Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Expectation of a Rational Basis

Giving a “reason” is the basis of rationality.  In some sense, such a statement is merely a tautology, a redundancy in propositional logic (as pointed out by Wittgenstein), or what Kant had termed as an analytic a priori statement, where the subject (“reason”) is essentially identical to the object (“rationality”) in definitional terms.  But it is precisely the providing of a reason which forms the proper basis for proceeding in a rational manner.

Thus, if a X states that it will rain today, the follow-up query might be:  “Why do you believe that?”  If X answers, “Because I say so,” such a “reason” would not be an acceptable basis to act upon, precisely because it is neither a valid reason nor a basis of rationality.  Contrast that to the following:  “Because the national weather service, after an extensive study of the weather patterns for the past two weeks, has concluded that there is a 97% chance of rain today.”  Now, one may argue that predictions concerning the weather are notoriously unreliable to begin with; but nevertheless, the latter forms a basis for proceeding in a rational manner, while the former gives us no such foundation.

Similarly, in all sectors of one’s life, one has an expectation of giving and receiving “reasons” for which to act upon.  In a Federal Disability Retirement case, we are expected to provide reasons for why a Federal or Postal employee is “eligible” for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Conversely, it is a “reasonable” expectation to receive a “reason” when a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at any stage of the process.  Templates used by OPM will often only present the most superficial of reasons; and some reasonings as proposed by OPM may be self-contradictory.

In the end, whatever the reasons given, the Federal or Postal disability retirement applicant must respond with reasons why OPM is wrong, or provide a rational basis for a difference of opinions.  But that is another matter for a different blog altogether — the very issue of “opinions” and what should be the foundation of a valid one.  For, after all, we each of us possess them, and a scant few make much of a difference.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Beyond Rationality

In preparing, formulating, and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the goal is to compile and compose the “best possible” disability retirement packet.

Such a goal is a foundational one — that which is self-evident.  Indeed, to have a contrary goal is anathema to the entire administrative process.  Concluding that one has achieved that goal, however, leaves room for discretion.  Indeed, often the best that one can do is to accept those things which are outside of one’s control, and focus exclusively upon achieving excellence of that which is within the confined arena of what one can control.

Thus, for instance, to try and predict and preclude a denial at the First Stage of the process — while a goal which every attorney who practices Federal Disability Retirement law attempts to achieve — is almost an act of futility, because such an attempt inherently requires that the Office of Personnel Management systematically engages in a rational approach in deciding its cases.  On the contrary, much of what the Office of Personnel Management does is to “fill in the blanks” of a template.  Denial letters are mostly form letters which then have a concluding paragraph, which itself is often a formatted conclusion.  That is not to say that the evidence presented was not reviewed; rather, the evidence reviewed was determined to fit — or not fit — a template.

How does one counter that which is beyond rationality?  By focusing upon those things which are within one’s control — by compiling the best possible presentation, for the best will normally fit any template; unless, of course, the template itself is beyond rationality.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Denials II

It is, indeed, frustrating when a governmental agency makes life-impacting decisions which seem to be spurious and capricious. A review of a disability retirement application by the Office of Personnel Management is supposed to be thorough, with sound reasoning and a fair application of the law. And, in all fairness, the majority of cases appear to meet that standard. It may well be, of course, that since all approval letters of disability retirement applications are standard templates, with boilerplate language and instructions, and since most of my cases are approved at the first level, the impression left is that OPM does a good job in reviewing the cases.

When a case is disapproved, however, it is often the case that the denial is based upon factors which defy logic, which appear to have little or no rational basis, and which selectively focuses upon a narrow reading of the medical reports and records. Thus, often the OPM Representative will take a statement out of context, and declare that the doctor stated X when a full reading of the medical report shows that the doctor actually stated Y. This is unfortunate, and does not reflect the careful review, analysis, and fair rendering of a decision made by most OPM representatives, but occurs often enough to be of concern. On the bright side, however, is that there is always the ability to take it completely out of the hands of OPM, after a second denial — and allow an administrative judge to review it objectively, at the Merit Systems Protection Board. That is why the MSPB was created and exists — to have a third party, objective body review the decision-making process of the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirements: Groundless Denials of FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement Applications

One would assume that when a disability retirement application has been reviewed by someone at the Office of Personnel Management, and a decision of denial has been rendered, that such a decision will — at a bare minimum — be based upon a legally sufficient ground. In other words, that the legal criteria asserted in the decision will be correctly delineated.

Unfortunately, that is too often not the case. In fact, many of the legal claims asserted by the Office of Personnel Management have no justification in law, and are exaggerated at best, and a mis-statement of the applicable laws, at worst. But for disability retirement applicants who are unrepresented, the individual may well read the decision, believe what the decision states, and become convinced that the burden is too onerous to overcome, and fail to request reconsideration in the case, discouraged that he or she will never be able to meet the legal burden imposed in the initial denial.

Thus, for instance, when an OPM denial letter states that there was “no evidence showing hallucinations, delusions or other symptoms of psychosis,” and therefore the disability retirement is denied, one might conclude: “Since I don’t have those conditions, I must not be qualified for disability retirement.” Wrong! Or, when OPM says: “There was no evidence of hospitalization or the need for such treatment,” one might become completely discouraged and say, “Oh, disability retirement requires that my medical condition is such that it requires hospitalization in order to qualify, and therefore I cannot qualify“. Wrong! Such overstated and exaggerated claims by the Office of Personnel Management are commonplace, and unnecessarily place a burden upon disability retirement applicants through mis-statements of the law. Never allow an OPM mis-statement of the law to persuade you to abandon your case; instead, seek competent legal counsel to explain what the law of disability retirement really is, and proceed from here.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire