Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Numbers

Numbers, statistics and percentages rarely tell a complete story, especially in relation to a person’s medical condition.  In Federal Disability Retirement applications under FERS or CSRS, numbers must be utilized carefully and, more importantly, effectively.  Moreover, numbers can be used to diminish or otherwise minimize the seriousness of a medical condition.

For example, if the loss of a forefinger of a right-hand dominant individual would constitute a 5% disability of the “whole person”, does that tell the full story of the impact of such a medical condition upon one’s ability to perform a job which requires daily manual dexterity & use of the right hand?  Or if the loss of vision in one eye were deemed to be a 10% disability, how would one quantify such a medical condition for a computer graphics engineer?

Scheduled awards for Worker’s Comp requires such quantification; and the Veterans Administration ascribes service-connected disability ratings, but unless one descriptively defines the relevance of such numbers to the impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, such numbers lose their importance and relevance.

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize that the language used, and not the numbers ascribed, determines the relevance and ultimate success.  Numbers must be descriptively quantified; numbers in and of themselves never tell a story, except perhaps to the mathematician, which the workers at the Office of Personnel Management are not.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: The Percentage Language Game

To the question:  “What medical disabilities do you have,” is often the response in terms of a percentage language game:  “The VA has given me a ____”; “My doctor rated me at____”.  In the proper context, in the relevant process, such percentage ascription reflecting a numerical value may be workable, as well as persuasive.  But in a Federal Disability Retirement application, where the persuasive essence of a well-formulated Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is constituted by a discussion of the delineation of symptoms as opposed to numbers; physical and cognitive impact as opposed to quantitative value; such language is meaningless unless it is interpreted and translated in terms of the human impact upon one’s job functions.  

That is not to say that the numerical value cannot be used; rather, it must be used with caution, and in a way that shows that, beyond the numbers, there is an essential impact in terms of one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Thus, the “language game” of numerical values, while important in other filings and proceedings, may be of less significance in the formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Approaches & Decisions (Continuation)

This is not to say that the Reconsideration Stage of the process, in the stage where there has (obviously) been an initial denial, should not retell a narrative; it is to simply point out the differences in where the emphasis should be — or, rather, where I place the different emphasis based upon the stage. 

How I approach each stage, in general terms, is as follows:  The Initial Stage (the initial application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS) focuses upon the narrative of the applicant — the description of the medical condition; the kind of job and the essential elements thereof; the interaction and impact of one upon the other, as well as some initial legal arguments.  If it is denied, then the Reconsideration Stage has a “shift of paradigm” on what should be emphasized.  The Office of Personnel Management will often question the adequacy of the medical documentation.  In that case, one needs to respond in a two-pronged attack:  (perhaps) an updated medical report, but concurrently, an aggressive legal attack upon the legally untenable position of the denial.  This methodology sets up for the Third Stage of the process, in the event that it becomes necessary — the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability: an Art Form

As with all effective submissions — pleadings, motions, legal memorandums and, alas, Federal Disability Retirement applications — it should never be approached in a mechanical, one-to-one ratio-like, mathematical manner.  Of course it should contain the technical terms, the medical terms, and the legal arguments.  However, disability retirement under FERS & CSRS — especially the Applicant’s Statement of disability and any legal arguments — should not be matter of matching up a one-to-one correspondence between the medical condition and the particular essential elements which it prevents or impacts.  Certainly, the effect and the conclusion should contain that conceptual correspondence; however, as all good writing contains a technical side, it is also important to weave the story of the human condition and see the writing as an “art” form.

The impact of the human story is important in convincing and persuading the OPM representative to not only understand the medical condition, but to get a sense of empathy for what the applicant is going through.  It is a delicate balance to achieve; yes, the hard legal arguments should be made in order to “force” OPM to see that, legally, they are obligated to approve a disability retirement application; at the same time, if you can touch the empathetic nature of the OPM representative, so much the better.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire