Misnomers and the OPM’s Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division

The problem with misnomers is not just the inaccuracy of designation which is either explicitly or implicitly conveyed, but the unintended consequences of the string of reactions and responses which can occur as a result thereof.  Sometimes, interpretive mistakes occur purely on a subjective basis; in which case it is not truly a case of a misnomer, but rather merely the misunderstanding by the recipient of the information.  Other times, a word or designation can be open to multiple meanings, where reasonable people can differ on the inferences to be made.

For Federal and Postal employees who have filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal Service employee is under FERS or CSRS (such acronyms have specific, esoteric meanings only to Federal or Postal employees, and as such, cannot constitute an objective misnomer, but rather a potentially subjective one), the complexity of the administrative and bureaucratic process can result in the failure to recognize and properly respond to various misnomers throughout the process.

For example, when a Federal Disability Retirement case is assigned to an Administrative Specialist at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and one receives a letter informing the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant that X is further needed — the identification of the OPM Representative that he or she is from the “Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division” is both confusing and a misnomer.

For, the recipient of the letter (and just to receive any correspondence from OPM other than an approval letter or a denial letter is an amazing fact in and of itself) can well infer from the designation that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application has already been denied without notification (i.e., because it is in the “Reconsideration & Appeals Division”). In fact, all cases fall under the aegis of “Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals” section of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Misnomers may be unintended. It is the recipient and the responder who must, unfortunately, live with the consequences.

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