FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Simplicity of the Case

The initial telephone inquiry often involves an apologetic explanation that one’s particular Federal Disability Retirement case “is a very complicated one which involves…”  Then, of course, there is an extensive history of events.  But complexity is often made so because of the lack of understanding of what direction the Federal or Postal employee must pursue in order to obtain an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and it is assumed that the reason why the Federal or Postal employee contacts an attorney is to unravel and unscramble the complications which were created precisely because of such lack of understanding.

Remember that in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the bundle of complexities was created, more often than not, because of an admixture of agency issues, a history of adverse contact between the agency and the Federal or Postal employee, coupled with the rise of medical issues and their impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform all of the essential functions of one’s job.  As such, it is the job of the attorney to focus the Federal or Postal employee upon the foundational “essence” of a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Whether it is to “cut to the chase”, or strip away any peripheral issues to get to the “heart of the matter”, or whatever other pithy niceties which may be applicable, it is the job of the attorney to set aside the complexities, and simplify the process in order to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement approval for the Federal or Postal worker suffering from a medical condition which prevents him or her from performing one or more of the essential elements of his or her job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Only Real Standard

In legal parlance, there are various and multitudinous “standards” — of proof; of evidence; of law, etc.  Some have higher, more stringent requirements; others are considered fairly de minimis, and can be satisfied with sufficiently targeted evidence.  All, however, share a common thread — that of persuading the trier of facts.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the standard of proof to be applied is one of “preponderance of the evidence”, which is considered a fairly low standard.  However, the only real standard of proof in any case — whether in administrative law, such as Federal Disability Retirement, or in civil litigation, criminal court, etc. — is one of pragmatic reality:  whoever hears the case, it is necessary to persuade the decision-maker.

Obviously, there is a distinction between an onerous standard, such as “beyond a reasonable doubt”, in comparison with a lower standard of proof such as “preponderance of the evidence”.  Whether, if and when, one has met a standard of proof, is not based upon a scientific calculus, and indeed, that is precisely why in closing arguments, an attorney will repeatedly argue that one has met the X-standard of proof, and these Y-reasons are why.

Theoretically, persuasive argumentation is not necessary if the facts themselves prove the argument.  In reality, however, it is the argument which brings the facts together into a coherent whole, and presents them to the viewer within a context and a specific perspective, such that the viewer or recipient of such information and facts can make a logical connection between a disparate conglomeration of facts, and reaches a conclusion that yes, the purpose for providing such facts has met its goal, etc. The key is to argue without seeming to argue.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand this point of pragmatism:  One can get lost in the morass of legal parlance, and worry excessively about meeting the legal requirements; in the end, it all comes down to presenting an effective, persuasive Federal Disability Retirement packet, such that one receives a letter of approval from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Writing about Medical Conditions

It is easy to give advice about pain when a person is feeling no pain; it is unwise to act upon it when one is in an extreme state of it.  For, the former will often be disbelieving of the extent and severity of it and will therefore view it as involving a lack of fortitude; the latter will be willing to sell his soul in order to rid himself of it.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the problem of pain is representative of the greater difficulties of writing about a medical condition — of the dichotomy and bifurcation of subject-object; of sympathy – empathy; of persuasion and what constitutes effective writing which compels a person to tears.

Of course, as to the latter — we need not expect an OPM Case Worker to be reading your narrative in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability to suddenly burst out in tears, get up, and scream as he or she is running down the corridors of OPM holding your case file declaring, “This one is approved!  This one is approved!” (although such a scene would indeed be welcome and rather amusing).

The problem nevertheless exists — of how one can write about one’s own medical conditions, with a level of objectivity, a compelling sense of persuasive effect, a standard of maintaining a perspective which declines to cross into maudlin overstatement, and a judicious use of adjectives in conveying a true picture of pain or symptomatologies of medical conditions, which paints the picture as opposed to merely narrating a list of diagnoses which may portray unfeeling information, as opposed to the entirety of information, feeling, sensation and struggle — the aggregate of the human condition as encompassed by one in pain.  The problem has no answer; rather, it is one which must always seek a solution, which is a process in and of itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Extrapolating Carefully from “The Law”

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize the major legal cases (those “landmark cases”) from which many other cases derive their foundational basis.  Such cases form the fundamental and overriding criteria of a legal arena, and this is no different in arguing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, either for Federal or Postal employees.  Furthermore, in citing a case to argue for one’s position of eligibility and entitlement, it is equally important to have read the cases carefully, and to argue the merits of an issue persuasively and accurately.  

One of the worst things that a lay, non-lawyer applicant can do is to mis-cite a case or a statute, and its meaning and ancillary conclusions.  For, when the Office of Personnel Management reviews a case and refutes a particular issue, and further points out that a legal precedent or statutory authority has been mis-applied, one’s credibility as to the substance of the application is not only undermined, but further, the viability of one’s legal argument has been subverted.  As such, it is normally advisable to leave the law to lawyers — and in Federal Disability Retirement cases under FERS or CSRS, to leave it to lawyers who specialize in the field. For, to do little or no harm to one’s self is certainly better than to saw off the branch which one has grasped onto, no matter how tenuous the position to begin with.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Another Day to Fight

I often tell young people who are contemplating going to Law School that, to become a lawyer, one must accept a life of constant contentiousness.  While “professional courtesy” in the field of practicing law is often spoken about, and courtroom decorum is indeed important to maintain, it is nevertheless a profession which faces controversy, contentiousness, debate, disagreement — and, yes, disagreeableness.

One might think that in the field of Administrative Law, such as Federal Disability Retirement law, where the singular issue is whether a Federal or Postal employee is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, that the level of confrontation and contentiousness may be limited.  It is not.

This is because the emotional, mental, financial and future security of an individual is at stake.  At any given moment in time, the client who is counting on getting an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, may feel the anguish of the wait.

It is up to the Attorney who represents the Federal or Postal employee to win the fight, and to know that so long as there is another day to fight, there is always a chance that the client will obtain the Federal Disability Retirement benefit that he or she rightfully deserves.  Today or tomorrow is another day to fight, and it is another day of contentiousness which is worth it, because that is what we are paid to do.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Complex Case

It goes without saying that each case of preparing and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is a “complex case”.  There are multiple intervening issues, including peripheral issues encompassing OWCP filings; issues with SSDI and whether to aggressively pursue it even with the offset and the lower cap for earnings; EEOC filings and collateral issues which may or may not have a direct impact upon the issues which must be focused upon in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  It is the job of an OPM Disability Attorney to tailor the issues, such that the peripheral issues do not overwhelm and dictate the centrality of a case; and to ensure that the central focus remains like a magnifying glass upon those issues which are relevant, not only to the client and to the entire process, but most importantly, to the person reviewing the case at the Office of Personnel Management.  Whenever an inquiry begins with the statement, “Mine is a rather complex case,” I realize that the primary job is to try and simplify the complexities, and that begins with narrowing the issue down to the single focus of the reason why the caller is calling in the first place:  the medical condition, and how that medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform one’s job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM SF 3112 Schedule C Form: The Doctor’s Statements

The lack of cooperation from a treating doctor, who is asked to provide a medical narrative report for a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, may be based upon one of several factors:  It may be that the doctor merely refuses to engage in any type of administrative support for his patients; it may be that the doctor has private suspicions that, to openly admit that his/her patient must file for Federal Disability Retirement means that his/her treatments have failed, and thus, the patient/disability retirement applicant is considering filing a malpractice action, and asking him/her to write a supportive medical narrative is merely a ploy to set the groundwork for a later malpractice action; it may just be bad bedside manners; or it may be that the doctor does not understand the Federal Disability Retirement process, and how it differs for Social Security Disability, or Worker’s Comp.

If it is the latter reason, then it is the job of the attorney to make sure and explain, delineate, and inform the doctor of the nature, extent, and context of Federal Disability Retirement — and to show how an approval for disability retirement benefits will be the best thing for his/her patient.  This is where an attorney representing an applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS becomes a crucial component in the preparation of such an application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire