CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Complexity in the Hidden Background

To prove one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, is seemingly an uncomplicated matter.

As one’s medical condition impacts the ability to perform one or more of the essential element of one’s job, it is up to the treating doctor to establish the nexus and provide an opinion as to the connecting bridge between the medical condition and the positional requirements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

How does one do that? Must it be comprised of a 1-to-1 ratio between job elements and medical conditions? How important and prominent are “symptoms” considered, as opposed to the mere clinical declaration of the diagnosis, in persuading the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that a particular medical condition should qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits? To what extent is one’s own statement of disability, as described on Standard Form 3112A, important in establishing the foothold towards gaining an approval from OPM?

Also, what algorithm or comparative analysis does OPM use in evaluating a case, and how does one enhance the chances of success at the First Stage of the process? If denied at the First Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process, does the basis of the denial (often characterized by a plethora of multiple reasons given) require a point-by-point refutation, and is the Reconsideration Division at OPM using the same standard of review, or a different application of laws in evaluating the additional evidence submitted at the next stage?

If one watches a gymnast, a ballerina, or even a mathematician at work in solving or unraveling a complex problem or exercise, one is immediately struck by the ease with which the feat is performed. But it is almost always the unseen preparation which has preceded the actual performance that sets the stage of an uncomplicated presentation.

It is that mystery of the uncomplicated, which tends to trip us all, and that is no different in the preparation, formulation and submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application, applied through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Simplification of a Complex Process

It is the simple things in life which provide the greatest amount of pleasure; but simplicity often conceals the underlying complexity inherent in that which merely appears so.  

The child who first observes the vivid pictures on a computer screen has little to no understanding of the complex hardware and software network interfacing which, in the long history of computer design and evolving creation of computers, resulted in the seemingly simple result, produced by a push of a button.  Thus, the complexity behind the microchip and the human endeavor which designed, created and manufactured the product is what makes for the simplicity of the complex.  

As with all other things simple and complex, Federal Disability Retirement must be approached with caution. The questions which are required to be answered on Standard Forms (SF 3107 series for FERS applicants; SF 2801 series for CSRS applicants; SF 3112 series for both FERS and CSRS applicants) may appear quite simple in form; the content of what must be provided will necessarily require a complex interaction of thought, foresight, knowledge of the law, and carefully chosen words to provide information, argument and documented evidence which proves, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the Federal or Postal worker is entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  

To compile and produce a product which appears “simple”, from the myriad of administrative complexities, is the key to a successful outcome in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Simplicity betrays complexity; that which appears so, may not reveal the underlying and compound complexities which must be cautiously approached.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Fish or Cut Bait

Colloquial expressions often develop over time because of their shorthanded effectiveness; they are the antiquated equivalent of text-messaging abbreviations, but with greater meaning and potency because of their time-testedness and allowance for a slow, evolutionary progression within a society.  Such expressions allow for a blunt statement which removes all doubts as to meaning; and the statement itself is all that is necessary, with surrounding silence revealing all.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, a person contemplating initiating the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement must ultimately come to the decision of moving forward, or not.

Such a bifurcation of clarity in making the decision is necessary both for the sanity and health of the Federal or Postal employee who must make the decision, as well as for the agency who either wants full productivity from its employees, or an ability to “accommodate” the medical condition (in accordance with the governing laws concerning the legal issue of accommodations in the workplace) in order to reach an acceptable level of productivity.

Fish or cut bait; in four words, such a colloquial expression says it nicely:  Initiate the process, or live with the pain and progressive deterioration.  Already, in the very act of trying to explain or “add on” to the expression, nothing of value has been accomplished because the expression itself is sufficient.  As such:  silence.

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

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Beyond the MSPB

Because filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS is a process which may potentially take the full stages — from the initial application stage, to the Reconsideration Stage, to the Merit Systems Protection Board; then, if denied at the MSPB, to the Petition for Full Review, and if denied there, to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals; as a result, it is a good idea to be represented by a Federal Disability Attorney.  Remember that the last two stages of the process only allow for arguing an error of law.  To that extent, if one pauses for a moment and reflects — everything ultimately comes down to an error of law.  Very rarely is there a misinterpretation of the facts. 

In a Federal Disability Retirement case, the medical evidence is fairly straightforward.  Yes, there can be some arguments concerning the interpretation of the extent and severity of the medical conditions, but the substantive focus of disagreement between the applicant and the Office of Personnel Management normally comes down to the appropriate application of the standard of law, and whether the application has met the burden of proof and satisfied the legal criteria for eligibility.  As such, the essence of a Federal Disability Retirement application comes down to whether OPM — and subsequently the Administrative Judge — has mis-applied the law.  Thus, at each stage of the process, it is important to lay the foundation by pointing out where the error of applying the law happened — at each and every stage of the process.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire