CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Narrative & the Audience

Anton Chekhov’s short story, “Grief”, is often accompanied by a subtitle, variously interpreted as, “To whom shall I share my grief?”  It is both about the need inherent in human nature to tell one’s story of grief, as well as the cold, unreceptive world which has no time to hear the story.

As the horse-driven cab picks up various passengers and fares, it becomes clear that the audience to whom the father’s grief must be told, is characterized as unfeeling and uncaring towards a man who has experience a tragedy in life.  It is thus the search for the proper audience — and how the narration must be told, in the right manner, at the proper time, within the appropriate setting.

That is how all stories must be told, including a Federal or Postal Worker’s statement of disability, as formulated on Standard Form 3112A in a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  It is with a heightened sense of sensibility that one must put together the narrative form, with a view towards the audience; what facts and minutiae should be included; with a coherent beginning and an appropriate ending; where to begin and when to end; what details should be included, such that it does not divert one’s attention from the centrality of one’s story; all of this, and much more.

Chekhov teaches us much in his writings; how we apply it in our every day lives is left to the reader — his audience.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Persuasiveness

The ability to persuade requires two components:  One who utilizes the tools of persuasion; and a receptive audience, open to an alternative perspective, and willing to regard and consider the arguments of the first.  

Power is often the single most obstructive obstacle placed in the path of persuasion, precisely because it makes an individual, entity, organization or agency believe that it does not need to be persuaded to change course.  Watching news shows and political interviews is quite instructive in the loss of society’s ability to either listen, or to persuade.  The rule today is to talk, and as long as the monologue lasts, the opponent is given no opportunity to respond.  He who talks the most, and the loudest, wins the debate.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize the mechanisms already in place, and to use them to one’s persuasive advantage.  

The Office of Personnel Management is the entity which must be persuaded.  Inasmuch as it is easier to approve a case, than to deny it and have it Reconsidered or appealed to the Merit Systems Protection Board, the approach must be one of:  What can be submitted to make your job easier, and to relieve you of your heavy caseload?  For one thing, a concise and streamlined Federal Disability Retirement packet.  For another, a Disability Retirement packet which is clearly proven.  And for a third, legal and other arguments which are simple but to the point.  

Meandering arguments and voluminous biographies, as well as diatribes of complaints, will not win the day.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Unique Story

This is a world which requires conformity and uniformity; eccentricity is a leisure which few can afford, and as the world operates on a factory-like assembly line, where productivity is the measure of one’s worth, so the uniqueness of a story gets lost in the fading echoes of a scream one hears in a solitary cave, where the sound of one’s cry reverberates deep into the chasm of darkness and the silent quiescence of water dripping upon a moss-covered granite surface.  That is why the poignancy of Chekhov’s story about an old man’s grief and his need to tell his story of the death of his son, resonates with us.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to strike the proper and delicate balance between recognizing the “uniqueness” of one’s case, and the pragmatic acknowledgement of the bureaucratic need of the Federal Agency (both one’s own as well as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) to have a conformity of one’s story.

Yes, some history and background can be told in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (although one must be careful in avoiding the pitfalls of ‘situational disability‘ and other issues); yes, one can provide some additional details of one’s ‘story’; but, ultimately, the issue which must be addressed is the legal one:  the essence of the case remains the same throughout.  Throughout, always prepare the Federal Disability Retirement case to conform to the law.

One’s story is unique; the uniqueness must be conformed to a standard of legal proof in order to meet the requirements of Federal Disability Retirement law; once told and conformed, you can still go out and relate your story to those who have a willing ear.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: How and What

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, “how” one states something is often just as important as the “what” one says.

The latter is relevant for obvious reasons:  the subject of the statement is the “identifier” for purposes of directing the reader (in this case, the person who is handling your Federal Disability Retirement benefit application at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) to focus upon a particular matter; but just as importantly, “how” it is said — i.e., the tone, tenor and context of the “what”.

How a medical report is stated will often determine the success of a Federal Disability Retirement application, more than what is expected to be said.  For, from the perspective of the Office of Personnel Management, the generic “what” (the subject matter of the application) will almost always contain the obvious:  that there is a medical condition; that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; that the Federal or Postal worker will make statements and claims of an inability to perform certain key elements of one’s job because of one’s medical conditions, etc.

On the other hand, how it is stated:  Is it persuasive?  Does the doctor follow from a reasonable explanation to an unequivocal conclusion?  Is the doctor convincing?  While the “what” of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, may be a necessary condition of a Federal Disability Retirement application, it may not be sufficient; sufficiency may be determined by how a Federal Disability Retirement application is prepared, formulated, and ultimately filed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: How the Historical Background Is Stated Can Make All the Difference

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must address the issue of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A), and answer questions regarding the medical conditions, their impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform the essential elements of one’s positional duties as slotted; impact upon other areas of one’s life, etc.

The problem with many respondents to such a form (by “respondent” is meant to identify the Federal or Postal employee who is completing the form and filling out the SF 3112A for filing of a Federal Disability Retirement Application) is the manner in which it is responded to — the “how” it is stated.  In journalism, there is the standard approach of providing information:  Who, what, when, where and how.  Such satisfaction of a journalistic approach provides the reader with the necessary information required to complete a story.  In that type of forum, however, the penalty for providing the wrong “how” is merely bad penmanship, and some potential criticism by the general reading public.

In applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, however, the penalty for a wrong “how” may be a disqualification from being able to receive Federal Disability Retirement benefits, because the historical context of the medical condition can impact the legal criteria for eligibility.

Be careful in formulating the applicant’s statement of disability; what one says matters; how one says it may matter most.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Quality & Quantity of Medical Report

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is often asked as to the quantitative sufficiency of the medical documentation to be submitted.

Qualitative sufficiency for Federal Disability Retirement applications, at least on a generic level, is an easy one to answer — the substance of the medical documentation must meet the legal standard of proof.  If the Office of Personnel Management or the Merit Systems Protection Board approves the Federal or Postal employee’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, then obviously both the quality and quantity of medical documentation met the standard of proof.  

But an answer based upon “after the fact” circumstances is rarely useful; the generic answer of, “Submit medical evidence such that it meets the legal burden of proof, of Preponderance of the Evidence”, might be well and good, but what does that mean?  

Ultimately, the reason why such questions as to sufficiency of medical documentary submission cannot be answered in a generic manner, is that each particular case is unique, and any imposition of a general rule is dangerous because, the moment the general rule is followed and violated (with a denial from the Office of Personnel Management), then the rule becomes obsolete and irrelevant.  

The quality of the medical documentation to be submitted must ultimately show to OPM that each of the legal criteria are met, and that there is a nexus between one’s medical conditions and the type of work that one performs.  

Quantity of medical documentation is ultimately determined by the quality of the medical narrative.  While generic in scope, the general approach is that one should submit only the extent of medical documentation sufficient to prove one’s case; and in each particular case, what that proof must consist of, is unique, particularized, and ultimately personalized to the individual Federal or Postal Worker who is preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Effective Narrative

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to compile an effective narrative on Standard Form 3112A, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  

The narrative presentation, in response to specific questions which are posed on SF 3112A, should encompass a wide range of writing tools:  clear identification of the diagnosed medical conditions; concise description of the symptoms which manifest themselves; an understandable delineation of the type, nature and essential elements required in one’s position with the Federal government or the Postal Service; and a connective narration of the impact of one’s medical conditions upon the performance of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.  

All of those writing tools which one learned in grammar school — and hopefully perfected over the years — should be utilized in the process of formulating the narrative.  By “narrative” is meant the story of one’s medical conditions and its impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  

The narrative form should be clear, concise, comprehensible, and minimalist to the extent that the range of irrelevant tangents should be limited, but the story should be compelling enough to contain the details to captivate the OPM Representative who is reviewing the case.  Moreover, it should be a short story as opposed to a novel; one should not have to tell about the pain, but rather, allow the story to reveal the physical and emotional devastation of the medical condition, its impact upon one’s job, and upon other aspects of one’s life.  Further, it should answer the questions posed, but go beyond the questions, and answer the essential foundation without argumentation:  Why one is eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Simplicity of the Process

In becoming deeply involved in the morass of the bureaucratic process of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS and CSRS, it is often easy to become frustrated with the inherent complexity of the process.  

Because of the multi-faceted complexities of the administrative process (e.g., obtaining the proper format and language in a medical narrative report in order to meet the legal criteria for eligibility; creating and nexus between the essential elements of one’s position in the Federal Service with the symptomatologies of the interaction between the medical conditions and the essential elements; understanding and applying the various statutory authorities and legal precedents which have evolved over many years; of preempting — if necessary — statements by the Agency or the Supervisor; and multiple other issues to be addressed concurrently), it can be frustrating for an injured or disabled Federal or Postal employee to attempt to pull all of the intricate strings together into a singular yarn of coherency and succinct presentation of a narrative form.  

Such is the time to remind one’s self of the simplicity of the process — of the 3-part essence of a Federal Disability Retirement application which will ultimately be a paper-presentation to the Office of Personnel Management.  First, the medical narrative must be simple but concise, and must provide a proper bridge between the medical condition and why a Federal or Postal employee is unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Second, one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability must be consistent with the medical narrative reports — neither understated nor exaggerated, and guided by truth. And third, it is important to understand and apply the legal precedents, and use the law as what it is intended for — a tool for both a shield and a sword.  In life’s complexities, it is important to maintain a paradigm of simplicity.  Unfortunately, it is often the simplest forms which constitute the height of complexity.

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