Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Effective Approach

The sales pitch comes from every direction, all vocations, countless product lines and endless announcements of fanfare and ceremony:  the 3-step plan, the 5-point road to success, the 10-ways of X or Y:  it is meant to be a formulaic methodology of achieving a stated goal.

Formulaic approaches are perfectly reasonable; they provide an avenue which, through prior experience of trials and errors, the “seller” has formulated a method or product as the best means possible for achieving success in any given venture.  But the gimmickery of any formulaic approach can wear thin after a manner; and in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, ultimately the fanfare must be supported by three basic elements (see, even the undersigned writer engages in a 3-point plan):  The supporting medical documentation; The supporting statement of disability; The supporting disability law.  Of the three elements, it is the first (the supporting medical documentation) which is paramount and, to borrow (albeit in a non-technical, misused sense) Aristotle’s verbiage, the “first cause” or “First Mover” of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Ultimately, substance over form must prevail, and will be most effective in a Federal Disability Retirement application; and the “substance” in this case is the medical condition itself — one which needs no fanfare, and certainly no 10-point plan for effective advocacy.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Game of Go

The game of Go involves planning, strategy, finesse, a sense of when to aggressively pursue, and a lesson of when to withdraw.  It is a game originating from China, thousands of years old, yet identical in play and rules today.  It is a game of daily living; and, indeed, even the tactile component of feeling the soft smoothness of each stone as you place them on the surface of the playing board, along with the geometric beauty of the patterns which your opponent complements as you lay your handiwork — all with the attribute of two basic colors:  black and white.

One can always make too much of an analogy between sports and life; fiction and reality; a mere game, and a process.  Games ultimately are what they are:  a play which, in the end, has no significance beyond the entertainment of the moment.  But some games help to sharpen one’s sense of daily living.

The metaphor and analogy to be applied between the game of Go and practicing law, including preparing, formulating and filing on behalf of Federal and Postal employees to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is the need to understand the process; to present the evidence in a bold and unabashed manner; and to understand the “opponent” and what the opposition represents and will likely do.

Preempting what the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is likely to do in response to one’s handiwork, is an essential part of both the game of Go and of any practice of law.  That is why a legal strategy is important and relevant in the preparation of a Federal Disability Retirement application — for, like the game of Go, unless you make the proper connections between the medical evidence, the law, one’s positional duties, and one’s statement of disability, you will be surrounded by your opponent’s tactile placement of experienced handiwork, and find that all of your efforts have come to naught.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Preparing for the Process

Every endeavor or activity requires preparation — if merely a thought, but more than likely, the gathering of proper materials, a logistical and strategic plan of action, etc.  There is nothing more frustrating than to begin a project, only to find that one lacks the proper materials and tools, and must delay any further action because of such lack.

Similarly, 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 for the Federal or Postal employee to understand that “having a medical condition” is not enough to endeavor to begin the administrative process (some would instead insert the term, “nightmare” for the word “process”).

While the suffering of the chronic or debilitating medical condition may “feel” like it should be enough, filing for a bureaucratic benefit requires proof which meets a set standard of evidentiary documentation.  In other words, one must establish a “nexus”, or a connection, between the medical condition which one suffers from, and the job which one is positioned for, and moreover, one must always keep in mind that this is a “medical retirement“, and as such, it must be established that one is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job from a medical standpoint.

It is indeed the preparatory phase of the journey into Federal Disability Retirement which will provide the foundation for ultimate success in the endeavor.

Just as you don’t want to build a house without first having the appropriate construction materials; so you don’t want to go down the path of Federal Disability Retirement without having the requisite medical and legal tools in hand.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Effective Repetition

Repetition is an effective tool in any writing forum, if the audience to whom such repetitive tools are directed, is taken into account.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the repetitive restatement of specific medical conditions, the symptoms exhibited and manifested over the years, the impact upon certain elements of both one’s positional duties and daily living activities from the medical conditions themselves, etc. — all can be effectively stated throughout the Federal Disability Retirement application itself.

For, repetition can also produce the appearance of consistency; and when the same or similar phrase or concept is repeated in different documents — in the applicant’s statement of disability; in the doctor’s narrative reports; in the Supervisor’s Statement; in the medical office notes and progress notes; such repetition reveals a consistency of terms, which reflects a reality of chronicity as to the state, severity, and nature of the medical condition and its impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, which is what must be proven in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

That is why the order and sequence of what to write, when to write it, and what to wait for before writing one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) is important.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: A Different Approach

Insanity is sometimes defined as the repetition of behavior despite evidence to the contrary.  But if that is the accepted definition of insanity, most individuals would qualify and fit into the description.  For, security of habitual repetitiveness is what often drives the individual, and the common adage of trying to “think outside of the proverbial box” is something which is not natural to man.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the repetition of OPM’s template, applied to hundreds, if not thousands, of denial letters to Federal and Postal employee applications for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, often requires a “different approach”.

Individuals who attempt to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement annuity without legal representation engage in the process at a stark disadvantage:  they leave the third rail — the legal argumentation — with a void.  For, whether the original application itself, or a response to a denial and engagement at the Reconsideration Stage, or an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board — being “inside” or “outside” the box, or taking a conventional approach as opposed to a “different” approach, the three rails of success must always include the medical documentation, the facts pertaining to one’s positional duties, and the legal basis for an approval.

Different approaches are fine; but regardless of which approach one takes, one must always have the foundational approach left intact, in order to build the (also proverbial) house on a solid footing, lest it fall and blow away as a house of cards.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Logistics, Strategy and Substantive Paradigm

In any and every endeavor, whether on a large scale or of little consequential impact, a tripartite approach must be devised:  the logistics of the case (the “how” and the mundane mechanics of procedural actions involved); the strategy of it (the methodological plan of action, involving the choice of which issues to prioritize and tackle, etc.), and finally, the substantive paradigm of the case.

It is often the latter which is overlooked, precisely because everyone is always too busy trying to immediately figure out what to do and how to do it.  In a pragmatic sense, the logistical plan and the strategic outlay are crucial in any legal action; as a persuasive foundation for winning, however, devising a substantive paradigm of a case may be the essence of a winning path.

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 encounters the myriad of voluminous standard forms to be filled out, the need to obtain medical reports and records, and to simply survive the morass of administrative and bureaucratic requirements, leaves one merely attempting to stay afloat in the logistical mandates — of trying to satisfy all of the Agency demands and requirements.

Additionally, to even contemplate devising a “strategy” of how to go about proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, one’s Federal Disability Retirement case, becomes an obstacle and a burden, especially when one is having to deal with the medical condition and treatment of that condition concurrently with the stress of trying to complete a Federal Disability Retirement application.

As for the substantive paradigm of a case?  That may be the customary casualty of a Federal Disability Retirement case — that coordination of all issues, of the medical, the position one occupies, the persuasive legal argumentation, in a compendium of interconnected sources, arguing to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management the what, where, why and irrefutable how, in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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