The falcon flies in our midst; with an unknown distance of its perimeter to prey, it suddenly appears, perched with watchful eyes for squirrels, rabbits, other birds, etc. Its flight is silent and graceful, and long before people realize its presence, the silence and sudden muteness of wildlife activity reveals the fear imposed by its mere appearance. It flies silently, swiftly, and with a grace which demands awe and respect. From its high vantage point, the targeted prey below rarely stands a fair chance of avoidance. Those eyes are focused, with a singular vision operating to corner, catch and consume. Organisms under a microscope must feel a similar sense, if indeed they become aware of being studied and prodded.
People, too, who are being surveilled and inspected; there is often a sixth sense of being constantly and vigilantly watched. Federal and Postal Workers who are under the onerous burden of a Performance Improvement Plan (the acronym of a “PIP”) have that same sense. It is not a positive or productive feeling; it is, instead, a dread of knowing that the “watching” part is merely a prelude for further actions forthcoming, like the noiseless glide of the hawk above.
Being under the constant gaze of a predator often requires preventative action on the part of the prey; for Federal and Postal Workers who come to recognize that his or her job performance is deteriorating because of a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management may be the best option and course of action to take. Because it is taking such a long time to get an approval these days, preparatory steps should be taken early. Waiting for a separation from service, while still allowing for time thereafter to file, is normally not the wisest course.
As it is always better to be the “watcher” than the “watched”, so the Federal employee who needs to file for OPM Disability Retirement benefits should take the affirmative steps to prepare for an eventuality — that time when, like the hawk who has made a decision to target its prey, the Federal or Postal Worker has a place of refuge to enter.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire