Context, Content and Vacuums in Federal Employee Disability Retirement Applications

Vacuums constitute space devoid of matter.  In the practical world, the mechanical tool used for removal of unwanted substances merely moves matter from one location to another; in theoretical physics, one encounters complex conceptual discussions which will often involve comparative analysis of partial vacuums in relation to pure vacuums.  Discussions involving vacuums, where a proper context is important in understanding the relational significance of subjects focused upon, and the incomprehensible vacuity of meaningless occurs when conceptual connections are lost because context and substance lose their connective importance.

In the context of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, too much focus and attention upon peripheral matters, outside of the context of medical conditions in their relationship to positional duties and essential elements of one’s Federal job, will often create a vacuum of significance.

Context is always important; but the extent of detail required, and necessity of issues to be discussed, and the quantitative value of documentation and evidence submitted, may well prove to attain an opposite effect from the one intended. Unintended consequences resulting from intended actions are to be expected in daily life; but where one has decided to pursue an administrative and bureaucratic process where submission of the evidence can be thoughtfully controlled, it is always important to coordinate the relationships between context, content and vacuums.  The descriptive context of an OPM Disability Retirement application; the substantive content of the evidence to be submitted; and the vacuum created by placing evidence in one part of the Federal Disability Retirement application but leaving it omitted from another, results in the intended whole of an effective Federal Disability Retirement packet.

All Federal Disability Retirement applications are filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, and because the agency which reviews, approves or denies a Federal Disability Retirement claim is different from the one which originates with the source (with the exception of the injured Federal Employee who actually works with OPM, which can of course happen and has happened), it is important to consider the connective relationship between context, content and vacuums created, both in practical life, in theoretical physics, as well as in the preparation, formulation and filing of a CSRS or FERS Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Discretionary Extraction

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 the question of whether X should be included, or Y should be left out.  Whether certain elements, issues, substantive descriptions, etc., should be included, excluded, extracted or otherwise inserted, largely falls into discretionary decision-making; sometimes, however, personal or professional discretion should not be the guiding criteria; rather, the compelling necessity directed by the legal requirements should dictate the decision itself.

Making such decisions often fall into three basic categories:  Substantive; ancillary; an admixture of the first and second.  Obviously, “which” medical conditions should be included will normally fall into the substantive category; the “history” of the medical condition, the circumstances under which the medical condition came about, and certain medical conditions which one might suffer from, but which have little or no impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, might be considered ancillary; and lastly, the admixture of the two — of agency-induced issues which may have resulted in an EEO action; stress-related conditions from a hostile work environment:  these must be considered carefully, and should rarely be included in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Ultimately, the guiding principle should be:  Don’t muddy the waters.  But the true guide should always be “the law”, and what purports to uphold that which proves by a preponderance of the evidence a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Dependent Contextual Information

The historical context of one’s medical condition is an issue which is mostly irrelevant for the First and Second Stages of a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS. This is because OPM is not interested — or, more accurately, the law does not recognize as relevant in analyzing the eligibility criteria applied in a Federal Disability Retirement application — of “how” or “why”.

While such contextual information may be relevant for OWCP/FECA cases because of the issue of causality and its importance in such cases, the overriding and determining factor in a Federal Disability Retirement application is whether a Federal or Postal employee has a medical condition; how that medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; and whether the medical condition will last a minimum of 12 months.

Outside of that contextual information (actually, such information is more accurately identified as content-information), OPM in pragmatic terms has no patience for the historical background of such information.  Obviously, however, some contextual narrative should be included in any Applicant’s Statement of disability, in order to make the statement meaningful.

One last point:  While historical context may not be relevant for the Initial Stage and the Reconsideration Stage, it may be very important if one finds oneself before an Administrative Judge at the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

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

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Historical Relevance

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 thoughtfully complete Standard Form 3112A — the “Applicant’s Statement of Disability“.

The questions asked on the form do not request, nor do they require, historical context — i.e., of “how” a medical condition or injury occurred, “when” it occurred (although it does ask the approximate date of the onset of disability, which is somewhat distinct from asking the question in the context of historical background; rather, it merely asks for a month and a year), or “what” happened.

History is a contextual aura, a conceptual construct which we carry with us wherever we are; of having an identity based upon one’s background, a sense of who we are, where we came from, and thereby providing a foundation of an understanding of why we are who we are in the present day.  The historicity of an individual, a culture, a society and a civilization is important in understanding the context as to the behavior, motivation, and teleological actions engaged in by an individual, a group, or a nation.

Thus, the old adage that those who fail to study history, are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past.  But in the context of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one must always keep in mind that brevity, streamlining and respect for the limited time, attention-span and workload of the OPM Representative in reviewing a particular case, is important.  To that end, historical background should be guided by the standard of direct relevance to the essence of one’s case.

Reading about history is important; understanding history can be informative; listening to one’s personal history should be left mostly to the quietude of a family gathering, when grandpa has the time to retell ancient stories of those past glory days.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire