OPM Disability Retirement: Concealment through Repetition

It is often through mindless repetition that concealment of truth can be accomplished, and with insidious efficiency.  For, repetition of tasks; redundancy of toil; convenience of engagement in life’s duties and obligations without thoughtful input; these can all be performed in monotonous automation without the participation of the one true essence of human uniqueness and identity:  the creativity of thought.

Life sometimes deadens the soul; or, more accurately, it is we who, as the gatekeeper of sensory impressions which bombard us daily, allow for the toxicity of life to invade and destroy.  Of all moral failings, however, one of the greatest is to allow for the mundane to conceal the truth.  That is often what the human toil of work allows; for, when a medical condition, whether physical or psychiatric, creeps in subtle hiding but progressively deteriorates and eats away at the body or soul, the desperate need to hide behind the mindless repetition of work allows for a semblance of mundane continuation of daily routine, and to trick the mind into thinking that all is well.

It is tantamount to the Maginot Line which the French had erected, consisting of fortifications, armaments and weapons’ placement in anticipation of an outdated strategy of waging war:  it provided a semblance of security, and allowed people to mindlessly live life.

For the Federal and Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position, the refuge behind work; the responses to agency actions of retaliation; the prolonging and procrastinating of the one true essence of necessity — of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits in order to attend to one’s health — allows for the repetition of monotony to conceal the singularity of focus which is required to move forward.

Filing for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, is not the “be all or end all” of solutions; but it unravels a truism which prevents inertia of creativity, by allowing one to secure an annuity for the future, and to go back to the foundation of human essence: health, creativity, and the discarding of the repetition of the mundane.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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: 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 & Postal Disability Retirement: OPM's Words

It is a frightening thought that there may be a percentage of Federal or Postal Federal Disability Retirement applicants who read an initial denial from the Office of Personnel Management, and take their words at face value.  From statements such as, “Your doctor has failed to show that your condition is amenable to further treatments” (by the way, when did the Office of Personnel Management obtain a medical degree or complete a residency requirement?) to “you have not shown that you are totally disabled from performing efficient work” (hint:  this is not Social Security, and the standard is not “total disability”), to a full spectrum of error-filled statements in between, one may suspect that there may be a knowing strategy in rendering a denial, knowing that a small percentage of the corpus of disability retirement applicants will simply walk away and not file a Request for Reconsideration. 

Further, I suspect that this occurs more often with certain more “vulnerable” medical conditions — Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Major Depression, PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks; Chemical Sensitivity cases, etc.  Why do I suspect these?  Mostly because such cases are attacked for “lacking objective medical evidence” (see my articles on Vanieken-Ryals v. OPM, and similar writings) and failing to provide “diagnostic test results”, etc.  There was a time, long ago, when it used to mean something when someone said, “The Government says…”  In this day and age, I would advise that you take it to an attorney to review whether or not the words of the Office of Personnel Management are true or not.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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