Legal Representation on Federal Disability Retirement Claims: “As if”

Why are OPM’s denials of a Federal Disability Retirement application written “as if” it is an “all of nothing” proposition?  Conversely, why does an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application (with the exception of the single sentence which identifies the medical conditions upon which the approval is based) reflect a regurgitation of a template used on countless occasions dating back decades?

Wouldn’t a more “honest” approach be for both the denial and an approval to have a touch of: “Well, okay, evidence X does clearly show that you likely couldn’t do essential element Y” and “Yes, all and all, despite having a good performance review in the past year, your absences aggregated to establish evidence that you weren’t able to maintain a satisfactory attendance, and therefore, even if it is a ‘close call’, we have decided that you have met the preponderance of the evidence criteria and grant you your disability retirement request” — or, “Therefore, even though it was a close call, we believe you have NOT met the preponderance of the evidence standard, and therefore deny your application for Federal Disability Retirement.”

In other words, why is the “as if” standard applied as a one-way street, where every Denial invokes a disparaging and often scoffing-tone as to every bit of evidence presented, and seems to selectively diminish even the most compelling of evidence submitted?  Is it because of the very human need for self-justification, or are there other, more nefarious reasons girding the foundation of every denial?

Certainly, when a “no” is presented, one is taught to make it worse than it actually is in order to justify the negation; sort of like when you really do feel deathly ill, but by all appearances, you don’t sound it, and may not even look it, so when you call in sick or you tell your mom you can’t make it to school, you put it on “as if” you are on the verge of mortality’s early calling.

But don’t be fooled.  OPM’s denials are presented “as if” you never stood a chance; “as if” there was never any basis for even making an effort to file; and “as if” you have wasted your time even bothering to file — is meant to discourage, if not dissuade, any further effort of fighting onward.  But that is not the reality of a Federal Disability Retirement case, whether you are under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset — for, the reason why you have multiple stages in which to fight on is precisely the reason why you must: “As if” you have a chance, and not “as if” you never did.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: The language divide

Why is it that language is often so far removed from the living of life?  Was Wittgenstein correct – that it is a distinct world, separate and apart, that really has nothing to do with the “reality” of an “objective” universe?  Was Russell’s cutting quips about the bald King of France a way to point out that the primitive outlook of the traditional correspondence theory of language – that words, concepts, etc. are meant to parallel the objective world “out there” – doesn’t quite fit the proverbial bill, and that we are left with a linguistic universe insularly created and forever divided from the noumenal world that Kant had identified?

Take the following short puzzle that was recently heard: “There are eleven birds sitting on the telephone wire.  A young boy takes a gun and shoots one, and kills it. How many are left on the telephone wire?” Now, the answer to that minor conundrum should be quite elementary, but depends upon how we approach it.

From a mathematical viewpoint, one simply takes the numbers – a purely “theoretical” approach, divorced from the reality of the objective world in which we live, and subtract the 1 dead bird shot by the young lad, from the original number of birds identified on the telephone wire, and come up with the correct answer: 10 are left, because 1 was shot and killed, and therefore the mathematical equation: 11 – 1 = 10.  But it turns out that the correct answer is: “None”.  Why?  Because once the boy fired the gun and killed the 1, all of the others flew away.  Now, one can scratch one’s head and say with self-effacement, “Of course!  That only makes sense!”  Or, one can pause and say, “Now, why wasn’t that as obvious as the answer now seems, after it is pointed out to me?”

Now, contrast that with “real life”:  A hunter goes with his loyal dog and flushes out 3 pheasants from the forest; he takes aim and kills 2; 1 gets away.  He is later asked, “How many did you get?”  He answers, “Two.”  He is asked:  “Any left behind?”  The hunter looks at the questioner quizzically, with some puzzlement.  Why?  Because the question doesn’t quite make any sense – why would you ask such a question?

The fact is that there is a language divide – in real life, asking “how many are left” is not a relevant question, because the reality of living one’s life has already revealed the reality of the living.  It is only when we turn reality into an insularity ensconced within a theoretical construct does it become a thinking universe divorced from the objective world around us.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the issue of the language divide is a reality that the Federal or Postal worker must live with each and every day of your life.  That is because you live with a medical condition – the deteriorating effects, the daily symptoms, the chronic pain, numbness, gait imbalance, dizziness, vertigo, cognitive dysfunctions, etc.  The “world of language” doesn’t quite “understand” the reality of the medical condition, and is often inadequate to describe or decipher the sensations experienced.

That being said, in order to formulate an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, the language divide must nevertheless be bridged; for, an effective Federal Disability Retirement application must by necessity enter the world of language – of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A), the medical reports, and legal argumentation with persuasive force; and it is the language divide itself which must become the vehicle for an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, so that when the single bird is shot, there aren’t any left to speak about on the telephone wire that connects language to the reality of one’s life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Tolstoy unedited

To read his works often entails utilization of descriptive metaphors, such as “tackle”, or “spend the summer” doing it, or even, “It has taken me a year to reach the midpoint”.  To have read Tolstoy’s major works is a kind of initiation into the upper echelons of cultivated sophistication; how many fakes and phonies there are, can only be guessed at, but some would estimate that nearly half of those claiming to have read “War and Peace” or “Anna Karenina” either failed to complete the rite of passage, skimmed or skipped major portions of either or both, or simply studied carefully the Cliff Notes in the secluded corner of nefarious midnight travails.

But consider the original, unedited version; what the Editor of such works must have had to contend with, just to get it sorted, compiled and drafted into a coherence of acceptability — all before the time of computers, cut-and-paste buttons, and leaving aside the untenable temperament of the author for whom suggested changes meant a challenge to a duel and likely emitting as a response a stream of unedited vitriol spiced with torrents of epithets unheard of in polite company.  But even Tolstoy must have known that his own works required further care and attention, like a child soiled and helpless in self-care; that no form of Art — regardless of its egomaniacal source and unmatched brilliance of the narrative creativity — could be stomached without correction, crafting and splicing of untethered verbosity.

Tolstoy, left unedited, would have required greater metaphors than those we already adopt, and perhaps would have been thrown into the dustbin of untranslated works stored in the vast warehouses of uninterpreted voices.  The parody to a life lived, of course, reflects a parallelism which everyone recognizes, but few undertake.  How one lives a life, also, requires constant perfecting, further editing, and persistent splicing.  The unedited version of any life would be left with an undisciplined mess, unfettered calamity and unconstrained egomania of purposeless vacuity.  Meaning can always be discovered in every life, but it is the cultivated perfection of a disciplined self which constitutes the essence of human uniqueness.

But there are interruptions in living, beyond the control of one’s will and fated determinism; a medical condition is one example, and for the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job, preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application becomes of utmost importance.  However, one must take care in preparing, formulating and filing an effective SF 3112A — Applicant’s Statement of Disability — as so many people believe that the Tolstoy format of an unedited diatribe is as effective as the abridged version of a work of Joyce.

There is always a balance and a “middle ground”, whether in Life, Art, or in the effective submission of 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.  Art often reflects Life; Life is too often lived in an unconstrained fashion; but in either case, in preparing an OPM Disability Retirement application, it is important to recognize that Tolstoy unedited is as onerous an undertaking as a Federal Disability Retirement application left unfettered by purpose, application, and the careful compilation of meeting the criteria of law and life itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Medical Retirement: Balance and Order in a Lost World

Once achieved, death destroys; it is the anomaly of life, that the linear progression leads toward its own terminus, and by slow and incremental degeneration, its own vivacity is defined by a sense of self-immolation.  The realization of attainment almost always occurs upon surpassing the apex of an ordering of one’s life, and so the inevitable decline necessarily diminishes any joy derived from self-reflection of having achieved that balance and order for which we strive.

We can pursue a lifetime of studying Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, and the goal to achieve eudaemonia by living a life of virtue in accordance with reason, and thus comply with the essence of who we are, what we define ourselves as, and thereby fulfilling the conceptual construct of our own inventions.  Or, we can “chuck it all” and attribute absurdity to the universe, genetic predisposition as the defining essence of our being, and justify the arbitrary course of our lives by deconstructing the classical ordering of our civilization’s teleology.

Few of us consider ourselves to be the master of our own destiny; and fewer still, of much influence in the steerage of our direction or course.  We tend to believe in the magic of, “If only…” while simultaneously ignoring our freedom from society’s constraints and liberty’s folly.  And when tragedy befalls, we blame the collective conspiracies of the gods who view us as mere playthings, fodder for unenlightened determinism no more complex than a belief in superstitions once thought lost in the antiquity of timeless reservoirs of forgotten bookshelves.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who must suddenly end his or her career because of a medical condition, because the medical condition no longer allows the Federal or Postal worker to perform all of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal worker’s position description, the loss of balance and order is not just a hypothetical paradigm, but a reality enforced by circumstances beyond one’s control.

Indeed, the “world” within which such balance and order is lost, is not attributable to some greater concept of geopolitical significance, but one which touches directly upon the ephemeral plight of the here and now.  The striving for balance and the need for order; these are fundamental constructs required to maintain sanity and joy; and when the imbalance of life combined with the disorientation tethered by an unexpected medical condition intersects upon the rhythm of daily living, the shaking up of an otherwise tranquil life can appear to be devastating.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is often the necessary step in order to maintain that balance and order forever sought, and now interrupted by the gods of chance; and while the penultimate destiny of life’s striving may now appear to have lost its rationality for direction and purpose, it is always in the striving that one finds a way, and preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application is often a means to a further end, if only to again regain a semblance of that balance and order once gained, and now temporarily lost, in a world already lost but for the insular privacy of one’s own happiness.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: Human Perfection

Human perfection, it would appear, can be achieved.  How?  Simply by altering the definition of terms and utilizing the malleability of language, the short attention-span of historical memory, and the capacity of people to fool themselves.  It is the methodology of “moving the goal posts” once the opposing team comes within striking vicinity of scoring in a game; instead of tinkering with the substance of the issue, we merely change the rules of application.

Such actions certainly reveal the disconnect between language and reality, where the former reflects the gymnastics of linguistic flexibility without direct connection to the latter, and where the latter can continue to remain unchanged despite the radicalization of the former.  It is the universe of Orwellian reality, where one may declaratively assert the truth despite empirical evidence to the contrary.  But there are limits to such an approach.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, the progressively deteriorating nature of the diagnosed medical condition, in and of itself, is just such a limiting factor.  Try as one might, you cannot “fake it”, or even if you can (for a time or a season), the nagging reality of the chronic and pervasive immediacy of pain, debilitating symptoms, and overwhelming fatigue tends to make irrelevant such attempts of avoidance, neglect and attempted pigeonholing of the medical condition itself.

Language is ultimately meant to connect the objective world with the capacity to communicate through the insular subjectivity of thoughts, responses and feelings; instead, in modernity, it is too often used to validate the subjective universe of narcissistic egoism.

For the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker who has come to a point where language can no longer redeem the reality of one’s medical condition, consideration needs to be given for filing a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  The Federal or Postal employee can only use the malleability of language only for so long; and just as perfection is never truly achieved just because we say it has, so the mere fact that the Federal or Postal employee asserts that the reality of the medical condition will “just go away”, doesn’t make it so.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Cosmic Intransigence

The complaint is most often heard in a converse manner — that because of the minutiae and daily details required of one’s energy, focus and concentration, the “larger picture” fails to be seen.  But the reverse is just as true:  we often overlook the significance of the mundane, justifying such neglect by arguing that it is the cosmic and universal principles which are of greater relevance; mere human beings within the aegis of humanity, are but flies in a smattering of a decaying universe.

And while grand principles are indeed noble, and provide for paradigms upon which notable historical movements have been based, it is ultimately the monotony of hopes and dreams, as held and projected by youth in turmoil and wanting, which create the sprinkling of golden dust blowing by to sparkle the dreariness of daily toil.  The cosmic will always be intransigent; there is nothing to be done with it, as natural laws, the fate of karmic forces, and the ethereal foundations of the universe will continue to move history, economies and world events forward, with or without the input of ordinary people.

The world is a mere playground for the wealthy and powerful, and the gods which play with the cosmos are already intransigent in their own brutal way.  But that is precisely why the personal problems of individuals amount to so much more than the aggregate of a single life; the “greater picture” will always be there; it is the seemingly insignificant life which makes for beauty and worth.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who become disheartened because of the cosmic intransigence of the “greater picture”, it is precisely the focus upon one’s own life, family, future and time yet left for greater endeavors, which should be the focus of today, the dream of tomorrow and the concentrated efforts of past remembrances.  When a medical condition begins to impact one’s capacity and ability to perform the essential elements of one’s positional duties, the Federal or Postal employee needs to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, precisely because the “larger picture” will always be there, but the smaller details of necessity call for one’s effort in securing one’s place in that greater context.

When one’s health is threatened, the fragile nature of one’s being, the sense of insignificance and loss of place and relevance in society, becomes overwhelming.  But it is precisely within that context that the importance of carrying the burden forth becomes all the more relevant; if not for grander principles, then at least for one’s own self, family, and friends who care.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management may seem like another mundane detail of bureaucratic life which one must pursue, but it is what one can do in the next phase of one’s life that will matter, while all the while the cosmic intransigence of an impervious universe coldly stares back with the laughter of fate and determination to destroy.  It is up to each of us to defy such willfulness of intransigence.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement Law: Agency Adverse Actions

Calamities coalesce in concurrent coordinated couplings; often enough in life, when one action is engaged, another follows in reactive reflection.

For the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker who has a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, the necessity to, or mere hint of the need 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, often invokes a concurrent action on the part of the agency.

Whether such actions are mere coincidences (unlikely); retaliatory (a good chance); or deliberatively intentional (often enough) is anyone’s guess.  Trying to figure out the underlying motivation of agencies is merely a waste of one’s valuable time; what to do with the agency’s adverse actions, is the more productive approach to embrace.

The argument that finds some precedence for OPM in arguing against a Federal Disability Retirement case, is that somehow the Federal Disability Retirement application was merely a pretense to avoid termination, and thus is somehow invalidated.  But, in fact, the reverse can be argued as well:  Because of the medical condition, the agency’s adverse actions reflect the poor performance, the excessive taking of SL, LWOP, etc., and irrefutably confirms the validity of the Federal Disability Retirement filing.

What the agency’s adverse action states; how it is characterized; what surrounding correspondence exists; and the extent of one’s medical documentation around the time of the agency’s actions, and prior to, are all important components in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire