Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Back to Fundamentals

In any endeavor, concern or current focus of attention, one can become embroiled in the morass of complexities which comprise the peripheral penumbras of the issue, and disregard the fundamental essence of the matter.  In proverbial terms, it is to overlook the individual trees while viewing the generality of the forest.  So, back to basics.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application, a person who is under FERS (Federal Employees Retirement System — normally those who entered into the Federal Workforce sometime after 1985, and who have a Thrift Savings Plan and contribute to Social Security) or under CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System — pre-1985, with no TSP) may become eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, but must have the following minimum eligibility criteria met: under FERS, you must have at least 18 months of creditable service; under CSRS, you must have at least 5 years of creditable service.

There is a hybrid status applicable for some, called CSRS-Offset, also.  Once that eligibility criteria is met, then the Federal or Postal Worker can take the next step in determining whether one may want to proceed, by asking the following questions: Do I have a medical condition? Does that medical condition prevent me from performing one, if not more, of the essential elements of my position? What are some of the essential elements of my position which I cannot perform? Do I have a treating doctor who will be supportive of my case (remember, this is a medical disability retirement; as such, one must be able to establish through proof of medical documentation, that the medical condition impacts one or more of the essential elements of one’s job)?

These are some of the preliminary, basic questions which should be asked and answered, in order to begin the process of determining whether Federal Disability Retirement is the best pathway for the Federal or Postal employee suffering from a medical condition, in order to manage and maneuver one’s way through the thick forest of a bureaucracy known as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which is the agency which ultimately receives and reviews all Federal Disability Retirement applications, whether you are under FERS, CSRS, or CSRS-Offset.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Lexical Nexus

The lexical expansion of the English language and the evolution of meaning, the transition of words and application, is a subject worth investigating.  One needs only to read a Shakespeare play to recognize that language refuses to remain static; and a culture which desires to progressively develop and advance will systematically reflect the changes of a society’s culture, ethos and normative infrastructures.

There is something to be praised for a static society — one which steadfastly refuses to alter its traditional ways; but as technology is the force of change, and as capitalism is defined by progressive advancement of development at all costs, so we are left with a Leviathan gone berserk and unable to be stopped, and language reflects such revolutionary upheaval.

For the Federal or Postal employee suffering from a medical condition, one needs only to pick up an old medical dictionary to realize the exponential explosion of identified medical conditions.  Yet, the interesting aspect of comparative historical analysis, even on a superficial level, is that the symptoms described in an old dictionary prompts recognition of all such “new” medical conditions.

This leaves one to believe that the reality of the world does in fact remain static; it is only our language which must adapt and reflect in order to adequately account for the reality of the physical universe.

In preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the inadequacy of one’s lexical universe may be a hindrance to the proper formulation and delineation of the nexus which must be created between one’s medical condition and the impact upon one’s job.  It is thus the lexical nexus (if one may coin a unique phrase) which must be created in order to effectively prevail in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

While having a medical dictionary may aid one in such an endeavor, the better approach is to first understand that it is not the correspondence between language and reality which matters, but that language is a universe unto itself in which man is the ultimate master of such, caught in that unreality which Heidegger attempted to unravel, and which Kant successfully bifurcated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Some Basics

Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an administrative process which one must undergo if a Federal or Postal employee is medically unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s position.

It is a benefit which is accessible only if proven; and proof must meet the legal standard of “preponderance of the evidence“, through a tripartite methodology:  Evidence of the existence of a medical condition; the nexus of that medical condition impacting upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; and that such a medical condition(s) cannot be legally accommodated by the agency such that the Federal or Postal employee can perform all of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job.

While the Federal or Postal employee has up until one (1) year from the date of separation from Federal Service to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the proof of when the nexus formed between one’s medical condition and the impact upon the position of one’s Federal Service, must have occurred during the Federal Service.

These are just some basics of Federal Disability Retirement law; the complexity, of course, resides in the details, and it is always the details which provide the fodder for an OPM denial.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Experience versus Articulation of the Condition

One of the first rules announced in any elementary creative writing course is for the budding writer to “show” the reader through descriptive sentences, as opposed to “telling” the audience what has happened.  The distinction itself is often difficult to describe; it is like the dividing line between light and darkness — we know it is there, but cannot precisely pinpoint the demarcation line.

Similarly, in law, there is a difference between the “facts of the case” and “proving the case“, and indeed, the difference can encounter major difficulties in overcoming the obstacles presented by the distinction (i.e., it is not the proverbial “difference without a distinction”).  Thus, even though one may have all of the facts in favor of one’s case, unless one can prove them (and overcome legal objections, technical obstacles for inclusion and introduction of such evidence, etc.), such an advantageous position may in the end be meaningless unless the articulation of the facts to the jury can be effectuated.

Analogously, in a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the fact that one may experience a debilitating medical condition is merely the foundational basis of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.  Beyond the existence of a medical condition, a series of connecting steps must be established:  treatment of the medical condition; articulation of the medical condition by a treating doctor; a nexus between the medical condition and one’s positional duties with the Federal government or the U.S. Postal Service; information conveyed as to the impact between one’s duties and the medical condition, etc.

In other words, while the experiential value of the medical condition forms the foundational basis of a Federal Disability Retirement application, the articulation of that medical condition in a systematically persuasive vehicle of communication is paramount in “proving” one’s case.  Certainly, experience is the beginning point; but beyond that, one must set about to establish the necessary proof in articulating an experience.

In flying on an airplane, one would certainly rather have an experienced pilot than a brash young pilot who has never flown but who can talk a lot; but in a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is the one who has both — the “experience” of a medical condition, as well as the ability to articulate the condition — which will prove one’s case; and in so doing, hopefully the trip forward will result in minimal engine troubles, and fewer bumps in the administrative ride of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Doctors and the Peculiarities of Treatment

Efficacy of treatment is the goal for a doctor; and upon information that such efficacy has failed to render improvement or incremental signs of progress, many doctors lose interest, or become suspicious.

Social Security Disability, of course, requires a higher standard of proof — one of essentially “total disability”, where one is no longer able to engage in “substantially gainful activity” — and, as such, is an implicit admission of medical failure.

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement, however, is merely an acknowledgement that there are certain medical conditions which, limited in their scope and impact, prevent a person from performing one or more of the essential elements of a particular kind of job.  Such a person who goes out on Federal Disability Retirement benefits can still remain productive in the work-world, by pursuing another, different kind of vocation.

As such, from a medical point of view, conveying the distinction between the two is like the difference between identifying a hill as opposed to a mountain:  both may have some elevation, but the extent and scope between the two goes well beyond a linguistic peculiarity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Position Descriptions

The Agency Position Description ultimately determines the parameters of the crucial question in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, and therefore should not be underestimated or overlooked in its relevance, import and substantive weight.  What a person actually does in a Federal or Postal job can be distinguished from the official duties ascribed in a Position Description; similarly, what a person is not assigned to do can be easily differentiated from essential elements as described in a position description.

Some position descriptions are elaborated in more generic terms and conceptual generalizations; others provide a detailed insight into the physical requirements of the job, as well as the complexity of the cognitive qualifications necessary to satisfy the position.  What a person actually does in one’s Federal or Postal job may well be quite different from how the position description delineates the duties; but somewhere between what one does and what one is described to do contains a happy medium of extrapolating the essence of a Federal or Postal position.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the problem with focusing exclusively upon what one does, as opposed to the position description, is that OPM has no idea what you do, whether you do it, and how you do it, apart from what the position description states.

One is retiring from the position description, not from the real world.  It is the virtual reality which forms the basis of a Federal Disability Retirement application; the real world is beside the point.  Fiction, not reality; the narrative form, not the actual life experience; the excellently formulated disability retirement packet, and not the real-world pain of the medical condition; these comprise the basis of a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Implicit v. Explicit

That which is not explicitly stated, may leave room for the listener to infer multiple meanings based upon the implicit statement of the speaker or writer.

Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, filed with and obtained through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to state with explicit redundancy those elements which meet the legal criteria for eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  X impacts positional element Y.  X may impact positional elements Y or Z.  X will surely prevent Mr. A from performing some of the essential elements of his job.  Of these three statements, which one states unequivocally and explicitly, while the other two allow for inferences which may well result in a denial from the Office of Personnel Management?  Obviously, the answer is the first statement, leaving the subsequent two room for inference and implication.

Remember that the Disability, Reconsideration and Appeals “Specialist” at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is specifically targeting a Federal Disability Retirement application for any excuse to deny it.  The reviewer will selectively choose any cracks in the aggregate of the disability retirement packet, and where there is room for inference or implication, the language used will be interpreted in the light most favorable to the Office of Personnel Management, to issue a denial in a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Wherever and whenever possible, make explicit that which sounds implicit.  The crack of dawn is a time to get up and get things accomplished; a crack in the meaning and usage of language is merely an excuse for misuse and abuse.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire