People take vows for various reasons: vows of silence, as a satisfaction of a prerequisite for initiation into a religious order; vows of marriage, for the union intended for a lifetime of commitment and self-sacrifice; vows of revenge, for a personal vendetta in retribution for actions suffered against one’s self or on behalf of another; and similar vows of unremitting focus until the satisfaction of such enduring commitment is accomplished. Similarly, contracts are entered into each day, across the globe, between individuals, corporate entities and groups formed specifically for business and personal reasons.
Is there a difference between a “vow” and a “contract“? On a superficial level, the former is viewed as a “higher order” semblance of the latter. In a deeper sense, that is not only true, but all the more so — or, in erudite form, a fortiori. For, to vow is to give of one’s self in totality of being; it is a gift of one’s self, often without any expectation of a similar receiving.
In contract law, of course, it is precisely the comparative analysis of a “consideration” provided and received, which determines the viability and sustainability of the agreement itself. Far too often, Federal and Postal employees see their commitment to an agency or the U.S. Postal Service as a “vow” in employment, as opposed to a contract freely entered into, and just as freely abrogated when the need arises. This is seen when a Federal or Postal employee suffers from a medical condition and must consider the need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS.
The Federal or Postal employee treats the job as one of a “vow”, as if the significance of clinging on to the position is of greater importance than the detriment manifested to one’s health. Federal Disability Retirement benefits, offered to all Federal and Postal employees under FERS or CSRS, is merely a contractual annuity accorded based upon the status of the individual as a Federal or Postal employee, and further proven by a preponderance of the evidence. No vows have been exchanged — neither of the silent type, implicit, nor explicit, and certainly not of an unequivocal or unremitting nature.
Contractual terms are meant to be asserted; and one of the provisions of the “contract” for all Federal and Postal employees, is that when the Federal or Postal employee suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job, then eligibility for Federal Disability benefits may be invoked.
To accept a contractual provision is never to take advantage of anything, unfairly or otherwise; rather, it is merely a satisfaction of terms. To do otherwise, and to confuse X as Y, as in mistaking a contract for a vow, is merely to bathe in a puddle of muddle-headed thinking.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire