CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Bureaucracy and the Objective Algorithm

On the one hand, objectivity can be viewed as a positive thing; for, with it, one is assured that all applications are treated equally, by the implementation of identical criteria across the board.  “Gut feelings”, personal beliefs, and that “sixth sense” is eliminated; and thus is fairness achieved by the equal treatment of all cases, and “exceptional circumstances” are not, and cannot be, considered.

What such an approach gains in large-scale application, however, may lose out in individual cases.  For, if experience and age accounts for anything, it should allow for decisions made outside of the mainstream of thought, based upon those very factors which make up the difference — wisdom from years of engaging in a particular endeavor.

The problem with the bureaucratization of a process is precisely that it fails to allow for exceptions; but concomitantly, it is precisely those unique circumstances which cry out for a carved-out exception.  In a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there are always cases where all of the facts and circumstances reveal eligibility; but in applying the mathematical (and thoughtless) algorithm of criteria-based analysis, there may be something missing.  Perhaps the doctor would not, or could not, say exactly X; or the test results revealed nothing particularly significant.

In some ways, the medical conditions identified as Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome represent such scenarios.  In those instances, it is important to descriptively convey the human narrative in a particularly poignant manner.

The administrative bureaucracy is here to remain among us; to rise above the level of thoughtless application of a criteria, however, one must creatively encourage the phoenix to rise from the ashes of boredom, and span its wings to include those others who deserve the benefits of Federal Disability Retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Language and Reality

In most circumstances of life, the chasm and divide between language and the reality which such language is meant to reflect, is wide and irreconcilable.  The problem is often that language over-states and overpowers reality.

When it comes to a medical condition, however, it is often the case that the opposite is true:  language is inadequate to effectively, properly, or sufficiently describe the severity, pain, extent and scope of the medical condition being suffered.  Language is meant as a tool; a conveyance in order to communicate an X as reflected in the world of Y.

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 close the expansive divide between the reality of one’s medical conditions and the words, ideas and concepts which are utilize in an attempt to communicate the experiential phenomena which one is undergoing.  Suffering; mental lapses; suicidal ideations; lethargy; chronic and diffuse pain; panic attacks; such conceptual paradigms must be sufficiently conveyed by the elasticity of language.

While sympathy and empathy are not required components to evoke in an Applicant’s Statement of Disability, it is a goal to strive for.  Yes, there is the legal criteria to attempt to meet in a Federal Disability Retirement application, and the objective assessment and evaluation of a Federal Disability Retirement application does not require that the Case Worker at OPM have any feelings of sympathy or empathy — but it often helps if the narrative form contains some emotive content of such evocation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Paper Presentation

As with most things in life, it is helpful to understand the “context” of an event, an occurrence or a process.  In the context of preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand that this is essentially a “paper presentation” to an agency which processes thousands of such similar applications, assigned to a person who has a name and (if you are lucky) a voice over the telephone.  

Unless it it denied twice (first at the Initial Stage of the Process, then at the “Reconsideration Stage” of the process), there will be very little direct interaction between the OPM Representative assigned to evaluating and determining a Federal or Postal worker’s Federal Disability Retirement application) and the Applicant.  Even at the Merit Systems Protection Board, the “human interaction” will be limited over the telephone.  

Thus, the underlying “context” of a Federal Disability Retirement application is a “Paper Presentation” of a case.  This is not a criticism of the process — indeed, if one stops and reflects upon it, it may be the fairest methodology of undertaking such a process, precisely because it excludes the possibility of favoritism, of bias in favor of personalities or persuasive personal appearance and presentation.

Instead, it is presented to the determiner of the Federal Disability Retirement application based upon the “cold facts” as described and delineated on paper.  Thus, a certain sense of “objectivity” is arrived at because of the very limitations imposed by a paper presentation.  Understanding this contextual foundation is useful and helpful in making sure that the efforts expended should be focused upon acquiring the best evidence in order to formulate such a paper presentation — to include making sure that the presentation itself is professional, crisp, streamlined, and not filled with a lot of superfluous niceties.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire