Federal Disability Retirement: Proof

This is a proof-based process.  It is not merely a matter of completing some forms and meeting procedural guidelines in order to obtain a benefit; rather, it is an administrative process in which evidence and documentary support from third parties must be obtained in order to meet the legal criteria imposed by statute, regulation, and ever-evolving case-laws as handed down by the Administrative Judges of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

There are administrative processes which are “entitlements”, such as certain economic assistance programs, Social Security, Medicare, etc., where one has paid into a system, and upon reaching a certain age, or meeting income-qualification criteria, etc., such procedural guidelines are merely shown, met, and approved.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, however, it is not merely a matter of meeting procedural criteria (although that, too, is required), but moreover, one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible, by submission of substantial and adequate documentation that one cannot perform, because of a medical condition, one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

Proof is the lynchpin by which the standard of winning a Federal Disability Retirement case is won or lost.  Proof is a “must”.  As such, never consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits as merely a matter of filling out paperwork; one must prove one’s case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Intersection of the Applicant’s Statement and the Medical Documentation

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS with the Office of Personnel Management, one should not expect to compensate for the lack of medical conclusions in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A).  

By this is meant the following:  While the Applicant’s Statement of Disability should certainly be an “extension” of the medical documentation submitted, in terms of describing the identified medical conditions, the subjective delineation of pain, symptomatologies experienced, the extent and severity of the subjective experience which only the individual who suffers from the medical condition can properly describe; nevertheless, it should be just that — an extension — and not a means in which to compensate for the obvious (or sometimes not so obvious) lack of findings in the medical reports.

Pain and other subjective experiences are by definition personal to the Federal or Postal employee who “owns” the medical condition, and indeed, the case laws decided by the Merit Systems Protection Board (and the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals) clearly declare the relevance and proper weight in considering the subjective statements of the Federal or Postal applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

That being said, the medical documentation, including the office/doctor’s notes, etc., along with the medical narrative report which has been submitted as part of the Federal Disability Retirement application, should stand alone with sufficiency and unequivocal confirmation of the medical condition suffered, the symptoms noted, and the nexus created between one’s medical condition and the type of positional duties one is required to perform.  

The Applicant’s Statement, on the other hand, should be an expansion from the point of reference of the medical report, and describe the experiential impact of the medical condition upon one’s job, upon one’s personal life, etc.  Together, they represent two sides of a single coin — but the coin does have two sides, and one side cannot “make up” for any lack revealed on the other side.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire