He was a person who “gave his all” each day as he quietly and competently performed his duties. The accolades came slowly, but consistently, and with laudatory praises over the years; with cash incentives and awards, and performance ratings where negative criticisms were dotted as mere formalities because the belief that perfection is impossible to achieve is mandated more by modesty than by reality of circumstances. Never one to talk too much about one’s personal life, the photographs of his wife and children declared the stability of his personal bubble, and reflected who he was and where he was going.
But then, one day — unmarked on a calendar and undeclared, but for a doctor’s appointment which cut short his presence — things began to change. Within a month, he had taken more leave than in the aggregate of his previous decade of work; another month, and work left undone became not mere concern, but grumblings about responsibilities and delegated obligations and the shortcomings of those who ignored them.
There are biographies aplenty; not of dogs or seagulls or wolves in the wild, but for an anthropomorphic conduit of unnamed authors; for, animals, though intelligent and adorable as pets and companions, do not have a historical narrative of unique behavior beyond the genetic determination of their species. But T. Chemelwoot is a unique individual.
In the end, he filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. His agency did not have a farewell party; the process was not an easy one, but had to be fought for because the history of his accomplishments were a puzzle in contrast to the debilitating intervention of a medical condition, where the medical condition began to prevent him from performing one or more of the essential elements of his job.
He was under FERS; he had known others who were under CSRS or CSRS Offset, but they had been there long before he had arrived; and in the end, though he felt guilty about leaving his coworkers and the work environment he had been a part of for so many years, the decision to file for Federal Disability benefits through OPM was necessitated not by the information provided by his agency, but because he recognized that life is more than work, more than a word of encouragement by his boss who had just returned from a seminar entitled, “How to motivate the worker”; no, it had to do with relationships and the longevity of maintaining a well-being of living.
Later, Mr. Chemelwoot worked in the private sector, and made up to 80% of what his former Federal position currently pays, and continued to receive his disability retirement annuity, and kept his health insurance and FEGLI. And one may ask, Who is Mr. T. Chemelwoot? He is, as you may have already guessed, everyman, or more appropriately, the narrative of a unique individual, as is every person who occupies the foothold of a narrative beyond the wilderness of a society cold and uncaring, but for a Federal benefit which provides for the changing circumstances imposed by an unwanted medical condition.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire