OPM Disability Retirement: Key Words, Conveyance of Information, and Satisfying the Legal Criteria

There is often a misunderstand about a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS: that the magic of linguistic compliance will bring about success, as opposed to the compilation and delineation of information needed to meet the legal criteria in a case.

There are no “magic words” or “key phrases” which the Federal or Postal applicant, the treating doctor, or the lawyer representing the Federal or Postal employee, can utilize or include in any Federal Disability Retirement packet, which will ensure or otherwise exponentially increase the statistical variances of being successful in applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Rather, the “key” to a successful filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application is to compile the necessary and required documentation in order to meet the medical and legal criteria mandated by law, in becoming eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The difference may be somewhat subtle: on the one hand is the misguided approach of thinking that Federal Disability Retirement application-X was successful because it contained certain key phrases and elements, and thus in thinking that a regurgitation and reenactment of those phrases or elements, if used in another Federal Disability Retirement application, will result in an identical outcome.

The proper approach (satisfying the converse grammatical requirement and avoiding the necessity of saying, “on the other hand”) in opposition to the “key phrase” thought, is to recognize that each Federal Disability Retirement application-Y is constituted by unique facts and medical data peculiar to the individual case, but that in the application of those facts and data, compliance with the administrative criteria is somewhat self-reflective. Similarity, however, does not imply successful extrapolation of previously-applicable content from another Federal Disability Retirement application.

That is the mistake which is often made: One success often leads to the laziness of regurgitation; to put it crudely, one can starve by feeding upon the same food within a confined organic digestive system. In the end, a successful Federal Disability Retirement application must not rely upon prior successes, but rather, recognize the uniqueness of each set of circumstances, apply the relevant law to such peculiarities, and argue the evidence in the context of the conveyance of information meeting the statutory criteria espoused by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

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

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Key Words and Phrases

In every writing endeavor, there arises over time an identification of the efficacy of certain key words and phrases.  The problem with such identification, however, is that the deliberate extrapolation and insertion of such “keys” will often lead to over usage, inapplicable repetition, and loss of effectiveness resulting from the very recognition of the centrality and importance of such words and phrases.

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 a tendency to want to know what the “key” is to the successful outcome of a Federal Disability Retirement case.  It is like searching for the entrance to a secret passage:  we believe that if X is discovered, inserted into the proper keyhole, then the mysteries of that which we fail to understand will be opened.  But proper flow and substantive appropriateness of any medical terms must always be considered within a greater context.

Ultimately, it is not any particular word or phrase which leads one onto the path of success in a Federal Disability Retirement case; rather, it is the substantive conceptual underpinnings behind such words and phrases which matter.  Not the words themselves; nor the phrases which describe; rather, the meaning behind such words and phrases within the context of the entirety of one’s medical condition — that is the key to a Federal Disability Retirement case.

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

Federal Disability Retirement: Compartmental Clarity

Compartmentalizing issues, concepts, various technical terms, etc., leads to greater clarity, and therefore cuts down upon misunderstandings.  Ultimately, the ability to utilize and comprehend the proper technical terms in any area of law, or in a general sense of becoming “competent” with an issue, requires the proper adoption of a language game (as Wittgenstein would apply the term).

Becoming proficient in a language game is important because, to fail to do so can lead to real-life consequences.

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to distinguish between Social Security Disability (which a FERS employee must also file for as part of the administrative, bureaucratic process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits) and FERS & CSRS disability retirement benefits.  The latter must be filed through one’s agency, and ultimately must be decided by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Then, of course, one must distinguish between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement from OPM (the acronym for U.S. Office of Personnel Management), and OWCP (standing for “Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs), administered through the Department of Labor (DOL), under the Federal Employee’s Compensation Act (FECA).

These are just some of the language-game terms of the three main areas of compensatory benefit programs — there are others, of course, including benefits from the Veteran’s Administration (VA).

It is best to begin by getting the terms right; to get the terms right, one needs to compartmentalize the terms into their proper usage and associated agencies, thereby leading to greater clarity.  By attaining a level of compartmentalized clarity, one can ensure that a discussion with an OPM Disability Retirement Legal Expert will lead to a fruitful consultation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement for Federal and Postal Employees: Defining Terms

In proceeding through the administrative and bureaucratic maze of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, one of the most frustrating encounters is the lack of an ability to concretely “define terms”, such that any disagreement with the Office of Personnel Management can be narrowly curtailed in order to allow for a proper response.  It is often contended that 99% of arguments and disagreements are non-substantive.  That is, because neither side defines the terms utilized in the argument, each side will argue at cross-purposes, never agreeing because there has been no prefatory attempt at defining the terms which are being used in the first place.  If you can, take the opportunity to sit and listen to two people arguing:  Are each using terms interchangeably and loosely?  Is person A using the terms in the same way and meaning as person B?  It is unfortunate that there is never an opportunity to have a “conversation“, in effect, with the Office of Personnel Management, before an Initial Decision is made. 

When one looks at an OPM denial, denying an initial Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application, the terms used, the criteria declared, the arguments made (if any), there is never a static point of reference in the terms defined.  Ultimately, of course, the point of needing to “define the terms” comes about at the Third Stage of the Process — at the Merit Systems Protection Board, where an Administrative Judge will be an arbiter and (hopefully) finally force a more stable use and definition of terms.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire