Medical Retirement under FERS: Revisiting Updike

He wrote about mundane things; of middle class neighborhoods, Pennsylvania towns in which he grew up; farmlands before strip malls replaced them against the skyline of cornfield rows; and of affairs that grew naturally out of a revolution emancipated from the Sixties; of quiet sufferings and the rhythmic monotony of ordinary lives.

John Updike was an “in-betweener” — too young to fight in WWII, too old to have been drafter for the Vietnam debacle; and so he experienced the quietude and normalcy in between the two bookends of this country’s tumult and trials.

Updike was a voice for generations who saw the post-war era, of baby-boomers and American prosperity at its zenith; of the loss of any normative confluence of moral dictum and the abandonment of constraints once imposed by Protestantism.  All, of course, with a twinkle in his eye and a ready smile.  The Internet abounds with photographs of this uniquely American author — almost all with that thin smile as if he was about to share a private joke.

The Tetralogy of the Rabbit novels (actually a quintet if you include the last of the series, a novella entitled “Rabbit Remembered”) evinces a country gone soft after the harsh period of the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam era that undermined the ethical mandates known for generations before, unleashing a liberty of hidden sins like a bubbling cauldron of untamed desires.  But in the end, he is best known for the mundane, the ordinary, and how life in the suburbs of a prosperous nation left an emptiness unspeakable except by a voice given in narrative brilliance, from an author who was a regular contributor to The New Yorker.

Somehow, he made the ordinary seem exciting, even relevant.  By contrast, modernity has focused upon the rich and famous, and of greater unreachable glamour where perfection surpasses pragmatism.  Updike was able to make the commonplace seem important, the ordinary appear significant and the monotony of the mundane as not merely prosaic.  And isn’t that all that we seek, in the end?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer 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 one’s Federal or Postal job, the loss of relevance, the ordinary and the commonplace is what often scares the Federal or Postal employee.

The job itself; the career; the monotonous routine of going to work, yet finding relevance in the act of “making a living” — these were all taken for granted in Updike’s short stories.  That other stuff — of infidelities and dalliances — were a deviation that Updike tried to point out as mere fluff in otherwise ordinary lives; and of medical conditions, they upend and disrupt the normalcy we all crave.

Federal Disability Retirement is a means to an end — of bringing back balance within a life that has become disrupted, but it is a way to bring back order where disruption to the mundane has left behind a trail of chaos.  And to that, the twinkle in Updike’s eyes and the thin smile would tell us that he would approve of such a move which will return you back to a life of mundane normalcy.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Attorney for Federal Disability Retirement Claims: The concise sentence

What is the difference between being concise and performing with precision?  The former is often applied in the universe of words and communication; the latter, in areas where quantitative measuring tools can be determined, such as in science or in mathematical sectors.

We say of a person who speaks voluminously but with little substance that he or she represents the antonym of conciseness; and so a comparison is often made between volume spoken or written and concepts or thoughts conveyed.  Of Literature, most would agree that Hemingway is the representative paradigm of conciseness, whereas Joyce and Faulkner reflect the very opposite, though all three are considered classic and great authors.

Do we excuse such authors as Joyce and Faulkner because, in literature, we tend to focus upon the stylistic brilliance of their writings as opposed to the “meaning” that captures the undercurrent of their works?  In other words, although they may give us “too many” words and thus are, by definition, lacking of conciseness, we nevertheless overlook such imprecision precisely because we do not attribute “amount” as the necessary and sufficient cause of determining the worth of good authorship.

Hemingway used to say that, in writing, he had already formulated each sentence before setting it upon paper, whether in handwriting (a lost art) or at the typewriter (a manual, when those contraptions existed and where the clack-clack of metal keys pounded deep into the twilight of a writer’s life).

Why do we applaud and celebrate the concise sentence?  Does it make a difference whether or not a sentence, say, with 7 words communicates a thought as opposed to a paragraph with a thousand words that conveys the identical conceptual construct?

Take the following 2 examples: 1. Lessening of debt equals wealth. Or, 2: If you have less to owe to others, then it is the same as savings; or, as Benjamin Franklin used to say, a penny saved is a penny earned, and the reality of it all is that we have more to spend and retain wealth, not so much because you have more money, but you have more because less is spent on paying other people your hard-earned dollars.

Now, both sentences convey essentially the same meaning.  The first one, however, is comprised of 5 words. The second one took…many words to communicate the same thought.  Does it matter whether a concise sentence is used, as opposed to one that is not, if the same two convey identically reflective thoughts?

It might make a difference, because of one factor that has not been discussed: Being concise often possesses the added feature of being precise, and precision is important in the accuracy of conveying thought.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are thinking about preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, there is a dual-key component to preparing the SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability: Be concise, but do not forego length for completeness.

In other words, being concise in order to convey the proper information is important; but, at the same time, do not sacrifice wordiness just because of the limited “boxes” that are provided on SF 3112A.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: Tempering euphoria

Life presents a wide spectrum; it is the limitation of one’s mind that restricts the expanse of that endless stream flowing on either side.  Euphoria rises to the pinnacle of that swinging pendulum; the high that reaches, follows upon a subsequence reversal of the tidal wave, and comes crashing down in fits and tumults of dismaying turbulence.  Does it necessarily need to be contained?

In modernity, and in society generally, there is a level and pitch of discomfort when intense feelings and exuberant outbursts of excitement surpass a certain arc of acceptability; there is no rule or law governing the demarcation where acceptance, discomfort and outright rejection are dissected, but it is there nonetheless.  It is like the line between light and darkness created by a campfire in the twilight on a beach that reaches forever beyond the darkness of the sea; yes, somewhere the glow of the fire ends and complete darkness begins, but we can never perceive with clarity where that boundary lies.

Some neuroscientists ascribe to the view that the extreme of euphoria occurs when there is a simultaneous, concurrent activation of all hedonic trigger-points with the brain’s rewarding system of stimulus-responses, but surely many have experienced such a state without the coalescence of such a perfect storm?  As the antonym of dysphoria, it is perhaps another hidden vestige of our evolutionary past, where intensity of emotional response was necessary for survival in a state of nature.

In civilized society, however, tempering euphoria – except in limited circumstances of heightened stimulation within the privacy of one’s home and restricted to context-appropriate circumstances – is what is expected, presumed and demanded.  There is always somewhat of an experiential oxymoron when a person manifests an unfettered state of euphoria; somehow, we all suspect that behind the uncontrolled exuberance will follow a “down” state which closely aligns itself with depression and despondency.

Is there really anything wrong with unrestrained expressions of pleasure and happiness?  Or, are we just being old fogeys and fuddy-duddies when we raise an eyebrow to such unsolicited declarations?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who have filed a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the issue of tempering euphoria is applicable within the context of having contact with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Waiting for months upon tiring months for OPM to respond can be exhausting.  Then, when a decision is made, one can become overwhelmed by the sheer revelation of information, whether euphoric or dysphoric.

Why tempering euphoria is important, is because filing for Federal Disability Retirement through OPM is a process, and must be seen as such.  There are many potential “stages” to the administrative process, and the bureaucracy as a whole does not lend itself well to emotional states of responsive exuberance.

In the end, it is not only civilized society that sees the benefit in tempering euphoria through normative means of behavioral reactions, but for the very sake of keeping expectations and emotions in check, tempering euphoria is a necessary mandate when dealing with the juggernaut of OPM’s indifference in the multiple stages of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The Redshirt

In athletic parlance, it refers to an individual and a status, allowing for a fifth year of eligibility when the rules mandate a restriction to a four-year period.  The word itself is quite malleable, and reflects well the technicality involved in avoiding the direct letter of the language.  Being a redshirt (noun), a redshirt freshman (adjective) or redshirted in his first year (verb) reveals to us the capacity of language to jump like grammatical forms of hopscotching that amazes and intrigues; and the cautionary prelude to a wink-and-a-nod is prefaced with, “You are being too literal”.

It only proves the point, doesn’t it — of the age-old adage that rules are created with the intent of being broken; or, at least bent in order to fit?  For, once such rules were imposed in order to allow for “fairness” in collegiate sports, the “legal technicians” (i.e., lawyers) went immediately to work upon coming up with novel interpretations, strategies for avoidance, and advice to extend beyond what the limitations allowed.

“Redshirting” was one of the devised methodologies – of allowing for everything up to the critical line of demarcation:  that of playing in a game itself.  Thus, the redshirt can practice with the team throughout that entire year of eligibility, but such actions do not count; the redshirted freshman can attend classes, be a full-fledged partner in the “college life”, and yet his participation is not marked against him or her; and to be redshirted in that year of eligibility allows for growth, maturity, advancement in development – all without “using up” a year of eligibility by being sacked a hundred times during the season and becoming a shattered soul devoid of self-confidence and losing assurance of one’s talents and skills.

It is, within the athletic community of college consortiums, a brilliant strategy to deftly avoid the burden of rules; for the greater society, it reflects the essence of what is wrong, precisely because it is a deliberate attempt to avoid the literal language of the rules.  Yet, that is true of almost everything in life, is it not?

Careful study; identifying the loopholes; then initiating the strategy to maneuver around landmines and obstacles.  Is it any different than a hunting party tracking a prey, sniffing out the signs of predatory confirmation and taking in information and adapting accordingly?  Rules, regulations and laws may well be designed, initially, at least, to address a specific problem; and, out of the cauldron of an enacted statutes, comes multiple other problems and issues because of the malleability of words and imprecise linguistic pauses.

Preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application is no different.  It is a necessary prerequisite to identify the legal language of eligibility; define the issues; identify whether or not the Federal or Postal employee considering such an option “fits into” the legal criteria circumscribed; then to proceed to “redshirt” one’s own situation and devise a methodology for eligibility.

Compiling the evidence, formulating the proper narrative, and presenting an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, can thus be likened to the redshirting of a freshman – in order to extend one’s life beyond the debilitating medical conditions otherwise shortening the career of a promising Federal or Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Medical Retirement: Bastion and Refuge

The former is a fortress of protective repose; the latter, a shelter from pursuit or danger; in either case, both provide for an escape from harm.  And there are harms beyond physical danger, which count as “real” threats.  One need not be a refugee standing in line at the borders of Hungary or Croatia, hoping to be given asylum enroute to Germany, France or the U.K. in order to be considered a person of persecutory targeting.

Whether physical harm or by psychological demeaning, the need for safe harbor should never be determined by comparative analogies of differing circumstances, but via the perception of our needs and levels of tolerance.

In logic, there is the fallacy of mereology, where the relationship of part-to-whole can lead to conclusions wrong in substantive form, and dangerous in terms of truth and validity.  One’s own circumstances may be “merely X” in comparison to the greater encompassment of tragedies taken as a whole; but that does not necessarily invalidate the reality of the desultory situation one must face, and the loss of compass, meaning and circumference of relational considerations in determining the future course of one’s life.

Medical conditions have a tendency to skew one’s perspective.  To continue on without change or repose, because the rest of the world in comparison to one’s own microcosmic universe is merely that much worse off, is to deny the reality of one’s own hurt.  For Federal employees and Post Office workers who feel that giving up one’s career and applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a step towards escaping to a bastion and refuge but one which fails to adequately compare to others in more dire circumstances, the need for a “reality check” is often required.

One needs to always start from the vantage point of the present.  What others do, where others are, and how comparatively one’s own situation is “merely X” in contrast to stranger-Y, are irrelevancies perpetrated upon one’s imagination through an overabundance of informational overload.  Once, there was a time when a local newspaper was the only contact with the greater world.  Now, with Smartphones and constant Internet access, we tap into the greater bastions and refuges of those in far-off lands.

But for the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker who must confront the reality of the situation of contending with 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 positional duties, the “here and now” is what must be faced, and whether one’s medical condition and the situation facing the Federal or Postal worker of today “merely” pales in comparison to others in unknown wastelands, is to concern one beyond the focus and centrality of concerns and problems encountered now, in real time, in the reality of one’s universe, today and this minute.

Other parallel universes will have to deal with their own internal problems; it is the bastion sought and the refuge take by the Federal or Postal employee of today, which matters in the most personal of manners, and what should concern the hurting Federal and Postal employee in the here and now.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Reversal of Fortune

Life itself rarely reflects a steady, linear progression on a graph; the zig-zagging representing times of economic turmoil more accurately profiles a person’s span of existence.  Moreover, one’s career is not necessarily the essence or paradigm of a given life’s experience; there are multiple factors, including emotional, births and deaths, marriages and medical conditions.  How does one quantify an experience?

The methodology we seek is often purely in monetary parallelism:  if one receives pay raises and cash rewards, then one’s career is considered to be on an upward trajectory; if one gets a reduction in salary (with or without a concomitant demotion in position), then the loss of linear progression is deemed a failure of sorts.  But like marriages, and life itself, careers never merely reveal a positive path of progressive purity; ask Elizabeth Taylor, who skews every statistical analysis of marriages and divorces.  And then, of course, there is the interruptive influence of a medical condition.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers, the daunting doldrums of a medical disability reveals many things not reflected on a graph of life:  the bother; the interruption of a career; the fear imposed; the dealings with coworkers; the reaction of the agency or Postal Service; the need for surgical and other procedures; a whole host of activities not previously contemplated.

For the Federal and Postal employee who finds that a medical condition begins to prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, consideration then needs to be given for filing with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, or CSRS Offset, of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Yes, unfairness is a characteristic of life not reflected in the graph of microeconomics; yes, sometimes experience teaches us that the proverbial cards are stacked against us; and yes, reversals of fortune constitute a reality rarely taught in classroom social studies.  But as life’s experience is never accurately or fully represented by mere lines and numerical paradigms, so a biography of a historical figure can never be captured, as fortunes and reversals thereof can never embrace the complexity of human folly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement Application: Eligibility & Entitlement

The two concepts are often confused; for the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal Service worker filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the frustration is often voiced precisely because of the misapplication of the legal import between them.

Eligibility is determined by the contingencies which must be met, the thresholds of prerequisites which must be satisfied:  The Federal or Postal employee must be either under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset; the minimum number of years of Federal Service must have been accrued; the Statute of Limitations must not have already passed; further, then, some age limitations need to be considered as a practical matter, to allow for pragmatic justification to even apply.

Entitlement is based upon proof.  As the law is set by statutory authority, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management requires that the Federal or Postal applicant meet certain preset standards of acceptable proof, based upon that which constitutes sufficiency of satisfaction.

The legal standard is based upon a “preponderance of the evidence“; the evidentiary requirement provides that a tripartite nexus be established between (A) the medical condition, (B) the Federal or Postal position which the Federal or Postal employee occupies, and (C) evidence showing that as a result of A, one or more of the essential elements of B cannot be satisfied.  Further, there is the “D” component, and that involves the issue of “reasonable accommodations” and whether the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service can reassign the Federal or Postal employee to a similar position at the same pay or grade.

It is only upon the initial satisfaction of eligibility requirements that the Federal or Postal employee can then further investigate whether entitlement is feasible or not.  Thus, “entitlement” in this sense is not based upon meeting eligibility requirements; rather, satisfaction of eligibility prerequisites allows for entrance into the gateway of establishing entitlement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire