Postal and Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Preponderance of the Evidence

It is the legal standard by which civil (non-criminal) adjudications are based upon, and whether or not it can be rationally demarcated as against other standards – i.e., “Clear and convincing evidence” or “Proof beyond a reasonable doubt” is a question for legal theorists and the schools rendered under the general aegis of, “The Philosophy of Law” – is a valid question in and of itself.

For, we can dress prettily and puff up the definition of what it all means, and bifurcate and explain how the three standards are distinct and differentiated by the increasing severity of the criteria to be applied, but in the end, the juror who goes back into the room to consider the guilt or innocence, the fault or apportioned negligence, is entirely subjective.

For, is there a clear demarcation as to what “reasonable” is?  Can one delineate what is “clear” to one and “convincing” to another?  If a witness has perfect recall and a persuasive manner of telling a “story”, if one juror blurts out, “Oh, but his eye twitched and he was clearly lying through his teeth!” – what then?  And the concept that one side has a “preponderance of the evidence”, or to put it in different but equally confusing terms like “more likely than not” or “the greater weight of truth” – what do all of these analogies and metaphors mean, in the end?

Surely, there are the “easy” cases – an entire football stadium who saw a man shoot another, and the assailant who confesses to the murder; these, we can say are “beyond a reasonable doubt”, but even then, a single juror who has a beef against societal constrains can “nullify” a verdict by holding out.  So, what is the answer (or, for some who are still confused, “what is the question”)?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are entering the legal arena of preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the expectation, of course, is that the OPM Medical Retirement application will be approved at the first or second stages of the process – i.e., at the Initial Stage of filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with OPM, or at the “Reconsideration Stage” of the process after an initial denial.

That being said, the Federal or Postal employee must – and should – consider the Third Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process, which involves an Administrative Judge before the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.  That is when the legal standard of “Preponderance of the Evidence” will ultimately become relevant and operative, and where the evidence gathered and the amalgamation of arguments proffered becomes a basis for testing the validity of legal standards and the meaningful application of the law, evidence, and statutory interpretations.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: The Myth of Upward Progression

We like to think that life is represented by a linear curve of upward progression; in reality, most of us reach an apex, then remain static and content in the late summer years of our lives.  There is nothing wrong with such a state of affairs; as contentment and comfort embrace a spectrum of stability, so the refusal of change and resistance to vicissitude are not indicators of laziness, as once thought in former days of youth where transition, sacrifice and relinquishment of stability were necessary for purposes of future advancement.

Most of us, within a defined minefield of progress and regress, remain within an invisible glass casing of immobility.  Perhaps there is a major financial setback in a given year; or, a promotion or cash incentive award had not been achieved; but in the year following, or the next beyond, it is attained; or an unexpected windfall allows for greater stability least anticipated and most gratifying.

In a sense, we delude ourselves.  But so long as we remain within a constancy of comfort, where an appearance of major retrogression cannot be palpably discerned, contentment prevails, and the bother of breaking new grounds, moving to a larger house, taking on greater responsibilities, adding to headaches and stresses, can be quietly forsaken, left with the self-satisfaction that quietude is a byproduct of a goal once sought for, and achieved without fanfare or celebration.  It is when the bounds of contentment are scattered, the barriers of satisfaction crumbling, when the call to action is suddenly a turmoil of exoneration, and peace as shattered glass stepped upon in bare feet of bleeding souls, that affirmative movement must then be spurred, leaving behind those spurned opportunities once thought cumbersome.

Medical conditions have a tendency to create such circumstances of unrest.  For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suddenly find that the chaos of inchoate situations developing because of a chronic and progressively deteriorating medical condition impacts upon the Federal or Postal employee’s ability and capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s positional duties, the possibility and need for filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, becomes a reality which disturbs and perturbs the quietude of living contentedly.

When a medical condition disrupts that glass bowl of satisfaction, the myth of upward progression becomes shattered, because suddenly all that one has worked to achieve may be in doubt.

Most of us are happy to just find that small oasis within the turbulent oceans of insanity we designate as “civilized society”; but for the Federal or Postal employee who must contend with a medical condition such that the medical condition threatens the very foundation of one’s hard-fought dreams and desultory circumstances, consideration needs to be given to preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM, if only to resist the temptation that static circumstances are a foregone conclusion, or that the myth of upward progression cannot be defeated by planning for the next great adventure in this, a universe of turbulence of unexpected turmoil.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: The Consequence of Indecision

Why is it that some are able to make thoughtful decisions within a relatively short span of time, while others are paralyzed by indecision?  Is it purely a reflection of that — of “thoughtfulness” as opposed to lack of thought?  Or, perhaps because some have already predetermined the applicable criteria which is immediately instituted, like placing a window frame upon a hole in the wall, thereby capturing the stillness of scenery ensconced in a timeless warp of alternative displays?  Is it important to have set up a “criteria” upon which characteristic distinctions can be made, separated, identified, then dissected for evaluative reduction such that the proverbial chaff can be separated from the wheat?

Recognition that some decisions are based purely upon appetitive criteria — such as choosing a meal from a menu — as opposed to selecting a college to study at, a career to enter, a job opportunity to consider; what is the applicable criteria to help frame the issues to be questioned, inquired into, resolved?  And where do values come in — belief systems, what one holds dear, whether there are normative cultural pressures to consider, and the moral caveat which precedes the judgment of friends, family and relatives?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, at what point does the Federal or Postal employee consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management?  is it when you finally drop dead?  Is it when you become so debilitated that you cannot make it into the office any longer?  Do you destroy your body, soul and psyche in order to prove a point of loyalty?

Fortunately, the law itself helps to frame the decision-making process.  As OPM Disability Retirement requires that certain age and time in-service criteria be met, and further, that the Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties,  some of the work necessary to “make a decision” has already been initiated in an “objective” manner.

In the end, however, even the child who first enters an ice cream shop and realizes that the world is not bifurcated into simplistic binary systems of “either-or”, but presents a multitude of endless summers of nuanced pathways to ecstatic completion, who must ultimately point to, and choose, between alternative compasses which will navigate one into the future of one’s contentedness, or dark chasms of dismay.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal & Federal Disability Retirement: Ritualistic Behavior

We persuade ourselves that only children play those games; of turning suddenly left, instead of right; of pretending to be asleep, only to unexpectedly open one’s eyes to test the reality of our surroundings; and other discordant acts in an effort to defy the predetermination of fate, as if the karmic principles governing the universe are subject to the vicissitudes of private thoughts.  But the anomaly of the unexpected is that, once a pattern of disjointed behavior itself becomes a monotony of the routine, the corridors of ritualistic behavior become entrenched and often prevents one from taking steps necessary to step outside of the proverbial box.

Conventional thought processes can themselves become ritualistic; thus do we believe that by neglect or avoidance, medical conditions will just “go away”; or that the increasing hostility and initiation of adverse actions by an agency will cease if we just “ignore” them; or if we just continue maintaining a semblance of competency, the incompetents will recognize and acknowledge the superiority of motives, and desist from the constancy of interruptive actions.  Such ritualistic behavior, however, has little to no impact upon the reality of the world, no more than when the child in us attempted to defy fate and the karmic gods which rule the universe.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, the route of exit from the madness of the universe is to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.  The plain fact is, no one cares for one’s health or well-being except the person who suffers from the medical condition, as well (one would hope) one’s family and spouse.

Reflection upon the priorities of life must always be reengaged; and continuing onward with vestiges of child-like ritualistic behavior, against all sanity telling us that things will not change despite our best efforts, will only prolong the agony and the angst of life’s unfairness.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM is available for those Federal or Postal employees who can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, and while continuation with one’s agency or the U.S. Postal Service may be a laudatory goal revealing an undying sense of loyalty, it is the dying portion of our better selves which whispers the lie that ritualistic behavior can alter the course of human history within the microcosmic universe of karmic incantations.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Standard Forms and the Proverbial Blank Slate

The paradigm of a tabula rasa is a frightening one.  It implies a complete negation of historical context, of evolutionary influence, and therefore denies instinct, nature, and pre-conditional implications.  But clearly there are confines and parameters of behaviors, and different species of animals will act in specific ways peculiar to the individuality of the entity, while taking on certain imprinting models if surrounded by members of other species.

To assume, however, that no context exists, either in prefix or suffix form, is to deny a fundamental truth at one’s hazard in doing so.  For Federal employees and Postal workers who begin to complete the required forms for a Federal Disability Retirement application — whether the informational requirements queried in SF 3107 (or SF 2801 for CSRS individuals); or the series of SF 3112 forms which inquire into the foundational questions of one’s medical conditions, their impact upon the essential elements of the job, etc. — it is important to approach any and all such standard forms with a view towards denying the existence of a tabula rasa, or the concept of a blank slate.

Such pristine states of being do not exist, neither in nature, nor in the complex world of administrative bureaucracies.  The history of the forms, of SF 3107, SF 2801, or SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, SF 3112D or SF 3112E, all have a history preceding and superseding the date of the formulation and printing of such forms.  Statutory underpinnings, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board rulings, Federal Circuit Court of Appeals opinions, and expansive legal opinions, all provide a context for each question queried, and each piece of information requested.

Thus, to approach any such OPM Disability Retirement standard form as if it is merely a blank slate, is to proceed down a dark and curving road with ignorance and fail to realize that it is not a quiet, rural road with nary a car, but the Autobahn busy with high-powered vehicles testing the limits of speed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

SF 3112A

OPM Standard Form 3112A: Applicant’s Statement of Disability:

The constraint of a standardized form, by its very appearance, is itself a self-evident anomaly of conformity; forms, by the very nature of their format, constrains and delimits the ability to respond.  Space is limited, and it is intended to be that way.

By mandating the completion of specific forms in an uniform, consistent, and universally standardized approach, the applicant who must complete the form must by necessity conform to the regulated approach. Further, the appearance itself often lulls the individual into a certain mindset, such that the response is constrained, limited, and by necessity of conservation of space and in attempting to answer the specific question queried, of brevity and devoid of critical details.

Bureaucracies create forms, and the regulations promulgated in the preparation and response to such forms. For the Federal and Postal employee who must by necessity file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal employee or the Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, the forms needed to be completed in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, are numerous, complex, and cumbersome.

Of the multiple forms which must be completed, the Federal and Postal employee must at some point encounter and face the most critical one of all: SF 3112A. The content of the form itself appears simple enough; the complexities inherent in the form is constituted almost by an endless array of a history of court decisions, opinions issued by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, as well as by OPM issuances of denials in thousands of cases.

Just by way of example, after the very first question asked upon requesting the applicant’s name, date of birth and SSN, it makes a simple but profoundly limiting statement: “We consider only the diseases and/or injuries you discuss in this application.”  That statement seems fair enough, and perhaps even reasonable.  The single word which is operatively significant, one would assume, is in the word “consider”.

But beware; for, it is the next-to-last word in the statement which is the onerous thousand-pound boulder which can fall upon the head of a Federal or Post Office Disability Retirement applicant, unless one is very, very careful. It is the word, “this”, and the consequences of such a word must be given great weight, and consideration beyond what the legal ramifications will later reveal.

Just a word of caution to the wise, for those who intend on jumping into the proverbial waters of bureaucratic complexities without first dipping a cautious toe into the lake of fire.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Informational OPM Forms (SF 3107) versus Specific Content OPM Forms (SF 3112)

Categories are important in order to properly bifurcate, distinguish, identify and comprehend for effective satisfaction and completion. If such differentiated distinctions are not clearly understood, one can easily be lulled into responding to a specific-content question as if it is merely “informational” in nature.

Thus, for the Postal and Federal employee who is formulating responses to Standard Forms for purposes of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal employee or Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, the sequence of preparing for completion in providing satisfactory answers is important.

OPM form SF 3107 (the “SF” stands for “standard form”) requests basic, factual information data, such as the applicant’s name, address, agency information, marital status, whether and to what extent one wants to elect survivor’s benefits, etc. The accompanying form, Schedules A, B & C, requests further information regarding military service, whether time in the military was bought back, as well as any OWCP claims previously or currently submitted or received, etc.

Then, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, again whether one is under FERS or CSRS, the accompanying SF 3112 series must be completed and filed. One’s mental status and intellectual antenna, however, should immediately be placed on high alert when encountering and engaging the SF 3112 series of OPM forms. For, in this series of Standard Forms (SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, SF 3112D & SF 3112E), the distinguishing features should become immediately self-evident by the very nature of the questions queried. No longer are the forms merely requesting basic information; rather, interpretive considerations must be thoughtfully engaged.

Questions concerning one’s medical conditions; what medical conditions will be considered; whether one can later supplement the listing of medical conditions if further medical developments arise; whether there is room on the form itself for a full description and, if not, can a continuation of the form be attached; the impact upon the essential elements of one’s positional duties; what those essential elements are; and multiple other similar conundrums suddenly become presented, necessitating the switch from mere “information” to one of “specific content” directed by the change in the series of OPM forms from SF 3107 to SF 3112.

Paradigm shifts were made famous by Thomas Kuhn in his historically important work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It is no less important to recognize that a paradigm shift is equally important in completing OPM Disability Retirement forms. While there is no book which guides the Federal or Postal employee, such as, “The Structure of Form-Filling Revolutions”, the identification and recognition that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits requires an acuity of mind in filling out OPM forms, is an important step in reaching a successful outcome.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire