The Genotype-phenotype Distinction and Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal and Postal Employees

The distinction is important in the study of genetics, where the genotype represents the entirety of one’s hereditary information contained in one’s DNA, whereas the phenotype represents the manifestation of that genetic heredity received and retained by any given individual. In simple terms, it is the inner/outer distinction, or in Aristotelian terms, the substance/accident representation, or further, in Platonic characterization, the form/appearance description of the world. It provides for a fascinating study of the theory of evolution, the plasticity and adaptability of a species, and the capacity of survivability within the greater context of environmental pressures and influences.

For the Federal employee and the Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, the concept of the genotype-phenotype distinction is peripherally interesting to understand, in the following way: The internal struggles eviscerating one’s capacity to perform the Federal or Postal job, will sometimes remain unobtrusive and lacking of evidence by all appearances.

The “phenotype” of a Federal Disability Retirement case may be represented by good performance reviews, lack of awareness by one’s supervisor, and an agency which fails to recognize the struggling Federal or Postal employee. The “genotype” is often the “inner” struggle, characterized by profound fatigue (how does one quantify cumulative exhaustion?), chronic pain (if only pain were color-coded, where white is on the lower spectrum and red is at the extreme end), the where the Federal or Postal employee pushes one’s self to the limit of absurdity until one is ready to collapse in an effort to perform the essential functions of one’s job.

The problem of appearance-versus-substance, or that which is seen as opposed to the hidden reality of a thing, is not a new or unique one. In the context of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, however, whether the Federal employee is under FERS or CSRS, and whether the Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, it is important to make clear and bring to the surface that which is unrevealed, and that will normally come about through generating an excellent medical report from one’s treating doctor.

Ultimately, a Federal Disability Retirement application is based upon the medical opinion of one’s treating doctor, and the “genotype” of an effective Federal Retirement application must comply with the requirements of the law, the criteria for eligibility, and the expression of that genotype into a coherent representation in the form of a “phenotype” in the preparation, formulation and submission of a Federal Disability application, though OPM, whether one is under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Technical Application of Terms

Wittgenstein’s contribution to Western Philosophy was twofold:  On the one hand, his insight into the role of language and how much (if not all, according to him) of philosophy’s substantive problems and complexities could be unraveled through the analytical dismantling of linguistic confusions, and secondly, the idea that philosophy as an academic discipline should not be given greater stature than any other — in other words, he believed that philosophy was a waning and anachronistic field which would eventually wither on the vines of history, and properly so.

While the undersigned disagrees with the latter assessment, it is the former contribution concerning “language games” and their import to society, daily living, and even to the technical world of legal jargon, which is of interest and relevance.  Lawyers necessarily have a “language game” of their own.  Within the peculiar universe of legal terms, the technical application of such “legalese” has direct and dire consequences if not understood properly and applied narrowly.

In the world of Federal Disability Retirement law, the term “accommodations” is often and profusely applied by agencies and Human Resources Personnel, but more often than not, in a loose and inappropriate manner.  Agencies bandy about the term, to wit:  “Mr. X. was accommodated by allowing for temporary light duty“; “We provided him with an accommodation by letting him take liberal sick leave and LWOP”; “Ms. Y was accommodated with instructions not to lift over her medical restrictions”; and other such implied applications of the term.

Which of the previously-cited statements constitute a technically correct use of the term “accommodation” within the context of Federal Disability Retirement?

Answer:  None of them.

Language games have inherently peculiar traits and rules of application; within the parameters of Federal Disability Retirement, too often the rules of usage are not complied with.  The consequences of non-compliance, unfortunately, is that Federal and Postal employees actually believe that they are being “accommodated”, when in fact they are not.

Further, believing that one is being accommodated by an agency may lead to the mistaken belief that one is ineligible for Federal Disability Retirement, when in fact one has always been eligible precisely because the agency cannot or has failed to provide a legally viable accommodation.  Look into the proper use of terms, and the technically correct application of terms.

In the end, Wittgenstein was right:  Language games reveal more about the competence of those who play them, than about the lack of precision exhibited by human behavior.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Agencies Rarely Accommodate

For whatever reasons, Federal Agencies rarely accommodate an individual who has a medical condition which impacts one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Whether the Supervisor is too busy to craft a viable accommodation plan, or whether the Agency is simply following the standard thoughtless response of the Federal Sector in general, the truth is that Agencies rarely, if ever, provide a truly viable, legally defined accommodation.  I receive calls every day from Federal and Postal employees who will state that the Agency is currently “accommodating” him/her; upon closer questioning, however, it always turns out that the term “accommodation” is being used in a non-artful, general sense, as in:  The Agency is letting me take LWOP; the agency is letting me take sick leave; the agency is letting me not travel too much; the agency is letting me…  What the agency is doing, whatever it is, is to temporarily keep you around until they decide your services are no longer needed.  That may be just around the corner, or you may be forgotten for some considerable amount of time.  Regardless, don’t be fooled; agencies rarely accommodate, and it is most likely the case that whatever “accommodations” the Federal or Postal employee believes that the Agency is providing, it does not fall under the legal definition of the term.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement in a Tough Economy

Healthy individuals may wonder why, in such a tough economy, an individual would consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS.  This is an economy which has been shrinking and shedding employees.  Yet, for the Federal or Postal employee whose health and increasingly debilitating medical conditions directly impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, the choice is actually not all that convoluted. 

Where a Federal or Postal employee can no longer perform the job; where sick leave and annual leave have been exhausted to go to doctors’ appointments, or just to stay home to recover enough to make it into the office for another day; or for those who are on LWOP for greater than the time working; in such circumstances, the stark reality is that a disability annuity is better than what the future may offer otherwise.  Removal for unsatisfactory performance; being placed on a PIP; being told that there is no more work at the Postal Service; being counseled for performance issues; these are all indicators of the proper choice to make.

Yes, it is a tougher economy; but when the economy begins to rebound, the first people that private employers turn to hire are those who are essentially independent contractors; and, especially with the looming overhaul of private health insurance, a former government worker who carries his or her own health insurance is, and can be, an attractive worker to a private employer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire