CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Narrative & the Audience

Anton Chekhov’s short story, “Grief”, is often accompanied by a subtitle, variously interpreted as, “To whom shall I share my grief?”  It is both about the need inherent in human nature to tell one’s story of grief, as well as the cold, unreceptive world which has no time to hear the story.

As the horse-driven cab picks up various passengers and fares, it becomes clear that the audience to whom the father’s grief must be told, is characterized as unfeeling and uncaring towards a man who has experience a tragedy in life.  It is thus the search for the proper audience — and how the narration must be told, in the right manner, at the proper time, within the appropriate setting.

That is how all stories must be told, including a Federal or Postal Worker’s statement of disability, as formulated on Standard Form 3112A in a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  It is with a heightened sense of sensibility that one must put together the narrative form, with a view towards the audience; what facts and minutiae should be included; with a coherent beginning and an appropriate ending; where to begin and when to end; what details should be included, such that it does not divert one’s attention from the centrality of one’s story; all of this, and much more.

Chekhov teaches us much in his writings; how we apply it in our every day lives is left to the reader — his audience.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Chekhov’s Short Story, “Old Age”

Anton Chekhov is perhaps the singular master of the genre known as the “short story”, and it is owing to his background as a physician that he possessed the insight and sensitivity to be able to capture the plight of the human condition, with all of its suffering, loss of hope, and emotional turmoil, through cruelty, disregard, unforeseen circumstances, and unintended pathways to disaster.

In his short story, “Old Age,” there is the point where one of the two old men shook off a moment of feeling, setting apart and brushing aside a poignant and appropriate time when the shedding of tears would have allowed for the humanity of the old man to show, to reveal itself, and to expiate himself of the pain of the past.  Instead, because of pride, or perhaps shame, because he stood before the other old man, he hid the emotion and went about his business.  Later, when he comes back to the same spot, the old man tries to recapture the moment, to replicate and reconstruct that lost emotion.  It could not be done.  It is a lesson for all, that there is an appropriate time, place, and moment for everything.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is the “appropriate time” to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Each Federal or Postal employee knows that time.

Indeed, each “feels” the time, but will often just shake off that nagging sense.  One always hears of the hope for a miracle — “perhaps I will get better”; “perhaps it will be better tomorrow”; perhaps…   But when the time comes, to procrastinate is merely to compound the problems of the day, only to revisit the same issue later, but encountering an exponentially magnified issue:  time is running out; that moment of doing it with optimal circumstances has passed; and now we must deal with the greater problems of the present.

Chekhov is relevant because, while human beings — whether in Russia or here, whether years past or today — change in names and appearances, the essence of humanity remains constant.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Federal Disability Retirement: The Human Story

I often refer to a favorite short story of mine, inasmuch as it serves as a paradigm for why I practice disability retirement law: the master storyteller, Anton Chekhov, wrote a brilliant short story entitled, Grief (translator’s subtitle: “To Whom Shall I Tell My Grief,”), where the cab-driver, Iona Potapov, tells the profound story of human need — of a son’s death; a tale of tragedy, and of human indifference. And in the course of driving various strangers in his carriage/cab, where he attempts to tell his very personal story of human tragedy, in the end, he must turn to his horse, and speak the mournful song of human desire to the only one who will listen: “That’s how it is, my old horse. There’s no more Kuzma Ionitch. He has left us to live, and he went off pop. Now let’s say, you had a foal, you were that foal’s mother, and suddenly, let’s say, that foal went and left you to live after him. It would be sad, wouldn’t it?”

Each of us has a human tale to tell. The human tale in disability retirement is often one of enduring devotion to one’s life work; of a medical condition beyond one’s control; and the need to change course in one’s life. As an attorney, I am very busy in my practice. The cost of success, of course, is less time — less time for family, less time for personal pursuits (my first and greatest love is and continues to be the study of Philosophy — that is what I studied in College; that is what I studied in graduate school, before heading off to law school; and I find that, each year, I have less and less time in reading the major works of philosophers — but this is often outweighed by the professional satisfaction I get in obtaining disability retirement benefits for my clients); less time for reflection. I receive many, many calls on a daily basis from clients and potential clients who need to file for disability retirement benefits. I try and listen to each human story — but to listen to the fullness of each story would be to take away from the time needed to spend on someone else. That is why, often, I must direct the conversation with a series of questions. I am not a therapist or a doctor — I am an attorney. If I do not focus upon the direct and impactful issues, and help my clients focus upon the significant issues which directly touch upon Federal Disability Retirement, I am not doing my job. Thus, if I am somewhat focused upon certain foundational issues when speaking to people on the telephone, it is only because I am trying to do the best for all of my clients — to direct and re-direct the issues, like a laser-beam, upon the important issues concerning Federal Disability Retirement. In doing so, I hope I am not like the indifferent passengers who left Iona Potapov on the side of the road, to have him tell his human story to the only one left to tell: his horse.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire