OPM Medical Retirement: Holding on

The sense of belonging — of the attraction of the communal hearth — is a powerful draw, and prevents many from traveling too far from the proverbial oak tree.  The inherent contradiction, for Americans, is the paradigm of the rugged individual, and the concomitant idea that this country was and is different precisely because of the type of individuals and individualism which formed the basis of this community we call country.

But times change.  Change itself is a concept which engenders fear, loathing, and angst beyond mere discomfort.  Habituation and repetitive comfort can be derived merely in the methodological constancy of the mundane. Being comfortable and seeking human comfort is not a crime, and is often the telos of career choices. It is when that second step of the dialectical process intercedes and interrupts, however, that the discomfiture of disruption creates havoc and one’s life can go awry.

The thesis is the life lived; the antithesis is the condition of interruption or disruption; and the synthesis is that which is potentially to be, but now not yet known.  So goes the Hegelian dialectical process.  For the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker whose career has fortunately been gliding upon a linear path, and from start to career’s finish, a relatively smooth ride has been enjoyed, the blessing of such a continuum is one of mundane and delicious success.  But for the Federal employee or Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, the possibility that one’s chosen career may need to be interrupted, is indeed a hearth-wrecking event.

Determining whether or not filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a necessity, is a hard choice; knowing what the choices are, while limited and finite and therefore easily discernible, can nevertheless remain a conundrum but for good advice and counsel which can be objectively assessed and conveyed.  For the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker, the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement can be a two-edged sword: on the one hand, the mere existence of the benefit reminds us of our vulnerability and mortality; on the other hand, it is a benefit to be accessed when needed, and the need is based upon a legal criteria which must be proven to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and such need allows for an out from the quandary of one’s medical conditions.

The draw of the hearth is indeed a powerful one; one’s organization, agency or Federal department can be considered a hearth of sorts, especially when one has expended so much time and effort in building one’s Federal career. But when the embers of warmth begin to fade, and the winds of winter blow the chilling parabola of a future reflected, consideration must be given for change, and change may require the embracing of an antithesis in order to build a brighter future for tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Comparative Refractions and CSRS/FERS Medical Disability Retirement

The optical effect of refracted light when it passes through an altering medium is that of a changed phenomenon.  One can engage in an activity which we all enjoy: of comparative analysis before and after, or in parallel evaluation; and just as we determine life’s compass of success or failure by looking at other lives, so the refracted light provides a symbolism of comparative satisfaction or dissatisfaction, as the case may be.

Changes of perspectives allow for a sudden and new awareness previously unknown; sometimes, the cocoon of the limited universe we have chosen will be a comfort zone and a security blanket which we are content to remain in; but then a crisis occurs — one which may be disproportionately viewed, given the relative antiseptic life we have created — and the difficulty of dealing with the change is reflected like the optical alteration of refracted light.

For Federal and Postal Workers who suffer from a medical condition which begins to impact one’s ability/inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s duties as a Federal or Postal Worker, this phenomenon is well-known, familiar, and often challenging.

Medical conditions constitute a crisis of being, precisely because they necessitate a change and potentially a wholesale reconstitution of one’s life:  Work, which often involves more than a third of one’s time and life; family, which is impacted by the difference in income; and self, because one’s identity is so intimately tied to one’s work. Who we are; what we represent; where we are going; how we are going to get there: all are impacted.

That is why filing for Federal disability retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is so important. It allows for a period of respite and interlude in order to reorganize and coordinate.  It allows for a time of attending to the medical condition; of securing a base annuity upon which to survive; and creates an atmosphere of positive thinking for the future.

As nature provides guidance of life, so the refracted light hints at a manner of dealing with problems in life.  For the Federal and Postal Worker, reflecting upon refraction may be the first important step in recognizing this guiding principle.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Mistakes Made

There is obviously an assumption to be made that if a case is denied at the initial stage of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, that a “mistake” must have been made.  The mistake, then, is given an opportunity to be “corrected” at the Second, or Reconsideration Stage, of the Federal Disability Retirement process.  Further, if the mistake is not properly corrected, or corrected to the satisfaction of the Office of Personnel Management, and it is again denied — at the Reconsideration Stage of the process — then there is the cumulative assumption that further mistakes were made in the application.  Just as success distinguishes between winners and losers, the general assumption is that a denial by the Office of Personnel Management means that there was something inherently wrong with the Federal Disability Retirement application at its inception. 

Yet, if this were true at each turn, for every case, then there would never be a case where, at the Third Stage of the process, in filing an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, that the Representative from the Office of Personnel Management would not reverse a denial and grant the disability retirement after listening to the legal arguments made by the attorney for the applicant.  Many times, it is the pointing out of overlooked aspects of a case which makes the difference between an approval or a denial — and not necessarily something that is inherently wrong, or that a “mistake” was made.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Imperfect Law

Law is an imperfect science; indeed, one could dispute the ascribing of law as a “science” at all, except in a generic, loose sense of the word.  Like the sciences, it is an observation and gathering of empirical evidence (“just the facts, please’); like science, it is an application of a hypothesis (proposing an applicable theory of law upon the gathered facts); and like science, the results of applying the hypothetical model upon the empirical evidence must take into account the factors of error, the possibilities of various elements which may impact upon a perfect study (i.e., the personalities and quirks of a jury or a judge, for example).   But that is where the resemblance between science and law end. 

More often than not, the practice of law is nothing more than what Hume’s famous argument concerning causality entails:  repetitive observation of an event does not necessarily result in the same effect the next time around; it is merely experience which guides the observer to predictably conclude certain end-results.  To that extent, administrative law, and specifically Federal Disability Retirement law for Federal employees under FERS or CSRS is no different.  Law, as engaged in actively by an attorney of law, is the acute observation of the facts, the application of the proper hypothetical model, and the combining of both — with the exception of taking into account one’s experience, the experience of past cases, and making discretionary decisions based upon all of the facts and circumstances.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire