Disability Retirement for Federal Employees: The unmerited edge

And what did they all do to merit the position of harassing? Merely a negation of something never earned: Not getting sick; not becoming crippled with a medical condition; not having a medical disability. Of what accolades should be showered for that? Why is it that the person whose only success in life is a negation of nothingness, should have any edge at all, merited, unmerited or otherwise?

Life often makes no sense; and, while the concept of “fairness” is quite a subjective one, most can agree at least that being in a state of unmerited oblivion should not accord one any edge at all, but to have it would be “unfair” by fiat of logical acceptability.

Should awards be presented to, and accolades showered upon, those who are in a position of power, influence or application of future determinations upon people’s careers and job security, even if that power that provides an advantage and edge is unmerited?

One can argue that the mere fact that a person has risen to such a position in and of itself constitutes a meritorious status and stature; but, even given that, does not continuing merit depend upon a current historicity of ongoing accomplishments? And, are not some characteristics not merit-based, but merely acquired – such as negations involving “not becoming sick”, “not having a chronic medical condition” and “not being prevented from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job”?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition has come to a point where he or she is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of his or her Federal or Postal job, it may be time to prepare a Federal Disability Retirement application to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

In the administrative process of enduring this bureaucratic maze, that Federal or Postal disability retirement applicant will likely encounter the adversarial face-off with Supervisors, Managers and Agency heads who likely possess the unmerited edge – that advantage over the Federal or Postal Federal Disability Retirement applicant – and the power to determine the course of actions contemplated or otherwise begun.

Be careful, however, as the unmerited edge should be distinguished from the power to harass, intimidate and initiate adversarial procedures. For, there are many in this world who possess power and use it indiscriminately, even though it may well be an edge which is unmerited.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement from Federal Employment: Scoffing paradigms

Of course, such a title can have a double entendre or duality of meanings – that, in the first instance, the accent is upon the word “scoffing” with a lowering of one’s voice upon “paradigms”, and that would mean: One turns up one’s nose at the very idea of paradigms. Or, alternatively, if both words are of equally monotonous tonal undulations, then it could mean that the paradigm itself is one which scoffs at other paradigms, differing principles or contrary perspectives.

As to the first: There are those in life who declare that paradigms are unnecessary, and one needs to simply live life, take things as they come and forget about being able to comprehend “first principles” or other such nonsense. Indeed, that is the bestial side of humanity; animals and all other species live like that, and as the evolutionary perspective has won out and we are left with nothing but the biological counterview of life, so why not us as well in consonance with the rest of the universe?

The second meaning would presume the opposite: for, in order for a superiority of belief-systems beyond modernity’s feeble attempt at generalized equivalence of all such systems, there needs be certain paradigms that are objectively prioritized in significance, importance and relevance of application. In either meanings, while the emphasis upon the direction of the scoffer may differ, the central concept of “paradigms” remains throughout and consistently becomes elevated and magnified as the primary root cause.

Modernity has a dual problem (and many more, besides): On the one hand, nobody any longer believes in grand systems of philosophical import; thus, the Hegels, Kants and Heideggers of yesteryear will not become reincarnated in current or future times, unless there is a wholesale exchange of mindsets. On the other hand, we still cling to a tribal mentality – of wanting and needing to belong to a group that espouses illogical biases and discriminatory tendencies, if only to have some semblance of an identity unique from others; and so we embrace, by unconscious fiat or otherwise estranged ignorance, paradigms that we neither understand nor take the time to comprehend, but instead join in and defend by means of keeping company with other such ignoramuses.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who begin the process of preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, what becomes quickly evident during the process is that the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Facility will suddenly become encamped and invested in one paradigm, and you in an altogether different paradigm, and then the scoffing begins.

The Federal Disability Retirement applicant (you) are no longer amongst the “for the mission of the agency” paradigm, and you end up being a member of that “other” paradigm whether you like it, choose to, or not. Thus do you participate in the vicious cycle of scoffing paradigms, in either sense of the terms, without even knowing it. Go figure.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal Employees: The bugle

Unlike its cousins, it has no valves or pitch-altering devices, but must be modified through the movement of the lips, the extent of breath exhaled and the undulating modifications of combined muscles in the lips, tongue and throat.  Perhaps from the days of riding a horse in the cavalry, where playing an instrument while charging full force ahead on a horse stumbling across rough terrain forced the instrument’s player to modulate through strain of keeping one’s self from falling; in any event, its very lack of complexity belies the simplicity of the bugle, as appearances are indeed deceiving.

Whether playing Taps in that mournful tone, or reveille in that jarring sound as the signal to awaken for morning roll call, or the charge to execute a cavalry or infantry advancement — that frightening sound to Indian tribes signifying the destruction of a culture long awaiting death – its class of variety extends well beyond most choices provided.

Trumpets of all sorts may be included in the family – from Piccolo trumpets, slide trumpets and multiple others from A to G and beyond; but the bugle stands alone in its structural simplicity and reliance upon the creativity of the holder who dares to attempt to master its range of pitches by the vocal creativity and lips pursed in controlled spurts of exhaling the intricacies of man’s attachment to inert objects to fill the air with sounds unnatural but for the beauty of music.

That range of pitches – from the morning call to awaken with energy reverberating from a cadence of jolting magnitude; to the charging rampage of a galloping horse; to the sorrowful tears of life’s end represented by the draping of a flag upon the coffin; these, in their collective entirety, depict the spectrum of life:  Of youthful exuberance; to middle-aged hope and faith; to the black veil of a life well lived; the sound of the bugle encompasses all.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who find themselves in that twilight of life’s stages – somewhere beyond the youthful enthusiasm, but well before the illumination reflected by the funeral pyre – perhaps it is the sound of the bugle in the last stages of reveille, before the first note of Taps is emitted; and the medical condition has blanketed the tone, quality and loudness of the music of life, and a further stanza of a narrative interrupted must be composed.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is like the bugler’s call to order, and sometimes the sound of music must be heard at the end of a piece, and a pause must be endured, before the beginning of the next.  That is the challenge and the beauty of the bugle – an instrument for all stages in the pendulum of life’s musical quality.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: SSDI, FERS & Persuasive Impact

As part of the process in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one must file for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI) — if the Federal or Postal worker filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is under the FERS programs (CSRS employees are exempted because it is not tied to the Social Security component as part of the retirement system).

A small percentage of cases actually get approved by Social Security prior to a decision being made by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  When that happens (and yes, it is fairly rare, if only because most Federal and Postal employees filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits do so with a recognition that (A) they cannot do a particular kind of job, and (B) with a view towards working at another job, career, vocation, etc., whether part-time or full-time), then the question becomes:  What does one do with an SSDI approval letter?  Trevan v. OPM and subsequent cases, of course, comprise the rule on the matter; but such court cases essentially state that the decision of the Social Security Administration, as well as other Federal entities, are merely persuasive, as opposed to determinative.  But how persuasive?  Persuasive is a relative term.

To an unsuspecting innocent bystander, a person of reprehensible intensions may “persuade” quite easily; to the cynic and man of suspicious nature, “persuasion” may take the full effort of a team of con artists.  For the OPM Case Manager in the OPM Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals division, a decision by the Social Security Administration will take a 3-legged approach to have any impact at all:  (A)  the decision itself, (B) the case-law which makes the Federal Agency’s decision relevant to an OPM Disability Retirement case, and (C) accompanying medical evidence.  And, of course, the 4th component in all of this would be the methodological argumentation by the Applicant or the Federal Disability Attorney who argues effectively the previously-cited 3 components.

Persuasion is a “relative” term — indeed, relatives tend to be more familiar and therefore easily persuaded; strangers to the process need not apply.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Interactions

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is a necessary step for a Federal or Postal employee who finds that he or she can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job because of a medical condition.  

In doing so, there are obviously potential interactive processes which one must consider.  If the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, then you must file for SSDI (Social Security Disability benefits), because that is what the law requires.  

Further, one must determine how aggressively, to what extent, and to what end and purpose one needs to file in pursuing SSDI concurrently — for, if one is planning on working at another, separate job while receiving a Federal Disability Retirement annuity, then the cap imposed by SSDI as opposed to the 80% allowance for FERS Disability Retirement without SSDI, needs to be taken into consideration.  Such future planning will then determine the course of one’s actions, as to how hard one will try and obtain SSDI benefits.  

Additionally, if the medical condition arose from a work-related injury, then obviously filing a claim concurrently with the Department of Labor, Office of Workers Compensation under FECA should be contemplated.  

Then, there are those who, whether by accident or wisdom and foresight, obtained and paid for throughout the intervening years, a private disability insurance policy.  Such private disability insurance policies are essentially contracts — and whether there is an offset with Federal Disability Retirement benefits, Social Security, or OWCP depends upon the “fine print” of the contract.  

One minor note as to private disability policies:  The time to read the fine print is when the insurance agent is trying to sell you a policy — not when you need to apply for the benefits.  Private policies can be negotiated, and the terms can be amended.  

Finding a negative consequence after the fact is a costly error in judgment which can easily be mitigated by spending a few moments at the outset.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: SSDI Impact

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS (CSRS individuals are exempted for this particular issue), the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for the benefit must at some point in the process file for Social Security Disability benefits (SSDI).  This is because the law is set up for an off-setting feature between the two “pockets” of benefits — where, in the first year, there is a 100% offset between FERS & SSDI, and a 60% offset every year thereafter.  

In some rare instances, Social Security will approve a person’s disability application before the Office of Personnel Management has approved a FERS Disability Retirement application.  In that instance, one can use the SSDI approval as “persuasive” evidence to the Office of Personnel Management.  It is not determinative evidence, but there are legal arguments to be made which essentially state that, since a person has been found to be “totally disabled” by the Social Security Administration, based upon the same or identical medical evidence and documentation, that the Office of Personnel Management should grant a FERS Disability Retirement application based upon the same or identical medical evidence.  

Is the reverse true?  If a FERS Disability Retirement application is approved, can such an approval be used as evidence — persuasive or determinative — for an SSDI application?  That would be a weaker argument, precisely because OPM Disability Retirement does not make a determination of total disability, but rather, a decision that the Federal or Postal employee cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s particular kind of job.  Moreover, the Social Security Administration might also argue that inasmuch as SSDI does allow for some earned income (about $1,000 per month) from a job, such allowance shows that approval of a FERS Disability Retirement, which recognizes that one is merely disabled from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s particular kind of job, should not be determinative of a Social Security criteria which requires a higher standard of disability.

Knowing what impact each aspect or element of a process will have upon another is an important step in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application. As knowledge is the source of success, utilization of such knowledge is the pathway to an approval in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS and CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: SSDI Approval as a Special Case

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there are multiple discretionary decisions which must be made in preparing a paper presentation to the Office of Personnel Management.  For instance, should determinations made by Second-Opinion or Referee doctors in a case which concurrently involves OWCP issues be included in the submission?  Should VA ratings be part of the packet?  Should determinations by a private disability insurance company be included? Should a determination by the Social Security Administration — which often will come about when the packet has already been submitted to the Office of Personnel Management while awaiting a decision — be forwarded to OPM?  

In proving one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one must affirmatively prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is eligible for the benefit.  That leaves much of the decision-making process regarding what information is relevant, helpful, pertinent and substantive, up to the Federal or Postal employee and/or his attorney to decide.  There are multiple details, and it is often in the minutiae and details which will win or lose a case.  Should all medical conditions be made a part of the packet?  

These are all discretionary issues to be decided, with the possible exception of Social Security.  Inasmuch as SSDI must be filed, and inasmuch as the statutory mandate is that SSDI and a FERS Disability Retirement annuity must be offset if both are approved, an approval by SSDI is a special case which is non-discretionary.  Not only must OPM be informed of its approval; under the case-law, it must be considered in the process of deciding upon a Federal Disability Retirement case.  Nevertheless, it still remains merely persuasive authority, and not determinative.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire