Epistemological Privilege and Federal Medical Retirement

The unique position of the individual in the greater world of objectivity — where the “I” dominates the subjective world but with a recognition that such a peculiar feature of the ego represents an almost insignificant, singular entity in a greater world of objects and other subjects — often results in a duality of opposing and contending, irreconcilable and incommensurable conclusions:  the centrality of a unique person, but a necessary and humbling recognition that in comparison to an infinite universe, one is merely a speck of irrelevance.

Bureaucracies tend to do that to a person.

The cold, indifferent and uncaring attitude of systematized control, requiring almost meaningless steps in order to complete a process mandated in order to achieve an end; you are merely a number to account for, in a greater administrative process of files to be audited.  For the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker who must consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, the issue is how best to attempt to reconcile the need to speak about one’s self in the crucial and ever-important Statement of Disability, as required on the bureaucratic form SF 3112A, yet, at the same time convey a sense that “what” is being said is objective, scientific, and medically verifiable.

Too much of the “I” in the Statement of Disability will tend to undermine the validity of the narrative; too little of it, and it is merely a regurgitation of conveying to a disinterested individual, medical facts which fail to compel, persuade and convince.  The concept of epistemological privilege is one encompassing the unique privacy of the subjective person.  Left within that universe, it fails to reveal the impact of one’s interaction with the greater world.

But in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, it is important to recognize that remaining within the insular universe of epistemological privilege, may well undermine the efficacy of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application filed through OPM, and it is crucial, therefore, to recognize the dualism, attempt to strike the proper balance, and consider the weight of the narrative statement one must convey, including bridging the gap between one’s uniqueness in the subjective universe (the “I”), and the impact upon the greater world of objectivity (the description of one’s capacity and ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job).

Otherwise, the epistemological privilege will remain just that — lost in a world of subjectivity, and potentially to be rejected by the faceless bureaucrat in a world where you are merely one amongst many.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement from U.S. Federal Agencies: Creatures of Leviathan Proportions

Leviathan is both a mythological sea creature, as well as the title of a famous book authored by Thomas Hobbes. It represents that uncontrollable entity of gargantuan proportions, unstoppable and thoughtlessly destructive. It takes on many forms, many faces; or none at all. It is an entity of nondescript characteristic, and engulfs countless lives marked by unidentified graves.

For the Federal employee and the Postal worker who is lost in the bureaucratic shuffle of loss of identity, the concept of a Leviathan is both familiar, daunting and dismaying. There are countless tentacles of agencies and departments within the Federal Government, the largest of them including the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Justice, The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, and the umbrella Department of Defense, to name just some of the larger ones.

Becoming a part of the mission of those, or any of the multiple lesser ones, can be an exciting venture. But when a medical condition begins to reduce the stature of one’s potential accomplishments and contribution to the mission of an agency, it becomes easy to get lost in the very size of the agency. Most such agencies have a centralized Human Resources Department, such as a “Civilian Personnel Advisory Center”, which is another faceless and gargantuan bureaucracy.  Personalized Human Resource offices are being gobbled up by the Leviathan of so-called efficiency of centralization; the “personal touch” is left on the side of the road to bigger is better.

For the Federal employee and the Postal worker who needs to file a Federal Disability claim, it is precisely that “personal touch” which is often needed, but is lacking because of the Leviathan of modernity.  Then, of course, the very agency which makes the decision of an approval or a denial — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — is itself a sea creature of sorts.  Difficult to access and even more of a problem of finding information concerning one’s case, the Leviathans of the modern-day world must be constantly battled and confronted with effective swords and shields.

When a Federal employee or Postal worker suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition necessitates filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand the nature of the beast, and the fact that one’s own agency is merely one of many, and the modern-day David in a world of Goliaths may need more assistance than a mere handful of stones.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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

OPM Disability Retirement: Power, Persuasion and the Legal Argument

FERS & CSRS Disability retirement is no different, in kind, than other areas of law which intersect with individuals and personalities.  As an area of administrative law, and specifically, where a government entity (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) is involved, the Federal or Postal worker must encounter an agency which is large, powerful, and often immovable (sort of like Aristotle’s Primum movens, or the Prime Mover).  

The singular Federal or Postal worker may find the encounter with the Federal government to be a daunting, almost insurmountable task.  It is the classic meeting of two unequal forces; and, as such, there is always a question as to who will prevail.  

Fortunately, however, there are some mechanisms in place which allow for persuasive argumentation.  If a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage of the administrative process, then there is the Second, or Reconsideration Stage of the process, which places the disability retirement application in the hands of a different OPM case worker, in a different section.  If it gets rejected a second time, then it is taken entirely out of the hands of OPM, and will be placed before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Throughout the entire process, however, the Federal or Postal worker may feel lonely, small and irrelevant.  That is why the Federal or Postal worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement must engage in substantive and persuasive legal argumentation.  Persuasion is the key where power is unavailable.  It is OPM which has the power; it is the Federal or Postal Worker who has the persuasive tools, and must use them to his or her advantage as the law allows.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Overwhelming Resources of the Bureaucracy

The advantage which the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has over the individual Federal or Postal disability applicant in a Federal Disability Retirement application is self-evident:  they control the timeframe of the decision; they are not subject to any repercussions or consequences for a decision contrary to law; they possess multiple templates in disapproving a Federal Disability Retirement application, and a single template upon approving a Federal Disability Retirement case, thereby making it administratively easy, simple, and without the necessity of expending much effort, either way.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating preparing, formulating or filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is a daunting task to go up against such a behemoth of a Federal administrative bureaucracy.

Indeed, one only needs to review a denial letter from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to comprehend the near-impossible obstacle which OPM can present:  in some denials, there is merely a brusque and short “discussion”, barely touching upon providing any rational reason for a denial; yet, in other denials, there are long and detailed templates — however erroneous or misplaced, and however lacking of any legal or factual basis — which purportedly “explains” the legal basis of the denial.  In either case, OPM has the “upper hand”, at least for that time and stage, because it is merely kicked-up to the next Stage in the process, and handed over to another OPM employee.

Against such an entity, it is important to be prepared with knowledge, legal tools, and the ability to cut through the administrative nonsense which passes for legal authority.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire