The Effective Use of Language in the Federal Disability Retirement Application

As a paper presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Federal Disability Retirement must by necessity be based upon the effective use of language. Language — that all-encompassing compendium of vocabulary, grammar, word-choice, topical selection, verbs, descriptive ascriptions, use of nouns and action verbs, etc. — is the vehicle of requirement, all within the constraints of providing validating evidentiary proof in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application; and it must be delineated within the purview of factual validation and guided by truth within the context of a methodological approach of persuasive force.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement, whether the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is a test of one’s use of language — a vehicle of communication provided in written form, to be reviewed, analyzed and evaluated for persuasive impact and convincing force, by an unknown entity, represented by a person who is merely a stranger with a title allegedly having technical expertise and validating credentials within a greater bureaucracy of a complex administrative process.

Put in this way, it can be a daunting, hair-raising process; and, indeed, the mere superficial perusal of the Standard Forms (SF 3107 series for FERS employees; SF 2801 series for CSRS and CSRS Offset employees; SF 3112 series for all employees, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset) provides a glimpse into the complexity of the process.  For the initial stage of the process, the onus is entirely upon the Federal or Postal applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement.

Then, if it gets denied at the First Stage by the Administrative Specialist at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there is a double-duty whammy (no, the latter is not a legal term or even a term of art), in that the Federal or Postal worker whose Federal Disability Retirement application is denied, must contend with attempting to comprehend the basis of the denial as propounded by OPM — again, understanding, evaluating and analyzing language, and the necessity of replying with the complexity of using that language.

Thereafter, one must then, in essence, “start all over”, and reengage, and apply the vehicle of effective language again, but this time not only in reworking the persuasive vehicle to provide additional evidence to meet the requisite legal criteria, but at the same time to answer the concerns the arguments as stated in OPM’s denial — which is customarily the use of worn and dated templates used by Federal Disability Specialists over and over again in all OPM Disability Retirement application denials.

To take liberties and paraphrase Wittgenstein, this is a language game of epic proportions, and the masters who play the game must know and apply the rules, and understand the various strategies which result in the successful and effective force of play in preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Communication Skills

The ability to communicate involves a complex process:  the capacity to identify and understand what needs to be communicated and for what purpose; retrieval of information and tools of communication from one’s storehouse and warehouse of knowledge; the proper choices to be made in gathering not only the substance of thoughts to be conveyed, but the sequence in which to purvey; editing and last minute self-censorship, as well as its corollary, embellishment of thought, in order to effectively delineate the verbal or written response; and all in an instant of a neurocognitive response.

Mishaps occur; wrong choices of words and combinations of conceptual constructs often become verbalized; and while retractions, apologies and declarations of regret can somewhat ameliorate such blunders, there is often the suspicion that what was stated was and continues to be the true intention and thoughts of the individual who spoke or conveyed them.

For Federal and Postal employees who are considering preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the potential consequences of conveying the wrong thought, information or conceptual construct can result in a denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  That is why it is often necessary to hire an attorney experienced in identifying the proper methodology of information to be conveyed and delineated.

Real life consequences can result from a bureaucratic process such as Federal Disability Retirement.  Unlike family gatherings where mere words are spoken, an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits cannot be repaired with a simple statement of apology; for, that which leaves the mouth or the written pen, is often the sword which slays the beast.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Paper Presentation and the Nuance of Language

Whether through illiteracy or the natural evolution of our language, it is becoming more difficult to convey meaning through the vehicle of language. Text messaging; grammatical irrelevance; lack of widespread rigor in linguistic disciplines; and the legal profession pushing to bend the outer limits of what language allows for — these are all contributing factors to the changing face of the English language.

Paper presentations present a peculiar problem, however, in that the words conveyed can be reviewed and re-reviewed multiple times by the reader.

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 strive for precision, clarity, and focus upon the centrality of the issue, and not to deviate too far from the essence of one’s narrative form.  Nuance may be effective in love letters; it is rarely of value in formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application.  The causal connection between one’s medical conditions and the essential elements of one’s duties must be firmly and clearly established.

There is no singular “technique” in putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application, other than to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that which is necessary in meeting the applicable legal criteria.  It is a genre in and of itself, requiring technical competence and expertise.  Not the time for a “hit or miss” approach; a paper presentation, with inherent problems of potential scrutiny, must be conveyed with conceptual constructs of clarity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Language Used

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a “paper presentation” which must be “proven”.  It is thus not technically an “entitlement”, but rather an accessible benefit which must meet certain legal guidelines as set forth by Statute, subsequent Regulations propounded by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and Case-laws and Court opinions as rendered over a long course of time by various courts and administrative agencies, such as the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

When one steps back and observes the entirety of the process, it is — from inception of the administrative procedure to its conclusion in receipt of payment of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity — a massive compendium and compilation of “language”.  Throughout the process, little need be spoken of or to; rather, the written word — that malleable tool of communication — is placed from mind-to-ink-upon-paper, to be presented to another receptive mind, in order to evaluate, analyze and ultimately conclude with a decision, whether as an initial approval or a denial.  If a denial, then the process continues without interruption as heretofore described.

As such, because Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is comprised by the linear, sequential and persuasive use of language, it is important to utilize the tool effectively, and to apply all of the forces of language which will make for an effective presentation:  brevity, but with emotive force; succinct, but with logical persuasiveness; comprehensible, but with descriptive expansiveness. Language is the tool to be used; as the preferred and necessary tool, it must be applied with careful choosing, in order to be effective in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Perfect Wording

There are those who believe that, if only the ‘perfect wording‘ had been in place, then the outcome would have been different.  The problem with that view is twofold:  First, if a perfect word or wording had been chosen, the efficacy of such wording would further depend upon the entirety of the context which surrounds that wording, and second, it would depend upon the receptiveness of the person reading the document, or listening to the person talk, etc.

Grappling with the “perfect word” or phrase is a worthwhile venture and endeavor; more importantly, however, is the effectiveness of the “rest of the story” (as an old radio host would have put it — a man of antiquity and one who always sought the perfect word).

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 often the question (or multiple questions) of:  What should I say?  How should I say it?  Is it okay to say..?”  A singular choice of bad wording will not destroy a Federal Disability Retirement application; a string of bad wording might; the complete delineation of inclusive wrong wording surely will.

Unfortunately, the Federal or Postal applicant will never have the opportunity of a face-to-face encounter with OPM’s representative, in an effort to persuade a favorable Federal Disability Retirement application.  Perhaps one personal encounter would be worth a thousand words — if only OPM could “see” your medical condition — but that is not how the system works.

Wording is important; one word will not make a difference; the compendium of words can, and will.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Burden

Ultimately, a Federal Disability Retirement application is a paper-presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Yes, yes, we are entering into a “paperless” technological society, and that is fine; but by “paper presentation” is meant in a generic sense, that the proof necessary to obtain eligibility and entitlement to a Federal Disability Retirement benefit, must be presented in a format which is readable, comprehensible, and coherent — whether on a computer screen or in paper format.

The burden of providing such proof is upon the “applicant” — the Federal or Postal employee who is attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  That “burden” is both a legal one, as well as a regulatory one.  There are different levels or requirements of what constitutes proof, depending upon the requirements of what must be proven.

In a general sense, one can assert that all that is necessary in a Federal Disability Retirement case is to gather together one’s medical records, wrap them in a secure bundle, and forward them to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Will such an approach “prove” one’s Federal Disability Retirement application?  It might — depending upon the seriousness of one’s medical condition, and whether the Disability Retirement Specialist assigned to such a case will take the time to infer and imply.  But to make an inference, or to expect an implication to be discerned, takes an unnecessary chance at misunderstanding, failure, and the unwanted “denial”.

Instead, the better approach is to explicitly explicate.  Always remember that 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 a difference between suffering from a medical condition, and proving that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  It is the latter which is necessary to be approved for a Federal Disability Retirement benefit.  As to the former — while an unfortunate circumstance — it is not enough to suffer to prove one’s case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Medical Support, Belief, Documentation and the Diagnosis

Ultimately, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one must always remind one’s self that this is a “paper presentation” (regardless of the prevailing and inevitable march towards a paperless society) to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  As such, there are certain inextricable components in the presentation itself, which must be reviewed, evaluated, and decided upon before proceeding.

As a “presentation” which is meant to be persuasive — i.e., proving by a preponderance of the evidence that one is entitled to the Federal Disability Retirement benefit, whether under FERS or CSRS — it must obviously have the essence of the proof itself:  Medical Support.  Without the medical support, one need not consider moving forward at all.

Once the Federal or Postal employee has ascertained that he or she has the medical support to proceed, then the question is one of obtaining the documentation which confirms such support.  For, a pat on the back and a wonderful smile from the doctor will not be persuasive to OPM; the doctor must be willing to document, in detailed format, the support which is expressed.

Next, in sequential order, the medical documentation must reveal, convey, and persuasively reflect, a level of belief which will be tested in the event that the Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage of the Process, and further tested if it is denied at the Second, or Reconsideration Stage, of the process.  Thus, in short, the treating or supporting doctor must possess a level of belief in one’s case, and be willing to support that belief throughout the entire administrative process.

Finally, the doctor must be able to make a diagnosis, but more than that, to support the diagnosis, and be willing to make the “nexus” between the diagnosis, the patient’s physical, emotional and cognitive capabilities, and to relate them to one’s positional duties of one’s job.  It is through this process of connecting the dots, where the end-goal is achieved:  of obtaining one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Word Usage

In any endeavor involving a “paper presentation” to a third party, it is important to be fully aware of word-choice and word-usage.  An overuse and overabundance of descriptive adjectives can undermine the efficacy of a presentation; the flow of sentences, the logical connections between statements, and a conclusion which follows from the major and minor premises of an argument — all in composite and aggregate form, create an impression of a linguistic Leviathan which is formidable, and thus unable to be countered.

Obviously, the facts and evidence which provide the foundation of an argument count for much.  There is the old adage that, when a lawyer possesses no persuasive facts, he argues the law; if the law fails to support a client’s innocence, he argues the maudlin facts; if neither supports proof of the innocence of the client, then he merely blusters and argues.

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 recognize that the Disability Retirement packet is a “paper presentation” to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

You will not be meeting with anyone.  You will not be given an “in-person” interview, where one’s charm, charisma and personality may provide the persuasive foundation for an approval.  Rather, it must be by the sheer convincing force of one’s logic, methodology of argumentation, facts presented and the persuasive nexus between one’s medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job — based upon the choice of words and the application of expanding conceptual constructs.  An inadvertent use of a word may become the weak link to such a paper presentation.  Those times when you should have been listening to the English teacher in Grammar Class — it mattered.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: “If Only They Understood”

Preparation of a paper presentation to the Office of Personnel Management must result in a product which is concise, effective and persuasive.  

The last term of the tripartite phrase, “persuasive”, is often the most difficult for the Federal or Postal employee, whether under FERS or CSRS, to objectively assess in a neutral, non-involved manner.  This is because the unrepresented Federal or Postal employee who attempts to prepare, formulate and file a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is identical to the subject of the prepared application, and thus often has the approach and attitude of, “If only the case worker at the Office of Personnel Management knew what I am going through.”

Persuasion, the art of persuasion, and effective persuasion are comprised of a delicate balance between saying too little and overstating a case.  It is the ability to convey a state of facts which are confirmed by the medical records; involving a narrative which touches upon empathy, sympathy and a sense of pain or condition which the reader and recipient can somehow relate to; constrains ancillary issues which tend to detract from the central point of the narrative; and concludes with the idea that all of the “legal criteria” have been met.  

Obviously, it is through the power of words which such a persuasive Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the Office of Personnel Management, must be presented.  When the subject of the words is identical to the author of the words, the emotional turmoil is often mis-directed in the preparation of the Federal Disability Retirement packet.  

In the end, “if only OPM understood” — can become a reality if and only if the applicant understands first the objective legal criteria which must be met; then proceeds to meet those criteria in a systematic, detached manner; yet at the same time understanding the power of persuasion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Concept of Psychiatric Medical Conditions

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and in representing Federal and Postal employees these many years to obtain the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, the encounter with psychiatric medical conditions is often an involvement of greater complexity for multiple reasons:  Unlike physical conditions, the insidious nature of having an appearance of normalcy often undermines the Agency’s ability to effectively deal with the medical condition.  

While “the law” has certainly adapted itself to accept the concept of psychiatric medical conditions, such that Major Depression, Bipolar Disorder, Anxiety, panic attacks, Agoraphobia, paranoia, psychotic episodes, etc. (as well as multiple other psychiatric medical conditions not listed herein, as this is not intended to be an exhaustive list) have become “legitimate”, it is the encounter with “real” people that continues to present the problems inherent in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

For, as a “paper presentation” to the Office of Personnel Management, the conceptualized presentation of a medical condition — whether physical or psychiatric — can be effectively made by the efficacy of words and concepts.  However, the reaction and treatment of “real people” in the “real world” (i.e., the Agency, coworkers, Supervisors, etc.), who deal with appearances and productivity, the problematic lack of compassionate or empathetic encounter with psychiatric medical conditions continues to abound.  

It is easy to have compassion for that which we can observe; it is far more difficult to grasp and understand the world of one’s psyche.  This is why other such medical conditions similar in their conceptual framework — Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, etc., present difficulties for the employment community, whether in the Federal sector or the private arena.  Unless, of course, there is a “blood test” or some other diagnostic tool which one can point to, where one is able to say, “Ah, yes, so that is the problem…”  

We live in a world where we have the arrogance of believing that everything can be conceptualized and understood, and that every effect must have an understandable cause.  We are all logicians at heart; but sometimes the music of the world around us makes us pause, and astounds us to remind one that our speck of life in a vast universe should bring about a sense of humility.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire