrating for an injured or disabled Federal or Postal employee to attempt to pull all of the intricate strings together into a singular yarn of coherency and succinct presentation of a narrative form.  

Such is the time to remind one’s self of the simplicity of the process — of the 3-part essence of a Federal Disability Retirement application which will ultimately be a paper-presentation to the Office of Personnel Management.  First, the medical narrative must be simple but concise, and must provide a proper bridge between the medical condition and why a Federal or Postal employee is unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Second, one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability must be consistent with the medical narrative reports — neither understated nor exaggerated, and guided by truth. And third, it is important to understand and apply the legal precedents, and use the law as what it is intended for — a tool for both a shield and a sword.  In life’s complexities, it is important to maintain a paradigm of simplicity.  Unfortunately, it is often the simplest forms which constitute the height of complexity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Keeping it Simple

In almost all instances, stating the obvious when filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS is the rule to follow.  Another simple rule to follow:  Keep it Simple.  Except in special circumstances (e.g., where there is a nebulous diagnosis and one must interweave multiple symptmatologies in order to bypass the possibility that you may be later precluded from “adding” a “new” medical condition, etc.), it is best to stick to a paradigm of a 1-to-1 ratio or correspondence of medical conditions, symptoms, impact upon work, etc.  

Such a template can be dangerous to follow, however, because any Applicant’s Statement of one’s disability should never appear mechanical or stilted in its tone and tenor.  Emotionalism should not be stripped from an applicant’s statement of one’s disability in a Federal Disability Retirement application and, indeed, sterility should not be a goal to be sought.  

That goal should be from the treating doctor, where technical medical terms present a sense of diagnostic objectivity and scientific validity.  But such simple rules as presenting the correspondence between specific physical conditions with the physical requirements of one’s job, and similarly, between specific psychiatric symptoms with the cognitive requirements of one’s job, is an important “rule” to follow.  Remember, however, that filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is not a “perfect science”; in fact, it is not a science at all, but a mix between law, personal input, and medical facts, with the creative force of persuasion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Logic, Art & Simplicity

Logic is the pathway out of a conundrum; complexity is often the result of confusion; clarity is the consequence of simplicity.  Yes, there are complex minefields in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS.  The complexity of the entire process is often the result of layers upon layers of legal case laws and statutory refinements and interpretations which form the entirety of the “legal criteria” which surrounds each and every application for Federal Disability Retirement.  When an individual files an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, he or she is often unaware of the long history of all of the applicants who preceded the singular case being presently contemplated, formulated, and projected for filing.  Instead, that individual looks upon his or her disability retirement application without regard to what preceded it.

Perhaps it is best that most applicants are unaware of the thousands of cases which have impacted the entire process over decades; yet, when the glitch occurs — when an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is denied — then the importance of knowing the precedent-setting cases which have impacted the various and complex issues surrounding OPM Disability Retirement come into focus.  That is why it is best to be prepared beforehand, and to understand the logic behind the laws; by understanding, to realize the simplicity of the process; and by such realization, to put together an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.  Such a process is often more than logic and law; it rises to the level of an art form.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Complexity & Collateral Issues

The very complexity of a case can often intersect with attempting to include collateral issues which arise in the workplace.  This is true for those filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Of course a Federal or Postal employee may pursue independent but collateral issues, such as an EEOC Complaint, an independent issue governed by the Merit Systems Protection Board, a grievance issue through the agency, etc., and for the most part, such issues will be treated independently and will not directly impact a Federal Disability Retirement application, unless you choose to directly inject the issue into the application.  That would normally not be a wise decision.  It is important to keep the collateral issues as separate and apart from the Federal Disability Retirement application, unless that particular collateral issue has a direct bearing upon proving that, as a result of a medical condition, you are no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of your job.  Otherwise, you unnecessarily complicate your disability retirement case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Complex Case

It goes without saying that each case of preparing and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a “complex case”.  There are multiple intervening issues, including peripheral issues encompassing OWCP filings; issues with SSDI and whether to aggressively pursue it even with the offset and the lower cap for earnings; EEOC filings and collateral issues which may or may not have a direct impact upon the issues which must be focused upon in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  It is the job of an OPM Disability Attorney to tailor the issues, such that the peripheral issues do not overwhelm and dictate the centrality of a case; and to ensure that the central focus remains like a magnifying glass upon those issues which are relevant, not only to the client and to the entire process, but most importantly, to the person reviewing the case at the Office of Personnel Management.  Whenever an inquiry begins with the statement, “Mine is a rather complex case,” I realize that the primary job is to try and simplify the complexities, and that begins with narrowing the issue down to the single focus of the reason why the caller is calling in the first place:  the medical condition, and how that medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform one’s job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire