Federal Disability Retirement: The historical data

How much historical data is too much?  Is there a correlation between “too much” and “loss of interest”? In other words, when a history book is written, does the interest shown by the reader begin to wane when a certain point of quantitative overload begins to overwhelm?  Further, does the audience for whom the historical data is written depend upon the extent given?

Certainly, “popular” historical narratives provide “juicier” content than more “serious” biographies, where the salacious aspects of a person’s life or of an event are put to the fore, as opposed to relegating them to footnotes or in those “fine print” pages at the back of the book.

If, for example, data is compiled for an internal study for the “Historical Society of X”, then certain detailed information without limitations might be included — i.e. how many times this or that civilization went to war, went to the bathroom daily, ate one kind of fruit as opposed to another, etc. But if that “study” were to be made into a biography of an indigenous tribe, to be sold to the general public, it might leave out certain of the more uninteresting data, or placed in footnotes or “background notes” at the back of the book.

At what point does a historical narrative become “tedious”?  Again, is there a correlation between “interest shown/sparked/waning/losing” and the extent of data provided?  Is there a “qualitative” difference as opposed to sheer quantitative overload?

These issues are important to keep in mind when a Federal or Postal employee begins to write one’s narrative in response to questions posed on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  For, there is always a tendency on the part of the Federal or Postal applicant to have this unquenchable desire to “tell one’s story”, as opposed to answering the question on SF 3112A in as precise, concise and incisive manner.

At times, some amount of historical background may be relevant and somewhat necessary, but unlike “internal studies” that have no cognizable consequences in providing “too much” information, an overabundance of irrelevant data provided may have a duality of negative results: First, it may take away from, and diminish, the “main point” of the narrative, and Second, you may be providing information that is inadvertently harmful to one’s OPM Disability Retirement case without intending to.

Remember always in a Federal Disability Retirement case, that the eyes that once see cannot be blinded after the fact, and it is better to provide information as a supplemental means in a Federal Disability Retirement case, than to have to explain, correct and amend after a denial is received from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Muddle of a Myopic Focus

Focusing upon a singular aspect of an issue, and failing to comprehend its limited import and relevance within the greater context, is a pitfall which many fall into.  It is tantamount to having a myopic condition — where one’s nearsightedness prevents one from having the capacity to focus upon anything beyond those within one’s easy reach.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application, filed through one’s agency (if one is still a Federal or Postal employee, or if separated, such separation has not occurred more than 31 days) and ultimately forwarded to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (or, if separated from one’s agency for more than 31 days, directly to the Office of Personnel Management in Boyers, PA), whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to approach the preparation, formulation and filing of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application with a larger view than to discuss issues of limited relevance.

For example, when a Federal or Postal employee is embroiled in an adversarial and contentious process with one’s own agency, or a supervisor, it is often reflected in the Federal Disability Retirement application via a tirade of specific descriptions concerning harassment, workplace hostility, etc.  While such descriptions may be relevant for purposes of an  EEOC claim, it has very little significance for one’s Federal Disability Retirement claim.

Keep the essence of a case at the forefront:  Medical issues; impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.

All myopic conditions need correction; properly prescribed glasses to keep one’s focus may be a necessary expense.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: SF 3112A, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability

Each genre retains its own internal customs, traditions and acceptable characteristics which, in their idiosyncratic ways, defines for itself why the specific genre is distinctively different from another.  Content, length, volume, and literary mechanisms may be acceptable within certain defined parameters; a recent biography by Edmund Morris attempted to utilize a literary artifice which, by most accounts, was not well-received within the genre.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must first and foremost understand the “audience” to which the Federal or Postal employee is “writing” to, and thereby custom-fit the “genre” of the writing.  

The reviewing clerks at the Office of Personnel Management have dozens, if not hundreds, of files from Federal and Postal employees.  At the First and Reconsideration stages of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM, the reviewing clerks must sift through the case-file by analyzing the medical documentation submitted, and most importantly, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability as reflected in SF 3112A.  A Dickens-like autobiographical background is not needed, and will likely be ignored.  A mere listing of the medical conditions, while short and to the point, will likely be insufficient.  Thus, the old adage:  neither too hot, nor too cold.  Somewhere in the middle is the proper “genre” to apply.  

As for the specific characteristics of an effective submission, a general comment:  Stay on point; connect the dots between one’s medical conditions and the positional requirements; and don’t bore the reader.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Simplicity

Simplicity is both a process and a goal; it is that which defines ease of action, minimization of effort, and beauty in its foundational form.  Simplicity implies quietude of form, and reduction to substance and essence.

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 always best, most effective, and of the optimal benefit, to approach the formulation with a focus upon simplicity of formulation.

One can become embroiled in the morass of the procedural and administration complexities.  As information is declared to be “power”, and as there is an infinite and exponential explosion of information these days, so one proceeds in life on the assumption that the more information one acquires, the more powerful the outcome.  Such logical absurdity, however, overlooks the tool of discretion — for “information” in and of itself is a neutral, valueless commodity; the selective plucking and application of such information is what becomes powerful.  But how can one select the proper information before one has gained a knowledge of a subject?  That is the conundrum.

Ultimately, in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application, the Federal or Postal employee is wise to stick to three basic principles:  Focus upon the medical condition; focus upon the essential elements of the positional description; make sure that the nexus between the former two is established without contradiction.

The rest of the complexities of the process should be left to those who are more knowledgeable.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Collateral Source Impact

The persuasive impact from collateral sources can take one of two primary forms:  legal or medical.  In fighting for one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is becoming more and more apparent that the Office of Personnel Management is taking a very aggressive approach at evaluating each Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Whether this is a change in administrative policy — and no one knows or can find out, because only OPM possesses internal statistical findings of how many approvals versus rejections they have issued, year by year, over the past decade, and whether there is a significant change — or merely a “sense” by the undersigned writer; or, just as probable, there is a growing carelessness and lack of proper scrutiny because of a rush to catch up, resulting from the growing backlog of cases; whatever the multitude of reasons, it is important to utilize every tool available to the Federal or Postal worker in an effort to win one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

Collateral sources of administrative determinations and medical conclusions, whether they originate from OWCP/DOL Second Opinion reports; SSDI determinations and the medical records and reports upon which they are based; VA rating increases, as well as findings from the VA disability determinations; military board findings; Agency determinations, including results from “Fitness for Duty” examinations; other “Independent Medical Examinations” — all constitute collateral sources of evidentiary relevance, depending upon a careful scrutiny of each piece of such evidence.  

It is unwise to include everything; everything must be reviewed prior to submission; collateral legal determinations should be justified with legal arguments and precedents; medical determinations should be carefully noted as part of the Federal Disability Retirement packet.  Federal and Postal workers who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS should use every means available, including collateral sources, both for legal as well as medical evidence, in the quest to win an approval from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Too Much Information

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, brevity and succinctness should be the guiding rule.  Often, over-explaining and overstating a particular issue, while intending to be helpful and fully descriptive, can result in greater confusion and muddling of the issues.  

This is found not only in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, but also in an Agency’s responsive completion of forms — both the Supervisor’s Statement as well as the Agency’s efforts for Reassignment and Accommodation.  Previously, much has been written concerning (for example) the Agency’s attempt to explain how the Federal or Postal employee was “accommodated” in various ways.  

Such explanations, while legally untenable precisely because the efforts engaged in did not in fact constitute an accommodation as the term is defined in Federal Disability Retirement laws, nevertheless confuse the issue with the Office of Personnel Management because (A) they often provide an appearance of having accommodated the Federal or Postal employee and (B) the Claims Representative at the Office of Personnel Management himself/herself neither understands the laws governing accommodation, nor applies it properly.  

The same is often true in a long narrative of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability — where causation, harassment, the history of the medical condition, the problems at the agency, the history of how one’s work could not be performed, collateral legal forums filed with, etc. are all extensively discussed.

Remember that an answer to a question should always be guided by the question itself.  Don’t create your own question and answer the question you composed. Rather, re-read the question, and answer only the question asked.

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