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.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire