OPM Disability Retirement: When Once Sleep is No Longer Restorative

Sleep is more than the cessation of activities; it is a state of slumber and dormancy, when one can effectively escape from the daily stimuli of variegated bombardments; as an escape, it allows for the mind to suspend the frantic functioning of communicating and conveying the billions of information bits which must be perceived, processed, bundled, interpreted, and delivered to the destination needed for instantaneous response and decision-making.

Such a complex, subconscious and underlying process may be comprised of a simple act as mundane as scratching an itch located in one’s lower extremity; or it may be to respond to an emergency of epic proportions involving countless lives.  But for each response and particularized stimuli, the multitude of processing venues which the mind must filter requires a time of restorative relief, known variously as that state of “sleeping”.

Thus, for the Federal and Postal employee — whether in law enforcement in tracking down criminals and drug cartels; or for Federal prosecutors who must weave a complex web of details to put together a case; or for the window clerk at the Postal Service who must respond to multiple queries from customers on an hourly basis; all are subjected to varying degrees of information processing by the brain, which requires complex connections occurring beneath the skin, within the protective skull of our brains, and sent to destinations throughout our bodies.

At the end of the day, sleep becomes a necessity, for purposes of restorative value, to rejuvenate mind, body, and the classic “ghost in the machine” — the human soul.  But when sleep is no longer restorative; when the chronic pain interrupts the required time of suspended dormancy; or when the anxieties of the human psyche overwhelm us with uncontrollable ruminations of fears both real and created — then sleep itself becomes an enemy of our own making.  Without that period of restorative suspended dormancy, the very lack of sleep exacerbates those other medical conditions which dominate our daily lives.

Federal Disability Retirement, whether under FERS or CSRS, through the Office of Personnel Management, allows for the Federal or Postal employee to escape that vicious cycle of medical condition/lack of sleep/progressive deterioration/work/back to the constancy of the debilitating medical condition.  Perhaps it is time to rethink the paradigm.

Federal Disability Retirement is a step forward for Federal and Postal employees, in order to reach that point of restorative sleep needed, for the health of the human psyche.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Gov. and USPS Disability Retirement: Pain as a Reminder

Pain is a reminder that the physiological state of one’s body is in need of rest or repair; it is tantamount to an error message on the computer, with the analogy of our brain being the software component.  Chronic pain thus constitutes a system shutdown; continued non-response and delay will either result in systematic error messages or progressive deterioration where the entire system will begin to be impacted with reverberating consequences.

It is well that the largest organ of our body is our skin; for, as a concealing covering, it contains the inner workings — and malfunctions — of our other organs and systems.  But within the constellation of the composite of organs and systems functioning in coordinated fashion to keep us alive, the “software system” allows for error messages to be relayed to important information centers, of warnings meant to be heeded.

Pain is such an error message; chronic pain is the heightened alert system to keep us informed.

For the Federal or Postal worker who experiences such continuous and persistent relays of error messages, the failure to heed merely delays the necessity of responding to the system shutdown.  Federal Disability Retirement is meant to be a compensatory system whereby a restorative period of recuperation is allowed for, with the possibility of engaging in employment in a different capacity without losing one’s base annuity.  It is a long and involved administrative process.  Such preparations must be submitted through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS or CSRS; further, if you are a separated Federal or Postal employee, you have only up until one (1) year to file from the date of separation.

Allowing the error message to be sent repetitively and ignored out of hand may constitute malpractice on the part of the recipient — the Federal or Postal Worker who does nothing but continue to be dedicated to one’s job, while ignoring the basic rule of life:  self preservation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Pain Problem

The problem with pain is that, quite simply put, there is only one person who “owns” it — the pain-feeler.  One can describe it, ascribe adjectives which somewhat make it come alive for the listener; and even attempt metaphors and analogies that expand upon the limited universe of words as opposed to the physical sensation which creates havoc and turmoil in a person’s life.

There are numerical designations (“she consistently feels pain on the scale of 7/10 daily”) and words like “chronic”, “intractable”, and “severe” capture a sense of what a person undergoes; but in the end, these are merely word-games in comparison to the agonizing physical trauma which the person experiencing the pain must endure.

In preparing a paper presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the form of a Federal Disability Retirement packet, whether under FERS or CSRS, chronic pain and the extent of how such pain prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, is often problematic for the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating such a venture.

It presents a challenge for two primary reasons:  First, because of the difficulty in translating a physical sensation into a clear and effective conceptual modality; and Second, because the audience to whom such a descriptive analysis is conveyed is quite likely attuned to, and therefore somewhat indifferent to, thousands of such descriptions, and thus may have a somewhat calloused view of such statements.

Overcoming the roadblocks and gaining the attention of an OPM case worker requires more than the mere meeting of the law; it demands overcoming the problem of pain — both medically, and administratively.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Gatekeeper of Stress

The gatekeeper’s duties encompass the power to determine who enters and exits, and to monitor guests, invitees and generally to control the inflow and outflow of traffic to and from the designated property.

Stress originates from one’s external environment.  It can be physical — as in manual labor which, often because of repetitive use and impact, can result in injuries or occupational hazards; as well as mental and emotional, resulting in secondary or tertiary medical conditions as a natural and direct result thereof.  One often thinks of the gatekeeper as merely he who guards the physical security of a piece of property.  But stress also requires a gatekeeper — especially for the psychological impact which it portends.

In contemplating the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal and Postal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to understand the inherently problematic nature of attempting to feature “stress” as a medical condition itself.  While it may spawn other conditions, because stress is a part of almost every workplace environment, it rarely serves to be a successful “condition” standing alone.  In conjunction with medical conditions often associated with it, however, it can be effectively and persuasively be identified and delineated.

All of us are ultimately gatekeepers for the things which impact our lives.  Each of us have innate spectrums for tolerating varying levels of environmental factors, including workplace stress.  When the gatekeeper allows too many security violations to occur, it may well be a basis for “removal” from the environment.  And while stress itself may not be the single best basis for exiting the environment, there will surely be other medical conditions which result from the stresses, which will justify preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

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: A Real-life Hypothetical

Assume the following hypothetical:  A Federal or Postal employee who is 48 years old, with 25 years of Federal Service, engages in a type of work which is repetitive, day in and day out (yes, even this sentence is repetitive and redundant), full time, over the course of those 25 years.  

One day, while moving a piece of furniture at the direction of his spouse, he feels a sudden and sharp pain in his back.  He has to sit down and rest for a while.  The “for a while” turns into a visit to the emergency room, then to his family doctor.  The MRI shows a disc bulge at L5-S1, with multi-level disc degeneration, spinal stenosis, and other degenerative changes.  Despite multiple modalities of treatments, including epidural steroidal shots, physical therapy, variances of medication regimens, etc. (and you can even add a surgical intervention), the pain continues to worsen and deteriorate his medical condition.  The chronic pain prevents him from performing his job.  Whether sedentary or physical, the high distractability of the pain results in his poor performance.  

Can he/she file an OWCP claim?  Such a claim is submitted and rejected, because the issue of causality cannot be established.  An appeal is filed, and it is again denied.  The treating Neurologist and Orthopaedic Specialist are unwilling to establish a direct causal link.  But one argues:  Do those 25 years of repetitive work account for nothing?  Can it all have occurred because of the singular occurrence?  Does my medical condition reflect that of a person twice my age merely because of a single incident?  

It is precisely because causality is the crux of OWCP, that Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is an important benefit for all Federal and Postal employees. OWCP/FECA is a benefit which is great for the limited role it plays; Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit with wider applicability, and the chance for the Federal or Postal employee to enter into another phase of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Chronic Fatigue Syndrome & Related Conditions

The Weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal published an informative article entitled, “The Puzzle of Chronic Fatigue“.  For Federal and Postal employees who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, who suffer from the condition identified generally as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, the article provides an informative analysis of the medical condition, as well as a greater understanding of the underlying causes — and a possible link to a retrovirus identified as XMRV.  

It is an article worth reading, if only to have a better understanding.  Perhaps it can be pointed out to the treating doctor.  Perhaps some of the article’s substantive content can be used as persuasive argumentation against some of the common counter-arguments given by the Office of Personnel Management in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  

In any event, being informed about updates on medical issues is always an important step in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, if only for the purpose of expanding one’s ability to access greater understanding of a particular kind of medical condition.  For, ultimately, the attorney who represents an individual who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS must be able to accurately describe the impact of the medical condition upon one’s employment; and, to do so, one must always be up-to-date on the most recent medical discoveries.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Stress & Exacerbated Medical Conditions

Often, the generic designation of “stress” is the underlying medical condition; other medical conditions can exist, and perhaps are exacerbated by the underlying condition of “stress” — or, at least that is the suspicion, both by the Federal or Postal worker who is suffering from such conditions, and (hopefully) understood by the treating medical doctor

While failing to have direct causal linkage, the situation often arises where the chronic medical condition may have periods of remission, followed by severe episodes of unrelenting exacerbations.  The problem with such medical conditions in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, is that the medical condition must prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, and such a condition must last for a period of 12 months or more. 

Medical conditions which “wax and wane” (OPM’s favorite description of Fibromyalgia) and are “not severe enough to preclude an individual from the workplace altogether” (another of OPM’s favorite descriptive rationalizations for denying a Federal Disability Retirement application — which is legally inconsequential and a mis-statement of the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement) — present a special challenge in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application.  However, even a challenge such as “stress” and a secondary medical condition which is exacerbated for episodic periods, is one which can be overcome, and successfully overcome. 

The fact is that the focus is often misplaced.  Instead of asking the doctor to focus upon each individual medical condition, it is the wiser route to have the doctor discuss all medical conditions in their totality, and show that the complex interaction of the primary and secondary medical conditions together prevent the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is classically characterized by extreme and unpredictable mood swings between depression and manic episodes, and such alternating swings of highs and lows impact upon one’s judgment, perception, orientation, and ability to maintain a rational perspective.  This psychiatric medical condition, with its symptoms of lethargy, racing thoughts, delusional thought processes leading to long periods of excitability, alternating with unrelenting and intractable depressive moods, impacts many different kinds of duties and daily living activities.  It can impact physically-intensive job duties, and not just cognitive-intensive core elements of one’s job. 

For Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand the psychiatric medical condition; whether a medication regimen returns one to a sufficient level of functional sufficiency such that one can continue to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job; and, if not, then how best to prepare, formulate, construct and complete a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.  What is often known as OPM Disability Retirement is a benefit which must be fought for, in order to secure one’s future ability to receive an income — perhaps to reach that level of functionality that one may return to the labor force despite the medical condition.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Plantar Fasciitis, Rotator Cuff, Extremity Injuries, etc.

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is often the case that Federal and Postal workers (and the general population) tend to “pigeonhole” medical conditions, injuries and disabilities.  Certain medical conditions are considered “causally related” to certain types of jobs, and this type of relational categorization is often true in Worker’s Compensation claims, or other benefits sought in other areas of law. 

Thus, Plantar Fasciitis is often closely associated with Postal Workers who must remain on their feet throughout the day; Rotator Cuff injuries are often associated with the repetitive physical use of upper extremities; Shoulder Impingement Syndrome, Cervical, Lumbar & Thoracic pain, degenerative disc disease, etc., are all categorized and pigeonholed into physical types of jobs.  Yet, chronic pain of one’s extremities, joints, musculature, etc. can often severely impact more sedentary types of jobs, precisely because of the high distractability of such chronicity of pain.  Additionally, one often overlooks the excessive amount of repetitive “micro-movements” one engages in while on a computer — of the thousands of dexterous manipulations of the fingers and the concomitant engagement of the shoulder muscles, etc., in the very act of typing on a keyboard. 

Pigeonholing a medical condition to a specific type of job is a dangerous endeavor of dismissing a viable Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS and CSRS.  Careful thought and consideration should be given for each medical condition, especially when attempting to ignore the impediment it is causing in performing the essential elements of one’s job does not make the pain go away.  “Out of sight” does not mean “out of mind”, especially when dealing with pain and the underlying medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire