The Law of Salvage and Federal Disability Retirement Compensation

The concept is derived from maritime law, where recovery of ship or cargo at sea left to abandonment and forfeiture should be duly compensated of a value commensurate with the worth of the property salvaged.  The ocean is a perilous expanse, fraught with dangers encompassing weather, treacherous beneath-the-surface terrain, and potential piracy; and it is within this context of the magnitude of dangers to be faced, that the equitable principles of maritime law are applied. And isn’t that what one must do in most phases and contexts of life?

The measurement of future potential consequences, compared as against the benefit to be received, the compensation considered, which should determine the value of the services rendered.  Thus is a lifetime annuity measurable, not only in terms of the net amount, but also taking into account the economic stability which it promises, the future security it provides, and the potential for a life allowed.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, or CSRS Offset, must be viewed in this light; for the benefit to be received is almost immeasurable:  Beyond the annuity amount itself, it provides for the capacity of the Federal or Postal worker to be compensated in order to attend to one’s medical condition; the time that one is on Federal Disability Retirement counts towards the total number of years of service, such that when the Federal Disability Retirement annuity is recalculated at age 62, those years one was on Federal Disability Retirement counts towards the total number of years of service; and while one is receiving Federal Disability Retirement, one may work at a private sector job and make up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays; and many, many other benefits and factors to be considered.

Medical conditions tend to create havoc, and leave an appearance of a life left in tatters; but Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit which can bring about a stabilizing force of foundational security; and just like the Law of Salvage in maritime law, consideration in filing for Federal OPM Disability Retirement should be commensurate with the value to be received in salvaging one’s livelihood, career, and future contentment.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: A Sudden Awareness

One often muddles through life, so long as nothing extraordinary occurs.

A medical condition may begin to impact the Federal or Postal employee, perhaps in a peripheral, non-threatening manner, at first; then, over time, a series of events occurs; perhaps, like the domino effect we witness in a causal calamity of sequential occurrences, to wit:  the medical condition; a second condition, this time requiring a new medication regimen; side effects; further manifestations of symptoms; a new diagnosis; missing more work than usual; sidelong glances from supervisors and coworkers; and before one realizes the full import of what has happened, one suddenly becomes aware that no longer is one considered that “star employee” by the agency, but a malingerer, a problem-child, and one who is teated in a fashion as in the old remnants of leper colonies.

When such a time erupts, and at a moment of such awareness, it is time to consider preparing, formulating and filing for Federal disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

While not offering the perfect solution, it does allow for the Federal or Postal employee suffering from a medical condition, a way out of an otherwise untenable position:  a time for recuperation; a level of financial security; a potential for engaging a second vocation and earning additional money above and beyond the disability annuity.  That sudden awareness is an indicator; in a similar manner to the revelation of symptoms, which is a signal of the body trying to warn a person of an impending medical crisis, so the awareness that one’s peers, coworkers and supervisors are viewing you in a different light is a triggering mechanism which should be heeded.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Disjunctive between Words and Actions

In symbolic logic, there is the disjunctive which allows for a choice between two elements, and one must exhaustively pursue the symbolic “tree” in order to arrive at a logical conclusion.  At each fork in the road, there remains a choice; the pursuit of each road leads to the answer one searches for.

Similarly, in life, one is often confronted with such metaphorical “forks in the road“, and the choice which one embraces will determine whether the path taken leads to — if not a logically sound outcome — a reasonable judgment.

Throughout the career of the Federal or Postal employee, a sense of “loyalty” is stressed; that if one works hard, one will be rewarded; if the agency succeeds in its accomplishments, the individual worker who contributed will be acknowledged, praised, etc.  But the true test of sincerity is actions, not more words.

When the time comes when a Federal or Postal employee is overwhelmed by a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, then that is precisely the time to “cash in” on that loyalty which the agency had previously and so honorably declared to be of penultimate importance.

Don’t count on it.

If one’s agency indeed confirms the sincerity of its words, then that is an exponential benefit to the process of one’s life and career.  But short of that, one has reached a true “fork-in-the-road”, tripartite in character, and the choice is often one of walking away, being constantly harassed, or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Federal Disability benefits were always part and parcel of a Federal or Postal employee’s total compensation package.  It was part of the reason why you “signed on” as a Federal or Postal worker.

When the appropriate time comes — when a medical condition prevents you from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job — then it is time to go down that path, and pursue the tree of logic, and look out for one’s own best interest — and not merely be blinded by the words of an agency which somehow declares a state of amnesia when it comes to such vainglorious words like honor, loyalty, and the mission of the agency.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: A Hypothetical

The case-law opinions from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, as well as from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, upholds the statement added onto Question 4 of Standard Form 3112A, the form which specifically requests the Applicant’s statement of disability, which asserts:  “We consider only the disease and/or injuries you discuss in this application”.

Failure to identify a particular medical condition can have an adverse impact upon one’s application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Take the following hypothetical: a Federal or Postal employee is terminated from Federal Service; he or she files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from service.  While the Statute of Limitations has already been met because the filing has occurred within the 1-year timeframe, during the process of awaiting a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the treating doctor has diagnosed with greater specificity the primary and underlying cause of the medical condition.

In his or her haste to file, the (now former) Federal employee quickly noted the diagnosed medical conditions in response to question 4, but nowhere is there an indication of the newly-diagnosed medical condition.  During the wait, it is now more than 1 year from the time of separation.  The quandary:  The Federal Disability Retirement application cannot be withdrawn, because the 1-year Statute of Limitations has already passed, and so he or she is no longer able to re-file.  No additional medical conditions can be added onto the SF 3112A.

Is there a problem? The answer:  Under this hypothetical, potentially yes.

Even if OPM approves the case, there may be future difficulties if OPM approves the Disability Retirement application based upon a medical condition listed, but resolved.  Care in identifying and properly annotating the medical conditions must be taken in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Proof and Consequence

What if you possessed a piece of unique information, but no one else could see it? What if, by all appearances, you seemed perfectly healthy, but you weren’t?  What if you struggled every day to meet the stated professional objectives and goals, but were dying inside?

The silence of a medical condition is the consequence of a duality of contradictions:  many medical conditions, including psychiatric conditions, debilitate the “inner” person, and any such explanation to third parties is met with surprise, astonishment, disbelief and denial; but concomitantly, most people don’t want to hear about the troubles of others, anyway.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one must always distinguish between the medical condition, and proving the medical condition. That X suffers from medical condition Y, unless it is an amputated limb and is self-evident to the outside world, is known only to the sufferer, and to those whom the sufferer relates.

Proving one’s medical condition is done through the objectification of the medical condition — i.e., through a medical doctor who clinically assesses, evaluates, and concludes with a diagnosis.  From there, the proper nexus must be built between the medical condition and the ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Having X is one thing; proving X is another.

Knowing the distinction will 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.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Describing One’s Medical Conditions

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, the conundrum which one faces immediately is to attempt to overcome the seeming inability of third parties (OPM Personnel included) to understand, comprehend, relate to, and ultimately “feel” a sense of empathy and compassion for the particular genre of medical conditions a Federal or Postal worker suffers from.  

While the entire administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is based upon a legal criteria, with a standard of proof set by law — that of “preponderance of the evidence” (which, simply put, means that one must prove that something is “more likely” the case than not — a relatively low standard of proof in the potential options of applying various legal standards) — it nevertheless comes down to having a fellow human being review, analyze, assess and evaluate one’s Federal Disability Retirement application at the Office of Personnel Management.  

Yes, there is an applicable legal criteria which is applied by the Office of Personnel Management.  Yes, there is a set of conforming documentation which must be submitted.  Yes, there are Standard Forms to be completed.  Yet, as with all processes of review, no evaluative process can be merely characterized as an objective calculus; otherwise, the eligibility requirement of a Federal Disability Retirement application should be able to be determined by a computer program.  

While such a possibility may well occur in the not-too-distant future, for the present, an actual person (although this is sometimes questioned, also, based upon the unresponsiveness of OPM and the voicemail messages one encounters) at the Office of Personnel Management must review, evaluate, and determine the viability of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  As such, part of the key to the success of the administrative process must be in the descriptive narrative of one’s medical conditions, their impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, and the qualitative and quantitative impact, direct or otherwise, upon one’s life.  

Here again, a cold, objective calculus should not be the only approach.  The “human factor” should be included — and to do so, one must extrapolate and apply all of the descriptive tools available in the English language.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Friday Syndrome

Fridays constitute the day of victory for the Federal or Postal worker (unless, of course, the Postal Worker is scheduled for Saturday, or the Federal Worker is taking his or her work home) who is struggling to survive another week.  

It is the end of the work cycle, and the beginning of the recuperative cycle in order to muster, gather and preserve enough energy over the coming weekend, in order to begin anew another week of the work cycle.  It is the “Friday Syndrome” — suffered by thousands of Federal and Postal employees who have a medical condition which prevents them from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, but because of family obligations, financial considerations and a sheer sense of self-worth, the enduring struggle of the human narrative to continue to work perseveres.  

Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS — sometimes identified as “OPM Medical Retirement”, “Federal Disability Retirement”, or “Federal Medical Retirement” — is a benefit which constitutes one leg of the entirety of the compensation package for every Federal or Postal worker who is suffering from a medical condition which has, or will, last for at least 12 months, and impacts one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  

It is there precisely to attend to the growing problem of the Friday Syndrome — of the enduring pain and debilitating nature of the medical condition; the sick leave restrictions which have been placed on the Federal or Postal employee; the potential for being placed on a PIP; the threat of termination; the suspicion that the Supervisor and co-workers are whispering conspiratorially behind your back; the constant nit-picking of everything that the Federal or Postal worker is doing; the stresses of work and workplace harassment with little or no empathy for the struggle to maintain a life and to endure through the exacerbating medical conditions — these are the characteristics of the Friday Syndrome.  

It may be time to consider tapping into the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement, in order to put a stop to the Friday Syndrome.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: OPM & History of Medical Conditions

There is a distinction to be made between one’s medical history and an extensive discussion of workplace issues which may have contributed to a causal impetus for a medical condition.  

The Office of Personnel Management is rarely interested in receiving information concerning the history or causation of a medical condition — especially from the Applicant in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  While the treating doctor may briefly refer to the historical genesis of a medical condition in a narrative report, it is the focus of the present-to-recent-past impact of one’s medical conditions upon the essential elements of one’s job which the Office of Personnel Management is interested in reviewing.

Again, remember that a Federal Disability Retirement application is a “paper presentation” to an onerous, overbearing and overworked Federal bureaucracy, where one’s private affairs (the most private of all — one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s personal and professional conduct of affairs) are to be presented, received, and ultimately reviewed.  

History of the inception, origin and impact of a medical condition may be peripherally relevant to the treating doctor, and it would be appropriate to include such historical background in a medical report; but for the Applicant, to delve too deeply and extensively upon such historical context may place the peripheral into a central focus where it should not be.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Medical Conditions & OPM

Clearly, there are certain medical conditions which the Office of Personnel Management “dislikes” or has a negative, suspicious view towards, in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  One may attempt to rationally comprehend the innate bias towards certain groupings of medical conditions, but to do so would expend energy which, ultimately, results in an act of futility.

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, nowhere in the statute which provides for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is there notification or indication of a distinction between medical conditions.  As such, any pattern of hostility towards a particular medical condition, or a “type” of medical condition, must have evolved over time.  

The peculiar thing, of course, is the consistency in which all of the Claims Representatives at OPM have developed — of a similar pattern of reaction and behavior towards the “undesirable” medical conditions, as if they all work from a single template and have discussed, in conspiratorial hushed tones, a concerted effort to deny certain cases which are primarily based upon X medical conditions.  

That all said — and put aside as a note of interest but ultimately irrelevant — the way to rebut and overcome the inherent bias towards such medical conditions is to systematically reinforce the statutory requirements for eligibility, by explaining to the treating doctor(s) what is needed in order to overcome such bias.  Ignorance of the law is one thing; misapplication of the law is another.  Both must be overcome by guiding the treating doctor in how to meet the legal criteria, no matter what the medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The OWCP Intersection

Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is oblivious and unconcerned with whether or not a particular medical condition occurred “on-the-job” or not.  Rather, the focus is upon (A) the existence of a medical condition along with the symptomatologies and their manifestations, and (B) the impact of the medical condition(s) upon one’s ability/inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job.  

Thus, “causality” in all of its forms is an irrelevant issue — whether “how it happened”, “where it happened”, “what happened”, etc.  Causation is a legal/medical issue which may be interesting, and is certainly one which the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs inquires about, but it is a “non-starter” for purposes of Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

As such, when a Federal or Postal employee who has been injured on the job, or who has incurred a medical condition from a worksite because of inherently hazardous medical triggers reasonably related to the particular occupation of an individual, an inordinate amount of focus is often paid as to the “causality” of a medical condition.  While this may be of historical interest — both to a doctor as well as to FECA/OWCP — it is an issue which should play a lesser role of importance in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

For eligibility in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, where something happened, what happened, or when it happened, is far less important than how much of an impact a medical condition has, and for how long, upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire