OPM Disability Retirement: The Three Little Pigs

We are all familiar with the fable of the anthropomorphic three little pigs and the materials used in building their respective houses.  The point of the story itself, however, concerns not the elements used, but the craftsmanship employed, and the effort expended, which reveals the underlying values and provides for fertile fodder in teaching the importance of hard work, careful application and sufficient preparatory labor in securing one’s future.

It wasn’t as if there was any justifying rationale for the first two pigs to have built such insufficient shelters; the moral lessons to be drawn can include:  laziness; lack of orientation for the future; insufficient imaginations; a desire for momentary pleasures as opposed to delayed gratification for future gains; the importance of care and craftsmanship; or, to leave it as just a good story.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the lessons gleaned from the fable of the three little pigs can be replete with guiding principles:  building the foundation through the proverbial block-by-block methodology; care in the crafting of the linguistic bridge between one’s positional duties and the medical conditions impacting one’s health; deliberation and agonizingly detailed effort expended to formulate one’s Statement of Disability in SF 3112A; compilation of a sufficient legal basis and argumentation in presenting one’s Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, etc.

For, the house that the third pig built withstood the multiple onslaught of  attempted subversion not because the adversary failed to expend sufficient effort, but because one’s own work proved worthwhile.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Preparation

Observing competence in action often results in the disarming effect that all endeavors are easy and effortless, and that the price to be paid, the admission fee for fame, is merely based upon luck, whom you are associated with, or what school you attended.  And while it may be true that meritocracies are fading into the oblivion and sunset of historical anachronisms, and the new and acceptable approach to societal fairness is to implement the distribution of wealth via Piketty’s proposed paradigm in his compendium work, Capital in the Twenty First-Century; nevertheless, there are some things which one must still prepare for, and formulate a road-map for a successful outcome.

GPS devices tell us what to do, where to turn, how many miles the journey will take; administrative and bureaucratic facets of life still lack any such electronic directional voices.  For Federal and Postal employees who must consider the reality of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, the reality of preparation must be faced and confronted.  Preparation must involve: obtaining effective medical reports (how does one go about doing that?); what are the legal parameters which increase the chances of a First-Stage successful filing (is this based upon the law or some other factors?); what are the procedural steps which must be adhered to (is there a sequence to be followed, or can one approach the process through multiple avenues and tentacles simultaneously?).

The fact that one pays a single admission fee to watch a symphony or ballet does not mean that players perform based upon the singularity of the fee; that would be an absurdity. Preparation constitutes multiple actions behind the curtains, far in advance of the final performance displayed for the seated audience. It is up to the Federal and Postal employee to go backstage before the performance begins, and to unravel the hidden devices, the invisible threads, and the wizard behind the proverbial curtain.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Logical Fallacies

The problem with logical fallacies is that the people who make them rarely recognize such errancy (otherwise they wouldn’t repeatedly make them), and further, are often the same people who refuse to recognize them even if it is kindly pointed out.

For example:  In a Federal Disability Retirement case, when the doctor’s report clearly and unequivocally points out that the Federal employee’s medical condition is “permanent”, one would logically infer from such a statement that the condition therefore will last a minimum of 12 months (the legal requirement in a FERS or CSRS Federal Disability Retirement case), and therefore would satisfy the legal requirement concerning that particular issue.

However, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will often fail to make such an inference, and claim that the legal requirement that one’s medical condition must “last a minimum of 12 months” has not been satisfied.

Now, one essentially has three (3) choices in responding to OPM’s claim at the Reconsideration Stage of the process (or, if made a second time with a denial at the Reconsideration Stage, then to the Administrative Judge at the MSPB):  (1)  Ignore the logical fallacy, (2) Argue that OPM has made the logical fallacy and failed to make the correct inference, or (3) Have the issue restated in any updated medical documentation.

Of the 3, the last is probably the preferable, if only because one should expect that any failure to recognize such an obvious inference will likely reoccur again within the same organization (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management), and therefore clarity of statement (or restatement) would be the most effective course of action.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Random Decisions

Waiting is indeed a requirement in the entire administrative process of preparing, formulating, then filing for Federal Disability Retirement Benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

As this author has repeatedly noted previously, if patience is a virtue, then it necessarily follows that Federal and Postal employees must be the most virtuous of individuals, for the very act of waiting for a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management mandates such a virtuous response from the Federal or Postal Worker who has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Is there a systematic and logical basis in the sequence and order of the decisions which are being made?  Perhaps.  Stories always abound, of course, of specific instances where a Federal Disability Retirement application was approved within a very short timeframe, but without knowledge of the specifics, including whether the facts included exigent circumstances beyond everyday occurrences, one cannot make a determination as to why an “exception” to the sequence of decision-making was made, if at all.

From an outsider perspective, it appears that the sequence of decisions made by OPM is rather random.  Yes, there is somewhat of a pattern of first-in, first-out, but of course that depends upon whether or not such a pattern is based upon the assignment of a CSA number from Boyers, PA or at the entry point of being assigned to a case worker in Washington, D.C.

The randomness can be troubling; waiting is a frustrating part of the process; but beyond that, virtue can be tested beyond the limits of reasonableness.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Insufficiency Test

The validity of an allegation that there is an insufficiency of X is partly determined by an objective standard, and partly (if not mostly) derived from a judgment as to the nexus between X and the standard to be applied.  

In Federal Disability Retirement cases, whether under FERS or CSRS, the basis of most Federal Disability Retirement denials is that there is an insufficiency of proof, whether as to issues of accommodation, medical opinion, medical documentation; questions about deficiency of service; and multiple other specified areas — but all will ultimately be determined to have a “lack” of something such that it fails to meet a “sufficiency” test.  But sufficiency can only be determined by comparing what exists (i.e., what has been previously submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) to what the legal standard of proof requires.  

Further, since the overriding legal standard is based upon a “preponderance of the evidence“, which requires that something be ‘more likely than not’, the narrow gap between human involvement in the judgement of sufficiency, and a truly objective basis for such insufficiency, is susceptible to human error.  Because of this, appearance of quantity in addition to quality is often what is required.  

As decisions by OPM are rendered by a wide range of people whose judgment, competence and approach in evaluating a case differ greatly, it is unfortunately necessary to take into consideration the foibles of human error.  Until a precise algorithm is invented which applies fairly and accurately in all cases across the board, we must continue to deal with human beings, the their errors of judgment.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Human Element & Application of the Law

It may well be that technological advances will one day allow for imputed algorithms to precisely calibrate and decide everything in life; but for the time being, we must all deal with the human element in the process of decision-making.  

Comparative stories abound about how X obtained disability retirement benefits with minimal documentary proof, and even less of an actual medical condition.  It is always an anomaly as to how one can possibly answer the query which involves the following:  “X told a friend of Y, who knows of Z who filed and got his Disability Retirement benefits approved within T-amount of time”.

The particulars of each case must always determine the outcome of the case; some stories become inflated with the telling of the narrative when passed through third parties multiple times; but, on the other hand, there is the possibility that the final narration of the story is entirely true.  The reason is because the human element is still the determinative factor in any Federal Disability Retirement application.  

There is no computerized algorithm which is applied in making a determination at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  And, so long as human beings continue to remain a part of the administrative, bureaucratic process in scrutinizing a Federal Disability Retirement application, by analyzing the content and substance and applying the relevant laws, there will never be a perfect continuity or consistency of application.  

In some ways, this is a good thing; for, as each human being is unique, so the story of each medical condition and the impact upon one’s inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is also particularized and unparalleled.  May it be so in the future, lest we ourselves become mere drones in this world of conventionalized perspectives.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Preparations

In a perfect world, each of us would make preparations to confront, engage in, and lay the foundations necessary for dealing in life’s eventualities, whether such events constitute emergencies, circumstances both foreseen and unforeseen; or everyday events which are commonplace but necessary “duties” which have to be undertaken, dealt with, and completed.  For much of what we fail to prepare for, it is often an avoidance issue.  

In thinking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the fact that one must confront and acknowledge the issue is something which most Federal and Postal employees — understandably — do not want to do.  This is because, for anyone filing with the Office of Personnel Management, an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must entail three (3) essential concepts which must be recognized:  First, that one has a medical condition of a severity, such that it has or will last at least twelve months.  Second, that the medical condition is impacting one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  And third — but just as important — that the very process itself, in attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, is a process which contains pitfalls, potential setbacks, and the possibility of disapproval, as well as a long and arduous waiting period. This is because one is dealing with a Federal Agency.  But that we could prepare for this eventuality; it remains, unfortunately, one of life’s challenges, and one which most Federal and Postal employees attempt to avoid, but one which is a benefit worth fighting for.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire