OPM Disability Retirement: Experience versus Articulation of the Condition

One of the first rules announced in any elementary creative writing course is for the budding writer to “show” the reader through descriptive sentences, as opposed to “telling” the audience what has happened.  The distinction itself is often difficult to describe; it is like the dividing line between light and darkness — we know it is there, but cannot precisely pinpoint the demarcation line.

Similarly, in law, there is a difference between the “facts of the case” and “proving the case“, and indeed, the difference can encounter major difficulties in overcoming the obstacles presented by the distinction (i.e., it is not the proverbial “difference without a distinction”).  Thus, even though one may have all of the facts in favor of one’s case, unless one can prove them (and overcome legal objections, technical obstacles for inclusion and introduction of such evidence, etc.), such an advantageous position may in the end be meaningless unless the articulation of the facts to the jury can be effectuated.

Analogously, in a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the fact that one may experience a debilitating medical condition is merely the foundational basis of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.  Beyond the existence of a medical condition, a series of connecting steps must be established:  treatment of the medical condition; articulation of the medical condition by a treating doctor; a nexus between the medical condition and one’s positional duties with the Federal government or the U.S. Postal Service; information conveyed as to the impact between one’s duties and the medical condition, etc.

In other words, while the experiential value of the medical condition forms the foundational basis of a Federal Disability Retirement application, the articulation of that medical condition in a systematically persuasive vehicle of communication is paramount in “proving” one’s case.  Certainly, experience is the beginning point; but beyond that, one must set about to establish the necessary proof in articulating an experience.

In flying on an airplane, one would certainly rather have an experienced pilot than a brash young pilot who has never flown but who can talk a lot; but in a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is the one who has both — the “experience” of a medical condition, as well as the ability to articulate the condition — which will prove one’s case; and in so doing, hopefully the trip forward will result in minimal engine troubles, and fewer bumps in the administrative ride of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: And the Question is …

The responsive statement often given is:  Federal Disability Retirement is not a matter of merely filling out forms; if that were the case, anyone should be able to do it without an attorney.  So, as in many gameshow forums, what is the question?  Filing for regular retirement, or even early retirement, is a matter of filling out the proper and standard forms.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, while submitted to the identical agency (OPM) for “processing”, is a matter of proving one’s case.  In order to prove one’s case, one must gather the substantive evidentiary documents; compile the relevant materials; make the proper “connections” and create the “nexus”; make the compelling and relevant legal arguments; and, yes, “fill out forms”. However, this latter act of filling out standard forms, as a prerequisite, while a necessary component of the entire administrative process, is not a sufficient act which constitutes a demand for an approval.

Thus, for a regular or early retirement, one may well argue that once the forms are filled out, one has satisfied both the necessary and sufficient components of what constitutes fulfillment of all obligations required for admission into the fraternity of Federal Disability Retirement annuitants.

For Federal Disability Retirement benefits, however, the additional requirement of proof by a preponderance of the evidence must first be satisfied.  And for that, one must play the gameshow format of answering the critical, million-dollar question:  What satisfies the standard of proof in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM, whether under FERS or CSRS?  The answer:  It has already been given, only in a form of negation:  Federal Disability Retirement is not a matter of merely filling out forms.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Meeting the Burden of Proof

The difference between “telling” and “showing” is a distinction which is often made in distinguishing between bad literary writing and good literature; such a distinction is applicable in practicing effective law, also.  

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to meet the burden of proof in order to show the Office of Personnel Management that one is entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  To “meet the burden of proof” is to show, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one has met all of the legal criteria for such eligibility (e.g., that one has a medical condition; that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; that certain identified elements of the job cannot be accommodated, etc.).  

The key is that one must “show”, and not merely tell, and that is where the distinction between effective and ineffective formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application presents itself.  To merely assert that “X is a fact” and then to declare that the burden of proof has been met, is an ineffective methodology of formulating one’s argument.  On the other hand, to describe the factual underpinnings, then to further describe how the natural conclusion from such facts lead to the inescapable conclusion that a legal criteria has been met, is to provide for an effective argument.

The Office of Personnel Management is open to persuasion; it must merely be shown the way through descriptive analysis of the medical facts and conclusions which must be met, in meeting the legal burden of proof in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire