Attorney Representation in Federal Disability Retirement Cases
The knowledge and reputation of a Federal Retirement Attorney in FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement cases

Many times during the free initial consultation, I am often asked about whether or not, or how helpful, legal representation would be in an OPM Disability Retirement case.  To ask a Federal Disability attorney such a question is often unhelpful, for there is always the question as to how much “self-interest” an attorney has in answering such a question.

What I can state, however, is the following:  Remember that everyone believes that his or her case is a “sure thing” — this is natural, because the very individual who is filing for disability retirement is the one who is suffering from the medical condition, and so it is a very “personal” matter, and a sense of objectivity is difficult to maintain in these matters.

Second, remember that when you hire an attorney, you are not just hiring someone who “knows something” about FERS & CSRS disability retirement; instead, you should be hiring that lawyer for his or her reputation, his knowledge of the administrative & legal process with the Office of Personnel Management and the Merit Systems Protection Board, and how well he is “thought of” by OPM (i.e., how long has he been practicing in the field of Federal Disability Retirement law, does he know the people at OPM, and more importantly, does OPM know him/her?).

Finally, always keep in mind that, while attorneys can be expensive, you must always do a cost-benefits analysis, and look at the benefit you will be receiving (or not receiving) if you do or do not hire a Federal Disability lawyer.  Disability retirement benefits are essentially a means of securing one’s financial future, and as such, the benefit to be secured is important enough to consider hiring an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Connecting Two Important Dots in a FERS Disability Retirement application
Help with the OPM Disability Application from a Federal Attorney

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 the nexus — the connections which are made between any two or more issues, concepts, evidence, etc. — which raises a Federal Medical Insurance Retirement application to meet the standard of required proof under the law. Such connections to be made are vital, and determine the success or failure of a Federal Medical Retirement application.

We have all encountered eccentric individuals in our lifetimes — whether of the proverbial “batty-aunt” who talks incessantly about things which nobody understands; or the “flighty friend” who can talk a mile-a-minute about a thousand disconnected issues all in one breath; or perhaps it is a chance-meeting with a stranger who, after a long conversation, one realizes didn’t make a bit of sense in anything that was said.

In conversation, one can engage in such language games which have little to no correspondence to reality, and not have to pay a price for such engagement.  In the world of Federal Disability Retirement, failing to make the necessary connections will most certainly lead to a denial of a Federal Retirement application.

Thus, the persuasive connection between one’s positional duties and the health conditions; the argumentative connection between the prevailing law and one’s factual statements; the impacting connection between the medical reports and the entirety of the submitted case; and multiple other connections — each must be carefully crafted.

In a world where we come upon a “noumenal” world (as Kant would state), and where our cognitive categories organize the disparate world we discover, establishing the necessary nexus between X, Y & Z is something which the Federal Disability Retirement applicant should never overlook.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

The Age of Information Overload and Finding Relevant Information about OPM Disability Retirement

Before we even became comfortable with the assignation of the term, “information age”, we were informed that we have already entered into the “post information age”; one has no idea where one stands today because of the lightning speed of our times.  Whether human nature can withstand the onslaught of such rapidity and volume of the multiplicity of component data; of what consequence we are creating in our very midst; whether destruction of societal relationships and connections are truly best for the survival and continuation of our species; all of these concerns matter little.  For, like the story of the complex machine which was once created, and for which Man forgot to build an “off switch”, the ever-forward trajectory of the age of infinite information encroaches whether we desire it or not.

Technology is dependent upon the newness of the next generation of dazzling whistles. The desire for greater enhancement of stimuli is wired within the human psyche; and like the rat which becomes addicted and comes back for more, we require the overload. For the Federal and Postal employee who is beset with a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, the process of gathering, incorporating, and applying the information concerning Federal Disability Retirement and the bureaucratic process of obtaining the benefit can be, at best, a daunting task. There is always that “piece of evidence” of statutory linkage which must be considered; and as technology continues to progress without regard to individual circumstances, it is anathema to the regressive nature of a progressively deteriorating medical condition.

Ultimately, however, in whatever “age” we find ourselves in, we must play by the rules of the game, and acquire as much information as we can, and be able to filter that which is relevant as opposed to mere fluff. Like the proverbial bubble filled with hot air, there is much information “out there” which is either irrelevant, inconsequential, or simply filled with errors. One must be careful as to the source, and who to listen to.

For Federal and Postal employees under FERS or CSRS, the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement will be a long and complicated one. How one gets there will be the key; what information to use, and what tools to covet, will make all the difference in this complex world of post-whatever in which we find ourselves.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Discretionary Decisions Made by Federal Disability Lawyers

As an OPM Disability attorney, I am often asked questions by people of which I am unable to answer.  They are not questions concerning “the law” underlying Federal Disability Retirement, but rather questions which go to my “professional discretion” as an attorney in putting together a Federal Disability Retirement packet, prepared to go forth to the Office of Personnel Management.

By “professional discretion” questions, I mean those questions which go to making decisions and choices concerning medical reports, percentage ratings received from the Veterans Administration; permanency ratings received from Second Opinion or Referee doctors, or the fact that one has reached “maximum medical improvement” and is now “permanent and stationary”, and whether to use such collateral sources of medical documentation in putting together a disability retirement packet.

The practice of law is not all objective and straight-forward; part of the “practice” of law is of an art form, based upon one’s experience, and professional discretion sharpened by repetitive experiences in working with the Office of Personnel Management and in representing Federal and Postal employees before the Merit Systems Protection Board.  Further, there are some questions which I answer only for those whom I represent.  I am happy to provide general information about the process of filing for federal disability.  For those whom I represent, however, I reserve for them the art of practicing Federal Disability Retirement law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Extended Weekend, the Subtraction of One, and the Addition of Another

Extended weekends provide for an anticipation of restful joy.  It is always an admixture and conundrum of overdoing it, or not doing anything at all.  It is that extra day which allows for the gathering of friends and family without the unwanted pressure of having to get up the next day to engage the commute and the inherent stresses and problems of work.  That “next day” is that extra day off, and when one awakens, it is a delicious pleasure when one is reminded that work is delayed for another day.  The significance and symbolism of what the designated day is set aside for, is often lost in the very joy of leisure.

We may plant a token flag; or perhaps attend a children’s parade; but remembrances of solemnity are often replaced by the sheer joy of having an extended weekend.  Perhaps that is “wrong” for the soul and conscience of a country; but as a population which is characterized by an ethics of hard work and leadership, such extended weekends are nevertheless well-deserved.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, the extended weekend is often viewed in a different light.  It is the addition of one, and the subtraction of another.  It allows for providing an additional day in which to rest and recuperate.  It subtracts a day from the turmoil of pain and suffering, exacerbated by trying to act as if one is okay.

The fact that the numerical postulate of adding and subtracting constitutes the identical day, is irrelevant.  Rest, recuperation, rehabilitation and respite from the work-a-day turmoil and stresses of life, may be suspended for a day.  Weeks are characterized by weekends of recuperative repose.  To add a day is to also subtract, and the peculiar math which one engages in, makes perfect sense to the Federal or Postal Worker who lives in pain, or who suffers from intractable depression, anxiety and panic attacks.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an option which needs to be considered by any Federal or Postal Worker who has come to a point of perspective described herein.  For that Federal or Postal Worker who abstracts the anticipated extended weekends as merely an addition of one, and a concomitant subtraction of the same, is merely delaying the inevitable, if for another day, another weekend, and until the next mathematical peculiarity is encountered.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: An Aristotelian Approach

Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics has been the primary foundation for the Western paradigm of proper behavior in philosophy. Quite distinct from his obtuse Metaphysics, the ethical framework of Aristotle takes a pragmatic, almost Confucian approach to correct behavior — balancing context, temperament, timing and correct behavior in formulating a modulated encompassment of how one should act.

As with all things in life, there must be a “balance” — and a recognition that time and relative context of affairs must be taken into consideration before one should act. In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, one must similarly recognize that there is an insight into the balance of life before one can proceed with any action, whether it is an administrative action before the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, or before one’s own agency.

A Federal Disability Retirement application must be “proven”; as such, there is a distinction to be made between that which one “experiences”, and that which one can “prove”.

In such a context, sometimes a medical retirement packet may take some time in order to fully develop and evolve. Doctors may not be able to be approached immediately; instead, at the right time, and in the right manner, they may be willing to provide the necessary medical and professional support in order to make one’s Federal Disability Retirement case successful and productive.

The pragmatic approach which Aristotle used in his ethics is still relevant today: at the right time, in the proper context, and taking into consideration the temperament of others. In this way, success can be attained by possessing an insight and wisdom into the world of human affairs. This was the approach of Aristotle; and so it was with Confucius.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

The Circle of Questions and Answers during the Federal Disability Retirement Process
The time it may take the OPM to process your Federal Medical Retirement application

The tragedies befall frequently enough to make some correlative conclusions; of the athlete who fell short of the finish line; of the one who wanted to just make it one last time, only to become severely injured prior to completing the task; and others who become debilitated within the last 50 yards, or within the parameters of being “within reach” of the end.  This is likened to the Federal or Postal employee who has only a couple of years before full retirement.

To the extent that a Federal Disability Retirement application takes on average 8 – 10 months to obtain (from the start of the process of gathering the medical reports, records, etc., until a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management), the question often becomes whether it is worthwhile filing for Federal Disability Retirement when one has come so close to the finish line.

Each case must be assessed and evaluated with the particular facts peculiar and unique to it; but questions of intelligent assessment should be applied, in order to reach an algorithm of rational conclusions:  When I reach the end (or, “if I…”), will my health be preserved enough such that I can enjoy retirement?  Is the reason why I am contemplating Federal Disability Retirement now, because I have in fact already reached the crucial flashpoint where I am no longer able to continue performing the essential elements of my job?  Is there a possibility that I will not in fact be able to endure the remaining X-number of years left before I reach full retirement?

Questions prompt answers; answers, even if preliminary and tentative, begin the process of further questioning; and so the circle of questions and answers begin to guide and resolve the issues which trouble the soul.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

February 22nd, 2013

Timing and the Necessity of Sharing Information with Federal Agency

The problem with sharing sensitive information with others is that the question of trust always enters into the picture.  As noted in a previous blog, a Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, must be willing to submit sensitive medical information to one’s agency, at some point in the process.

Such submission — and therefore, presumptive “sharing” of such sensitive medical information — can hardly be avoided, because there are legitimate reasons why the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service must view and analyze the information.  Such mistrust of a Federal Agency is certainly not unfounded (yes, a double-negative is difficult to discern, but necessary nonetheless), and the concern rises exponentially based upon the nature of the medical submission, the prior historical encounter with the Agency in the arena of other litigation, adverse actions, legal forums, etc.  Then, the question of timing must be considered — for, if other litigation is pending, there is a question whether the submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application will impact any other pending issues.

Ultimately, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Medical Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one assumes that the goal of the applicant is to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement, and be separated from Federal Service as an obvious but necessary consequence; and, in doing so, to suffer the cost of revealing some sensitive medical information in order to achieve that goal.

In attempting to reach that goal, one must get beyond the intermediate “wall” — one’s own agency — in order to arrive at the destination — the Office of Personnel Management.  That wall must be allowed to display some personal information.  How; to what extent; to whose viewing; and when and for what purposes, must be contained and restricted based upon a standard of ensuring, to the extent possible, that such viewing is limited to those who have a “must see” position in order to complete the Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Help: Standard Forms
OPM Medical Application - SF 3112A Applicant's Statement of Disability

Remember that Standard Forms are produced with the intent of having you believe that you are constrained by the questions as posed, by the space as constrained, and by the language as restricted.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

All forms, including governmental standardized forms, are merely inquisitive templates requesting information.  If the form fails to ask the proper question, or does not pose a question such that it does justice to your particular situation or problem, then you should freely ask the question you believe should be asked, on a “continuation page”, or in an addendum created by you or your attorney.

In disability retirement applications, this is especially true of Standard Form 3112A (Applicant’s Statement of Disability).  Instead of answering only the constraining questions as posed within the framework of the form, it is often appropriate to add another page and create, and subsequently answer, relevant questions which are neither posed nor implied by the Standard Form.

This is not to say that the applicant should abuse the process by adding irrelevant questions; rather, it is to allow for the “full story” of a disability retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS Disability Retirement: Applicant’s Statement of Disability
Federal Employee's Statement of Disability OPM SF 3112A

In most instances, when I am asked to represent an applicant at the Reconsideration Stage, after he or she has attempted to obtain an approval at the Initial Stage without an attorney, I find that the prevailing mistake made is the exaggerated verbosity of the statement itself. The old adage from Shakespeare, which (I know) is too often quoted (and misquoted), from Hamlet, Act 3, Scene 2, where Queen Gertrude responds by saying, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks,” is indeed appropriate and applicable to this issue.

While the applicant’s statement of disability must be detailed, complete, and accurate, it must not be “overstated”. It should reflect the factual and medical integrity of the medical opinions and findings as delineated in the medical records, documents and notes; it should never exceed the medical evidence in assertions, claims or scope. Overzealous self-advocacy is often the problem in cases of disability retirement where the disabled individual represents him or herself. To this, of course, another common adage is applicable: “A person representing himself in court has a fool for a client.”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire