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

 

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Independence of Each Program

The disparate nature of each Federal program, with little to no intersecting coordination amongst them (with the exception of SSDI and FERS Disability Retirement benefits in the coordination of payments upon approval of each) betrays the unplanned, thoughtless creation of each program, as well as a sense that each agency wants to maintain its feudal control and assertion of independent power.

That perhaps explains, in part, why each program ignores the extent of persuasive authority the approval of another program should logically have, upon an approval and acceptance by the “other” program.  Does it make sense that being granted “unemployability” status under the Department of Veterans Affairs ascription of percentage disability ratings would only have a nominal impact upon a FERS Disability Retirement application?  Or that an SSDI approval would have, at best, a persuasive effect upon a FERS Disability Retirement?

It is somewhat more understandable that a case accepted by OWCP/Department of Labor would have minimal impact upon a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application, precisely because the former is set up as a program of rehabilitation in an effort to return the Federal or Postal employee back to his or her job.

The only true “coordination” of benefits occurs between SSDI and FERS — and that, only if both are approved, and payments are received concurrently; but even then, there are often overpayment problems, lack of the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing, etc.

Thus Coordination and intersection between departments, agencies and various programs rarely occurs.  Agencies tend to want to remain independent.

Such lack of coordination, however, does not mean that the FERS or CSRS Federal or Postal employee should not force a legal argument upon OPM when a significant finding is made by another agency or program.  For, in the end, it may not be the U.S. Office of Personnel Management which listens, but an administrative judge at the MSPB, or a 3-judge panel on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals; in which case, a precedent will have been set, for all to (hopefully) follow.

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

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

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: VA Benefits

As each collateral source of disability benefits must be carefully assessed before utilizing it as a tool in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, so it is with those benefits which rely primarily upon percentage ratings. First, one should note that, if a Federal Disability Retirement application is approved under FERS or CSRS, that there is no offsetting of benefits between Federal Disability Retirement and Veterans benefits.  The two are treated as independent of one another.  

At the same time, however, that does not mean that you cannot utilize a VA disability rating decision in pursuance of an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, when filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.  Indeed, there is case-law which states that the Office of Personnel Management, or the Merit Systems Protection Board (if it has been previously denied twice and is appealed to the MSPB) must consider such evidence in the totality of all of the evidence, in making a determination on the approval or disapproval/denial of a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application.  

If a VA Rating decision is used, however, in such an application, it must be done with some thought and care.  How to go about using it; what to use; whether to use; those are all discretionary questions which must be carefully considered.  In such cases, it is prudent to seek the advice and counsel of an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire