Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Cower v. Cowardice

To cower paints a word-picture of crouching or retreating in fear.  Cowardice, on the other hand, is the cumulative character of a man or woman, wrought upon through a lifetime of milestones and the reactions to each.  The latter can represent the aggregate of the former; the former may be, but is not necessarily, a singular action symbolizing the former.

Sometimes, there is a basis for being fearful.  Fear is quite obviously an evolutionary instinct which has a survival value attached; how one responds to the overwhelming stimulus of fear will often determine the value of such survivability instinct. But to cower in response to a given circumstance, a sudden crisis, or an unforeseen emergency is not to conclude cowardice; it is, as Aristotle would point out, merely one indication in a lifetime of red flags determining the linear value of one’s essence.

For the Federal or Postal employee who must face the crisis of a medical condition, such that important decisions must be faced, made and lived with, the step to Federal Disability Retirement is one fraught with the fear of the unknown: for one’s future, one’s vocation, and one’s financial security. To cower in confronting such a major decision is understandable; it does not indicate a character of cowardice. Facing a medical condition takes fortitude and clarity of mind, and in the midst of dealing with the crisis itself, it is often difficult to make cogent decisions ancillary to contending with one’s health issues.

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, and filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is a daunting task which requires mental acuity and intellectual stamina. In one’s weakened state, it is often advisable to have objectivity and good counsel. To cower in the face of a challenge is sometimes understandable; but to reveal cowardice is unnecessary, especially when the Federal or Postal employee who must decide upon the issue of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits can turn to competent assistance to guide one through the complex process of the administrative morass.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Tendencies and First Impressions

First impressions are funny animals; while potentially misguided and fraught with errors, they are difficult to shake off because of our natural inclination to form them.  Tendencies, on the other hand, are established over time, and tend (sic) to reliably reflect a routine of repetitive behavior.  In both cases, they are difficult traits to get rid of, sort of like a nagging cold or a hairball in one’s throat.

For the Federal and Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, both traits are important to recognize.

First impressions — and from knowledge gained over time:  one’s agency; how will one’s supervisor act or react; one’s treating doctor; the extent of support one will receive; they will be the initiating basis and foundation in determining whether to go forward or not.

Tendencies — one’s own; is procrastination a problem?  Is avoidance an issue, such that it is best to jump into the process, knowing that delay is an identified enemy of one’s own best interests?

One’s formed personality and characteristic traits are established early in life; it is the remainder of our lives where we work to understand them, and to undo, supplement, or learn from those early first impressions and tendencies molded into our very being.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Unknown

Irrational fears reflect the extent of human imagination, and the creative capacity of the human species to engage in fantasies.  For, in the animal kingdom distinct from civilization, the ability to survive depends upon accurately assessing real-time dangers and impending surroundings and circumstances; to go after imaginary ones merely exhausts the reserves needed to battle against real dangers.

That is why the virtual world of modern video games is so detrimental to the proper development of children; experts miss the real point:  the world of make-believe is more exciting than the objective world we live in — witness which is preferable, real time deer hunting (a monotonous adventure at best), or being able to shoot at will at a video arcade.  But it is ultimately the unknown which haunts and stresses most.

For the Federal and Postal employee who must contend with the real issues of a debilitating medical condition, the unknown of one’s future; the unknown of the reaction of one’s agency; the unknown of when and what decision will be rendered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is never as exciting as the virtual world of the video arcade, or as depicted in the privacy of sitting at one’s personal computer.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is oftentimes a surreal experience; but it is never like a video game, because there are real-life consequences which result from the action, just as the medical condition itself is a reality which cannot be avoided, unlike the switch from virtual-reality to objective-reality, with the push of a button of one’s PC.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Social Isolation

Federal and Postal employees who contemplate filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, often feel a profound sense of isolation.

First, of course, the agency itself has a tendency to treat the medically disabled Federal or Postal employee as a pariah; that, somehow, suffering from a medical condition is within the control of the sufferer.

Then, if the agency is informed of the very intent to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, then certain consequential actions often follow:  a PIP may be imposed; leave restrictions may be enforced; an adverse action may be proposed, including a removal — often based not upon the medical condition, but all sorts of “other reasons” that have been tabulated, memorialized and recorded, by supervisors and fellow co-workers.  Yes, there is FMLA; yes, the Federal or Postal employee may file an EEO action or other potential lawsuit; but such counteractions fail to mitigate the sense of isolation and separation that the Federal or Postal employee feels, from an agency which he or she has expended one’s life and energies to advance for the cause of one’s career.

Third, when the Federal or Postal employee finally files with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, OPM’s non-responsive attitude further exacerbates the sense of isolation.  A sense of closure is what one desires; of being able to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits, then to move on with life into the next phase of a vocation, the next step beyond.

One should always remember:  It is the very act of filing which is the first step in overcoming the profound sense of isolation; for, the act itself and the decision to move beyond, is the affirmative indicator that there is light at the end of the proverbial tunnel.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: When Should the Agency Be Informed?

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the question is often asked whether and when an Agency should be informed of the impending Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Such a question & answer is almost always a discretionary one, and there is not a “right” answer — only one which can result from the tailored responses of specific and individual circumstances.  For, on the one hand, the Agency will often already suspect that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and therefore the automatic loss of the applicant/employee, is an inevitable future certainty, and therefore such notification is merely a formality.  

The Agency is often anxious to have the backlog of work created by the employee’s non-attendance or sporadic attendance resulting from the chronic medical conditions, to be abated at some point, and therefore hiring a replacement is something which the Agency wants accomplished as soon as possible — and one might argue that informing the Agency is the “right thing” to do.  

But in representing a Federal or Postal employee in a Federal Disability Retirement case, the “right thing” always is looking after the best interests of the client, and informing the agency prior to filing is not always in the best interests of the client.  For, on the other hand, informing the Agency too soon will often result in unintended consequences — of reactions and initiated actions upon being informed of the very intention of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

While unfortunate and even perhaps “retaliatory” in nature, Agencies often act/react only upon official notification of an intention.  In other words, the proverbial “elephant in the room” is only noticed when the elephant actually stomps its feet (or is it “hooves”?).  Whether and when is a discretionary decision by the Federal or Postal employee.  

Ultimately, of course, when the Federal Disability Retirement application is filed through the Agency for further processing before being forwarded to the Office of Personnel Management, the Agency will be fully informed.  But as to “pre-informing” the Agency — that all depends upon the individual circumstances of the Federal or Postal employee, taking into account first and foremost the best interests of the client when represented by an OPM Disability Retirement attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Agency Removal & Resignation

Whether an Agency is willing to wait while a Federal or Postal employee files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, or if removal becomes the preferred action, is always a concern to the Federal or Postal employee.  

Often, no matter what medical documentation is submitted as documentary proof of one’s inability to come to work, an Agency will insist that a Federal employee is “AWOL” because of some minutiae or technicality in the paperwork provided.  Regardless (no, I will not use the grammatically incorrect non-word, “irregardless”, which is a combined double-negative of the suffix and prefix, leaving the root word “regarding” intact, thereby making irrelevant the necessity of both the prefix and the suffix) of the Agency’s actions, it is important for the Federal or Postal employee to proceed with his or her Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Attempting to predict how the agency will act or react; waiting upon an Agency’s response — ultimately, one must proceed affirmatively and not be concerned with what the Agency will or will not do.  Concurrently, however, the Federal or Postal employee should respond to an Agency’s removal actions.  

Sometimes, if in fact the Agency is able to produce sufficient “evidence” to justify an adverse removal action (lack of sufficient notice; lack of medical justification submitted in a timely manner; violation of PIP provisions; violation of previously-imposed leave restrictions, etc.), an offer of resignation in order to maintain the official personnel file “clean” of any such adverse actions, is a reasonable course to take, both for the Agency as well as for the Federal or Postal employee.  

More often than not, the Agency will be responsive to opening a discussion for a mutually beneficial removal based upon one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  Since the same medical documentation to prove one’s medical disability retirement application should be sufficient to justify such a removal, the timing of such a removal could not be better.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire