Federal Disability Retirement Application and Process: The Foreign Menu

Certain processes and endeavors in life are tantamount to a foreign menu; one knows that, within the undecipherable and incomprehensible letters and symbols presented before one, amidst the evocative smells and provocative sounds emanating from the kitchen in the back, and behind the sounds and voices formed and learned in another land in distant places beyond the horizon of one’s familiarity, there is a dish of choice which one would, if one could identify it, choose for the occasion before us.  But the menu is in another language; the words and symbols are undecipherable; and the waiters, waitresses, cooks and managers speak not a word of one’s own; and all attempts at describing the wants and desires of the moment have failed, because food is an appetite of desire, and not one which finds its core in the rational basis of words and conceptual constructs.

Can such a scenario occur?  Can one find oneself in a restaurant unable to relate or communicate?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who find themselves unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, and who must therefore engage the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the similarity to the scenario described, and the familiarity of the circumstances conveyed, can be frighteningly reflective of the reality experienced.

Perhaps it should not be such a complicated process.  Considering the circumstances — of an injured or medically debilitated Federal or Postal worker who must concurrently contend with both the complexity of the bureaucratic process as well as the confounding and discomforting issues of the medical conditions themselves — one would think that the gathering of evidentiary sufficiency, the legal pitfalls to be maneuvered, the standard forms to be completed, etc., would all be simplified to fit the onerous circumstances requiring submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  But the fact is that Federal Disability Retirement is a complicated and complex administrative process with no “short cuts” to fruition.

It is a bureaucratic procedure which much be endured — much like the untenable situation of the man who walks into a restaurant thinking only of the satisfying meal to be ordered, only to find that the menu set upon the table is in a foreign language, undecipherable and incomprehensible, except to the proprietors and those who prepare the dishes of choice, in a clattering kitchen far in the background where echoes abound but confusion compounds.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Substantive Reorganization

It used to be that social conventions, customs, values and mores were deemed inviolable and unchangeable; then, when Western Philosophy realized that complex problems and conundrums could be solved by merely tinkering with language, and that the elasticity of linguistic anachronisms were far more susceptible to alterations than attempting to modify human behavior, all such problems disappeared, and the utopian universe of studying one’s own navel was established.

Whether such creation of a virtual reality and parallel universe will result in the expected quietude and peace of the human condition; and whether linguistic latitude satisfies the bubbling undercurrent of human query, only time and eternity will reveal.

Lawyers probably had a lot to do with it.  Lawyers, on the whole, believe fervently that language is the greatest and most powerful of tools.  Look at the legislative branch of local, state and Federal governments; who populates them?  Why lawyers? Because by going to the heart of the entire process, and controlling and advocating for the statutory language at its inception, one can assert and dominate with the greatest of powers:  the power of language in the law.  But what of reality?  The reordering and reorganization of one’s life cannot always be accomplished by the mere changing of wording, or by redefining what one believes in.

Sometimes, there has to be a substantive reordering of one’s life.  One cannot redefine what illness or medical disability one must face, and expect that a material change will occur.

For Federal and Postal employees who must face a medical condition, such that the medical condition has impacted one’s vocation and livelihood, the duality of language and reality must be faced:  The Federal and Postal Worker must attend to the substantive problems of the medical condition, while at the same time file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, and engage in the administrative process of linguistically persuading the U.S. Office of Personnel Management of the substantive reality of the impact of one’s medical condition upon the ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position.

But be not confused between the duality of efforts; it is the substantive reorganization of one’s life which is by far the more important; the reordering of language to fit the reality of the human condition is mere child’s play compared to the reality of suffering one must go through in attending to the real-life problems of a medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Danger of Malleable Concepts

Concepts which retain the ability to alter in chameleon-like fashion, switching from subject to object, from noun to adjective, is one which must be used with care and loathing.  For, as the old adage goes, that which can be used as a shield, may also be applied as a sword, and such malleability and changeability can both protect, as well as be used against one.  So it is with stress.

The word itself can be applied in various language games and conceptual constructs, as in:  “I am under a lot of stress”; “The stress is killing me”; “The place where I work is very stressful“; “I suffer from stress”; “The stress I am under is literally killing me”; and many other linguistically transformational usages.  But when it comes to applying the term and concept in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must take care in usage, applicability, and appropriate insertion both as a medical term as well as in everyday common verbiage.  For, stress itself is rarely a valid basis, standing alone, for a Federal Disability Retirement application; and if used wrongly, can be deemed as implying a situational medical condition unique to the individual’s workplace — something which OPM will pounce upon in order to deny such a claim.

Malleability can be a positive force; but that which stands with you, it can also switch sides and suddenly turn against you.  Better to have a steadfast friend than one who seeks greener pastures in a wink of the eye.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Experience versus Articulation of the Condition

One of the first rules announced in any elementary creative writing course is for the budding writer to “show” the reader through descriptive sentences, as opposed to “telling” the audience what has happened.  The distinction itself is often difficult to describe; it is like the dividing line between light and darkness — we know it is there, but cannot precisely pinpoint the demarcation line.

Similarly, in law, there is a difference between the “facts of the case” and “proving the case“, and indeed, the difference can encounter major difficulties in overcoming the obstacles presented by the distinction (i.e., it is not the proverbial “difference without a distinction”).  Thus, even though one may have all of the facts in favor of one’s case, unless one can prove them (and overcome legal objections, technical obstacles for inclusion and introduction of such evidence, etc.), such an advantageous position may in the end be meaningless unless the articulation of the facts to the jury can be effectuated.

Analogously, in a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the fact that one may experience a debilitating medical condition is merely the foundational basis of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.  Beyond the existence of a medical condition, a series of connecting steps must be established:  treatment of the medical condition; articulation of the medical condition by a treating doctor; a nexus between the medical condition and one’s positional duties with the Federal government or the U.S. Postal Service; information conveyed as to the impact between one’s duties and the medical condition, etc.

In other words, while the experiential value of the medical condition forms the foundational basis of a Federal Disability Retirement application, the articulation of that medical condition in a systematically persuasive vehicle of communication is paramount in “proving” one’s case.  Certainly, experience is the beginning point; but beyond that, one must set about to establish the necessary proof in articulating an experience.

In flying on an airplane, one would certainly rather have an experienced pilot than a brash young pilot who has never flown but who can talk a lot; but in a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is the one who has both — the “experience” of a medical condition, as well as the ability to articulate the condition — which will prove one’s case; and in so doing, hopefully the trip forward will result in minimal engine troubles, and fewer bumps in the administrative ride of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Getting the Right Nomenclature

Throughout the history of philosophy, there was a pervasive presumption that substantive questions concerning Being, Truth and Falsity, reality versus appearances — and a wide spectrum of similar conundrums wrapped within the mystery of life within a coil of the unrevealed physical universe and further complicated by the bifurcation of consciousness and the physical realm and the problem of dualism which it represented —  required a systematic approach of questioning, evaluating, analyzing and (hopefully one day) resolving.  In such a process, it was always important to apply the technical nomenclature in a systematic approach.

Then came the English analytical philosophers — culminating in Wittgenstein (although he was Austrian) — and it is only natural that it would be the English (who have always believed that Americans don’t know how to speak the English language properly, anyway) who dismissed all such philosophical problems as mere language difficulties.

Again, the problem of nomenclature.  Whether one accepts the demise of philosophy as merely a problem of language and language games, it is always important to recognize that in any endeavor, subject, issue, etc., utilizing the proper words, phrases and terminology is vital to precision in thinking.

Thus, when an individual is preparing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to understand that conceptual constructs belonging to one area of law are not interchangeable with other areas.  Usage of terms such as “Maximum Medical Improvement”, “Unemployability Rating”, “Inability to engage in daily living activities”, “On the job injury”, etc., and other related terms, may have little-to-no significance in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

On the other hand, usage and application of some evidence from one area of law may be successfully argued in another area; but that occurs only when, and if, the proper distinctions and truncated differentiations are applied.  In the end, perhaps the English analytical philosophers were right — analysis and correction of linguistic confusions constitute much of our problems.  But to admit to such folly would be to acknowledge that the sun continues to cast an ever-pervasive shadow from the colonialism of the old English Empire.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire