Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: Concurrent Actions

Idioms often convey an underlying truth recognized and identified by a specific culture or population; they are statements from an experiential aggregation of similitude, based upon a shared set of values.  The phrase, “When it rains, it pours”, is easily a recognizable idiom; that when things go wrong, multiple wrong things tend to occur altogether, all at once.  It is somewhat of a tautology, as when “X is Y, X are Ys”.  But it is in the very pluralization of the outcome which makes the differentiation significant.

For Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, the engagement of the administrative and bureaucratic process of preparing, formulating and filing for FERS Disability Retirement benefits rarely results in a vacuum.

Often (or perhaps one is forced to begin with the prefatory clause, “All too often”), the long and complex history of harassment, complaints, formal complaints, grievances, lawsuits, EEO filings, etc., precede the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, thereby complicating one’s Federal Disability Retirement application with much baggage, historical aggregation of enmity and acrimony, and creating a simple set of causal facts into a convoluted compendium of complexities.  All of a sudden, the soft sounds of rain turn into a downpour of ferocious flooding.

In such cases, in formulating one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, it is important to bifurcate the compounded complexities, and to simplify, streamline and segregate.  From the viewpoint of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the very agency which receives and decides upon all Federal Disability Retirement applications, the mixing of concurrent actions and issues merely complicates matters.

As we all do, we would prefer to hear the soft patter of rain, and not the thunderous mess of a downpour.  Even the plants in the garden recognize that.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Effective Negations

Why is it that some words are known primarily by their negation?  For example, we use the word “unfettered” to convey the meaning of freedom and release, but rarely see the usage of its non-negative form, as in, “He is fettered”.  Perhaps it is because we no longer approve of placing chains or manacles upon prisoners, and instead have become more civilized, with a concurrent alteration in the usage of the term for more genteel societies.

Often, it is the very negation of X — whether through minimization or leaving out completely that which we originally thought to be so indispensable — which makes for the effective case.  Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the problem is normally not one of what to write about or how much to submit; rather, it is the editing process and the paring down and streamlining of a case which is the hard part.

Most people who suffer from a medical condition which has come to a crisis point where it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, are not at a loss for words or volumes of documents ready to submit.  But not everything which is material to a case is relevant, and in order to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is always best to streamline on the basis of relevance per statutory criteria.

Thus, we come full circle:  negation of a concept is often the most effective avenue of discourse; the un-negated bundle, left alone, may include too much baggage for the untrained eye.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Relevance & the Intended Audience

Relevance within the context of a particular subject can branch out into parallel areas of substantive issues; thus, it may be “relevant” that in Set-X, subset a,b,c…w be included in the discussion of the  primary issue.  But relevance may not be the proper criteria to apply; rather, it may be important to consider the “intended audience” in an effort to tailor, streamline, and make succinct that which can become potentially unwieldy.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the compilation of the evidence needed in order to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the Federal or Postal employee is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement, will necessarily involve the selective customization of the evidence to be presented.

One can argue, in compiling a case, that everything is “relevant” — from one’s history of a personal nature (which then resulted in one’s education, one’s background, how one came to become a Federal employee, etc.), to the historical genesis of one’s agency (to the extent that the Federal Disability Retirement applicant’s involvement and intersection with the agency came into being); and many other “relevant” facts.

By such logical connections, one can argue that every event which occurs around the world has some logically relevant connection to every Federal Disability Retirement application.  Obviously, such an approach would be absurd, and ultimately untenable.

How to temper the inclusion of all that is “relevant”?

Always keep in mind the intended audience of one’s submission.  Then, ask yourself the questions:  What is the intended audience seeking?  Will this information help or obfuscate the main point of my application?  Will the intended audience have the time to read through this corollary issue?  And many other similar questions.

Questions are asked not only to seek unknown answers; they are also pointedly applied in order to self-correct the potential pitfalls which the questioner may be advocating.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Independence of Each Program

The disparate nature of each Federal program, with little to no intersecting coordination amongst them (with the exception of SSDI and FERS Disability Retirement benefits in the coordination of payments upon approval of each) betrays the unplanned, thoughtless creation of each program, as well as a sense that each agency wants to maintain its feudal control and assertion of independent power.

That perhaps explains, in part, why each program ignores the extent of persuasive authority the approval of another program should logically have, upon an approval and acceptance by the “other” program.  Does it make sense that being granted “unemployability” status under the Department of Veterans Affairs ascription of percentage disability ratings would only have a nominal impact upon a FERS Disability Retirement application?  Or that an SSDI approval would have, at best, a persuasive effect upon a FERS Disability Retirement?

It is somewhat more understandable that a case accepted by OWCP/Department of Labor would have minimal impact upon a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application, precisely because the former is set up as a program of rehabilitation in an effort to return the Federal or Postal employee back to his or her job.

The only true “coordination” of benefits occurs between SSDI and FERS — and that, only if both are approved, and payments are received concurrently; but even then, there are often overpayment problems, lack of the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing, etc.

Thus Coordination and intersection between departments, agencies and various programs rarely occurs.  Agencies tend to want to remain independent.

Such lack of coordination, however, does not mean that the FERS or CSRS Federal or Postal employee should not force a legal argument upon OPM when a significant finding is made by another agency or program.  For, in the end, it may not be the U.S. Office of Personnel Management which listens, but an administrative judge at the MSPB, or a 3-judge panel on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals; in which case, a precedent will have been set, for all to (hopefully) follow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Ignorance and Coping

Within the complex world of information technology, modernity has reached a level of overload which few from past generations could have ever imagined. One needs only to peruse a Tom Swift novel to compare how far we have come; and even the old greats like Asimov and Bradbury could not have foreseen, in the height of their intellectual and creative powers, much of the technological gadgetry of the present age.

Then, of course, there is the “human side” of the equation of modern technology — of how individuals cope with such information overload.  Many have theorized that the exponential explosion of Major Depression, anxiety and panic attacks, and the societal impact of increased psychiatric disorders, stems from a response in terms of coping mechanisms; and we counter the response with advanced pharmaceutical admixtures.  The more common means employed to cope with the deluge of constant informational dissemination, is to limit the exposure to the volume of encounters.

Thus, the age-old adage of ignorance being a “blissful state” retains some semblance of truth.  But for those facing issues of legal limitations and filing deadlines, it is best to “be in the know”.

For Federal and Postal Workers intending upon filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the 1-year Statute of Limitations for filing applies from the time of separation from Federal Service.  Being on OWCP does not forestall or extend the 1-year rule. As such, once an SF 50 or a PS Form 50 is issued or, for Postal Workers, when those 0-balance pay stubs stop coming in the mail, it is well to be aware that the clock has begun to tick.

Ignorance can indeed be blissful, and being the gatekeeper of information overload may be a means of coping; but in the end, the inquisitiveness of Tom Swift must always prevail.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Additional Supporting Evidence

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is nothing to preclude one from attaching multiple supporting documentation in proving one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

In doing so, however, it is appropriate to keep in mind that the conceptual paradigm of “supporting” should be just that — it must be to assist, help, or otherwise enhance such evidence which constitutes the central component of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

Thus, “supporting” should not be the primary basis of one’s evidence, but rather, that which further enlightens and advances the primary documentary evidence.  For example, statements from co-workers, photographs, and similar supporting evidence can be provided to OPM, but only if –and as — it enhances the primary documentation, which should be comprised of medical documentation from treating doctors, specialists, referral consultative medical providers, etc.  Even ancillary supporting documentation — SSDI approvals, VA assignation of disability ratings, OWCP acceptance, OWCP second-opinion doctor’s reports, etc — should be viewed as “supporting”.

It is important, as an aside, to recognize that the OPM Case Worker does not, and will not, expend hours upon hours reviewing every piece of document one submits, and therefore it is important to streamline and provide an efficient, effective presentation.

Think about it this way as a guiding principle:  If you approach a file which is an inch thick, or one which is 8 inches thick, which do you tackle on a Friday afternoon?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Informational Perspectives

As a general maxim, it is true that not all information is equal; that the qualitative reliance of a given source of information, based upon consistency, accuracy, credibility, etc., should be viewed over the course of sufficient time; and that quantity and volume of information are often an inaccurate guide to determining the usefulness of such information.  

George Orwell’s novel, 1984 is considered a “classic” not only because of the excellence in writing style, but because the content and depiction of future events (now past in terms of events having occurred, predicted to occur, or passed occurrence or relevance because the historicity of such events has surpassed expectations of occurrence) have become a common banality of reality.  One point which Orwell was profoundly correct about, but in an inverse way, encapsulates information:  Orwell predicted that by reducing words and language, there would be the natural consequence of a reduction in conceptual possibilities, minimizing ideas, and more importantly, dangerous or revolutionary ideas.  Instead, the opposite has occurred:  by exponentially expanding information, and disseminating voluminous irrelevancies, there has been a parallel reduction of knowledge.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, there is much information “out there”.  Such volume of information, however, does not necessarily result in concurrence of knowledge.  

Information often contains a catch:  a perspective and a motive.  Is the information merely provided in order to persuade you to pay for services?  How was the information obtained — is it merely a regurgitation from information provided by someone else?  Has it been “cleverly borrowed” from someone else’s website?  There is nothing wrong with providing information with a secondary purpose of providing a service which is related to the information; how that information is provided, however, and whether such information is accurate, reliable and consistent, may make all the difference in the world.  

In pursuing eligibility for Federal OPM Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, be careful in accessing information on the issues; not all information is equal; and it is ultimately knowledge, not information, which one is attempting to obtain.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Information v. Essentials

There is a tendency to want to “reveal all“, as if not revealing every aspect of a narrative is somehow misleading, untruthful, or deceptive.  But there is a distinction to be made between information, whether it is background information or information pertaining to relevant facts and circumstances, as opposed to the essential core of a narrative.  

As the Office of Personnel Management attempts to reduce the backlog of Federal Disability Retirement applications under FERS or CSRS, it becomes more and more important for each application to be submitted in a streamlined, “only the pertinent facts” type of submissions.  This is not to say that all “relevant” facts must be distinguished from documents and submissions which provide for contextual understanding of a case.  Rather, the days when volumes of medical documentation of all treatment notes, test results, etc., without a guiding cover letter, may do more harm than good.  

In this day and age when there is so much information on the internet (much of which is irrelevant and meandering), it is good to keep in mind the conceptual distinction between that which is merely informational, and that which is essential.  For Federal and Postal workers who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, make sure that you are focusing upon the essentials, and not merely providing information without context and relevance.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire