Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Exaggerated Applicant’s Statement

The preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application to the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a paper presentation to OPM.  

Paper presentations are quite different from a personal appeal or an “in-person” presentation to a group of individuals, or to a singular audience, in the following ways:  With a paper presentation, the “audience” (in this case, the Office of Personnel Management Case Worker) has the opportunity to review the various aspects of a Federal Disability Retirement application, in order to evaluate, compare, contrast, and cite-check facts, legal authorities and internal documents.  

With that in mind, it is important in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application to strike a proper balance of tone, content, and narrative voice — and to make sure that the Applicant’s Statement on SF 3112A is accurate, without an appearance of exaggerated storytelling.

Think about it this way:  In describing an event, or a series of events, it is important to capture an audience’s attention by telling a “good story”.  But in telling a story, there is a natural difference of approach when telling it “live” to a person, and writing a narrative about it.  By “exaggeration” is not meant to necessarily imply stating an untruth; rather, credibility and believability is often based not upon the substance of a story (for truth is often of greater absurdity than fiction), but upon the conveyance and manner of the narrative voice.

Truth itself should always be the guide of one’s voice; one’s voice, however, must have the proper inflection and pitch, in making the delivery one of credibility and believability.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: Credibility (Part II)

Ultimately, then, credibility of a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application will often come about based upon an initial perusal and superficial, “first-time” look at a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  That is why it is often important to thoughtfully and sequentially place information in a methodological, coherent manner. That is why superfluous, peripheral material, opinions, statements from non-medical third parties, etc., should be kept to a minimum, at least in any initial attachment.  Now, if it is thought to be necessary and if it is determined to be helpful additional information, then an addendum attachment, or perhaps an attachment chronologically listed as “additional helpful information” can be part of the packet.  However, it should be clearly identified as such, and even the “additional information” should be streamlined, coherently structured and qualitatively and selectively utilized.  Remember that the essence of a Federal Disability Retirement case is the interconnection between a person’s medical condition and the type of work which one engages in.  As such, aside from the personal “I” statement, the medical reports and records should be the central focus.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Credibility (Part I)

The credibility of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A both for FERS & CSRS employees) is crucial to obtaining an approval for a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Remember, first and foremost, that the personal pronoun “I” is being used — and should be used.  As such, one’s integrity and personal credibility is put to the issue.

While descriptive delineations of one’s symptoms are important, with appropriate adjectives to convey the extent of the subjective symptomatologies experienced, remember that exaggeration is the undermining element which can unravel a Federal Disability Retirement application, and ultimately reflect with harm upon one’s integrity and credibility.

Truth should always be the guiding principle; but perspectives are accepted in the conveying of such truth.  Remember that Pontius Pilate asked the famous question, “What is Truth”?  In asking the question, he never stopped to consider the answer; instead, he asked it in a rhetorical fashion, without regard to the truth.

Truth is important; being truthful is essential; and beyond this, correspondence of truth with the medical records and reports is the coherent package which will win in a disability retirement packet.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Understanding the Doctor

A question I often ask the treating doctor at the end of a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board (obviously for Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS) is:  Do you have an opinion as to whether Mr. X/Ms. Y is a malingerer? The reason I ask such a question is to establish in the mind of the Administrative Judge, that after all of the clinical examinations, the treatment modalities, the diagnostic testing, etc., does the doctor have a personal opinion about the individual who is seeking to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits

Obviously, there are multiple questions which I ask as a follow-up; and, indeed, the question as to the status of the client/applicant requests a professional opinion about the patient — but implicit in that question is also a rather personal one.  It goes to the heart of who the patient/applicant is, and what the doctor believes about this particular applicant/patient.  For, to resolve any doubts about the underlying motive of the patient is not only important to the Administrative Judge in a Federal Disability Retirement application; it is equally important that the doctor is comfortable in his own mind, as to the clear and honest intention of his patient.  Conveying that comfort from the voice of the treating doctor to the ears of the deciding Judge, is no small matter.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Always the Initiator

In preparing, formulating and completing a Federal Disability Retirement packet under FERS & CSRS for the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to always be the initiator of all issues, real, implicit or potentially existing.  Nothing should ever be “hidden”.  To hide is to admit that something is wrong; to paraphrase a Shakespearean verse, to object too strenuously is to admit to something that you think needs objecting to.  Or, to put it in elementary terms, honesty is always the best policy

Aside from the obvious penalties for lying upon a Federal Application for Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, there is the practical reason:  rarely is an issue of such ominous importance that it would preclude a Federal or Postal employee from obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Certainly, some issues can become temporary impediments; other issues — often relating to performance issues, misconduct during Federal Service, a perception that an employee did something “wrong” — will lead a potential applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits to “color the truth” in an application for Federal Disability Retirement.  There is no need.  Certainly, some issues need to be highlighted more than others, and other issues need to be left in the periphery; but openness is the best policy, and honesty is always the only avenue to success.  It is merely how you state it, that matters.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire