OPM Disability Retirement: The Semblance of Joy

Happiness is but a fleeting moment; satisfaction is but the natural result of completion; but joy, that is a tincture derived from the depths of one’s soul.  Perhaps there is an element of word-play; how we define levels of emotional states of being can depend upon the contextual usage of each conceptual construct, and in the end it is how we have described a given set of circumstances, based upon our personal experiential encounters and what sense of being we perceived at the time.

Beyond the veil of words, casting aside the layers of callouses which we have carefully built up over the years in order to survive the daily onslaught of venom in this world lacking of empathy or cooperative caring for one’s fellow human being, it is when a traumatic event suddenly befalls us that the true state of our souls becomes apparent.

Medical conditions have a tendency to magnify the reality of our state of existence.  Suddenly, perspectives become skewed; realities once depended upon appear suspicious; and we begin to lie to ourselves and take on a semblance of joy.  Why is that?  Is it because we fear the truth of human cruelty?  That despite all of the allegedly cultural advancements and technological innovations we pride ourselves about, the truth of our evolutionary baseness has never changed:  the vulnerable are merely meals for the predator in waiting.

For the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such a state of affairs is nothing new.  Agencies begin to pile on; coworkers shun; supervisors increase the level of vitriol and punish through administrative sanctions and progressive pressures through threats and intimidating language; and, all the while, the dedicated Federal or Postal worker must suffer through with limited options and constricted avenues slowly being blocked and cordoned off as restricted zones no longer open, where once the brightness of tomorrow promised the world.

For Federal and Postal employees finding themselves in the untenable position of having a medical condition, such that the medical condition is preventing him or her from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, it may be time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

When once the Federal or Postal worker comes to a realization that the bet upon happiness cannot be placed upon one’s employment or career, and where satisfaction is no longer a possibility with the mission of an agency; when the exhaustion and fatigue of hiding behind the semblance of joy begins to constrict and close in, like the human figure behind a Noh mask covering the claustrophobia of existence; then, it is time to consider taking on the long road of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether you as the Federal or Postal employee are under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: Life’s Satire

There is a subtle distinction between satire and comedy; as the latter is intended directly to evoke laughter, in whatever manner possible (though, of course, there are comedies which provoke guffaws of loud, unconstrained and boisterous mirth, as opposed to the delicious chuckle, and a spectrum of multiple layers in between), the former can be dead serious, in leveling commentaries and sharp criticism upon political or social misfortunes.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who have contended with the bureaucracy of their own agency, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management can be more akin to a satire, than a comedic episode of a tumultuous interlude.  Medical conditions are no laughing matter; but the process of coming to the realization that one’s own agency or the U.S. Postal Service will not do anything to accommodate one’s medical condition, despite a history of years and decades of dedicated service, is but a satire of sorts.

Then, the administrative headaches inherent in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is like a running commentary upon the satirical process which began when first we became a Federal or Postal worker.

Viewing a satire while seated as an observing audience, can be a pleasant experience. Identifying one’s self as one of the actors in the play, is what is most disturbing. But when the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, becomes both the spectator as well as the player, the scene itself takes on aspects of another turn: for, as dreams allow for the dreamer to sometimes recognize that one is dreaming, so the elevation of a dream into a nightmare can be identified as short-lived and merely to be endured until one is awakened from the slumber of a tragedy, yet unfolding, still to be determined as to the outcome of the satire of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal & Postal Medical Retirement: Imagining a Life Beyond

Daylight dreaming about medical recuperation and pain relief with Federal or Postal Medical Retirement

The known quantity provides a semblance of comfort; the unknown, a stirring of unease.  That which has been repetitively engaged, through monotony of routine and familiarity of choice, is preferable to the haphazard disorientation of the disrupted interlude.  As one grows older, entrenchment to routine and the known universe becomes the comfort zone of defaulted alternatives, and the youthful vigor or happenstance and unplanned rendezvous with destiny is merely a silliness to be avoided.

Though we often know that which is good for us, the flashpoint of necessity which burns or heals; and though the foretelling of circumstances and the clairvoyance of wisdom accumulated by quiet commentary upon those who preceded us may all sound alarms which direct us otherwise, we often still choose the path of least resistance.  That is what often holds back Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers from filing for Federal or Postal Medical Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

One knows better.  The proverbial “writing on the wall” shouts with shrill warnings of the impending actions by the agency; or the sheer cumulative shrinking of Sick Leave and into the red of LWOP reveals the passing of that other proverbial quip:  the “fork in the road”.  But knowing what portends, and acting upon that knowledge, constitutes the difference between wisdom and being wise; the former is merely unused knowledge; the latter, the application of advantage.

There is, of course, the other factor amongst Federal and Postal employees that of dedication and a sense of commitment to a mission.  But at what price?  Lack of imagination beyond one’s life in the Federal sector and the U.S. Postal Service is often the qualitative difference in failing to move forward.

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal or Postal Medical Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is not just a necessity for the Federal or Postal worker who is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal Service job; rather, it is an ability to imagine life beyond the present circumstances, and that is indeed the mark of wisdom for instructive living within a universe of mirrors reflecting images of unmarked graves of futility.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

 

SF 3112D

OPM Standard Form 3112D: Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts:

What does it mean to accommodate, and what, pray tell, constitutes an “effort” to do so?   Is the agency’s obligation to pursue avenues of reassignment or accommodation satisfied by the mere completion of SF 3112D and, if not, does the agency merely pay lip-service in its obligation, or are continuing efforts required to be actively undertaken?

If the Federal employee or Postal worker advances throughout the bureaucratic morass and finally gets an approval for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, what happens if, in the meantime, such agency efforts to continue to search for a suitable reassignment position, or a capacity to actually accommodate the medical condition, is attained?

Does a successful positional reassignment negate the Federal Disability Retirement application if such an offer of reassignment is refused by the Federal employee or Postal worker prior to an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application?

If a Federal or Postal employee is given a temporary duty assignment, and the length of such an assignment or occupation of such a position is for an unlimited amount of time, does that impact a Federal Disability Retirement application as it sits pending a review by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management? What constitutes a legally viable accommodation? What is considered a valid reassignment?

Has the case-law, whether through the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board or through the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals changed, altered, amended or expanded upon the concept of an accommodation or one’s right to a reassignment at the same pay or grade?

Is the issue of reassignment or accommodation as simple as SF 3112D makes it appear, or are there hidden regulatory, statutory and legal ramifications which must be carefully considered and side-stepped in having SF 3112D completed? Does the Federal employee or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits have any input when the agency completes the OPM SF 3112D PDF Form?

These, and many more questions, need to be considered when a Federal or Postal employee, whether under FERS or CSRS, begins to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Further Reflections on Accommodations

Because the term “accommodations” is rarely understood in its technical and legal sense, there is often the danger of a Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS to “shoot one’s self in the foot” in the very use of the term — or in checking certain boxes on the application form (specifically, SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability), and further, there is the added danger that the Agency, in completing a Supervisor’s Statement or the SF 3112D, will mis-apply and mis-state the import, significance or relevance of any actions taken in attempting to assist the Federal or Postal employee.

Indeed, in a Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) there are many instances in which the Supervisor completing the form will contradict him/herself when it comes to the issue of accommodations.  Moreover, the applicant him/herself will often mis-state the issue of accommodations on SF 3112A.

The term “accommodations” has a very narrow definition, and must be used and applied to the advantage of the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Additionally, it is not out of the realm of possibilities that the Office of Personnel Management also (whether deliberately or by chance) uses the very misuse (by the Applicant) of the term to its advantage.  In all cases, the term “accommodations” must be used and referred to carefully, technically, and with full insight of all of its consequences in the use or misuse of the word.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Accommodating Agency

During the course of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the issue of “accommodations” must be addressed — if only in completing Standard Form 3112D (otherwise designated as “Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts”).

It may well be that the Federal or Postal employee’s employing agency has been performing an informal “cost-benefits” analysis throughout the years, and that certain attempts at accommodating the Postal worker’s or other Federal employee’s medical conditions have been ongoing.

Thus, such attempts may include temporary suspension or unofficial elimination of certain key elements of one’s position description; allowance for teleworking for all or part of a workweek; disallowing necessary travel for onsite inspections, etc.  These and other attempts by an agency in order to retain the experience and technical expertise of a Federal or Postal employee, are all honorable and reasonable measures by the agency to keep the employee employed.

When the time comes, however, for the Federal or Postal employee to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits because he or she has reached a “point of no return” in terms of the progressively debilitating nature of the medical condition, where all such informal accommodations are no longer helpful in allowing for continuing functionality in the workplace, the Federal or Postal entity may well have always considered such measures to meet the standard of an “accommodation”.  Such a thought process is normally wrong.  But agencies, in completing SF 3112D, will often thoughtlessly attempt to characterize such prior attempts as legally-viable accommodations.

It is up to the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant to point out the error — something which OPM is more than willing to pounce upon unless corrected by the applicant or his/her attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Question of Accommodations

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, certain essential issues must be addressed, including:  the medical condition itself (obviously); the impact of the medical condition upon one’s ability/inability to perform the type of positional duties required in one’s job (also quite obvious); the length of the medical condition itself (it must last for a minimum of 12 months); as well as multiple issues surrounding the question of whether the Agency can “accommodate” a medical condition.

The question of accommodations has been widely discussed by the undersigned author, especially in light of the case of Bracey v. OPM and multiple subsequent cases.  Nevertheless, despite much discussion on the subject, and attempted clarification between the legal, technical usage of the term “accommodation” and the more loosely understood concept of an agency “accommodating” an individual, there is often a surrounding confusion about the conceptual distinctions being made. This is because, perhaps inherently, the technical term of art is not self-evident.

Take, for instance, Question 7a on SF 3112A, where the form asks the question, What accommodations have you requested from your agency?  This question implies that you may have done something “wrong” if you have not specifically requested a certain type of accommodation — meaning, that you must have the knowledge to request of an agency the particular accommodating act of the agency which would allow you to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job.

Yet, this implicitly contradicts the very existence of SF 3112D, Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts — which clearly places the burden of any attempted accommodation upon the agency, where — upon receipt of the disability retirement packet, or the medical evidence at any time — the agency must see if there are any jobs available or any method of accommodating the Federal or Postal employee such that he or she can perform the essential elementsof the job.

Thus, while the question (7a of SF 3112A) may have an underlying tone of a threat (as in, what have you done wrong?), it is in fact a fairly irrelevant question, and should be addressed as such.  Remember, there is a distinction to be made between the question, the answer given, and the relevance of either.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire