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

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Illness v. Disability

Everyone has experienced an illness which results in a temporary period of disability; there is, however, a vast difference between such an illness, and a medical condition which is of such severity, chronicity, and intractability, such that it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

In this day and age of cynicism and suspicion, where economic forces have pitted the private sector against Federal and Postal employees, it is important to approach a Federal Disability Retirement case in a methodological, systematic way, such that there is no question as to the viability of one’s case.  The U.S. Office of Personnel Management scrutinizes each Federal Disability Retirement application with a set of legal criteria, and if any one point of the Federal or Postal Worker’s application fails to meet the legal criteria, the Office of Personnel Management will deny the case.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to ensure that one’s narrative description, the compilation of medical reports and evidence, and the entirety of the Federal Disability Retirement application, is not characterized merely as a “temporary illness”, but is unequivocally shown to be a medical condition such that it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

There is a difference between an illness of a temporary nature and a chronic and progressively debilitating medical condition; but more than that, there is a vast chasm between a fact and the effective description of the fact.  It is the latter which must be conveyed to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Relevant Medical Condition

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, make sure that the medical condition which the Federal or Postal employee is listing, describing and delineating, including the symptoms and impact, etc., is “relevant” to one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.

Let me clarify with the following (outlandish) hypothetical:  A Federal employee has the job and positional duty of pushing a button with his right index finger once every 2 hours.  He suffers a horrendous injury to his left shoulder, left arm, left leg and left side of his body. Use of the left side of his body is nowhere described or required in his position description, and the Agency has never requested that he use the left arm, shoulder or leg, or any part of the left side of his body, in performing the essential elements of his job.  He prepares and formulates his Federal Disability Retirement application, describing the extent of his medical limitation of the left side of his body.  Result:  he is denied by the Office of Personnel Management because the relevance of his medical condition has not been established with respect to the essential elements of his job.

“Relevance” of a medical condition is essential to establish in a Federal Disability Retirement application. Now, had the Federal or Postal worker gone on to describe how the chronic and radiating pain from the left-sided injuries (taking the hypothetical one step further) impacted his ability to use his right index finger, and this was established through the medical opinion of his treating doctor, the case would have had merit and a basis for an appeal, argumentation, etc., would have been established.

But in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand and apply the basic principle in the Federal Disability Retirement case:  It is not just the medical condition which is at issue; it must encompass the relevance of the medical condition to the essential elements of one’s job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Conceptual Clarifications of Duties

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is helpful to make an initial conceptual distinction between the type of positional duties which one performs for the Federal Service — whether sedentary and administrative; whether it involves the necessity of on-demand travel or deployment; whether the particular medical condition requires special medical care or technology and apparatus which is not available upon travel or deployment; how physical; weight lifting requirements; how repetitive; whether driving is required; whether and to what extent it is cognitive-intensive; and multiple other considerations.

Such bifurcation and conceptual distinctions are important for purposes of informally categorizing a descriptive analysis for correspondence of duties-to-medical-conditions.  Thus, when the time comes to formulate the narrative portion of one’s application for Federal Disability Retirement, it becomes easier to effectively delineate the impact of one’s medical conditions upon one’s positional duties.

It is one thing to experience a medical condition; it is quite another to effectively describe the medical condition, utilizing the proper and accurate adjectives and descriptive word-pictures to a third party; and it is even further another matter to describe one’s medical condition and its impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  To perform the intellectual exercise of mentally delineating a list of one’s positional duties in one column; a list of symptomatologies in a separate column; a correspondence of impact between the columns (but remember, it should never be simply a one-to-one correspondence,and cross-overs and multiple overlays reflect the “real world” of medical conditions and their impact upon one’s positional duties), is a helpful exercise in the presentation of the “final product” to the Office of Personnel Management.

In preparing and formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to “think through” the administrative process, in order to exponentially increase the chances of success at each stage of the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire