OPM Medical Retirement: Ideas come in bunches

Like wildflowers, there is something about ideas that have a tendency towards coming in bunches.  And, like wildflowers and ideas, we have a further notion that misfortune, likewise, comes in droves and groupings.

Is that a Law of Nature, or merely an observation that has no logical foundation or factual basis?  Didn’t that neighbor down the street get hit by a car, and at the same time — within a week of such a tragic event — lose his wife and 3 kids?  Wasn’t it Uncle Billy who stepped on a nail, and with a few days had his house burglarized and his dog shot in the process?  And surely we recall that movie star who drank himself silly one night and then mistook a shadow for a stranger when it turned out to be his girlfriend’s best friend who shot him in the arm and then took her own life?

These we all recall; and like Hume’s dictum that causality is nothing more than mere combinations of repetitive occurrences, we fail to recognize the silent workings of events unfolding which quietly and subtly fester in the unknown universe of our own ignorance; and yet, when they come to the fore, we relate one to the other.  But ideas are different; they do, indeed, come in bunches, perhaps because the creative energy lagging behind suddenly realizes that potentiality can be actualized when for all those years they remained as stagnant molecules lost in a world of microscopic insignificance.

So, that being said, here are a bunch of ideas: For Federal and Postal workers who believe that the medical condition suffered cannot be accommodated, why not file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?  What if you weren’t even aware of such a benefit?  What if the benefit is not widely circulated, never trumpeted and rarely announced?

You have 1 year from the date of separation from service to file, and as it takes a significant amount of time to properly prepare, formulate and file an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, if might be a good idea to consult with an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement Law — lest the ideas that come in bunches turn out to be bad luck that arrive in groupings; for, in that case, it is certainly time to consider that one’s destiny depends entirely upon actions taken, and not upon ignoring the signs of misfortune that do, indeed, come in bunches.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Listing, Prioritizing and Weaving

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the Federal or Postal employee who is formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability on Standard Form 3112D must describe the medical conditions which will be proven to impact upon one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Submission of the “list” of medical conditions will concretize and place boundaries around the issue to be litigated. Once submitted through the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, then forwarded to Boyers, PA and assigned a CSA Number, the medical conditions described will be the only ones which can be argued.  Further, once a Federal Disability Retirement application is approved, the approval letter will have an attachment which describes and identifies those medical conditions which the Office of Personnel Management found the applicant to be disabled for (is this the feared split infinitive?).

Thus, by way of example, if a Federal or Postal employee filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits based upon medical conditions X, Y and Z, and OPM based its approval only upon medical condition Y, then for any future Medical Questionnaire requesting an updated status on the annuitant’s medical condition, it is only medical condition Y which would be relevant.

As such, in the very preparation of the applicant’s statement of disability, important decisions must be made which will have significant future consequences:  which medical conditions to list; how to prioritize the medical conditions; whether to weave secondary conditions into the applicant’s statement, and to what extent, etc.

While some of the issues will be determined by the medical narrative report(s) prepared by the treating doctors, it is ultimately the responsibility of the Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits — along with his or her attorney — to set the course for future events in a manner which will ensure not only present success, but future security.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Secondary Depression and Other Contingent Medical Conditions

Often, in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one must selectively choose, based upon the medical reports received from one’s requested doctors, the medical conditions upon which one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will be based.  

Sometimes, there is confusion as to which medical conditions should be listed, how it should be “prioritized” (how can one prioritize multiple medical conditions when any or all of them may have debilitating symptomatologies?) and whether some should be relegated to mere peripheral, ancillary discussion, as opposed to retaining a centrality of focus and prominence.  

For example, “Secondary Depression” is a term which often will accompany chronic and debilitating pain.  It may, over time, become a primary source of debilitating disability, but the reason why it is initially, and for some time thereafter, characterized as “secondary” is precisely because it is contingent upon the existence of the primary medical condition — that which results in the chronic and debilitating pain.  As such, if the secondary depression is listed as the primary basis for a Federal Disability Retirement application, but sometime later the originating medical condition which is the foundational cause of the depression gets better, then there is the potential ramifications that the secondary medical condition (“secondary depression”) will resolve itself.  

Such considerations can be important in determining which medical conditions to list, inasmuch as in a future time, if one is found to be disabled by the Office of Personnel Management for a secondary medical condition and is asked in a future Medical Questionnaire to have one’s doctor determine the disability status at a later time, it may become an important issue.

Linking potential future problems to thoughtful preparation in the present time is important in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Choosing the Medical Conditions

Often, in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the question is asked as to which medical conditions should be included in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  The obvious answer, of course, is to identify the “most serious” of the medical conditions, with a secondary consideration being the ones which impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  

Whether to list “all of them” is a separate question, and then there are the subtleties which further delve into a more detailed analysis of the creation of an effective nexus between one’s medical conditions, the job description which one is supposed to be doing, and the provability of the medical conditions identified and described.  

Inasmuch as a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a “paper presentation” to the Office of Personnel Management (and yes, the concept of a “paper presentation” still applies even if and when OPM converts entirely to the technological next-step of a paperless system; the Federal or Postal employee must still present a formatted application), the admixture of legal and medical issues will ultimately come about.  

The conceptual distinction between the diagnosis and the symptomatologies; the extent of willingness of what a treating doctor will state; the concordance between the diagnosis, the symptoms described, and their impact upon the particular elements of one’s position description; the potential impact of being found “disabled” by the Office of Personnel Management based upon a “minor” medical condition which may resolve itself in the future, as opposed to a more serious-listed one; the nebulous areas of “syndromes” (as in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome) and the description of symptoms and making sure to relate the symptoms to a particular medical condition — these are all “subtleties” which involve an intersection between the legal standard of proof and the medical “facts”, in formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  But that it were as easy as simply listing one’s medical conditions.  But, alas, OPM is a Federal bureaucracy, and the combination of “the law” and “a bureaucracy” can only lead to one result:  a conundrum.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The “Grab-bag” Approach

In preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is always the question of which medical conditions to include in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (prepared on SF 3112A).  One approach which many Federal and Postal employees take (which, in my opinion is the wrong one to embrace), is to name every medical condition, symptom and suspected symptom one has suffered from, or is suffering from.  This might be characterized as the “shotgun” or “grab-bag” approach. 

One must be sympathetic to this approach, of course, if only because of the following reason:  OPM regulations and case-law supports the position that once an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits has been filed with the Office of Personnel Management, a Federal or Postal employee cannot amend or add any further medical conditions without withdrawing the application and re-filing. 

Thus, a Federal or Postal employee who prepares and files an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is “locked into” what is stated on one’s SF 3112A.  Because of this, many Federal and Postal employees who prepare the application without the assistance of competent legal representation will take the “grab-bag” approach of listing every possible medical condition known to man. 

While this may seem like a reasonable, “safe” approach to take, remember that such an approach can have unintended consequences:  Upon an approval of the Federal Disability Retirement application, the approval letter may approve the Disability Retirement application based upon a minor medical condition which you no longer suffer from.  This, of course, can have negative consequences down the road.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Shotgun v. Tailored Approach

In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, there is the “shotgun approach” — of peppering the application with any and all medical conditions which may prevent or otherwise impact one’s ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  The danger of this approach, of course, is that the Office of Personnel Management can (and does) stop at the first medical condition which they deem disables the applicant from performing any of the essential elements of one’s job. If the basis of such a disability retirement approval is a secondary, or somewhat inconsequential medical condition, then there is the danger in the future that, if you receive a Medical Questionnaire requesting an update on your medical condition, that you may have recovered from such a secondary medical condition and deemed to have been fully recovered.  Now, every now and then, in the approval letter issued by the Office of Personnel Management, it will not specify which medical condition was the basis for the approval which was rendered.  However, this is in a minority of approval letters, and is not worthwhile enough to consider taking a chance on such a shotgun approach.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Don’t Overlist Medical Conditions

The natural inclination, taking all factors into consideration, would be to list all medical conditions, and to take the chance that the Office of Personnel Management will intelligently discern and ascertain such medical conditions in the order of their severity.  This would be a mistake.  For, in filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the arbitrary nature in which the medical conditions are selected by OPM, makes it into a dangerous gamble.  What must be decided early on, is to take into consideration all factors and circumstances, looking at the medical conditions in their priority of severity, and assessing the impact of each, or the combination of several, and placing them into a “pool” in which medical conditions comprise a generic designation which would “cover” or “identify” a number of subcategories — then to list them in the order of how they specifically impact one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  This must be done intelligently, with foresight, and with deliberation.  Otherwise, to rely upon a presumed rational methodology by the Office of Personnel Managment will ultimately backfire in an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire