Misnomers and the OPM’s Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division

The problem with misnomers is not just the inaccuracy of designation which is either explicitly or implicitly conveyed, but the unintended consequences of the string of reactions and responses which can occur as a result thereof.  Sometimes, interpretive mistakes occur purely on a subjective basis; in which case it is not truly a case of a misnomer, but rather merely the misunderstanding by the recipient of the information.  Other times, a word or designation can be open to multiple meanings, where reasonable people can differ on the inferences to be made.

For Federal and Postal employees who have filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal Service employee is under FERS or CSRS (such acronyms have specific, esoteric meanings only to Federal or Postal employees, and as such, cannot constitute an objective misnomer, but rather a potentially subjective one), the complexity of the administrative and bureaucratic process can result in the failure to recognize and properly respond to various misnomers throughout the process.

For example, when a Federal Disability Retirement case is assigned to an Administrative Specialist at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and one receives a letter informing the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant that X is further needed — the identification of the OPM Representative that he or she is from the “Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals Division” is both confusing and a misnomer.

For, the recipient of the letter (and just to receive any correspondence from OPM other than an approval letter or a denial letter is an amazing fact in and of itself) can well infer from the designation that his or her Federal Disability Retirement application has already been denied without notification (i.e., because it is in the “Reconsideration & Appeals Division”). In fact, all cases fall under the aegis of “Disability, Reconsideration & Appeals” section of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Misnomers may be unintended. It is the recipient and the responder who must, unfortunately, live with the consequences.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Getting the Right Nomenclature

Throughout the history of philosophy, there was a pervasive presumption that substantive questions concerning Being, Truth and Falsity, reality versus appearances — and a wide spectrum of similar conundrums wrapped within the mystery of life within a coil of the unrevealed physical universe and further complicated by the bifurcation of consciousness and the physical realm and the problem of dualism which it represented —  required a systematic approach of questioning, evaluating, analyzing and (hopefully one day) resolving.  In such a process, it was always important to apply the technical nomenclature in a systematic approach.

Then came the English analytical philosophers — culminating in Wittgenstein (although he was Austrian) — and it is only natural that it would be the English (who have always believed that Americans don’t know how to speak the English language properly, anyway) who dismissed all such philosophical problems as mere language difficulties.

Again, the problem of nomenclature.  Whether one accepts the demise of philosophy as merely a problem of language and language games, it is always important to recognize that in any endeavor, subject, issue, etc., utilizing the proper words, phrases and terminology is vital to precision in thinking.

Thus, when an individual is preparing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to understand that conceptual constructs belonging to one area of law are not interchangeable with other areas.  Usage of terms such as “Maximum Medical Improvement”, “Unemployability Rating”, “Inability to engage in daily living activities”, “On the job injury”, etc., and other related terms, may have little-to-no significance in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

On the other hand, usage and application of some evidence from one area of law may be successfully argued in another area; but that occurs only when, and if, the proper distinctions and truncated differentiations are applied.  In the end, perhaps the English analytical philosophers were right — analysis and correction of linguistic confusions constitute much of our problems.  But to admit to such folly would be to acknowledge that the sun continues to cast an ever-pervasive shadow from the colonialism of the old English Empire.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Consequence of Confusion

Often, in a Federal Disability Retirement case, there are “indicators” which are telltale signs as to whether or not something was done or not.  Federal and Postal workers who call in to inquire about the feasibility of filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS are often vague about certain facts and issues, and understandably so, because things have never been explained properly, or as is more often the case, explained but with mistaken information.  For example:  Federal and Postal workers often confuse OWCP & Department of Labor issues, with issues concerning OPM Disability Retirement.  Such statements as:  “I already filed for Department of Labor disability benefits”, or “I filed a CA ___”, or “I’ve been separated for X number of months” (when in fact he or she has merely been on LWOP with the Agency).  

The problem with confusing the concepts between OWCP benefits and OPM Disability Retirement (and to make it even more confusing, to mix those two with SSDI issues) is that a person may be on OWCP or SSDI for over a year after being separated from Federal Service, and fail to file for OPM Disability Retirement — and forever be foreclosed from doing so because he or she never realized that you must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, independently and separately from OWCP or SSDI.  Read up and study the conceptual distinctions; for, there may be some long-term consequences from such confusions.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Knowing your own Case

In preparing and submitting an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, it is important to know your own case.  This will often take some time and effort, but it is worthwhile, for many reasons:  Knowing and understanding the extent to which your doctor will support you; understanding fully the medical terminology which your doctor has used; knowing that what you say in your Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A) does not contradict or otherwise invalidate what your doctor states in his or her medical report — these are all important aspects of a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Often, doctors use medical terminology which, read in the context in which it is written, can be misunderstood and mininterpreted.  Such misreading then leads to a misstatement by the applicant in his or her Applicant’s Statement of Disability, thinking that it is supported by the medical documentation which is submitted. Even if it is an honest error, such a self-contained contradiction can harm a case, as when the Office of Personnel Management is able to point to a doctor’s report and is able to state:  While you claim X, your own doctor states Y…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Appropriate Language Game

In filing an application for OPM Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, there are many questions that are posed for the person who is just being introduced to the concept of potentially filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and many of the sub-topical concepts are often “counter-intuitive”.  This is because most people — including doctors and practicing lawyers — are unfamiliar with the laws, processes, procedures and regulations surrounding and governing Federal Disability Retirement laws under FERS and CSRS, but are instead familiar with the legal arenas of Social Security Disability, Veteran’s Administration disability benefits or Department of Labor, Office of Worker’s Compensation issues

In those “other” areas of legal specialties, there are doctors who simply specialize in making disability determinations — of evaluating a “patient”, determining the extent of the disability, having the Federal or Postal employee undergo a “Functional Capacity Evaluation“, and ascribing a “disability rating” and determining when, or if, the person has reached “Maximum Medical Improvement“.  Each arena of law has what Wittgenstein once coined as a “language game” — a specific set of language usage which applies only within a certain context, and those “other areas” of law are often inconsistent and foreign to the arena of Federal Disability Retirement issues under FERS or CSRS.  Often, when people call me, one of the first things I do is to set about “teaching” the caller the differences, distinctions, and inapplicability of one set of language games upon another set of language games, as well as how the two (or three) relate to each other.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Don't Confuse the Standards

People who call me for advice, who are potential candidates as clients for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, often interchangeably use terms which apply to different standards:  standards of total disability as opposed to a medical disability which impacts one’s ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; whether a medical condition is an “accepted” disability (a concept which is often used in Social Security disability cases); whether a person can file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits even though he “hasn’t reached MMI” (“Maximum Medical Improvement”) — which is language encompassing a concept familiar to OWCP/DOL (Worker’s Comp) cases; or, on a different level, the statement that an agency has been “accommodating” an employee by allowing him/her to take sick leave, Leave Without Pay, or to “not have to travel as much” — mistakenly or loosely using the term “accommodation”, when in fact such agency actions do not constitute a legally viable accommodation, as that term is used in Federal Disability Retirement laws. 

It is the job of the attorney to correct, clarify, and otherwise explain the proper terminology and precise application of concepts in Federal Disability Retirement cases.  It is not surprising that people who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS use the various terms in error, or mix terms unknowingly — for there is alot of misinformation “out there”; it is the job of an Attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law to clarify such confusions.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire