Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Respective Positions

The position of the applicant is a uniquely vulnerable one; for, as one who is requesting a benefit from a governmental entity, he or she is essentially powerless to act except in response to the agency’s determination on approving or denying a Federal Disability Retirement application.

There are certain “pressure points” which can be attempted, the efficacy of which is questionable but nevertheless engaged in:  repeated calls (although one may suspect that excessive inquiries may ultimately reflect in a detrimental way); attempted influences via backdoor channels; or perhaps a request for a Congressional inquiry through one’s representative; and other similar methods — some more effective than others.  But it is ultimately the respective positions of the applicant-versus-agency which defines the underlying sense of powerlessness-versus-power; for, in the end, the agency can make any determination it wants, with a basis of rationality or one which issues a complex and garbled statement of reasonings which may not possess any meaningful import as reflected in the law.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a powerful agency which is granted a special position and status — one which is responsible for the administration of retirement issues impacting upon all Federal and Postal employees.  Such a position is indeed one of heightened sensitivity and responsibility; and while the respective positions of the “little guy” (the Federal or Postal employee) as opposed to the “big guy” (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) comes down to nothing more than individual human beings, it is the status granted to the latter which makes all the difference, and those within the agency should take such a position with the utmost of seriousness and gravity.

Ultimately, most case workers at OPM are doing the best they can with the tools and manpower provided; from the viewpoint of the applicant waiting for his or her Federal Disability Retirement application to be determined, however, that sense of vulnerability — where one’s future is “on hold” until an action is initiated by OPM — is what makes the entire process a frustrating one.

In the end, there is nothing which can change the respective positions of the applicant-versus-agency, until an approval from OPM is granted, and the status of “applicant” is then transformed into one of “annuitant” — at which point, a new set of respective positions are imposed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Gathering All of the Pieces

Multi-tasking is a concept which suddenly came about, but always existed. The idea, the concept — the identifying name itself — is secondary; ask any mother caring for her children throughout the day, whether or not she has to “multi-task” and you will be given a look of puzzlement.

When a medical condition is impacting one in performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, or in performing the daily activities, chores and life-requirements on one’s “to-do” list, then the concept itself begins to have some relevance.

Most of us not only do 2 or 3 things at a time; we must, in this technologically fast-paced society, do that and more.  But in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the attempt to gather the necessary pieces in putting together one’s case, and in an effective and persuasive compilation of proof, becomes not only difficult, but another obstacle.

For, not only does the Federal or Postal employee need to continue to work in attempting to remain employed (for most Federal or Postal employees who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, continuation of work is a financial necessity), but further, the added burden of gathering all of the medical documentation, putting together a compelling enough Disability Retirement application, etc., becomes an overwhelming feat.  But the pieces do need to be gathered; the puzzle needs to be carefully crafted and put together.

It is another task in the multi-tasking world of today– one which is necessary to secure one’s future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Keeping it Simple

Simplicity merely covers the complexity behind the beauty of the uncomplicated.  Indeed, one only has to look upon an Apple product, or a modern automobile, to recognize the underlying complexities which went into the production of such simplicity.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there is often a desire to respond to an OPM denial by attempting to understanding the apparent ‘complexity’ of the denial.  By ‘apparent’ is meant the following:  Most, if not all, of OPM’s denials are regurgitated templates from thousands of previous denials, and quotations of alleged legalese notwithstanding, the basic components of a Federal Disability Retirement case do not change just because the language used attempts to complicate matters.

In the end, driving a technologically advanced automobile still requires hands on the steering wheel, and a foot on the gas pedal and the brake (hopefully, not both at the same time).  All the rest are simply “whistles and horns” to make it appear worth the price tag.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Responsibility of the Applicant

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the importance of adequately conveying persuasive information to the Claims Representative at the Office of Personnel Management must be a primary goal of the Federal or Postal employee.  

Rarely does a doctor, without guidance and some “prodding”, execute an administrative duty such as preparing a medical narrative report for a patient, in a sufficiently excellent manner.  The work product of a doctor is normally defined by patient care, clinical examination, and prescribing an effective course of treatment.  It is up to the patient or his/her Federal Disability Attorney to remind the doctor as to “why” it is important to provide a medical narrative report in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Often, it is merely that the doctor does not understand the necessity of preparing a narrative report; or, as confusing as the entire administrative process of preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application is to the Federal or Postal employee, it is exponentially more confusing to the doctor, who is normally not part of the Federal workforce (unless he or she happens to be a doctor for the Department of Veterans Affairs, or is part of the Veterans Health Care System).  

It is ultimately the responsibility of the Federal or Postal employee to convey persuasive evidence and argumentation to the Office of Personnel Management, in order to meet that burden of proof, of showing that by a preponderance of the evidence the Federal or Postal employee has proven that he or she is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits. While medical records, treatment notes, office notes, etc., can often be persuasive on their own, the applicant must be able to formulate a statement and refer to “the law” in order to convince the OPM Representative that his or her case meets that burden of proof.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Misreading the Law

As the old adage goes, a little bit of knowledge is a dangerous thing.  The Bruner Presumption is one of those legal tools which is often misunderstood and misapplied. The legal presumption stems from a Federal Circuit Court of Appeals opinion which basically declared (among other things) that when a Federal or Postal employee is separated from Federal Service for his or her medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, that there is a “presumption” that the Federal or Postal employee is entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management.  

Does this make it a certainty that one will receive an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management?  No. Does it enhance the chances of obtaining an approval from the Office of Personnel Management?  Maybe.  

One must remember that the Office of Personnel Management, at least for the first 2 stages of the process, does not assign attorneys as Case Managers to review a Federal Disability Retirement application.  As such, relying too heavily on the “Bruner Presumption” would be a mistake.  Further, to wait for the agency to terminate you based upon your medical inability to perform your job so that you can argue that you “have the Bruner Presumption” would be foolhardy.  It is a legal tool.  In order to use it, you must apply it in the right manner.  It would be like using a screwdriver to open up a can of peas.  As another old adage goes:  “Leave it to the professionals“. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: A Proper Sense of Objectivity

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS & CSRS, one might ask the legitimate question as to why a “proper sense of objectivity” is even necessary, given the obvious fact that:  A.  The applicant is identical to the person whom the application is about and B.  

From the Merit Systems Protection Board cases touching upon the types of evidence which the Office of Personnel Management is required to accept and review, subjective evidence of pain is acceptable and must be considered.  While both of these statements (A & B) are true, the problem comes about when the focus of the discussion concerning the basis and reasons for granting of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS are without a proper discussion of the medical conditions which should be discussed in the medical reports and records themselves.

This is where the bridge between the applicant’s own narrative of the medical condition and a proper perspective and balance of a discussion concerning the medical evidence being submitted, is often lost when the applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is unrepresented, and is therefore one and the same as the person who is preparing the application.  

Some sense of emotion is never harmful; some sense of passion and strength of conviction is certainly preferable; too much of the “I” will, however, often result in the loss of the proper sense of objectivity in the formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Legal Standard & Persuasion

There is a distinction between the existence of a legal standard and the citing of such legal standard — to include statutory references, case-law citations, etc. — and the art of persuasion.  In reviewing Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications which have been previously prepared, formulated and submitted by unrepresented Federal and Postal employees, which have been denied, it is often refreshing to see how laymen (i.e., “non-lawyers”) have utilized cases and case-law citations (often straight from some of my articles and blogs) in arguing his or her case. 

The problem with such an approach, however, is that the unrepresented Federal or Postal employee will often refer to such legal standards without engaging in the necessary art of persuasion.  Legal standards are certainly there to be used; however, there is a proper way and methodology of utilizing legal standards, and an improper way.  The improper way is to use the legal standard as a hammer — of stating:  X exists and states Y, therefore you must conclude Z.  The proper methodology in utilizing a legal standard is to engage in the art of persuasion:  X exists, and X determines why Y must come about, and therefore Z should be the logical conclusion, and here are the reasons why. 

Normally, I advise against non-lawyers using the law precisely because of the potential mis-application of the methodology.  Leave the law to lawyers; that is why lawyers are hired.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Formulating an Effective SF 3112A

The “heart of it all” is…   The medical report will provide the substantive basis; a supervisor’s statement may or may not be helpful or useful at all; legal arguments will certainly place the viability of the application for Federal Disability Retirement into its proper context and arguments which touch upon the legal basis will inevitably have their weight, impact and effect upon whether one has met by a preponderance of the evidence the legal criteria required to be eligible and entitled.  All of that aside, the SF 3112A — the Applicant’s Statement of Disability — is where the heart of the matter resides in preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS. 

If a Federal or Postal employee is unsure of what to state, how to state it, or how much to reveal and state, that becomes a problem.  For, ultimately, the proper balance must be stricken — between that which is relevant as opposed to superfluous; between that which is substantive as opposed to self-defeating; and between that which is informational, as opposed to compelling.  Formulation takes thought and reflection.  Yes, the SF 3112A — the Applicant’s Statement of Disability — is the heart of it all.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Procrastination

Someone once said that procrastination is a wonderful thing — it allows for a lag-time between the future (for those things which need to get accomplished at some point), the present (those things which require attention immediately), and the past (those things which needed to get done, but whose time has passed, and with each passing moment, the urgency of which is diminishing because it doesn’t matter, anyway).  But procrastination has a way of “catching up” — where the piling up of past non-action combined with the present need to act, finally explodes when there is no future left to wait for. 

Preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS should not be compiled based upon a paradigm of procrastination.  Waiting for the last moment, or simply putting together a voluminous box of medical records and quickly filling out an SF 3112A by listing a compendium of known or suspected medical conditions, then quickly concluding that they impact one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, will only further raise the chances of a denial from the Office of Personnel Management

When a medical condition impacts a Federal or Postal employee and his or her ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, there is certainly a sense of urgency.  However, the urgency to quickly file a case must be weighed and balanced against the future likelihood of success.  This is a long, long, process, and the extra time it may take — weeks or months — to properly prepare, formulate and file a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, will help to prevent the problems of procrastination.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Sometimes, It is the Wrong Question

If the question is asked, “Is it difficult to get Federal Disability Retirement benefits based upon a Stress Claim?” — within the context of the poorly-worded question, you may get a wrong answer.  This is because it is the wrong question to begin with.  

The concept and term “stress claim” is more appropriately formulated in the context of an OWCP claim.  It implies that one is claiming for compensation based upon a situation — a hostile work environment, a harassing supervisor, etc. — because the origin and inception of the medical condition generically characterized as “stress” implies that it is the workplace which is the originating responsibility for the very medical condition claimed.  

Such a question would thus imply a multitude of irrelevant considerations for purposes of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, such as the causality of the claim, whether the cause is merely situational (is it the supervisor causing the stress?  If so, if a Federal or Postal worker moved to another office or agency, could he or she work in the same job?), or contained within the context of the workplace. The problem with using the term “stress” in a question is that, whether as a noun or a verb, it implies too much while revealing too little.  If expanded upon (e.g., while stress may be the origin, is the medical condition Major Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc.), then the entire question takes on a new form.  Sometimes, the problem begins with the question asked which is poorly worded; and to a poorly worded question, a wrong answer might be given.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire