CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Substance and the Spaces in Between

The philosophical conundrum involving the ability to distinguish between dreams and reality, rests upon a fundamental confusion on the part of the thinker:  one would not be able to discuss the concept of dreams, unless there is first a presumption about reality.

The fact that we can discuss whether or not X is a dream, is precisely because there is already a pretext of a reality.  Similarly, in almost every other area of conceptual discussions:  appearance versus reality; essence versus the peripheral; and multiple other instances.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to stick to the “substance” of one’s claim, lest the verbiage and the spaces in between detract and confuse the Case Worker at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Issues which lead one away from the essence of a Federal Disability Retirement application, such as anger at a supervisor; a rant against the agency; undue focus upon the hostile environment created by the agency; all of these can seem as real as the reality of a dream; but however real a dream may appear, one awakens, and the reality of the real world suddenly forces itself upon us.

In a narrative telling of one’s disability and its impact upon one’s life, it is not the “spaces in between” which tell the story; it is the story itself.  Thus, all roads should lead back to the essence of one’s narrative:  the medical condition, and how that condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Issue of Discretion

A Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS may also be undergoing concurrent disciplinary proceedings, or engaged in corollary grievances, EEO Complaints, or involved in a lawsuit in a separate forum, either in the Federal Circuit Courts or at the Merit Systems Protection Board.  

In either event, the question often comes to the fore as to whether such collateral issues should be brought up in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) or perhaps in a legal memorandum or cover letter which argues the merits of the case, the legal basis for eligibility, etc.  The answer to the question as to whether, how and where is one of discretionary choice, and there is never a singular answer.  

A separate question to be asked of one’s self (with no obvious answer) is whether or not, if the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS does not bring up the fact of a collateral issue being litigated in a separate forum, will the Agency bring it up and discuss it in a way detrimental to the Applicant, and further, will the fact that the issues was not brought up make it appear as if the Applicant is somehow trying to hide the issue?  As with all such hypotheticals, the answer to all of the above is:  It all depends…  

Often, not mentioning a potential “red flag” until and unless it becomes a red flag is the best approach.  Sometimes, making a passing reference to the collateral issue may be appropriate.  In all instances, unless a connection can be made between the collateral issue and the issues central to a Federal Disability Retirement application — the medical basis and the impact upon one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job — it is normally best to leave it alone.  In any case, such discretionary decisions should be made with the advice of an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Fairness

“Fairness” is a difficult concept to set aside, even when it is in the best interests of one to do so.  The underlying list of supporting reasons may be many — that the Agency engaged in acts X, Y & Z; that the Agency or named Supervisor did certain things, etc.

In a Federal Disability Retirement case, it is often not a good idea to focus upon issues of fairness.  In representing clients, my focus is upon proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a Federal or Postal employee is eligible and ultimately entitled to receiving Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Issues of agency actions; whether a Federal or Postal Worker was treated “fairly”; whether the National Reassessment Program is “fair”; all of these issues become peripheral, and sometimes harmful to the process of filing for and obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

To paraphrase an old adage, it is my job to keep that which is central to the issue, my center of attention, and to sweep aside the superfluous as just that —  distractions which should not be allowed to impede or otherwise impact the purpose of the entire process:  to get an approval from the Office of Personnel Management for one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Determining Peripheral Issues

It is important in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application to make the distinction between essential, substantive issues which will need to be addressed, and those issues which should be deemed “peripheral”.

The substantive issues should be those which go to the “heart” of your case (i.e., the medical disabilities; the impact upon the work; sometimes, the issues concerning medication regimens and treatment modalities, etc.).  The peripheral issues are those which will not only detract from the essential issues, but also some which may, if focused upon too prominently, derail a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Further, a potential applicant for a Federal Disability Retirement must have the wisdom and discernment to sometimes leave an issue alone.  Perhaps an issue is brought up by a Supervisor in a Supervisor’s Statement, or in the SF 3112D concerning an accommodation issue; or perhaps it is brought up on an SF 50.  In any event, remember the general dictum that if a person protests an issue too vehemently, it may bring the attention and focus of the Office of Personnel Management upon an issue which otherwise may have been ignored.

Such approaches in determining peripheral issues from substantive issues are made in the course of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, based upon experience, wisdom, and discernment.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Filing II

People often come to me at the 2nd (Reconsideration) Stage, or the 3rd (Merit Systems Protection Board) Stage, and ask that I correct the mistakes made in the initial filing. Most mistakes can be corrected. Of course, it would have been better if the Applicant had done it properly the first time, for once the Office of Personnel Management views something which should not have been submitted, it cannot be easily retracted — only further explained.

There are, moreover, certain mistakes which cannot be “explained away” — such as deliberate omissions or deceptions. Thus, if the Office of Personnel Management gets the idea that there is an element of deceptiveness in a disability retirement application — either through omission or deliberate avoidance of an issue — then it becomes a difficult case to win. Honesty is always the best policy, and no Disability Retirement applicant should ever engage in any act of covering up any information. This is conceptually different from emphasizing the elements in a disability retirement application which favor an approval, as opposed to de-emphasizing those elements which tend to obscure the primary elements of an application. Such artful emphasis/de-emphasis should always be a part of every disability retirement application, coordinating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability with supporting medical documentation, to convey a consistent “whole” to the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability: The Filing

Never be deceptive in your filing. Always be truthful. To be deceptive or untruthful will harm your credibility, your case, and ultimately, may defeat your ability to obtain disability retirement benefits. Now, there is a conceptual distinction between being “truthful” and emphasizing certain issues of your case, while leaving certain other issues as secondary and less prominent in the documents & supportive papers filed. Thus, to take a rather crude example, while everyone in the world spends a great deal of his or her life in the restroom, we rarely — if ever — talk about such events. Is it because we are not being “truthful”? No — instead, while it is an issue which is not emphasized, it is not something which we are also being deceptive about.

Thus, with respect to disability retirement issues, one should never deliberately attempt to mislead, hide, or otherwise “expunge” certain aspects of the disability retirement application. At the same time, however, those aspects which are not very helpful, or which may harm your case, should not be placed in bold-type or underlined in red. Wherever possible, those aspects which will weaken your case, should simply be de-emphasized — but never deliberately hidden.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire