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Integration of the OPM Disability Retirement Claim

Date Added: October 24, 2014 09:46:55 AM

Where the enemy is scattered to flee in a thousand directions, the harmony achieved is through careful planning and foresight, by study, knowledge and experience.

Hen Tai Shui Mensali – from the Proverbs of the Wise


The term itself implies a prior state of disarray; of disconnectedness and a condition of formless void. That is how every endeavor begins. Preplanning, anticipatory adjuncts to daily routines of mundane strivings; an attempt to prevent the small fires which seem to erupt in our lives; these can somewhat mitigate the greater chaos if and when such traumatic events occur; but, for the most part, no amount of preparatory work ethic can build the foundational walls necessary to stop the flood of a crisis. That is what a medical condition represents.

Most of us are too busy to anticipate the future; the present moment presents such catastrophic ruination of pleasurable moments, anyway, that by the time the day ends, the week arrives, or the summer presents an appetizer for a furlough from a presentable presence (yes, this is an attempt at alliteration with the root word, "present"), time has disappeared, Fall has arrived, and the darkness of a winter solstice threatens. Integration of concepts; integration of habitual living; integration of preparing a persuasive presentation of a Federal Disability Retirement application; they all mount to a similar engagement with the world - a sometimes futile attempt at orderliness in a disorienting world.

The problem of integration, and its antonym, occurs when a crisis forms; and, in life, having a progressively worsening medical condition constitutes a trauma of exponential import. For, it is the very capacity to integrate which becomes undermined when a crisis develops; medical conditions which impact one's employment abilities tend to create havoc throughout all levels of life, and where economic security becomes endangered, the means of logically arriving at a proper decision and judgment itself becomes problematic.

Questions immediately pervade when a crisis involving a medical condition develops: What am I eligible for? What proof is needed to establish eligibility? Will the type of medical condition I suffer from qualify? Will my doctor support my case? What will my agency do in the meantime? What paperwork is required? Will my Human Resource Office guide me, or will they do things to make the process more difficult? Will inquiring about OPM Disability Retirement benefits from my Human Resource Office "tip off" my intentions to management? Do I need an experienced Federal Disability Lawyer to navigate through these waters? Such questions reflect both the need for an integrative approach, as well as a foreboding sense of being lost within the administrative process of a complex bureaucracy.

The ability to integrate requires knowledge; knowledge reveals the command of a subject, and such mastery of issues is often determined by experience. Understand, therefore, that the agency which ultimately receives all Federal Disability Retirement applications - the U.S. Office of Personnel Management - commands the opposite type of experience: one needed to evaluate, and ultimately deny, a Federal Disability Retirement application. Thus, while everyone must make a decision concerning whether to go through the process alone, or hire an OPM Disability Retirement attorney, the Federal and Postal employee should fully understand that the entity of decision-making - the U.S. Office of Personnel Management - has their own cadre of legal experts to counter the Federal Disability Retirement applicant.

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement, then, is an administrative complexity made all the more difficult because of the very nature of the conditions and prerequisite parameters of necessary criteria to meet: as always, because of the medical condition. Psychiatric conditions which impact the ability to perform cognitive-intensive positional requirements are suddenly thought to be able to adequately respond to questions concerning medical conditions and their impact upon one's ability to perform; Major Depression, overwhelming anxiety, panic attacks, Bipolar Disorder, suicidal ideations; these are supposed to allow for integrating the compound complexities inherent in the administrative process of filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits?

Physical conditions - of chronic pain, profound fatigue from the pain; neurological disorders involving cognitive dysfunctions; both the Federal and Postal worker who have focused his or her life throughout these many years, upon performing the essential elements of one's job, are suddenly confronted with simple appearing questions, innocent-like in their brevity, but with an expansive legal context which includes countless decisions handed down by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit - all contained on a single form, Standard Form 3112A, in constraining boxes which make it appear all so simple. And, again, the "other side" of the equation - the experience of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, with its legal team and support, who has the experience of decades upon decades in analyzing the completeness of each Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

To counter the power and experience of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (not to mention the intermediate point of the process of submitting through one's own agency if one is still on the rolls of the agency or, even if separated, not more than 31days after such separation from service), and the implied disarray imposed by having to deal with one's deteriorating medical condition, it is important to start the process with an integrative approach. But how does one do that? In the face of a deteriorating, and sometimes debilitating medical condition, and conceding the complexity of the administrative process itself, the laws that govern the procedures, and the intransigency of bureaucracy, how does one arrive at integrating all of the puzzling tentacles which comprise the Federal or Federal Disability Retirement process?

First, break it down into simple components, step by step. Approach the doctor; ensure that adequate and sufficient support is forthcoming. Next, obtain a copy of one's position description, and determine - both from one's medical records as well as from personal experience - which essential elements are directly impacted, as well as those which indirectly and peripherally prevent one from performing them; and, all the while, go through a typical day by picturing in your mind all of the multi-faceted physical, cognitive and stress-inducing tasks which must be confronted on a daily basis. Thereafter, the linguistic bridge must be built - that legal "nexus" between one's medical condition and the essential elements of one's job. While this is no simple matter, and because one must weave the combination of diagnosed medical conditions, symptoms and physical/cognitive limitations, the answers to the seemingly simple queries as stated on SF 3112A will naturally fall into place with this integrative approach. Questions thus must first be asked; the more questions, the easier to whittle them down into bifurcated categories of relevance; and once the questions are transformed into practical sets of "to-dos", then the formulation of an integrated approach will begin to surface.

Life is a web of conundrums bundled into a platitude of fading complexities; and when a medical crisis hits the center of a life already in partial disarray, the weight of the universe can crush the human spirit, and lay waste the years of accumulated service given to the Federal sector. OPM Disability Retirement is a benefit which is available to all Federal and Postal employees, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset; but such a benefit can only be accessed if filed at the right time, with a sufficiency of medical evidence, and through delineating a comprehensive and persuasive methodology of legal argumentation. It is, in the end, the coordination of medical opinion, personal statement, and legal argumentation - in their disparate islands, merely lone voices in a vast wilderness of a bureaucratic morass, but when integrated into a cohesive whole, comprising a persuasive formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement claim which is submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whose vast and deep array and arsenal of weapons ready to deny the Federal Disability Retirement application, must by force of a convincing integrative approach, be countered in order to obtain the ultimate end: an approval from OPM.

Whether one does this by seeking the advice, counsel and navigating guidance from an experienced Federal OPM Disability Attorney, or whether one has the self-confidence to maneuver through the administrative morass as a lone wolf, each Federal and Postal worker must individually decide. Whichever course one takes, it is important to always keep in mind the crucial necessity to have an integrative approach in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application.


About the Author Robert R. McGill is an Federal Disability Attorney who specializes in FERS and CSRS Medical Retirement, a practice area he dedicates 100% of his time helping Federal and Postal workers secure their disability retirement benefits under OPM disability laws. For more information about his legal services, publications and forum, please visit his OPM Disability Retirement Website.



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