OPM Disability Law: The Fatigue of Profundity & Requirement of Repetition

Profundity is overvalued.  With the advent of the internet and information technology, the widespread dissemination of seemingly esoteric array of knowledge and know-how (yes, there is a distinction with a difference between the two), everyone is vying for the heard voice, and the break-out from the herd.  One becomes easily fatigued by seemingly deep insights, or “new” data and facts upon otherwise mundane concerns.

Repetition is considered as a trait of boredom; but the longer one lives, the more one recognizes that there is truly little new under the sun, and the apparent newness of X is merely a regurgitation of the old Y of yore.   But repetition does have its own uniqueness of value, and inherent strength of significance.  For, often, a person who turns the same corner as thousands, and tens of thousands before, may be encountering the next block for the first time, and what those before him or her did has little to no significance to the epistemologically privileged experience for that singularity of uniqueness.

Thus, for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who experience a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s ability and capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s job, the knowledge that many, many Federal and Postal employees before were able to file for, and get approved, Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, so long as one is under either FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the comfort of which one may partake rests in the fact that one is not alone; yet, it is not purely a “repetition” of sameness but a genus of similarity; for, as each medical condition and every circumstance reveals a uniqueness which must be dealt with individually, so each Federal Disability Retirement case must be handled with care.

At the same time, however, it is of value to recognize that repetition of relevant laws, statutes and regulations, cited in the ordinary course of preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, is necessary for success in obtaining the benefit.

From the standpoint of OPM, the fatigue of profundity comes in failing to view a particular case with “new eyes”; from the viewpoint of the Federal or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits for the first time, it is the inability to recognize the requirement of repetition which often results in an ineffectual formulation of one’s case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Expanding the Significance of Individual Federal Employee Disability Cases

Lawyers daily engage in it; courts are sometimes receptive to it; the public is rarely approving of it.  Expanding the literal language of a statute by reading meaning into words, phrases and conceptual paradigms not otherwise manifested or obvious in the words enacted, is a language game which some call intellectual brilliance, while others deem to be disingenuous or otherwise dishonest, to be blunt about it.  The “it”, of course, is the compendium of the expanded impact and relevance of consequences resulting from statutory language, some intended, others unintended.

Does it all result from the poor crafting of a statute?  Sometimes.  Is it expected in all statutory construction?  Mostly.  Can constriction, as the antithesis and corollary of an expanded interpretation, ever come about?  Rarely.  It is in the very nature and intuitive construct of a legal statute and inherent principle that expansion of that principle to include avenues and influences not otherwise originally intended is to be expected.  That is the very nature of a law.

Sometimes, legislators knowingly write a statute with intended wiggle-room precisely for the lawyers and judges to wrangle over.  What the general public fails to understand, however, is that each individual can be a singular guardian of the principle of expansion, in each case, with purposive intent and influences beyond, like tentacles on an octopus of fate and fleeting fairytales of justice.

Like the guardian standing at an entranceway, who hears a strange noise or movement emanating from beyond the periphery of his granted authority; how far should he venture?  To what extent should he be curious?  What parameters should preclude his investigation?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the subtle reverberations and almost imperceptible ripples from each case can never be underestimated.  The character of a case can only be properly compared by taking quantum leaps to cases from years ago; but clearly the benefits derived from prior cases, and precedents set from prior expansions of legal principles, cannot be denied.

The general thought is that individual cases represent merely a single raindrop in the expansive oceans of legal turbulence; but it is the individual case which can influence the compendium of legal principles through the unique argumentation of a previously unthought issue, brought in a light untold; viewed at an angle unstated.

Federal Disability Retirement is a parcel of law in a patchwork of quilts still being sewn; and each Federal or Postal employee who seeks to enter into the universe of laws, legal criteria and evidentiary significance, unintentionally walks into a cauldron of Federal Disability Retirement authorities which engulf and encapsulate statutes, regulations, case-laws and underlying legal principles.

How one uses them; to what extent one responds to the Standard Forms, which includes SF 3107 (for FERS) and SF 2801 (for CSRS and CSRS-Offset); and SF 3112 (for all three, FERS, CSRS and CSRS Offset); which evidentiary compendium is utilized; and the extent of legal argumentation and tools assuaged; all make a difference in expanding the significance of an individual case upon the greater universe of the feudal castle originally surrounded by a moat for protection, but where the guardian lowers the drawbridge and enters into territories hitherto uninhabited.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Substantive Reorganization

It used to be that social conventions, customs, values and mores were deemed inviolable and unchangeable; then, when Western Philosophy realized that complex problems and conundrums could be solved by merely tinkering with language, and that the elasticity of linguistic anachronisms were far more susceptible to alterations than attempting to modify human behavior, all such problems disappeared, and the utopian universe of studying one’s own navel was established.

Whether such creation of a virtual reality and parallel universe will result in the expected quietude and peace of the human condition; and whether linguistic latitude satisfies the bubbling undercurrent of human query, only time and eternity will reveal.

Lawyers probably had a lot to do with it.  Lawyers, on the whole, believe fervently that language is the greatest and most powerful of tools.  Look at the legislative branch of local, state and Federal governments; who populates them?  Why lawyers? Because by going to the heart of the entire process, and controlling and advocating for the statutory language at its inception, one can assert and dominate with the greatest of powers:  the power of language in the law.  But what of reality?  The reordering and reorganization of one’s life cannot always be accomplished by the mere changing of wording, or by redefining what one believes in.

Sometimes, there has to be a substantive reordering of one’s life.  One cannot redefine what illness or medical disability one must face, and expect that a material change will occur.

For Federal and Postal employees who must face a medical condition, such that the medical condition has impacted one’s vocation and livelihood, the duality of language and reality must be faced:  The Federal and Postal Worker must attend to the substantive problems of the medical condition, while at the same time file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, and engage in the administrative process of linguistically persuading the U.S. Office of Personnel Management of the substantive reality of the impact of one’s medical condition upon the ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position.

But be not confused between the duality of efforts; it is the substantive reorganization of one’s life which is by far the more important; the reordering of language to fit the reality of the human condition is mere child’s play compared to the reality of suffering one must go through in attending to the real-life problems of a medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Legal Tools

Few disciplines and classes of artisans create their own tools.  Musicians do not fashion their own instruments; accountants do not produce calculators or computers; painters do not manufacture their own brushes.  The blacksmith does, however, form and mold his own ironworks.

Similarly, the lawyer formulates the tools upon which he crafts his arguments; for, as most Judges are lawyers themselves, and the vast majority of legislators are also attorneys, so the statutes which are issued, and the judicial opinions which are rendered, are analogously “created” by those who are members of the class identified as “lawyers”.  Once created, it is how the tools are used which makes all the difference.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, the multiple tools available must be utilized for the very purpose of their making.  Thus, application of the Bruner Presumption must be invoked where appropriate, and “stretched” to their logical extension wherever possible; the “Trevan” rule concerning SSDI approvals should be pointed out whenever it has been approved during the process of waiting for a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application; and the restatement of the applicable legal criteria in Henderson v. OPM should be emphasized when OPM attempts to misinterpret the applicable statutory criteria in being eligible for Federal Disability Retirement as requiring a 1-to-1 ratio between medical conditions and positional duties; and multiple other legal tools.

The issue of “where” a tool was manufactured, unless poorly constructed, is rarely one of importance or relevance; rather, it is how the tool is applied which is the issue of greater import and significance.  For it is precisely the “how” and the efficacy of the utilization of a tool which results in the intended consequences of such use.

For the blacksmith, a well-fitting horseshoe; for the accountant, a tax savings; for the artist, a masterpiece; for the lawyer, a victory.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Use of Percentage Designations

The Department of Veterans Affairs does it; in obtaining a scheduled award from the Officer of Workers’ Compensation Programs, administered under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), the amount determined is based upon it; and so it is understandable that confusions may arise as to its relevance, import and various applicable uses.

Disability ratings represent an attempt to quantify the extent of one’s medical condition, injury, or loss of limb or body mobility, flexion, ability to use, etc.  Such attempt at quantification, no matter what mathematical calculus or methodology employed, must by necessity involve a level of subjectivity; for any such attempt is pre-determined by the criteria which is applied, and any such criteria which purports to apply universally will be unable to accommodate the uniqueness of an individualized case.

In a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement case, the benefit provided is a flat rate, and is set by statute.  It does not increase or decrease based upon a percentage assignation of a medical disability.  Similarly, in Social Security Disability, the amount of the annuity received does not change because of an increase in percentage.

Whether one can or should use the assigned percentage rating from the VA or from OWCP, in proving or attempting to prove eligibility in FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement cases, is a matter of discretion.  The amount of the disability rating; whether the gross number is a combination of fairly insignificant fractured percentages; the substantive discussion justifying each number, etc. — all of those factors must be taken into consideration before using it in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Numbers alone rarely mean anything; 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 not the numbers, but the words which support them, which will make the difference.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Tool of Repetition

Repetition is an important tool in any written genre; overuse of the tool can always backfire (is there an inherent conundrum in criticizing the tool of “repetition” by saying that it can be “overused” — probably), but in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management, the importance of repetitively stating the important elements of one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job cannot be overstated.

As time is a commodity worth its span in gold, the assigned case worker or Disability Specialist (or whatever other name or designation given to the person at the Office of Personnel Management who will review one’s Federal Disability Retirement application for identification purposes) must use such time efficiently; and given the volume of cases which the Case Worker must evaluate, analyze and decide upon, the tool of repetition is important precisely because, in the short time-span within the volume of cases to be reviewed, the ability to catch the attention of the reviewer and to highlight the main points of one’s case by shouting out in bold-faced screams, is an effective way of presenting one’s case.

As paper-presentations go, they are silent vehicles of communication.  However, within the neutral silence of being presented to the reader, it is important to repetitively state (and restate) the main points of a case in formulating one’s narrative in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  As with everything else, however, in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS and CSRS, there is a danger point in using the tool of repetition:  too much repetition can make one’s case appear to be “artificial” and conniving.

You don’t want to file a Federal Disability Retirement application by stating the Federal Retirement application too repetitively because to overstate the Federal Disability Retirement application too many times would be to use the tool of repetition too much in a Federal Disability Retirement application (hope one gets it).

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire