Tag Archives: Clarifications about Federal Disability Retirement

The Tool of Repetition

Repetition is an important tool in any written genre; overuse of the tool can always backfire (is there an inherent conundrum in criticizing the tool of “repetition” by saying that it can be “overused” — probably), but in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS from the Office of Personnel Management, the importance of repetitively stating the important elements of one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job cannot be overstated.

As time is a commodity worth its span in gold, the assigned case worker or disability specialist (or whatever other name or designation given to the person at the Office of Personnel Management who will review one’s Federal Disability Retirement application for identification purposes) must use such time efficiently; and given the volume of cases which the Case Worker must evaluate, analyze and decide upon, the tool of repetition is important precisely because, in the short time-span within the volume of cases to be reviewed, the ability to catch the attention of the reviewer and to highlight the main points of one’s case by shouting out in bold-faced screams, is an effective way of presenting one’s case.

As paper-presentations go, they are silent vehicles of communication. However, within the neutral silence of being presented to the reader, it is important to repetitively state (and restate) the main points of a case in formulating one’s narrative in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  As with everything else, however, in preparing, formulating and filing a FERS Disability Retirement application, there is a danger point in using the tool of repetition: too much repetition can make one’s case appear to be “artificial” and conniving.

You don’t want to file a Federal Disability Retirement application by stating the FERS Disability Retirement application too repetitively because to overstate the Federal Disability Retirement application too many times would be to use the tool of repetition too much in a Federal Disability Retirement application (hope one gets it).

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
FERS Medical Retirement Benefits Lawyer

Neither your receipt of information from this blog, nor your use of this website to contact the author creates an attorney-client relationship between you and Attorney Robert R. McGillAs a matter of policy, Attorney McGill does not accept a new client without first investigating for possible conflicts of interests and obtaining a signed engagement letter.  You may, however, first contact Robert over the phone for possible legal representation and to assess your probabilities of becoming a Federal Disability Retirement annuitant after the specifics of your case are evaluated.  An initial consultation with Attorney McGill is always free.

The Agency’s Attempt

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the issue of “accommodations” will necessarily surface, if only because the Agency must complete SF 3112D — the Form which is entitled, “Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts” (which bureaucrat came up with that title?).

Agencies will often choose the wrong box to check because they will either misread the choices or misunderstand what the statements mean.  For instance, in the third choice of Question 4, it states, “Yes, describe below the accommodation efforts made, attach supporting documentation and provide narrative analysis of any unsuccessful accommodation efforts.”  The problem with the choice itself is that the entire concept of “accommodations” has been clarified, modified, and thoroughly discussed in cases which have been brought before the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and such court opinions have been issued subsequent to the original meaning of the term when the Standard Form was first issued.

But when the Agency completes the form, they will often answer the question in terms of “allowing for liberal use of sick leave” or “letting the employee refrain from doing X, Y or Z”, etc.  But allowing for temporary, light duty work does not constitute a “legal accommodation“, and thus does not go to the requested information.  In fact, the loosely-used term of “accommodation” is actually no accommodation at all.

What to do about it when it happens?  One must be discreet in how to approach it.  For most cases, the agency’s lack of understanding will have no impact at all, and it should not be responded to.  In other instances…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Lawyer

Materials and information on this blog are provided for informational purposes only, are general in nature, and do not constitute a legal opinion or legal advice and should not be construed as a legal opinion or legal advice.  For more specific information, or to discuss the specifics of your case, you may contact the author for a free, first-time phone consultation.

Reassignment Considerations

In considering filing for FERS Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management the issue of possible reassignment will arise — normally as a rather secondary and unimportant facet of the process — as an obligatory agency action.

SF 3112D is a form which the agency must complete.  The form essentially affirms that the agency attempted either of 2 things: tried to “accommodate” the Federal or Postal employee, or tried to find a suitable “reassignment” to another existing, available position.

As to the latter, case-law has made it clear that in order for an offer of reassignment to preclude the Federal or Postal employee from continuing with one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, such light or limited duty offer must be at the same pay or grade of one’s current position (there are some complicating details connected with the enunciated standard, but for present purposes, this general rule will suffice).

Sometimes, the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service will find a lower-paying position, and offer it, and the employee will gladly accept it because it allows for continued employment.  But one must understand that, if down the road, the Federal or Postal employee finds that he or she is unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of that “lower” position, then it is from that “lower” (and often of lesser responsibilities) position that one will be filing for Federal Disability Retirement.

Just some thoughts to ponder; for, as a general rule, the greater the responsibilities of a position, the lesser the standard of meeting the threshold for a Federal Disability Retirement; and, conversely, the lesser the responsibilities of a position, the higher requirement to prove one’s case in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Attorney

This and other articles might or might not have been published before.  In this blog edition, we have tried to update them to check over laws and rules that change over time.  However, we can’t guarantee the accuracy of this information.  If you or a loved one is considering early medical retirement from a Federal or Postal position, contact Attorney McGill to discuss the specifics of your case.

The Unresponsive Agency

The complaints abound; the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is still way behind on its evaluation, review and decision-making process for all characters of retirements, disability retirements included. And now with all of the pressure to become more “efficient” under this current Administration, I am receiving reports from multiple sources that OPM is denying more and more FERS Disability Retirement applications.

It is a given that filing for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, must necessarily have an expectation of a time-consuming administrative process, precisely because of the encounter with a Federal bureaucracy.

At each step of the way, OPM has become more and more unresponsive, and with new cases coming in, the length of time at every stage, and “between” stages, has been extended. The process itself contains inherent milestones of delay: from filing the entire disability retirement application to a facility in Boyers, Pennsylvania, which merely annotates the receipt of the case and inputs the case into the computer system; to thereafter sending the disability retirement application, with all of its evidentiary submissions and attachments down to Washington, D.C., where it must first await assignment to a caseworker; then, upon assignment, for the caseworker to even get to the applicant’s submission for review and evaluation. Then, of course, there is the possibility that the entire packet will be selected to be sent out for review by a contract doctor.

The delays are beyond the control of the applicant, his or her FERS Disability Retirement attorney, or the Federal agency for whom the applicant worked. It is, ultimately, an administrative process which can be tedious, time-consuming, and fraught with delays and extended periods of silence.

Patience may well be a virtue, but the unresponsive manner in which the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has handled the delays, fails to engender much confidence in a system which should be most responsive to those in greater need.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Lawyer

Any articles viewed on this blog are intended to provide information only and are not intended to be legal advice.  As laws are always in a state of change, we can’t guarantee the accuracy of the information.  For current updates of laws, rules, the current proposal for the elimination or replacing of the Office of Personnel Management, and to get a personalized assessment of your individual disability claim, please contact the author for a free first-time consultation.

The Subjective Experience of Pain

Pain by definition is “subjective”, if by it one means that the experiential verification of the condition is uniquely possessed by the “I”, or the subject of the experience. By contrast, that which is deemed “objective” is presumably validated by more than the possessor of the experiential condition — i.e., by third parties; by testing for the validity and verification of an event through means other than the personal narrative of a singular subject. Yet, if verification of an experience is accepted merely by sheer volume of a collective consensus, then most scientific revolutions in advanced discoveries would never have survived.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, it is often the argument of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that the Federal or Postal applicant has failed to provide “objective” medical evidence in presenting his or her case. The narrative of having a condition of “chronic pain”, or “severe pain” — being “subjective” by definition — is not deemed “objective“, and therefore cannot be the valid basis alone for a FERS Disability Retirement case (or so the argument by OPM is often presented). Even the results of an MRI will not necessarily satisfy the scrutiny of OPM; for, ultimately, an MRI can only reveal an observable abnormality — not that a person experiences “pain”.

Fortunately, there are a number of cases in law which rebut OPM in their attempt to bifurcate between “objective” and “subjective”, and such legal tools should always be cited and applied in any Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application.

While pain may indeed be subjective by definition, the objectivity of a Federal Disability Retirement application should never be based upon what OPM deems as sufficient; rather, it is the law and the long history of legal guidance by the courts which should mandate how OPM acts. Indeed, if we let OPM’s subjective determinations rule the day, we would all be left in an existential state of pain — one which would then result in a collective consensus which may be deemed objective in nature.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Attorney

This article and others in this blog may or may not have been previously published in the author’s other websites such as the Federal Disability Attorney blog, the FERS Disability Retirement website, or the Postal Service Disability Retirement blog.

It’s a Federal Government Issue

Representation by an attorney who is licensed in one state, of a Federal or Postal employee who lives in another state, is accomplished in a Federal Disability Retirement application precisely because it is a Federal issue and not a State issue.

If an individual has a legal issue which he or she wants advice on, which concerns an event, issue or matter which involves a particular state’s laws, then obviously an attorney from the particular state should be consulted.

In obtaining a FERS Disability Retirement annuity from the Office of Personnel Management, however, it is irrelevant whether or not the attorney is from the Federal or Postal Worker’s state. For one thing, the agency which must be directly dealt with — the Office of Personnel Management — is located in Washington, D.C. (although the initial intake office is located in Boyers, PA).  OPM is the agency which handles all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications under FERS, and makes both the Initial Decision in the process, as well as any decision at the Second, or Reconsideration Stage.

In this technologically-centered world of ours, everything can now be handled by telephone, fax, express mail, FedEx, UPS, email, email attachments, etc. It is more efficient this way, and further, there are not that many attorneys who specialize in the field of Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
FERS Disability Retirement Lawyer

The legal articles published in this blog are intended for general information purposes only.  Reading this information or exchanging emails do not establish a lawyer-client relationship.  However, you may contact the author for a free case evaluation assessment by discussing the specifics of your case.

OWCP and FERS Disability Future Reviews

There are horror stories: of people on “disability” who are watched and video-taped, and after having 500 hours of taping, it is edited to show that, within a 2-minute period, it is revealed that you can indeed perform physical feats which your medical disability should restrict.

As an attorney who receives daily inquiries concerning Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS, people relate such fears to me.  However, I am quick to remind such callers on two (2) matters: First, such stories relate almost exclusively to Federal OWCP cases, which have nothing to do with FERS Disability Retirement, and Second, the people I represent have legitimate medical conditions which impact and prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

There is also an additional Third element in the issue, FERS Disability Retirement annuitants are allowed, under the law, to go out and get another job, and to work and make up to 80% of what his or her former position currently pays.

Now, obviously, any such job should be essentially different, in many ways, from the former job.  But the point is that the FERS Disability Retirement is intimately wedded to a particular job, and the inability to perform the essential elements of that particular job.  That is where the difference lies between FERS Disability Retirement rules and OWCP cases — the former allows one to continue to remain productive in the workplace; the other does not.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Attorney

Please note that the information that appears in this article is copyrighted.  Originally written by Attorney Robert R. McGill, it has been more recently updated by the webmaster.  This article has been previously published in other OPM Disability Retirement blogs.

How Important is the SF 3112B Form?

It is amazing how a Supervisor’s Statement is completed.  Normally, it is completed without much thought; sometimes, it is completed with too much thought (and self-protective, CYA language concerning how much effort the agency attempted in “accommodating” the employee, when in fact little or no effort was made); more often than not, there is a last, parting shot at the employee — some unnecessary “dig” which often contradicts other portions of the statement; and, finally, every now and then, the Supervisor’s Statement is completed in the proper manner, with forethought and truthfulness.

Fortunately, the Office of Personnel Management rarely puts much weight on a Supervisor’s Statement in making a determination on a FERS Disability Retirement application — unless there is some glaring statement of a deliberate attempt to undermine the Application.  This is rare, because it is a medical disability retirement, not a Supervisor’s disability retirement — meaning, that it is the medical opinion, not the opinion of a Supervisor, which is (and should be) most important.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Attorney

The material provided in this blog has been updated from previous publications such as the Federal Disability Attorney blog and the Lawyers.com blog.

OPM & History of Medical Conditions

There is a distinction to be made between one’s medical history and an extensive discussion of workplace issues which may have contributed to a causal impetus for a medical condition.

The Office of Personnel Management is rarely interested in receiving information concerning the history or causation of a medical condition — especially from the Applicant in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  While the treating doctor may briefly refer to the historical genesis of a medical condition in a narrative report, it is the focus of the present-to-recent-past impact of one’s medical conditions upon the essential elements of one’s job which the Office of Personnel Management is interested in reviewing.

Again, remember that a Federal Disability Retirement application is a “paper presentation” to an onerous, overbearing and overworked Federal bureaucracy, where one’s private affairs (the most private of all — one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s personal and professional conduct of affairs) are to be presented, received, and ultimately reviewed.

History of the inception, origin and impact of a medical condition may be peripherally relevant to the treating doctor, and it would be appropriate to include such historical background in a medical report; but for the Applicant, to delve too deeply and extensively upon such historical context may place the peripheral into a central focus where it should not be.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Attorney

Information here do not constitute legal advice or legal opinions.  Material presented in this blog may or may have not been previously published in the author’s other websites including but not limiting to the Federal Disability Lawyer website, the OPM Disability Retirement blog, Federal Disability Attorney and other resources in the Internet.

The Essential Elements of a Federal Job

In preparing, compiling, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS, one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence (a legal standard which has been set by statute) that a Federal or Postal worker who has a minimum of 18 months of Federal Service and suffers from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s particular kind of job.

The concept of “essential elements” is variously defined and expanded upon by court cases, but one way to identify the “core elements” of a particular job is to review the position description, and to extrapolate from the official description of the job. Another place, of course, is the Agency’s performance review, which will often identify the core elements.

One should never overlook the obvious, in addition to that which is identified in the position description — the fact that one is required according to the position to work full time; to be “on site” for many jobs (thereby precluding tele-commuting as a viable permanent accommodation); and certain other inherently obvious elements which are often mentioned in passing — such as sitting for long periods of time (a sedentary position); being required to stand or walk for extended periods of time; and other such “essential elements” which make up a position, and are inherently required by the very nature of the job.

Those “obvious” but often unmentioned essential elements are notable for the fundamental requirements of being able to successfully perform a job.  They should not be overlooked.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Lawyer

Note:  The material provided in this blog has been updated by the webmaster/editor and written originally by Attorney Robert R. McGill in other websites and blogs.