OPM Disability Retirement: The Flexibility of Language

Language is inherently a flexible tool; it is meant to communicate, and while precision in communication is the defining purpose in the use of the tool, often the essence of language must nevertheless be flexible enough to embrace other, correlative concepts. To limit the tool of language often will lead to undermining the very purpose of the use of such language.  

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the use of language in preparing, formulating and describing the interaction between the medical conditions and how it impacts one’s job duties, must allow for some level of flexibility.  For example, if certain chronic symptomatologies result in a mis-diagnosis of a medical condition, should a later (revised) diagnosis be allowed to be argued to the Office of Personnel Management after it has been filed?  

The answer to the question is contained in how the Applicant’s Statement of Disability on Standard Form 3112A is formulated.  If one merely lists the diagnosed medical conditions without describing the symptoms, then the language used has restricted the flexibility of post-filing inclusion.  On the other hand, if one combines the various medical diagnoses, but also includes a descriptive discussion of the symptoms, then the answer is likely, “yes”.  The use of language should be one of precision; how one utilizes the tools of language, however, should remain flexible.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Numbers

Numbers, statistics and percentages rarely tell a complete story, especially in relation to a person’s medical condition.  In Federal Disability Retirement applications under FERS or CSRS, numbers must be utilized carefully and, more importantly, effectively.  Moreover, numbers can be used to diminish or otherwise minimize the seriousness of a medical condition.

For example, if the loss of a forefinger of a right-hand dominant individual would constitute a 5% disability of the “whole person”, does that tell the full story of the impact of such a medical condition upon one’s ability to perform a job which requires daily manual dexterity & use of the right hand?  Or if the loss of vision in one eye were deemed to be a 10% disability, how would one quantify such a medical condition for a computer graphics engineer?

Scheduled awards for Worker’s Comp requires such quantification; and the Veterans Administration ascribes service-connected disability ratings, but unless one descriptively defines the relevance of such numbers to the impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, such numbers lose their importance and relevance.

In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize that the language used, and not the numbers ascribed, determines the relevance and ultimate success.  Numbers must be descriptively quantified; numbers in and of themselves never tell a story, except perhaps to the mathematician, which the workers at the Office of Personnel Management are not.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire