The “Nuclear Option” after an Illness or Injury in the Federal or Postal Workplace

It is a parliamentary procedure justified by those who invoke it because the circumstances are of such dire contextual urgencies as to necessitate extreme measures.  Such urgency of action is often characterized in a vacuum — a declarative shrill of voices that such an option could not be helped because of the counteraction (or non-action) of the opponent.

Medical conditions have a true tendency to do just that.  Insidious in their inherent nature, they persistent despite every application of treatment modalities, leaving behind confounded minds who spent years and unaccounted energies and accumulated student debt in order to attain the medical knowledge to combat such conundrums of configured confusions.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the invocation of the nuclear option is often seen as filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS.

Such a characterization is an acknowledgment that the option chosen is one of “extreme” measures, forced because of a lack of choice.  But that would be a misnomer.  For, the “extreme” measure taken would actually be the other options remaining: Stay with an agency and struggle each day while attempting to ignore the pain of progressive physical deterioration or the despondency of psychiatric turmoil, and continue to be subjected to the constant and persistent harassment by supervisors and coworkers; or resign, walk away, and have nothing to show for the years of invested sacrifices given to one’s Federal agency or Postal Service.

No — the “nuclear option” for a Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM is not the preparation and submission of a CSRS or FERS Disability Retirement application; rather, such an option is best characterized by the other options remaining.  In the end, it is how one characterizes one life, which forms the true character of the individual.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Flashpoint

The flashpoint is the temperature at which an organic compound becomes combustible; during the entire time building up to that point, the rising temperature in combination with the chemical reactiveness of the substance was all the while sitting in preparation for the point of ignition; were there options to pursue prior to the point of ignition?  If there had been a change in chemical make-up, then perhaps the point of temperature-to-combination of substance would have altered, where either a higher or lower flashpoint would occur; or, the rise of the temperature, and the rate of acceleration, could have been changed.

Whatever the needed changes in order to avoid the flashpoint, however, one thing is clear:  the options are limited, and any altered states would merely delay the ultimate event of a flashpoint occurrence.

For Federal and Postal Workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts the performance of one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, the flashpoint of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is an inevitability which leaves the Federal or Postal employee similarly limited options.

One can continue in the mode of life which one finds one’s self in: of the daily treadmill of suffering through the workday with pain, profound fatigue and progressively debilitated emotional turmoil.  Or, one can wait for the Agency to initiate an adverse action, such as a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), periodic suspensions or reprimands — or removal.  Or, one can begin to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Limited options do not necessarily constitute a flashpoint of negative consequences; yes, a fire bursting in a home is a tragedy, but then there are controlled fires and even naturally occurring ones in fields of decay which benefit the environment.

It is thus ultimately up to the Federal or Postal employee to determine the point of combustibility, and therefore the timing of the event identified as the flashpoint.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Line between Chaos and Order

It is a thin line.  Subject to the winds of perspectives, and often alternating between moods, stimuli encountered; adversarial confrontations may destroy the fragile order held together by sheer will power; and in the end, the appearance of calm and order is often a mere front, a determination to survive another day, when it is the boiling pot of underlying chaos which constitutes the reality of the person in need and crying out for help.

Whether it is to mask the pain of physical conditions by ingesting large quantities of prescribed medications in order to survive the day, while all the time concealing it (or simply not providing the full extent of information) for fear of being disqualified or being sent to a fitness-for-duty examination; or perhaps it is psychiatric in nature, and the fear of revelation and isolation from coworkers, supervisors, etc.  The line between order and chaos is indeed a fragile, almost imperceptibly thin one.

Some refrain from considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement precisely because, to do so would be a self-admission that the necessity of filing reflects the seriousness of that growing chaos.  But such chaos can only be contained for a period of a day, a month, perhaps several months, before it begins to manifest itself in ways that others will begin to take note.

Like the largest organ of the human body — our skin — which holds together the complexity of the human body with all of its organs, intestines and the gory details of our inner self, in order to make the human appearance presentable; likewise, the chaos within is contained by a slim margin.

Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a benefit which allows for that recuperative time in order to settle the chaos; for the Federal and Postal worker who treads the tightrope of a progressive medical condition which is beginning to impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, it is an option which must be considered.  Otherwise, the thin line between chaos and order may be trampled upon, thereby exposing the true nature of one’s internal condition, thus revealing the reality of our lives.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Medical Retirement: Reassignment Considerations

In considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the issue of possible reassignment will arise — normally as a rather secondary and unimportant facet of the process — as an obligatory agency action.

SF 3112D is a form which the agency must complete.  The form essentially affirms that the agency attempted either of 2 things:  tried to “accommodate” the Federal or Postal employee, or tried to find a suitable “reassignment” to another existing, available position.

As to the latter, case-law has made it clear that in order for an offer of reassignment to preclude the Federal or Postal employee from continuing with one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, such light or limited duty offer must be at the same pay or grade of one’s current position (there are some complicating details connected with the enunciated standard, but for present purposes, this general rule will suffice).

Sometimes, the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service will find a lower-paying position, and offer it, and the employee will gladly accept it because it allows for continued employment.  But one must understand that, if down the road, the Federal or Postal employee finds that he or she is unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of that “lower” position, then it is from that “lower” (and often of lesser responsibilities) position that one will be filing for Federal Disability Retirement.

Just some thoughts to ponder; for, as a general rule, the greater the responsibilities of a position, the lesser the standard of meeting the threshold for a Federal Disability Retirement; and, conversely, the lesser the responsibilities of a position, the higher requirement to prove one’s case in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement for Civilian Federal Employees: A Path to Consider

Of course, when a person begins his or her career with the Federal Government, the consideration of a Federal Disability Retirement benefit does not enter into the equation of accepting the position.  Most Federal and Postal workers would rather work and be healthy, than to resort to preparing and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

Indeed, the problem with Federal and Postal workers is not that the option of Federal Disability Retirement is considered or taken; rather, the problem lies more in the fact that it is an option of last resort — which is probably how it should be, however necessary such an option must be for many Federal and Postal Workers.  But at some point in the linear continuum of a person’s career, where health and work collide and one must make a choice between the two, it is too often the case that the Federal or Postal worker has passed the point of “reasonableness” in preparing and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

It is rare that it is ever “too late” to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits (unless we are talking about missing the Statute of Limitations in filing); but most Federal and Postal workers, whether from a sense of duty, commitment, or sheer stubbornness, will work beyond the point of a well-reasoned and informed state of health or self-preservation. But however and whenever that point of finally choosing the path of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, comes about, one should prepare one’s case carefully; formulate the disability retirement application with care and foresight; and file it in a timely manner.  

When the time comes, and the path to a recuperative period of one’s life is finally considered, it should be done “right” — as much as one has invested in the effort of work itself throughout one’s career.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Automatic Pilot

There is the classic story of the man who sued the seller of his Recreational Vehicle:  Having been told that his RV could be driven on “automatic cruise control”, he proceeded to follow the directions, then got up and walked towards the back of the RV in order to make some coffee.  He mistakenly interpreted what the salesman had said, that the vehicle “drives itself”.

While partially true, what he failed to understand is that the “pilot” of the vehicle still needed to steer the vehicle; it was merely the forward motion which was on automatic pilot — not where the vehicle was going.  The two distinguishing features — the “what” of X (the occurrence of a running engine and movement) and the “where” of X (the direction in which the vehicle is going) — should never be confused.

Similarly, the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, should never confuse the fact that he may still have a job, with the danger of not knowing what direction the agency is considering with respect to the employee.

Smiles and inquiries about one’s medical condition are niceties which are often indicators of a deeper motivation.  What the Supervisor “says” in showing concern about one’s medical condition, may betray a directional change which may never be overtly stated.  Waiting to suddenly one day have a collision with the agency may not be the best approach in preparing for one’s future.

While it is true that all Federal and Postal employees have up to one (1) year to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM from the date of separation from service, you might consider being the pilot of that endeavor, instead of waiting for a sudden crash with the agency to occur.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire