Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Minding the ‘happiness principle’

Is there such a thing?  Certainly, enough authors, gurus and faith-healers have claimed it, packaged it and sold it as a commodity to be prepared, marketed and purchased.  Somehow, we are all gullible enough to believe in it:  Just as sorcerers of old possessed powers beyond human comprehension, so we hold on to the hope that such secrets of soothsayers mixing the concoction in a cauldron of expectations may boil over with fumes and aromas we can smell into oblivion.

That secret incantation; those mysterious sequence of codes (yes, which is why the Da Vinci Code was so popular – until it was made into a movie and the audience realized the farcical nature when bad literature is transformed into an ever worse media script); or perhaps it is a deal of Faustian proportions – of one’s soul for the hidden principle, the fountain of youth, the corridor down timeless ecstasy; instead, of course, in this mass-marketing world of consumer gullibility, we cling to the anticipation – despite all historical evidence to the contrary – that there exists a fortune-teller’s abracadabra comprising a happiness principle.

Principles are the foundational guidance for understanding the causal connections of events that occur in the objective world; first principles, as Aristotle liked to point out, are important in their revelatory powers to comprehend the operational mechanisms of this world of Being.  If you don’t know first principles, or the paradigmatic principles that operate behind the scenes – much like the Wizard behind the curtain —  then you will always only know that it happens, not why it does so.

And so we go through life, walking and wandering the streets, seeing others smiling, laughing and seeming to enjoy life, while we stew in the solitude of our private misery, perhaps outwardly attempting to feign such emotional brightness while inwardly decaying with each day’s tumult of angst and anxiety.

In minding the existence of the ‘happiness principle’, we are everyday falling into the statistical trap of that famous quip attributed to the 19th century Showman, P.T. Barnum, that there’s “a sucker born every minute.”  Even if everyday empirical evidence refutes the existential reality of such a principle, we nevertheless hope against fading hope for such a white knight in shining armor – that armor of protective fallacies based upon a nonexistent principle wrapped in the cloaking of hopes unearned and never to be attained.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are down in the dumps because of a medical condition, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the reality that one’s career may be cut short and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits may be a necessity, must fight against the false hope that a Federal Disability Retirement annuity is the “be-all” and “end-all” of life’s miseries.

Medical conditions may continue to remain chronic; there will likely remain many challenges in the future; but the point of filing for Federal Disability Retirement is to allow for one to attain a plateau of hopefulness where one can make one’s health and well-being a priority, without necessarily minding the ‘happiness principle’ or believing in P.T. Barnum’s secret to success.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The Hangman’s Knot

The perfect knot is the most effective, and development of its features occurred over time through a science of art and an artistic employment of science.  The placement of the knot behind which ear; the number of coils before they became an impediment; and the avoidance, at all costs, of trespassing upon superstitious beliefs and potentially supernatural reverberations — these were all taken into account in perfecting the science of the art.

Its corollary, the art of the science, disregarded the efficacy of the knot; it was only the former which concerned itself with an objective evaluation of the results after each occurrence.  Like parachuters who pack and fold their own devices with a systematic routine of sprinkled superstitions, the hangman would often approach his craft with a religiosity and fervency of monotony such that any detour from the iconoclasm of repetition could delay or abandon the anointed time of impending doom.

In modernity, of course, any discussion concerning the hangman’s noose turned into a historicity of adages and proverbial wisdom; we construct our own knots, like the beds we make in which we must sleep, and the messes we create which we direct our children to clean up.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal positional duties, the issue of when to file, how to file, the whys and whereabouts must always be taken into account; and like the hangman’s noose which is coiled slowly and deliberately, the Federal or Postal worker who prepares for the inevitably end must take care in the preparation and application for submission and filing.

It is, in the end, only the superficial features of the world which change; the essence of everything substantive remains constant, and that is precisely the point of Plato, Aristotle and the entire linear heritage of Western Philosophy — that the underlying meaningfulness of the world around us is that which is captured in truth.  And, like the hangman’s knot, what we do in preparing for the event of a lifetime is just as important as the incident itself, and that is why preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is essential to securing a future of stability and security, where the process is just as crucial as the substance underlying.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

SF 3112D

OPM Standard Form 3112D: Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts:

What does it mean to accommodate, and what, pray tell, constitutes an “effort” to do so?   Is the agency’s obligation to pursue avenues of reassignment or accommodation satisfied by the mere completion of SF 3112D and, if not, does the agency merely pay lip-service in its obligation, or are continuing efforts required to be actively undertaken?

If the Federal employee or Postal worker advances throughout the bureaucratic morass and finally gets an approval for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, what happens if, in the meantime, such agency efforts to continue to search for a suitable reassignment position, or a capacity to actually accommodate the medical condition, is attained?

Does a successful positional reassignment negate the Federal Disability Retirement application if such an offer of reassignment is refused by the Federal employee or Postal worker prior to an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application?

If a Federal or Postal employee is given a temporary duty assignment, and the length of such an assignment or occupation of such a position is for an unlimited amount of time, does that impact a Federal Disability Retirement application as it sits pending a review by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management? What constitutes a legally viable accommodation? What is considered a valid reassignment?

Has the case-law, whether through the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board or through the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals changed, altered, amended or expanded upon the concept of an accommodation or one’s right to a reassignment at the same pay or grade?

Is the issue of reassignment or accommodation as simple as SF 3112D makes it appear, or are there hidden regulatory, statutory and legal ramifications which must be carefully considered and side-stepped in having SF 3112D completed? Does the Federal employee or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits have any input when the agency completes the OPM SF 3112D PDF Form?

These, and many more questions, need to be considered when a Federal or Postal employee, whether under FERS or CSRS, begins to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Further Reflections on Accommodations

Because the term “accommodations” is rarely understood in its technical and legal sense, there is often the danger of a Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS to “shoot one’s self in the foot” in the very use of the term — or in checking certain boxes on the application form (specifically, SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability), and further, there is the added danger that the Agency, in completing a Supervisor’s Statement or the SF 3112D, will mis-apply and mis-state the import, significance or relevance of any actions taken in attempting to assist the Federal or Postal employee.

Indeed, in a Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) there are many instances in which the Supervisor completing the form will contradict him/herself when it comes to the issue of accommodations.  Moreover, the applicant him/herself will often mis-state the issue of accommodations on SF 3112A.

The term “accommodations” has a very narrow definition, and must be used and applied to the advantage of the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Additionally, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that the Office of Personnel Management also (whether deliberately or by chance) uses the very misuse (by the Applicant) of the term to its advantage.  In all cases, the term “accommodations” must be used and referred to carefully, technically, and with full insight of all of its consequences in the use or misuse of the word.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Choices Left

Options presented imply the availability of alternative picks; but such choices are real ones only if they don’t magically disappear when asserting one over another.

By analogy, Agencies in a Federal Disability Retirement case may claim that all sorts of accommodations have been attempted and provided; but if an ergonomic chair has been given to an administrative worker who suffers from psychiatric conditions which impact one’s focus, concentration, and cognitive capacities, the irreconcilable lack of correspondence between the attempted aid and the medical condition suffered, amounts to an ineffective attempt at accommodations at best, and at worst, a cruel joke.

But as Agencies enjoy patting themselves on the proverbial back, so statistically they can claim that 99.9% of their employees have been accommodated; it just so happens that either the Federal or Postal employees failed to take advantage of such empathetic attempts by the agency, or were not able to appreciate the full extent of such angelic endeavors.

Many medical conditions, of course, are unresponsive to any such attempts of accommodations, precisely because of the very nature, extent and severity of the conditions themselves.  This leaves one with the only choice left:  to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

That is why the benefit was enacted; as such, there should be no reason why agencies should attempt to subvert or otherwise place obstacles in the quest for a goal which was intended to accommodate such non-accommodatable circumstances.  But then, the test of sincerity is not mere words, which can come cheaply, but through actions, which can result in a stark reality-check.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: Part-time Work

Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, face a formidable task both in terms of legal hurdles and administrative, bureaucratic glitches — not the least of which is in facing the daily battle with the medical condition itself.

Aside from requesting an accommodation from the agency, then being granted some cosmetic work refinements which probably do not constitute a legally viable (or even practically defensible) responsiveness; or of being offered an alternative part-time position which, if taken, will have dire calculation consequences in determining the average of one’s highest-3 consecutive years of service for annuity computation purposes; or more to the point — remaining in the full-time position but working only part-time and taking LWOP the remainder of the time, such decisions can be pragmatic ones which may be arrived at by the Federal Disability Retirement applicant as merely a choice which cannot be avoided, but one which should be embraced with full knowledge of the consequences.

For example, the problem with working one day a week is that such work constitutes only 20% of pay for the Federal or Postal employee who has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Yet, at the time of an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, OPM will pay back-pay for the first year of annuity, at 60%.  But if one has been working part-time during the entire process, no back-pay will be forthcoming precisely because such back-pay is paid only to the “last day of pay” — which would have been the previous week for that part-timer.

Further, the difference between what was part-time work-paid (20%) and what Federal Disability Retirement back-pay will give (60% for the first year) is one of 40% lost forever.

In practical terms, it may well be that working part-time throughout the Federal Disability Retirement process and the long bureaucratic wait was a necessity which could not be avoided; but it is nevertheless something which should be done with full disclosure and knowledge, so that there are no surprises in the end.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Reality of Accommodations

Medical conditions test the value of a worker; for, while people may engage in theoretical discussions of “cost-benefits analysis“, where the cost of X is compared and contrasted to the benefit of Y, such that the hypothetical analysis results in a business decision based upon pure economic need — the reality of such an approach rarely gets a true test beyond such dinner table discussions.  But when a Federal or Postal Worker begins to suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition visibly impacts one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, then the economic paradigm of a cost-benefits analysis is applied, whether overtly or in a more subtle, inconspicuous manner.

The agency may recognize the need to allow for temporary suspension of certain positional duties — travel may be taken up by some other employee; heavy lifting may need an additional helper; telecommuting may be a viable option.  The cost of such temporary measures is felt in the work left undone; the benefit is accrued by the experience, wisdom, and knowledge of the disabled retained worker.  In rarer occasions, a formal request for an accommodation may be submitted by the Federal or Postal Worker, and an administrative process of attempting to provide a legally viable accommodation may ensue; but that is a rare process, indeed.

The reality of accommodations in the Federal sector is one of practical need versus the trouble such attempts bring; for the Federal or Postal Worker, whether under FERS or CSRS, the true option left is to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Such an option results from an agency being tested — and loyalties revealed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire