Federal Disability Retirement Representation: Substance and Process

In any bureaucratic, lengthy administrative process, one can become embroiled in the procedural aspects of an endeavor, and overlook the substantive elements which form the foundation of any case.  Conversely, one can make the mistake of approaching a case and declare to one’s self, “This is so obviously a good case,” and take shortcuts in the process of putting together an effective and persuasive case.

Either approach is one fraught with grave errors, and for Federal employees and Postal workers who are beginning the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Medical benefits, first through one’s own agency (if still on the rolls of the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service or, if separated, for not more than 31 days), and ultimately submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, Pennsylvania (directly, if the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker has been separated from Federal service for more than 31 days), it is important to keep the balance between the substance of a case, and the process of the case.

Substantive issues involve everything from the factual, informational content required on all standard forms (SF 3107, along with Schedules A, B & C, and the required attachment of one’s DD 214 showing prior active military service; SF 2801 for CSRS employees; and the substantive content of the description of one’s medical conditions to be considered, as required in SF 3112A, etc.), as well as the medical documentation needed to provide the evidentiary support for one’s case.

“Process” issues involve the timeframe in filing a case, the administrative procedures of where the disability application must be submitted through, as well as the myriad of sequential steps required for satisfaction of accommodation issues with one’s agency.

Substance and process — they are the necessary sides of a single, inseparable currency of an administrative reality known as Federal OPM Disability Retirement, and both must be attended to in order to reach the heights of efficacy mandated for a successful outcome in the preparation, formulation and submission of an OPM Medical Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Key Words, Conveyance of Information, and Satisfying the Legal Criteria

There is often a misunderstand about a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS: that the magic of linguistic compliance will bring about success, as opposed to the compilation and delineation of information needed to meet the legal criteria in a case.

There are no “magic words” or “key phrases” which the Federal or Postal applicant, the treating doctor, or the lawyer representing the Federal or Postal employee, can utilize or include in any Federal Disability Retirement packet, which will ensure or otherwise exponentially increase the statistical variances of being successful in applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Rather, the “key” to a successful filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application is to compile the necessary and required documentation in order to meet the medical and legal criteria mandated by law, in becoming eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The difference may be somewhat subtle: on the one hand is the misguided approach of thinking that Federal Disability Retirement application-X was successful because it contained certain key phrases and elements, and thus in thinking that a regurgitation and reenactment of those phrases or elements, if used in another Federal Disability Retirement application, will result in an identical outcome.

The proper approach (satisfying the converse grammatical requirement and avoiding the necessity of saying, “on the other hand”) in opposition to the “key phrase” thought, is to recognize that each Federal Disability Retirement application-Y is constituted by unique facts and medical data peculiar to the individual case, but that in the application of those facts and data, compliance with the administrative criteria is somewhat self-reflective. Similarity, however, does not imply successful extrapolation of previously-applicable content from another Federal Disability Retirement application.

That is the mistake which is often made: One success often leads to the laziness of regurgitation; to put it crudely, one can starve by feeding upon the same food within a confined organic digestive system. In the end, a successful Federal Disability Retirement application must not rely upon prior successes, but rather, recognize the uniqueness of each set of circumstances, apply the relevant law to such peculiarities, and argue the evidence in the context of the conveyance of information meeting the statutory criteria espoused by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Societal Complexities

For over 50 years, we have been told that our lives will be simpler, more efficient, of greater ease, resulting from the technological advancement of society at large.

With each technological innovation, some aspect of the common man’s life was supposed to be unburdened, with greater leisure time and less stress.  But a fundamental principle of human nature was ignored throughout the incremental advancement towards such sophistication:  the innate hunger to create ever more, and the desire by those at the pinnacle of civilization to play the role of master of the universe.

In legal circles, we were all doomed once the fax machine was invented; for, with such a contraption, the 3-4 days it took to send out a first class letter confirming a conversation or following up on one, became instantaneous, and the war of the who-said-what and what was settled upon became an urgent necessity with the ability to send and receive immediately.

Contrary to the great promise of our times, technology and modernization has further complicated, stressed and compounded the problems of daily living.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, the added complexity of winding one’s way through a maze of bureaucracy, of compiling an effective legal case for one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, is often “too much” because such an effort is in addition to the burden of dealing with one’s debilitating medical condition.

The key is to always streamline and simplify; but of course, that’s precisely what society has been purportedly doing all of these years, with each new gadget declaring the end of stress; and we are all the more stimulated by it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Complication of Accommodations

The problem with most people is that they come at a conversation with a selective focus — and listen for that which they want to hear, and filter all other information which fails to fit the paradigm of their predetermined perspective.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question of accommodations via Standard Form 3112D comes to the fore — often because of the selective focus of issues on the part of OPM.

The fact that an agency may have engaged in work-place modifications, or allowed for temporary alleviation of certain elements of one’s job description; or even provided a state-of-the-art ergonomic chair with 3-speed controls with horizontal landing mechanisms — does not mean that the agency was able to, or did, accommodate the Federal or Postal employee under the legal meaning of that which constitutes a viable “accommodation” .

For, that which the agency does must allow for the Federal employee to perform the essential elements of his or her job, and any such attempted “accommodation” which does not meet that standard, is technically not an accommodation at all.  It is merely an artifice and a cosmetic make-over in an effort by the agency which allows for the agency to declare that they have “accommodated” the individual Federal or Postal employee.

Rarely does the question on SF 3112D get accurately responded to; for, the concept of “attempted” accommodations is precisely the point — if it was attempted, and did not work, then the agency has an obligation to concede and describe that point; but from the Agency’s myopic perspective, any “attempt” constitutes an accommodation, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will embrace such an assertion with open arms.

What to do about it?  Always focus upon the central point of a Federal Disability Retirement application — it is a medical retirement.  Thus, the doctor’s opinion is sacrosanct, and should be repetitively emphasized.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Key Words and Phrases

In every writing endeavor, there arises over time an identification of the efficacy of certain key words and phrases.  The problem with such identification, however, is that the deliberate extrapolation and insertion of such “keys” will often lead to over usage, inapplicable repetition, and loss of effectiveness resulting from the very recognition of the centrality and importance of such words and phrases.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is often a tendency to want to know what the “key” is to the successful outcome of a Federal Disability Retirement case.  It is like searching for the entrance to a secret passage:  we believe that if X is discovered, inserted into the proper keyhole, then the mysteries of that which we fail to understand will be opened.  But proper flow and substantive appropriateness of any medical terms must always be considered within a greater context.

Ultimately, it is not any particular word or phrase which leads one onto the path of success in a Federal Disability Retirement case; rather, it is the substantive conceptual underpinnings behind such words and phrases which matter.  Not the words themselves; nor the phrases which describe; rather, the meaning behind such words and phrases within the context of the entirety of one’s medical condition — that is the key to a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Waiting to Get your Federal Disability Retirement Benefits?: Well Worth It

There are many stories out there.  Indeed, as many Federal and Postal Workers who live and work throughout the United States and in Europe, Japan, and across the spectrum of the world, there is a microcosmic, personal story to be told.  That is the point of Chekhov’s short story, “Grief”, in which the father needs to relate the narrative story of the tragedy of his son’s death.  

In the impersonal world within which we live our lives, as a cocoon untouched and untouchable, there are stories and tragedies which we know not about.  Then, there are the narratives of successful outcomes; of those Federal and Postal workers who have filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, who — years later — relate tidbits of starting second vocations, of having the opportunity to rehabilitate from their medical conditions, and to start “new” lives.  

The “present” and “now” is always a time of anguish, especially if one is suffering from a medical condition, or is awaiting a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for a Federal Disability Retirement case.  

Is it worth the wait?  To ask that in the present-tense is probably not the right question.  Rather, once a Federal or Postal worker has filed, has obtained an approval, and has taken some years to move on into another stage of life, the time to ask the question is probably in a retrospective manner:  Was it worth the wait?  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee who intends on filing must understand that it can be a long and frustrating administrative process.  Hopefully, however, the hope of the future is what makes the waiting worthwhile.  For, without the hope of the future, we would all be stuck in the drudgery of the present.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Administrative Process

Ultimately, Federal Disability Retirement must be viewed as a “process“, as opposed to a singular procedure whereby a triggering mechanism automatically allows for receipt of benefits.  The former requires an affirmative approach which involves submission of proof, argumentation, an expectation of resistance (in many cases), and an analysis by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management as to whether or not all of the legal criteria have been met.  The latter is merely a formality of filing.

As a process, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has various steps, procedures, and Stages for appeals.  There is, first and foremost, the initial application Stage, where one has the opportunity and right to submit proof of eligibility, and make legal arguments for entitlement.  If one’s Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the first Stage of the process, then one has a right to have it “reconsidered” by filing a “Request for Reconsideration” within 30 days of the date of denial, or receipt of the letter of denial from OPM, whichever is later.  If denied a second time, then the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has a right to file an Appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

There are, in addition to the 3 stages described, two (2) additional stages of appeal, but the three main stages of filing are what have been previously described.

With such a “process” in mind, it is wise to prepare for the long haul.  An expectation of a quick and easy approval, even if obtained, should not be embraced at the outset, precisely because one must take into consideration the potential length of time which the entire process may take, and prepare accordingly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire