The Ritualistic Void Found in Postal and Federal Employees Who Continue Working in Jobs That Further Deteriorate Their Health

It is precisely the repetitive identity which provides for comfort.  Thinking is an endeavor which requires effort; ritualistic actions require merely attendance and presence, and the mechanical motions of responding.  When the mind becomes bifurcated from the task at hand, whether from being “lost in thought”, ruminating upon problems afar, or disengaged because one is contending with physical pain or psychiatric anxieties and lethargy, ritualism becomes a zone of comfort because the physical body can engage while the mental processes can embrace a parallel universe.

This ritualistic void is often what becomes of work when a Federal or Postal employee suffers from a medical condition, such that this health condition begins to prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  How long one can continue in such dualism of actions is often dependent upon the type of Federal or Postal job which one holds.  Being a Letter Carrier or a Mail Processing Clerk while in progressively agonizing pain will often compel a stoppage of work, precisely because the pain directly and intractably interferes both in the physical actions of ritualistic behavior, as well as in the dissociative mind to deal with the pain.  Office and computer work can sometimes delay the inevitable.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits for the Federal or Postal employee, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, is a decision to be made resulting from the cessation of the ritualistic void which occurs.  Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit accorded to all Federal and Postal Employees, and is filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. When the tripartite coalescence of work, health and capacity begins to crumble and disintegrate, it may be time to reassess the ritualistic void presented by a job which no longer offers significance and meaning, but further contributes to the daily deterioration of one’s health.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

 

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Body Breaking

The age-old paradigm of assuming that one’s career will take a singular path from birth to death is based upon a pre-industrial viewpoint fostered and solidified in the post-industrial age.  It is folly, however, to think that the human body can survive and withstand the repetitive stresses, both physical and cognitive, of the daily impact inflicted by the modern workplace.

Whether in physically-demanding jobs in the Postal Service; unrestricted stresses in Supervisory roles; of administrative functions in Postal and non-Postal Federal jobs requiring multi-tasking at levels unheard of; or of sustained, unsustainable endurance of data gathering, evaluation and analysis in front of a computer screen; there has been little-to-no time for evolutionary progress of the human body or psyche to adapt to the level of physical, mental and emotional demands and requirements coming from the modern workplace.

That is why Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit in the Federal Sector which is one of the few well thought-out compensatory packages:  a recognition that a particular kind of job may well no longer be able to be performed because of a specific medical condition which prevents the Federal or Postal employee from continuing on in that career; paying a certain annuity amount; then, encouraging the (now former) Federal or Postal employee to remain productive by paying “back into the system” by becoming employed in some other capacity in the private sector.  Such a paradigm is a progressive one, and it recognizes the need for flexibility while understanding the reality of the human condition within the context of the workplace.

Filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is a benefit which is available for Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS or CSRS, and should be considered seriously by the modern workforce as a recognition that prior paradigms of single careers and vocations never took into consideration the complexity of the human body or psyche, nor the flashpoint of the body breaking.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: A Real-life Hypothetical

Assume the following hypothetical:  A Federal or Postal employee who is 48 years old, with 25 years of Federal Service, engages in a type of work which is repetitive, day in and day out (yes, even this sentence is repetitive and redundant), full time, over the course of those 25 years.  

One day, while moving a piece of furniture at the direction of his spouse, he feels a sudden and sharp pain in his back.  He has to sit down and rest for a while.  The “for a while” turns into a visit to the emergency room, then to his family doctor.  The MRI shows a disc bulge at L5-S1, with multi-level disc degeneration, spinal stenosis, and other degenerative changes.  Despite multiple modalities of treatments, including epidural steroidal shots, physical therapy, variances of medication regimens, etc. (and you can even add a surgical intervention), the pain continues to worsen and deteriorate his medical condition.  The chronic pain prevents him from performing his job.  Whether sedentary or physical, the high distractability of the pain results in his poor performance.  

Can he/she file an OWCP claim?  Such a claim is submitted and rejected, because the issue of causality cannot be established.  An appeal is filed, and it is again denied.  The treating Neurologist and Orthopaedic Specialist are unwilling to establish a direct causal link.  But one argues:  Do those 25 years of repetitive work account for nothing?  Can it all have occurred because of the singular occurrence?  Does my medical condition reflect that of a person twice my age merely because of a single incident?  

It is precisely because causality is the crux of OWCP, that Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is an important benefit for all Federal and Postal employees. OWCP/FECA is a benefit which is great for the limited role it plays; Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit with wider applicability, and the chance for the Federal or Postal employee to enter into another phase of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Repetitive Stress Injury & Carpal Tunnel Syndrome

Stories abound, of course, concerning the worker who claims to suffer from Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, or from similar medical conditions which are often generically placed under the rubric of “repetitive stress injuries” — chronic conditions of pain, numbness, tingling, and radiating pain and numbness often emanating from extremities and impacting one’s ability to engage in fine dexterous movement and manipulations — often limiting movement and abilities upon computer work, file handling, but also into areas which require mechanical repair, electronic technician work, Airways Systems work, work which requires the fine manipulative use of fingers, hands, etc. 

They are real injuries and medical conditions, and should not be dismissed lightly.  Use and overuse over time, or sometimes resulting from a specific traumatic injury, can result in the devastating impact which prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  For Federal and Postal employees either under FERS or CSRS, Carpal Tunnel Symdrome (CTS) and Repetitive Stress Injuries are a viable basis to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  When CTS surgery (“release”), hand splints, and physical therapy have failed to alleviate the chronic nature of the medical condition, it may be time to consider filing with the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Psychiatric v. Physical Disabilities

People continually inquire as to the difference between Psychiatric v. Physical disabilities, as to whether one is more amenable to an approval over the other.  Psychiatric conditions can include a wide range of variables — from Bipolar Disorder, Schizophrenia, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Major Depression, Anxiety, panic attacks, Agoraphobia, ADD/ADHD, and multiple other diagnoses.  Physical medical conditions, also, include a wide spectrum of disorders — Cervical, Thoracic or Lumbar conditions; various cardiac conditions; Carpal Tunnel Syndrome; Fibromyalgia; Chronic Fatigue Syndrome; Shoulder Impingement Syndrome; Plantar Fasciitis; Migraine headaches; Lupus; Chemical Sensitivity issues; allergies; COPD; and multiple other conditions.  Is there a difference between these (and the listed conditions are by no means meant to be exhaustive, but merely illustrative of the wide range of medical conditions)?  The answer is, ultimately, No. 

The foundational essence of a Federal Disability Retirement case, whether involving Psychiatric disabilities or Physical disabilities, is the impact upon one’s ability to continue to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job.  Further, recent case law holds that OPM cannot make a distinction between “objective” medical evidence as opposed to “subjective” medical evidence, and so the old distinction between “psychological” medical conditions as distinguished from “physical” medical conditions can no longer be seriously upheld.  Ultimately, and fortunately, there is no difference between psychiatric disabilities and physical disabilities when trying to get approved for a Federal Disability Retirement case under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: OPM over OWCP

I still get many emails and phone calls about the onerous, “over-the-top” behavior, and the bullying tactics of OWCP/DOL temporary total disability payments & requirements — everything from constant, incessant and unending, harassing letters, to requiring further evaluations from second and third opinion doctors (or so-called doctors), to constantly requiring one’s treating doctor to justify the continuing disability status, thereby endangering the continuation of the doctor-patient relationship.  And who can criticize or blame the doctor for wanting to drop a patient for the amount of hours he/she has to put into, for “non-medical” issues, and for the time expended which the doctor will never be paid for? 

Yes, Worker’s Comp pays more.  Yes, it is non-taxable.  Yes, there are monetary reasons for staying on OWCP.  But the truth is, money doesn’t buy peace of mind or a life of lesser stress.  OWCP is meant to be a temporary means of providing income — it is not designed for the long term, and indeed, the Office of Worker’s Compensation makes that abundantly clear by their actions.  OPM Disability retirement under FERS or CSRS pays much less, but it allows for independence and a semblence of freedom, not even to mention a life of some dignity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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