Federal Employee Disability Information: OPM’s Methodology

There may be a single criteria to meet, with subsets of requirements that must be complied with; yet, multiple methodologies in approaching the singular.  How can that be?  Isn’t it all simple, where you read what is required, then gather up all of the evidence that appears to meet it and simply send it all in?  That is the “volume methodology”.

Can a single sentence in a medical report ever meet the legal criteria in an OPM Disability Retirement case — i.e., a “qualitative” methodology, as opposed to a quantitative one?  Sometimes.

Isn’t the law clear in what is required, and isn’t it a matter of just amassing the medical evidence to meet the requirements as stated?  Hmmm…. For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical conditions prevent the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, it is important to understand, somewhat, OPM’s Methodology in reviewing and deciding upon a case.

First of all, not all medical conditions are equal.  Perhaps that is self-evident, but for the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from one or another medical condition, and must endure the daily pain, restriction and limitations imposed thereby, it may not be so self-evident.

Second, OPM is not some “neutral” Federal Agency that reviews a Federal Disability Retirement application with dispassionate objectivity, ready to grant an “approval” because you “believe” your medical evidence is “sufficient” to meet the legal requirements as stated.  Sufficiency is the gatekeeper that denies many a Federal Disability Retirement case — and it is not a methodology that is satisfied by quantitative (volume) means, not even necessarily by qualitative standards; rather, it is the reviewer (i.e., the “Medical Specialist” at OPM) who determines by some unknown and unknowable standard when the goal-post has been crossed.

Thus, in an OPM Disability Denial Letter, one may read a reference to one’s doctor’s note or a quotation from a medical report from one’s doctor, and think, “Good, this is very supportive” —then, with an appended end to the paragraph stating, “Such medical evidence does not sufficiently meet the standards to qualify for OPM Disability Retirement”.  Huh?

Think about it this way: “Sufficiency” may mean different things to different audiences; for example, what is a “sufficient” amount of food for a lion, as opposed to a domesticated kitten?

OPM’s methodology is, at best, malleable, as language in law is likewise changeable.  It is good to know this for Federal and Postal employees who are either getting ready to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, or who are in the middle of a fight to obtain it; for, in the end, consulting with an OPM Disability Retirement lawyer allows you to arm yourself with knowledge for the battle that OPM’s Methodology in determining Federal Disability Retirement cases must be prepared, like any legal battle that involves “criteria” to be interpreted.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: 2 countervailing rules

Here are 2: If you have an idea late at night, unless you write it down, you will never remember what it was in the morning.  The other half of the countervailing rule?  In the morning, it won’t seem as profound a thought as it first appeared late the previous night.  Or: Forgiveness can come easily when once you admit to your fault; and the counter to that — if it is your spouse or close relation, don’t think that you won’t be reminded of your need for forgiveness when once the first sign of trouble appears.  And another: Time will heal; yet, the countervailing reality: others rarely care to sacrifice their time in order to allow for the time needed to heal.

And for Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the first “rule” of the 2-part countervailing rules of life is often: “Oh, I have been such a good employee all of these years, I am sure that my Agency or the Postal Facility will be understanding while I prepare a Federal Disability Retirement application — for, doesn’t all of those years of good service count towards a good-will well deserved?” And the countervailing rule to that is: “Buddy, you’re no longer going to be a part of this team, and what you did yesterday counts only until this morning, and no more. Let us give you a freshly-minted medallion that you can pin on your lapel, and boot you out the door the moment we discover that you are planning to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits — even though you are doing only that which you have a perfectly reasonable right to”.

And thus do the countervailing rules always come in a duality of balancing coordinates; and, unfortunately, the behemoth of a Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service always seems to have the upper, dominant hand, which is why you may want to first consult with an attorney who specializes in dealing with such countervailing rules of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS Disability Retirement Benefits: Fooling ourselves

It takes extraordinary intelligence to play the fool, and an even greater cleverness to fool oneself; just read a few lines from Shakespeare’s King Lear, and the interaction between Lear and the Fool, and one realizes the extensive capacity of self-indulgence in the deception of man in his need to guard his own ego.

In fooling one’s self, does one fool others, as well?  If a person takes on a persona, lives in a fantasy world, creates an identity separate and apart, and yet becomes consumed by the double-life to the extent that he or she comes to believe one’s own creative imagination, does the fact that others who knew the person from childhood onward destroy the fool’s own universe of make-believe?

Of the old adage and Biblical admonition that prophets are never accepted in their own hometown — is this because those who know a person from early life, “know better”?

If we fool ourselves only within the contained universe of our own thoughts, and never let the fantasies “seep out” into the objective reality of other’s awareness, have we fooled ourselves?  Others?  Is living a “double-life” the same as fooling ourselves and others, or is it only when we fool those closest to us where the “double” makes a difference?

What about hiding a medical condition?  What if a person is on anti-depressants or other psychotropic medication regimens, and yet everyone else believes that person to be the envy of the world, of the very definition of “happiness” exponentially quantified, until one day that very person is committed to an intensive psychiatric hospital and it comes out that he or she is the most unhappiest of individuals — has that person fooled himself, others, or both?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, a great deal of “fooling” must go on in the interim.  You may overcompensate; you may appear to others to be “just fine”; and the tailored seams of normalcy may continue on for some time, until the wear and tear of self-deception begins to take its toll.

Preparing, formulating and filing an effective 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, is often the first honest step towards being “true to one’s self”, and like the fool in Shakespeare’s King Lear, it is the capacity of the King fooling himself, and not the honesty of the fool, that makes for the tragedy that ensues.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement Denial: The Middle Stage

It is like those siblings who are “in between”; of caught in relevance and significance by being squeezed on the one side by the “giant first one”, and on the other side by an even greater presence; and, somehow, the middle stage is lost and forgotten.  Is that how life itself is viewed, as well?  Of being cooed and oohed over the baby-years, and then forgotten once the younger sister comes into the family; or of being cast aside by children in their teenage years, then suddenly realizing that time lost can never be regained, but recognizing that one’s parents now are too old to appreciate?

Is that why the “Middle Ages” are viewed as irrelevant, stuck between the “Ancient Era” of the great Roman and Greek periods, and then suddenly skipped over into the Renaissance and into modernity?

The “Middle Stage” is like the Middle Age years — of being present but quickly fading; of being there but barely noticed; of shying away and fearing the next stage because the one before was so full of energy and the disappointment of the failures of the previous stage is merely a foresight into the fearful expectations of the next.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition now prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the “Middle Stage” is called the “Reconsideration Stage” of the administrative process.

The Reconsideration Stage is the stage where the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application has been denied at the Initial Stage, and it is the Stage before the Third Stage — an appeal to the U.S.Merit Systems Protection Board.  It is not a stage to be “overlooked” — as some inevitability of a further denial — but one which provides for an opportunity to enhance and add to one’s Federal Disability Retirement application by providing additional medical and other documentation in order to obtain an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

If the applicant decided to forego consulting with an attorney at the Initial Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process, then it is a good time to consider contacting an attorney at the “Middle Stage” — the Reconsideration Stage of the process — to discuss the next and crucial steps in order to correct any past mistakes and affirmatively assert the proper legal basis in meeting the preponderance of the evidence criteria in your quest to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal & Postal Workers: The packet

The packet to be submitted in an OPM Disability Retirement filing is the entirety of what is constituted by the evidence, the statements and documentation — in other words, the compendium of all that will be used in order to seek an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

At the beginning of the process — i.e., when the Federal or Postal employee first contemplated engaging this administrative process called “Federal Disability Retirement” — the Federal or Postal employee was faced with a slew of blank forms, beginning with the SF 3107 Series (Application for Immediate Retirement, Schedules A, B & C and the other forms that need to be completed by the Agency’s Human Resource Office), along with the SF 3112 Series (Applicant’s Statement of Disability; the Supervisor’s Statement; The Physician’s Statement; Agency’s Efforts for Reassignment and Accommodation form; the Checklist).

The “middle part” of the process is comprised in gathering the medical documentation that would support the Federal or Postal employee’s packet, as well as filling out the various questions.  Perhaps, during the administrative process — whether now awaiting a decision or still in the middle of completing the packet — the Federal or Postal employee asked one’s self: “Is it merely a matter of answering these questions, or is there a legal criteria that must be followed?”  For, while the questions on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, may appear fairly straightforward, do not ever think that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has assembled the Packet so that you can easily qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The “Packet” contained Standard Forms to be completed; it even gives instructions at the beginning of each form.  However, as for the legal standard to be met and the requirements of what must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence — those little gems are nowhere contained in “The Packet”; that is something which the Federal or Postal employee must go out and seek, and the best place to begin is to consult with an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement Law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Medical Retirement Legal Representation: Confidence games

We all know (or, by a certain age or stature of wisdom, should know) about the psychology behind the scam:  Of gaining one’s confidence by first including one into a select group of people who are “in the know”.

There are two primary senses to the word, aren’t there?  The first being a sense or feeling of self-assurance, as in, “He is very confident in his own abilities.”  The second, and somewhat connected, is the definition pertaining to a relationship of trust and reliance, where there exists or builds upon a sense of camaraderie and intimacy, as in: “He brought me into his confidence.”  In both cases, there develops a relationship of bonded certainty, whether in one’s self or in the connection between two or more individuals.

Thus, the “confidence” games encompass those activities or endeavors that build upon a relationship based upon trust, and engender the hapless victim to possess a sense of self-assurance that what he or she is giving up is of sacrificial value because the trust relied upon has been built on a foundation of friendship, relationships entrusted, and a shared affinity of intimacy exclusive of others.

Thus does the classic confidence game begin in a parking lot where a a cache of money is found and you are roped into becoming a select group within a conspiracy of two, or maybe three, and you are asked to put up a “deposit” of trust — then, when it is all over, you open the bag of money that you were left holding, only to find that it was merely a bundle of newspaper clippings.  Or, of more complex pyramid schemes, ranging from the simple to the incomprehensible, ending up sometimes like Bernie Madoff’s decades-long game of roping in even the most sophisticated of unweary investors.

But then, aren’t we all conditioned from a very early age to believe that “confidence” games are acceptable, and that we get on through life’s difficulties by acting a part?  Don’t we teach kids to “act self-confident”, be self-assured and walk with your head held high and play the “as if” game — as if you know what you are doing; as if you are the best qualified; as if you can have it all?

That is often the veneer we put on, and how thin the veil of confidence can be, only to be shattered like the delicate china that give off the clink-clink of refinement until the first fissure begins to show, then shatters upon the hardness of the world.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition where the medical condition begins to prevent the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job — it may be that your self-confidence is beginning to wear off.  As the Federal Agency or the Postal Service steps up its campaign of harassment and intimidation, the Federal or Postal worker has to deal with a double-problem:  The profound fatigue from the medical condition itself (which impacts one’s sense of self-assurance) and concurrently, the loss of self-confidence as one realizes that one’s physical or cognitive capacity to continue in the chosen career is beginning to wane.

We all play the “confidence game” — that of going through life winging it and hoping that no one else notices; but at times, when the “real game” of life suddenly imposes its presence upon us, it is time to become “real”.

For the Federal employee or Postal worker who must face a real-life crisis of confidence because of a medical condition, it may be time to prepare, formulate and file an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, so that the focus of one’s efforts can be redirected upon the greater importance of one’s health and well-being, as opposed to being drawn into the parking lot schemes of further confidence games.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire