Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: A Distinction to Be Made

Lawyers are taught — whether at Law School, through observation as a young associate or “apprentice” under the wings of a seasoned attorney — to ask questions in a persistent, methodological manner.  Whether in “direct examination” or “cross examination”, the question asked is meant to be goal-oriented.

We often make the mistake, however, in concluding that the question asked constitutes something more than a question — that it contains some substantive value, intrinsic in the very intonation and deliverance of the question itself.  The question asked, must be distinguished from the answer given.  Thus, the mere fact that a question is asked, does not in and of itself contain any relevant evidence or substantive import.  It is in the answer given which must determine the content and context of relevance.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, applied through one’s agency and ultimately submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, multiple and varied questions will be posed, indicated and conveyed to the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for the Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Such questions must be answered — and answered truthfully.  The questions themselves, however — whether posed in the Standard Forms which must be completed (SF 3107 & SF 3112 series for the FERS employee; SF 2801 and SF 3112 series for the CSRS employee); or in correspondence form from the Agency or the Office of Personnel Management; or by the Administrative Judge or the OPM Representative at an MSPB Hearing — should have a stream of consistency throughout the process.

This is normally a simple matter — but always remember that “truth” is distinguishable from “consistency”; and it is often the latter which creates some doubt as to the former.  Unfortunately, life is very rarely consistent. That is why a coordination and comprehensive outlook upon the entire administrative process, from beginning to end, must always be kept in mind.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Privacy, Social Media and Detracting Information

In the modern age of social media, where information on what previously was considered “private” details of personal and family life is widely disseminated, freely provided, and affirmatively shared, such publicly declared information can be accessed by private, public, and government entities.  

A Federal or Postal worker who is preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, should take care that publicly disseminated information does not contradict the assertions and statements made on an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  While the Office of Personnel Management does not systematically engage in researching information on an applicant displayed in the social media forum; nevertheless, it is certainly “fair game” to obtain such information.  

The problem with social media information posted and freely provided by individuals, including Federal and Postal Workers, is that there may be absolutely no connection between the reality and accuracy of the information posted, and the truth of the individual revealing and posting such information.  

Anonymity, having a different identity — acting like a different person from the true “you” is an easy thing to do on the internet.  But if a wide disparity becomes evident between what one asserts in one arena from what is stated in an official government form under penalty of perjury, there may come a day when one is asked to explain the discrepancy.  

Just a thought, for those Federal and Postal employees who are preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Exaggerated Applicant’s Statement

The preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application to the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a paper presentation to OPM.  

Paper presentations are quite different from a personal appeal or an “in-person” presentation to a group of individuals, or to a singular audience, in the following ways:  With a paper presentation, the “audience” (in this case, the Office of Personnel Management Case Worker) has the opportunity to review the various aspects of a Federal Disability Retirement application, in order to evaluate, compare, contrast, and cite-check facts, legal authorities and internal documents.  

With that in mind, it is important in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application to strike a proper balance of tone, content, and narrative voice — and to make sure that the Applicant’s Statement on SF 3112A is accurate, without an appearance of exaggerated storytelling.

Think about it this way:  In describing an event, or a series of events, it is important to capture an audience’s attention by telling a “good story”.  But in telling a story, there is a natural difference of approach when telling it “live” to a person, and writing a narrative about it.  By “exaggeration” is not meant to necessarily imply stating an untruth; rather, credibility and believability is often based not upon the substance of a story (for truth is often of greater absurdity than fiction), but upon the conveyance and manner of the narrative voice.

Truth itself should always be the guide of one’s voice; one’s voice, however, must have the proper inflection and pitch, in making the delivery one of credibility and believability.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: Credibility (Part II)

Ultimately, then, credibility of a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application will often come about based upon an initial perusal and superficial, “first-time” look at a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  That is why it is often important to thoughtfully and sequentially place information in a methodological, coherent manner. That is why superfluous, peripheral material, opinions, statements from non-medical third parties, etc., should be kept to a minimum, at least in any initial attachment.  Now, if it is thought to be necessary and if it is determined to be helpful additional information, then an addendum attachment, or perhaps an attachment chronologically listed as “additional helpful information” can be part of the packet.  However, it should be clearly identified as such, and even the “additional information” should be streamlined, coherently structured and qualitatively and selectively utilized.  Remember that the essence of a Federal Disability Retirement case is the interconnection between a person’s medical condition and the type of work which one engages in.  As such, aside from the personal “I” statement, the medical reports and records should be the central focus.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Credibility (Part I)

The credibility of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A both for FERS & CSRS employees) is crucial to obtaining an approval for a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Remember, first and foremost, that the personal pronoun “I” is being used — and should be used.  As such, one’s integrity and personal credibility is put to the issue.

While descriptive delineations of one’s symptoms are important, with appropriate adjectives to convey the extent of the subjective symptomatologies experienced, remember that exaggeration is the undermining element which can unravel a Federal Disability Retirement application, and ultimately reflect with harm upon one’s integrity and credibility.

Truth should always be the guiding principle; but perspectives are accepted in the conveying of such truth.  Remember that Pontius Pilate asked the famous question, “What is Truth”?  In asking the question, he never stopped to consider the answer; instead, he asked it in a rhetorical fashion, without regard to the truth.

Truth is important; being truthful is essential; and beyond this, correspondence of truth with the medical records and reports is the coherent package which will win in a disability retirement packet.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The MSPB

The entire process of preparing and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS should be accomplished with the view that it will end up at the Merit Systems Protection Board, being heard by an Administrative Judge.  This is why much thought and preparation should foreshadow each application.  There should be a running theme throughout the narrative which reveals the individuality of a person’s medical condition and how that medical condition impacts his or her ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job

Truth should always be the guide; however, truth is always influenced by perspective.  It is the “perspective” of the Office of Personnel Management, in all Federal Disability Retirement cases under FERS & CSRS, to carefully scrutinize the narrative of the medical condition, impact upon the job, and the ability and inability to have the necessary connection between the two.  It is the perspective of the supervisor who will render his or her opinion based upon a limited knowledge and observation.  Perspectives must be questioned.  Thus, there is the opportunity for cross-examination at the MSPB level, which must be engaged in artfully and with care.  Each individual believes that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application is a “sure thing” at the First Stage of the process — until the reality sets in.  The reality, of course, is that every application must be prepared as if it is going to the MSPB, because it well might, and often does.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire