OPM Disability Retirement: Pre-Conditional Preparatory Steps

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether a Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, there are steps to be taken — not only at each “stage” of the administrative process, but moreover, in the weeks and months prior to the actual formulation, compilation and submission of the Standard Forms, documentary support, writing of the Applicant’s Statement, etc.

As a “process”, one may bifurcate the necessary steps into the following:  the pre-conditional stage; the preparatory stage; the time of formulation & actualization; finally, the submission of the disability retirement packet.

In the “pre-conditional” time period, one should focus upon the single most important aspect of a Federal Disability Retirement case — that of garnering, concretizing and establishing the necessary physician-patient relationship, such that there is a clear understanding of what is required of the physician; what the physician expects of the patient; and, wherever and whenever possible, a continuing mutual respect and understanding between the doctor and the patient-applicant.

This is why the Merit Systems Protection Board has explicitly, through case after case, opined upon the preference for “treating” doctors of longstanding tenure.  For, in such a relationship of long-term doctor-patient relationships, a greater ability to assess and evaluate the capabilities and limitations of the patient’s physical, emotional and psychological capacities can best be achieved.

In every “rule”, of course, there are exceptions, and sometimes more “distant” methods of evaluations can be obtained — through OWCP doctors, referee opinions, independent examinations (indeed, one can make the argument that because it is “independent”, therefore it carries greater weight), functional capacity evaluations, etc.

For the most part, however, the cultivation of an excellent physician-patient relationship will be the key to a successful Federal Disability Retirement claim, and as such, the pre-conditional stage to the entire process should be focused upon establishing that solid foundation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Reality, Fantasy, and the Medical Condition

One often reads about sociological studies which purport to show a corresponding significance between the genres of movies made, and the particular time period, economic circumstances, and general societal mood, anxieties and concerns. Thus, in times of economic hardships, there may be an exponential explosion of fantasy-based movies produced, reflecting a need to escape the harsh realities of day-to-day living; or in times of war, movies about fidelity, valor, value-empowering men and women, perhaps revealing the self-questioning of whether one’s country is engaging in a moral choice in waging war, etc. Pseudo-Freudians enjoy the interpretive challenges of such a thesis, and successful academic careers are often based upon such intellectual studies.

Beyond movies, however, each individual walks around daily within a self-contained fantasy world; whether in daydreaming a specific set of thoughts; or of a self-created image which one carries with you in the depth of one’s psyche; such worlds of escape are often healthy mechanisms for surviving the harsh realities of daily drudgery. The bifurcation between reality and fantasy, so long as they are contained within appropriate spheres of thought-processes and are not mistaken in daily application, are harmless and allow for mysterious smiles from total strangers. But some in society are unable to have the luxury of daydreaming, or of phantasms of momentary escape; for, when an individual suffers from chronic pain, or medical conditions which daily aggravate and impede either cognitive abilities or physical movement, then the capacity to possess a private chamber of escape becomes an impossibility itself.

For the Federal or Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, the consideration of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, should be entertained. Daily struggles aside, the inability to enjoy the fantasy of one’s imagination merely magnifies the hardship. Beyond that, if you can’t even go to a movie because your medical condition impacts you so severely as to prevent you from sitting through a couple of hours of escaping, then it is time to begin preparing, formulating, and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: “And the Holidays Are For…”

And the holidays are for (in sequential order):  Celebration of an event; time away from one’s daily routine in order to revitalize one’s health, both mental and physical; enjoyment in the company of one’s family, friends, neighbors, etc.; time to pursue other interests and diversionary delights; and secondary reasons which are just as valid as the primary ones, with the order of priority interchangeably reflecting the time, age and life-phase of each individual.

The one factor which almost always invalidates the previous statement, however, is a medical condition which is chronic, severe, progressively debilitating, and one which prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, that is one of the focal points of consideration for the Federal or Postal Employee — for, if a “day off” is merely another day to recuperate from the toil and degenerative crumbling of one’s health, where daily work is a struggle just to appear, and home is not where the warm hearth occupies the quietude of one’s life, but rather a place merely to pause in a linear continuum of a treadmill, where dread and anxiety are not conceptual constructs but daily realities; then, a “holiday” will not do.

It is time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM.  The old adage that life is too short to toil in a constancy of dread and despair is not just a pithy saying by French existentialists; it is a truism which must be confronted and constructively applied in one’s daily life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Law

The Law is a peculiar concept:  at once, it comprises the aggregation of individual lawyers, judges, clerks; it represents the legislative branch of local, state and Federal governments; it encompasses the buildings where the concept itself is applied, argued and rendered; it is governed by the multiple statutes, regulations, court opinions, etc.

Wittgenstein’s philosophical works on language games is interesting when one views the “law” from such a perspective:  the legal systems has no corresponding anchor in the “reality” of our lives, except in the very self-contained world of our language.  We speak about “the law”, live with its consequences, discuss “rights”, “legal precedence”, “court opinions”, without ever pointing to an object in the universe (except of our own creation, such as documents, buildings, people who are involved in the law, etc.) as a corresponding feature of relevance.  But certain areas of the law have “real-world” consequences.

Indeed, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the connective relevance between the law, the individual, and the medical condition contains a corresponding reality, impact and significance.  The individual who files for such a benefit, the “I” who is the Federal or Postal employee, experiences the very real medical condition; the engagement in the world, as a Federal or Postal employee, is an encounter which occurs in the reality of the day-to-day world.

For some, the “law” is not merely a conceptual construct; it is a basis for which to plan for one’s future, and maneuvering through the morass of this confusing world of reality, virtual reality, complexity of language games, and the burdensome and onerous weight of the legal maze identified as Federal Disability Retirement, requires a reality-check on a daily basis.

Reality as defined by a person who suffers a medical condition, is often more “real” than those who have never encountered the experiential suffering of such constancy of reminders, that to be alive is not merely saying the words; it is a daily struggle through the acute sensing of one’s own frailty.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Common Mistakes

There is of course the old adage (and old “sayings” are neatly formulated, refined over time, and revised and updated for applicability and relevance to the significance of the current times), stated in its variety of forms, that those who fail to study history, are condemned to repeat it.  But what if the historical repetition of such foolhardiness results because of the disparate nature of history, scattered among thousands, and never based upon a common essence from which all can draw?

A corollary of the previous words of wisdom is the following (made up by this author):  Historical mistakes repeat themselves because everyone believes that he or she is smarter than the ones before.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, common mistakes abound, and repetitively reveal themselves throughout the process.  Writing to preempt what one thinks a Supervisor will state or not state; listing every medical condition without prioritizing the impact upon one’s inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job; writing long, meandering narratives; including “red flag” concepts such as “hostile work environment“; simply giving to the doctor the 3112C with the return address of one’s Human Resources Department at one’s agency; and multiple other such follies.  Yet, such mistakes are not only common; they are to be expected.

The administrative process of Federal Disability Retirement is constructed to appear “simple”.  The questions asked on the standard forms appear straightforward, if not cleverly uncomplicated in their very formulation.  Yet, the laws which govern the benefit identified as “Federal Disability Retirement” is amassed in a compendium of statutes, regulations and case-law, all of which have evolved in interpretive significance over many years.

History does repeat itself; for Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating or have initiated the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, the age-old adage concerning history not only confirms the truth of such a saying, but reinforces it daily.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Chekhov’s Short Story, “Old Age”

Anton Chekhov is perhaps the singular master of the genre known as the “short story”, and it is owing to his background as a physician that he possessed the insight and sensitivity to be able to capture the plight of the human condition, with all of its suffering, loss of hope, and emotional turmoil, through cruelty, disregard, unforeseen circumstances, and unintended pathways to disaster.

In his short story, “Old Age,” there is the point where one of the two old men shook off a moment of feeling, setting apart and brushing aside a poignant and appropriate time when the shedding of tears would have allowed for the humanity of the old man to show, to reveal itself, and to expiate himself of the pain of the past.  Instead, because of pride, or perhaps shame, because he stood before the other old man, he hid the emotion and went about his business.  Later, when he comes back to the same spot, the old man tries to recapture the moment, to replicate and reconstruct that lost emotion.  It could not be done.  It is a lesson for all, that there is an appropriate time, place, and moment for everything.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is the “appropriate time” to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Each Federal or Postal employee knows that time.

Indeed, each “feels” the time, but will often just shake off that nagging sense.  One always hears of the hope for a miracle — “perhaps I will get better”; “perhaps it will be better tomorrow”; perhaps…   But when the time comes, to procrastinate is merely to compound the problems of the day, only to revisit the same issue later, but encountering an exponentially magnified issue:  time is running out; that moment of doing it with optimal circumstances has passed; and now we must deal with the greater problems of the present.

Chekhov is relevant because, while human beings — whether in Russia or here, whether years past or today — change in names and appearances, the essence of humanity remains constant.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Sounds Good

There are various stages of the administrative process designated and defined as “Federal Disability Retirement” — the initial application stage of the process, where one must attempt to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; if disapproved and denied, then the Reconsideration Stage of the process (where one may submit additional medical and other documentary evidence to persuade the Office of Personnel Management to reverse themselves); an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, where the Federal or Postal applicant’s Disability Retirement application is taken out of the hands of OPM and transferred to an Administrative Judge, who will hear the case anew, without regard to what OPM has decided in the past; a further appeal to the Full Board of the MSPB in the event that the Administrative Judge issues an Initial Decision which affirms and upholds OPM’s denial of the case; and a further appeal to the Federal Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Throughout this process, and especially in the administrative stages before the Office of Personnel Management, one should make a distinction between “sounding good” and “being right”.  Hopefully, the Federal or Postal employee who has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is both right and sounding good. But there is a distinction to be made.  For example, OPM will often — in their denial letter — “sound good” but be completely wrong on the law.  They will cite medical textbooks which skew the legal standard of review; creep into the discussion of a denial letter such terms as “no significant disability rating to speak of,” or that you don’t suffer from a disability which “incapacitates” you.  It all “sounds good”, but it is not true precisely because it is not the applicable standard of law to be applied.

At the initial stages of the process, OPM can get away with such nonsense, because most people don’t recognize the untrue and inapplicable standard of law being applied.  In the later stages of the process, however, when an Administrative Judge hears a case, it becomes important not only to “sound good”, but to also apply the right legal criteria.

Appearance versus reality — it is the argument of Western Civilization from the pre-Socratics onward.  As Alfred North Whitehead once observed, all of philosophy was already written by Plato and footnoted by Aristotle.  That statement both sounds good, and is indeed right on point.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Myth of Sisyphus

Albert Camus’ classic essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus“, involving the Greek mythological figure who was condemned by the gods to perform a meaningless task in repetitive perpetuity, is appropriate as a metaphor for the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Camus’ point was to reveal the absurdity of the human condition, and yet to find meaning in the penultimate meaninglessness of that very human condition — to reverse the philosophical template where essence precedes existence, and to instead grapple with meaning, value, significance and substance in the midst of human toil and turmoil.

For the Federal or Postal Employee, the heroics of continuing to work in the face of a progressively deteriorating medical condition, can seem like the task of Sisyphus:  the meaning and value of such toil is questioned; the chronic pain or uncontrollable psychiatric symptoms begin to loom larger in proportion to the lack of sensitivity by coworkers, supervisors, and even family members and friends.  Yet, like Sisyphus, it is important to continue the day-in and day-out work, if only to survive for the next day.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit available for the Federal or Postal worker who finds that he or she is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  It is, in many ways, an avenue to break away from the repetitive toil — a pathway which Sisyphus himself did not have.  It allows for the recuperative timeframe, and to perhaps move on to another career or vocation, away from the work which either contributed to the deteriorating medical condition, or one which could no longer be pursued because of the medical condition.  Either way, pushing the boulder up the hill and watching it roll down the hill, only to push it back up the next hill, is a manner of living which constitutes mere existence, as opposed to embracing the potentiality of the human condition.

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is an option which any Federal or Postal worker who has a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, should be seriously considered.  It is a benefit which was not available to Sisyphus; it is available to all Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS or CSRS, as long as you have the minimum 18 months (for FERS employees) of Federal Service (it is assumed that if you are under CSRS, you already have a minimum of 5 years of Federal Service).  Sisyphus, of course, is presumably still rolling that boulder up the hill (or watching it descend), as we speak.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Pain, Anxiety & Exacerbation

Medical conditions tend to “feed upon” one another.  Maintaining a balanced perspective on anything is difficult when one is in pain, and the nagging, incessant presence of pain, diffuse and radiating, extending to areas and points of the body where one can no longer specify a particular area because of the widespread extension, makes it impossible to have the requisite focus and concentration necessary to perform one’s job.  Further, the profound fatigue which results from the daily fight against the pain, where one’s energy and reserve of patience for daily social and professional encounters is expended and exhausted such that one must choose between being civil or countering the pain, is something which many cannot understand.

At some point, consideration must be given to preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Whether now, or a few weeks from a stated point, becomes an irrelevancy when one suffers from chronic pain, for the Federal or Postal employee who has endured such medical conditions already knows — whether the doctor concedes it or not — that one cannot continue in this manner.

The physical pain, of course, only serves to exacerbate and feed upon the anxiety — anxiety which projects future events, financial security (or insecurity), and whether and for how long one’s agency or the U.S. Postal Service will look the other way as performance deteriorates and the pervasive whispering campaign by coworkers and supervisors begins.  Pain of a chronic nature only invites anxiety; and when the two combine, they serve to exacerbate to an extent where an exponential result is attained, neither explained by the pain alone nor the presence of anxiety, but where the sum of the total exceeds any ability to maintain the balanced perspective needed to continue to perform the essential elements of one’s job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Hope versus Pragmatic Assessment

Hope is a peculiarly human characteristic; it is both a motivator and an incentive; yet, an unrealistic embracing of it, without reality-based assessments, can lead to a frail sense of overwhelming despondency.  Hope is the substantive element of the con-artist; for, the fraudulent plan to defraud another is based upon fostering the believer that — though it may sound too good to be true — the hope that human nature is good, and the results of such a scheme would reward one with lasting riches, is the thread which tugs at the unsuspecting and naive.  Gambling, the Lottery — despite the exponential odds against winning, are a testament to the human foible identified as “hope”.  Do animals possess it?  Perhaps in some unstated, inherent way — that the potential food source will not be as formidable as it may appear.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is often the sense of “hope” which leads to procrastination, a delay to the detriment of the Federal or Postal Worker.  Whether the hope that the workplace environment will change; that perhaps, one day soon, a new supervisor will come along; that the medical condition will improve despite the doctor’s reticence and reluctance to make eye contact when the question is asked; whether the surgery just prior to, or the multiple history of surgeries, did nothing to feed any realistic assessment of hope; whatever the reasons, yes, “hope” is a uniquely human characteristic, and indeed, that which brings us closer to the angels than the apes below.

But in considering Federal Disability Retirement, hope must be combined with other human characteristics — of pragmatism, logic, analytical assessment, and the ability to plan for the future.  Hope, in and of itself, while feeding the soul, fails to feed the body; and as human beings are not quite angels, the practical needs of life must be attended to.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire