Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Twilight’s Landing

Sleep is often the category of escape; restorative sleep, a palliative prescription for a medical condition.  Upon closing one’s eyelids, the images which pervade from the day’s stimuli slowly recede as the dark chasm of one’s own consciousness begins to fade, and sleep begins to overtake, leading us into that shadow of twilight’s landing.

It is when chronic pain, discomfort, and the gnawing neurons which fail to relax but continue to send signals of dismay and distress, that the world of wakefulness and the dawn of sleep fail to switch off; or the continuing anxiety, depression or panic attacks control and jolt one into the awareness of darkness.  Medical conditions have an impact not only upon the daytime soul, but in the sleeplessness of non-sleep as well.

For Federal and Postal workers who are formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application and preparing one’s Statement of Disability on SF 3112A, one aspect of the descriptive narrative which is often overlooked, both by the doctor as well as the Federal or Postal applicant, is the role that profound fatigue plays upon performing the essential elements of one’s job.  While often implicitly stated or otherwise inferentially contained, explicit extrapolation is important in order to convey all of the elements of one’s medical condition and their impact upon the Federal or Postal employee’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.

Perhaps one was reprimanded or suspended for “sleeping on the job”.  Was it mere laziness, or was the underlying medical condition the intermediate cause of an act or event otherwise seen as an insubordinate statement of defiance?  Reasons and rationales provided make all the difference in this very human universe of language games and counter-games.  For, in order to effectively submit a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal Worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the important thing is to make sure and sufficiently describe and delineate the primary and secondary causes of one’s underlying medical conditions. This includes the inability to have restorative sleep, the profound and intractable fatigue one experiences, impacting upon one’s daily cognitive functions, etc.

Otherwise, the medical conditions are not adequately conveyed, and when one goes back to sleep in attempting to reach that twilight’s landing, the difficulties of the world will be magnified by another potential problem — a denial from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Undue Focus upon Minutiae

It is like the story of the man who rushes in breathlessly and declaratively warns others of the impending tornado, and with only minutes to spare, he is stopped and asked, “But will we still be able to watch our evening shows?”  The focus upon relevant details; of the “larger picture“; of logical and sequential sets of facts, as opposed to getting irrelevant information correctly stated, is often a problem in writing effectively.

The ability to use discretionary choices in separating factually important descriptions from those which are tertiary at best — will result in having the reader focus upon the essential aspects of one’s presentation, in any context or forum.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is vitally important to separate and bifurcate that which is primary in importance, that which is secondarily of relevance, and those factual minutiae which, even if left out, will make little or no difference to the substantive content of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Often, Federal and Postal employees who suffer from severe psychiatric conditions will unduly focus upon minutiae which, in the context of their medical conditions, are exponentially quantified in magnified importance beyond reason or rationale.  One must understand that such is the very nature of the psychiatric condition itself; but recognizing it as such, and trusting in the wise counsel and advice of one’s attorney, is the best first step in making sure that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application will have a fighting chance for an approval.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Discretionary Extraction

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is often the question of whether X should be included, or Y should be left out.  Whether certain elements, issues, substantive descriptions, etc., should be included, excluded, extracted or otherwise inserted, largely falls into discretionary decision-making; sometimes, however, personal or professional discretion should not be the guiding criteria; rather, the compelling necessity directed by the legal requirements should dictate the decision itself.

Making such decisions often fall into three basic categories:  Substantive; ancillary; an admixture of the first and second.  Obviously, “which” medical conditions should be included will normally fall into the substantive category; the “history” of the medical condition, the circumstances under which the medical condition came about, and certain medical conditions which one might suffer from, but which have little or no impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, might be considered ancillary; and lastly, the admixture of the two — of agency-induced issues which may have resulted in an EEO action; stress-related conditions from a hostile work environment:  these must be considered carefully, and should rarely be included in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Ultimately, the guiding principle should be:  Don’t muddy the waters.  But the true guide should always be “the law”, and what purports to uphold that which proves by a preponderance of the evidence a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Use of Percentage Designations

The Department of Veterans Affairs does it; in obtaining a scheduled award from the Officer of Workers’ Compensation Programs, administered under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), the amount determined is based upon it; and so it is understandable that confusions may arise as to its relevance, import and various applicable uses.

Disability ratings represent an attempt to quantify the extent of one’s medical condition, injury, or loss of limb or body mobility, flexion, ability to use, etc.  Such attempt at quantification, no matter what mathematical calculus or methodology employed, must by necessity involve a level of subjectivity; for any such attempt is pre-determined by the criteria which is applied, and any such criteria which purports to apply universally will be unable to accommodate the uniqueness of an individualized case.

In a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement case, the benefit provided is a flat rate, and is set by statute.  It does not increase or decrease based upon a percentage assignation of a medical disability.  Similarly, in Social Security Disability, the amount of the annuity received does not change because of an increase in percentage.

Whether one can or should use the assigned percentage rating from the VA or from OWCP, in proving or attempting to prove eligibility in FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement cases, is a matter of discretion.  The amount of the disability rating; whether the gross number is a combination of fairly insignificant fractured percentages; the substantive discussion justifying each number, etc. — all of those factors must be taken into consideration before using it in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Numbers alone rarely mean anything; 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 not the numbers, but the words which support them, which will make the difference.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Discretionary Decisions

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, there are obviously the “basics” which one must submit, in order to meet the legal standard of proof of preponderance of the evidence.  

Thus, submitting “adequate” medical documentation which formulates a nexus between the medical condition upon which the Federal Disability Retirement application is based, and the essential elements of one’s job; writing the descriptive narrative to complete the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A), and filling out the other standard forms in order to meet the minimum requirements, are deemed “non-discretionary”, in that one does not have the choice of filing such paperwork  — it is a requirement.  

However, certain other documentation can be designated and categorized as “discretionary” —  whether to include certain medical conditions, and therefore medical documentation which bears upon the particular medical condition; whether to include paperwork from one’s OWCP, Department of Labor filing; Veteran’s Administration ratings, findings, medical documentation; Social Security Disability paperwork; additional statements from co-workers; Private Disability Insurance paperwork, etc.  

“Discretion” implies freedom to act or not act, but the problem will often arise, “In what context”?  Discretion is a wonderful, liberating position to be in; acting effectively in a discretionary manner requires research, and knowing the relevant criteria to apply in making a proper decision; and an understanding of the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement in making the “right” discretionary decision.  

Using discretion in making discretionary decisions is the key to obtaining a positive discretionary determination from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: SSDI Approval as a Special Case

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there are multiple discretionary decisions which must be made in preparing a paper presentation to the Office of Personnel Management.  For instance, should determinations made by Second-Opinion or Referee doctors in a case which concurrently involves OWCP issues be included in the submission?  Should VA ratings be part of the packet?  Should determinations by a private disability insurance company be included? Should a determination by the Social Security Administration — which often will come about when the packet has already been submitted to the Office of Personnel Management while awaiting a decision — be forwarded to OPM?  

In proving one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one must affirmatively prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is eligible for the benefit.  That leaves much of the decision-making process regarding what information is relevant, helpful, pertinent and substantive, up to the Federal or Postal employee and/or his attorney to decide.  There are multiple details, and it is often in the minutiae and details which will win or lose a case.  Should all medical conditions be made a part of the packet?  

These are all discretionary issues to be decided, with the possible exception of Social Security.  Inasmuch as SSDI must be filed, and inasmuch as the statutory mandate is that SSDI and a FERS Disability Retirement annuity must be offset if both are approved, an approval by SSDI is a special case which is non-discretionary.  Not only must OPM be informed of its approval; under the case-law, it must be considered in the process of deciding upon a Federal Disability Retirement case.  Nevertheless, it still remains merely persuasive authority, and not determinative.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire