Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Problem of Conformity as a Thoughtless Process

The bureaucratization of society becomes a problem when conformity to a standardized process results in thoughtless action.  We have all seen scenes from movies, or read stories or books, of the proverbial drone-like monologue, shown in cinematographic hues in monotony, of emotionless workers who robotically stamp papers and call out, “Next!”.

To some extent, preparing and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, requires such conformity.  The standard forms themselves (SF 2801 series for CSRS employees; SF 3107 series for FERS employees; and for both CSRS and FERS employees, SF 3112 series) require a foundation of such conformity.  And while continuation sheets and attachments are not prohibited (yes, the double-negative in grammar means that it is a positive, and you may do what is proposed), it is nevertheless constraining when one is putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application.

On the other hand, standardization provides for uniformity and ease of information.  If everyone just submitted his or her own version of selective information and sent it in to OPM, there would be greater chaos than there already is at the singular agency which processes all Federal Disability Retirement applications.

Thus, conformity to standardized procedures can be a good thing.  The problem, however, is when such conformity leads to thoughtlessness — and, in a Federal Disability Retirement process, one should expect to encounter such bureaucratic mindlessness.  This, too, must be dealt with; and sometimes the need to use legal authorities as a sword, and not merely as a shield, is the only way of effectuating a required response.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Clarity and Conciseness

One can be completely clear in a statement, yet convey the information incorrectly.  Clarity of statement is merely the vehicle for precision; the substance of the information itself is a separate matter.  The problem with the former is that, it is often mistaken for comprehension by the conveyor.

Rambling, convoluted run-on sentences (yes, we all should have taken note and paid attention during those early grammar lessons) may be perfectly understood by the writer of such garbled conceptual constructs; but it is always the targeted audience which must be kept in mind when one’s goal is clarity of thought.  As for the latter, the substantive information must be screened and streamlined; volume of information in any endeavor cannot replace succinctness and precision of thought.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, clarity and conciseness in preparing (especially) one’s Statement of Disability is crucial in attaining the success of one’s goal:  an approval of Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Volume of information should not replace a well-prepared, concise disability retirement packet; and lengthy narratives will not undo the meanderings of imprecise connections between one’s medical condition, the positional duties one engages in, and the nexus between the two.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Experience versus Articulation of the Condition

One of the first rules announced in any elementary creative writing course is for the budding writer to “show” the reader through descriptive sentences, as opposed to “telling” the audience what has happened.  The distinction itself is often difficult to describe; it is like the dividing line between light and darkness — we know it is there, but cannot precisely pinpoint the demarcation line.

Similarly, in law, there is a difference between the “facts of the case” and “proving the case“, and indeed, the difference can encounter major difficulties in overcoming the obstacles presented by the distinction (i.e., it is not the proverbial “difference without a distinction”).  Thus, even though one may have all of the facts in favor of one’s case, unless one can prove them (and overcome legal objections, technical obstacles for inclusion and introduction of such evidence, etc.), such an advantageous position may in the end be meaningless unless the articulation of the facts to the jury can be effectuated.

Analogously, in a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the fact that one may experience a debilitating medical condition is merely the foundational basis of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.  Beyond the existence of a medical condition, a series of connecting steps must be established:  treatment of the medical condition; articulation of the medical condition by a treating doctor; a nexus between the medical condition and one’s positional duties with the Federal government or the U.S. Postal Service; information conveyed as to the impact between one’s duties and the medical condition, etc.

In other words, while the experiential value of the medical condition forms the foundational basis of a Federal Disability Retirement application, the articulation of that medical condition in a systematically persuasive vehicle of communication is paramount in “proving” one’s case.  Certainly, experience is the beginning point; but beyond that, one must set about to establish the necessary proof in articulating an experience.

In flying on an airplane, one would certainly rather have an experienced pilot than a brash young pilot who has never flown but who can talk a lot; but in a Federal Disability Retirement application, it is the one who has both — the “experience” of a medical condition, as well as the ability to articulate the condition — which will prove one’s case; and in so doing, hopefully the trip forward will result in minimal engine troubles, and fewer bumps in the administrative ride of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Language Used

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a “paper presentation” which must be “proven”.  It is thus not technically an “entitlement”, but rather an accessible benefit which must meet certain legal guidelines as set forth by Statute, subsequent Regulations propounded by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and Case-laws and Court opinions as rendered over a long course of time by various courts and administrative agencies, such as the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

When one steps back and observes the entirety of the process, it is — from inception of the administrative procedure to its conclusion in receipt of payment of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity — a massive compendium and compilation of “language”.  Throughout the process, little need be spoken of or to; rather, the written word — that malleable tool of communication — is placed from mind-to-ink-upon-paper, to be presented to another receptive mind, in order to evaluate, analyze and ultimately conclude with a decision, whether as an initial approval or a denial.  If a denial, then the process continues without interruption as heretofore described.

As such, because Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is comprised by the linear, sequential and persuasive use of language, it is important to utilize the tool effectively, and to apply all of the forces of language which will make for an effective presentation:  brevity, but with emotive force; succinct, but with logical persuasiveness; comprehensible, but with descriptive expansiveness. Language is the tool to be used; as the preferred and necessary tool, it must be applied with careful choosing, in order to be effective in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Genre of the Narrative

Different genres purportedly possess internal mechanisms and tools of the trade which distinguish one art form from another; thus, fiction writers use various forms which, in the eyes of the “professionals” will elicit oohs and aahs regarding the technical beauty which heightens the art form; biographers invoke poetic license in recreating scenes and human expressions and emotions from an omniscient vantage point; then, there is the admixture of truth and fiction, of “true crime novels” which are allegedly “true” but in novelistic form, easily readable, commercially successful, and universally enjoyed — but in essence, it all comes down to good writing.  

Readability is the whole point of writing.  Yes, to remain true to the art form is important to the genre; and, yes, to be technically proficient in utilizing the mechanisms and tools of the trade engenders professional acclaim and self-aggrandizement.  But ultimately it all comes down to the ability and capacity to express what one wants to, and needs to, in order to convey to the audience the desired effect.  

So it is in Federal Disability Retirement.  For, as in the various forms of literary genres, the narrative form must be engaging, readable, succinct and streamlined.  Salacious details need not be included to get the attention of the OPM case worker.  

A FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement narrative in the form of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability should be the penultimate form of the art:  part biography, part non-fiction, part logical analysis, and certainly analogous to the true crime fiction — that is the narrative which will draw the OPM case worker into the world of the Federal or Postal Worker who is trying to persuade a bureaucrat to have a spoonful of sympathy in exchange for a cup of truth.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: SF 3112A, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability

Each genre retains its own internal customs, traditions and acceptable characteristics which, in their idiosyncratic ways, defines for itself why the specific genre is distinctively different from another.  Content, length, volume, and literary mechanisms may be acceptable within certain defined parameters; a recent biography by Edmund Morris attempted to utilize a literary artifice which, by most accounts, was not well-received within the genre.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must first and foremost understand the “audience” to which the Federal or Postal employee is “writing” to, and thereby custom-fit the “genre” of the writing.  

The reviewing clerks at the Office of Personnel Management have dozens, if not hundreds, of files from Federal and Postal employees.  At the First and Reconsideration stages of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM, the reviewing clerks must sift through the case-file by analyzing the medical documentation submitted, and most importantly, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability as reflected in SF 3112A.  A Dickens-like autobiographical background is not needed, and will likely be ignored.  A mere listing of the medical conditions, while short and to the point, will likely be insufficient.  Thus, the old adage:  neither too hot, nor too cold.  Somewhere in the middle is the proper “genre” to apply.  

As for the specific characteristics of an effective submission, a general comment:  Stay on point; connect the dots between one’s medical conditions and the positional requirements; and don’t bore the reader.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Unique Story

This is a world which requires conformity and uniformity; eccentricity is a leisure which few can afford, and as the world operates on a factory-like assembly line, where productivity is the measure of one’s worth, so the uniqueness of a story gets lost in the fading echoes of a scream one hears in a solitary cave, where the sound of one’s cry reverberates deep into the chasm of darkness and the silent quiescence of water dripping upon a moss-covered granite surface.  That is why the poignancy of Chekhov’s story about an old man’s grief and his need to tell his story of the death of his son, resonates with us.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to strike the proper and delicate balance between recognizing the “uniqueness” of one’s case, and the pragmatic acknowledgement of the bureaucratic need of the Federal Agency (both one’s own as well as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) to have a conformity of one’s story.

Yes, some history and background can be told in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (although one must be careful in avoiding the pitfalls of ‘situational disability‘ and other issues); yes, one can provide some additional details of one’s ‘story’; but, ultimately, the issue which must be addressed is the legal one:  the essence of the case remains the same throughout.  Throughout, always prepare the Federal Disability Retirement case to conform to the law.

One’s story is unique; the uniqueness must be conformed to a standard of legal proof in order to meet the requirements of Federal Disability Retirement law; once told and conformed, you can still go out and relate your story to those who have a willing ear.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Weaving of Words

From working with raw materials to the final production of a work of utility with an aesthetically pleasing look, the weaver must be skilled in handling the process of creating from scratch.  It is in the very art of weaving, where the end-product notices not the imperfections of that which nature produced, that the “art form” is created.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to take the materials provided — the medical condition of the Applicant; the doctors who are treating the Federal or Postal applicant; the Supervisor who will be writing up the Supervisor’s Statement; the Human Resources office of the Agency who will be completing SF 3112D — and to “weave” together from the fabric of such diverse sources, and complete a persuasive Federal Disability Retirement packet, such that the compendium of information can be presented in an “aesthetically” pleasing manner (i.e., understandable, comprehensible, and effectively streamlined in order to be convincing and compelling).

OPM is the “purchaser” of the Federal Disability Retirement application, and must be the one who accepts the “product” of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  The “weaver” must be skilled enough to put the packet together, from the raw materials provided, to the finished product.  Upon a successful “purchase”, it is then that the Federal or Postal employee will have obtained the desired result — an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Impersonal File

Creative writing courses almost always fall back on an old adage:  Show, don’t tell.  Such a simple advisory truism, while trite and overly simplistic, applies in so many aspects of what constitutes effective writing — whether for fiction, journalism (is there a difference between the two?), or in Federal Disability Retirement (the latter, of course, is a completely separate genre from the former two).

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to apply all of the learned, effective tools of writing, in confronting every stage, every administrative hurdle, every step in the bureaucratic, administrative process.

In approaching a treating doctor:  remember that doctors are quite effective in compartmentalizing patients — separating a patient emotionally from the patient’s file; the cold, clinical approach of treating a medical condition without becoming “personally involved” is what a doctor is trained to do.  Thus, in obtaining the support of one’s treating doctor, it is important to break that silent wall of bifurcation, and often, simply sitting down with the doctor and explaining, talking, “personalizing”, is an important first step.

Another example:  the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  That statement is the window to OPM’s soul.  It is the means and vehicle by which and through which one persuades the Case Worker at OPM that one has a medical condition which prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s job.

Writing it well is the route to success.  Showing, and not merely telling.  Old adages tend to live on forever, because the truth inherent and embedded in them continue to thrive.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Word Usage

In any endeavor involving a “paper presentation” to a third party, it is important to be fully aware of word-choice and word-usage.  An overuse and overabundance of descriptive adjectives can undermine the efficacy of a presentation; the flow of sentences, the logical connections between statements, and a conclusion which follows from the major and minor premises of an argument — all in composite and aggregate form, create an impression of a linguistic Leviathan which is formidable, and thus unable to be countered.

Obviously, the facts and evidence which provide the foundation of an argument count for much.  There is the old adage that, when a lawyer possesses no persuasive facts, he argues the law; if the law fails to support a client’s innocence, he argues the maudlin facts; if neither supports proof of the innocence of the client, then he merely blusters and argues.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize that the Disability Retirement packet is a “paper presentation” to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

You will not be meeting with anyone.  You will not be given an “in-person” interview, where one’s charm, charisma and personality may provide the persuasive foundation for an approval.  Rather, it must be by the sheer convincing force of one’s logic, methodology of argumentation, facts presented and the persuasive nexus between one’s medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job — based upon the choice of words and the application of expanding conceptual constructs.  An inadvertent use of a word may become the weak link to such a paper presentation.  Those times when you should have been listening to the English teacher in Grammar Class — it mattered.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire