Medical Retirement under FERS & CSRS: Weekend Survival

The segmentation of time may be artificial; the rhythms of life, are not.  The 7-day week, 30-day month (give or take a couple here and there) and the 12-month cycle constitute human constructs that impose a rigid system of divisions based upon productivity, leisure, an admixture of both (isn’t it universal that Saturdays are spent in doing chores otherwise unattended to during the week, and Sunday is that respite and escape in total destitution of depleted dreariness?) and then a reset button pushed and the beginning of the cycle all over again.

Yet, while the system itself is based upon a conceptually artificial construct, the rhythmic underpinning of nature that glides above and beneath on a daily, quiet but consistent basis remains unperturbed.

That is why Daylight Savings Time makes grouches of us all — it is another artificial construct that jolts everyone from the natural rhythms of monotonous apathy twice a year, and breaks up that flow of biodynamic symbiosis between the planetary rotations, the daily sunrise and sunset, and the body’s reaction to a natural order within the constructs of an unnatural way of living.  The only compensation we feel grateful for is that extra hour of sleep that we are “given” in the Fall — only to have it stripped mercilessly and robbed from us in the Spring.

Thank God for the weekend — those two days of respite and leisure; of restorative rest and a quietude away from the mad dash of work and productivity; and we believe that we owe to the gods our lives and sacrifice our health for those pittance of days that are given to us.  But what are those 2 days worth?

Half of one is given up to do those things that we had no time to do during the five days of labor; the other half, spent in frozen immobility in front of a screen that blasts frightful images both from news of the “real” world as well as stories that are supposedly “entertaining”.  Then, with the one day remaining, we try and compensate for the exhaustion from the previous 5+1, only to wake up the following morning to engage the rush of the work-week that suffers and harms.

For Federal employees and Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition becomes a trial of survival during the week in order to make it to the weekend just to survive, it is worse because — not only is the “natural” rhythm interrupted by the medical condition itself — days, weeks and months all meld and melt into a singular whole of survival and consternation of life’s trials.

Preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, may be the only option remaining in order to re-order the rhythm lost in the daily struggle to reach that weekend survival where the cycle of life’s natural rhythm has been shattered by the trauma of a chronic medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Meaningful turns

How many turns do we make on any given day?  Not just actual ones, like those turns while driving a car, but figurative ones, as well.  If a person approaches you and asks, “Did you make the right turn?” — what is the response?  Is there a “right” answer?  Is there a relationship in the English language between the terms “right”, “left” and the physical attributes we possess?

If a person tells of another, “He’s way out in left field,” is that because we attribute the term “left” with residues of the negative?  And, how did the terms “left” and “right”, when referred to in politics, come to have a meaning of equivalency?  Was the fact that right-hand dominance was historically preferred to left-handedness, to the extent that teachers once used to punish those students who naturally attempted to utilize their left hands in handwriting, drawing, etc., account for the linguistic dominance and preference given to the term “right” as opposed to “left”.

Do we understand the concept with greater presumption when a person says, “He made a left turn and got lost,” even if the person actually made a right turn and found himself in an unfamiliar neighborhood?  And what of “meaningful” turns – are there such things, as opposed to spurious and meaningless ones?  How often we confuse and conflate language with figurative speech and objective facts; and then we wonder why most people wander through life with confusion, puzzlement and an inability to cope.

Russell and the entire contingent of British linguistic philosophers, of course, attempted to relegate all of the problems of philosophy to a confusion with language – and, of course, only the British, with their history of Shakespeare and the sophistication of language, its proper usage and correctness of applicability could possess the arrogance of making such an argument.

But back to “meaningful turns” – in one sense, in the “real world”, every turn is meaningful to the extent that we turn and proceed towards a destination of intended resolve.  But in the figurative sense, it refers to the steps we take in mapping out consequential decisions.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to prevent the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal worker’s position and duties, the “meaningful turn” that one must consider should by necessity ask many questions:  How long can I continue in this job?  What are the consequences of my staying, both to my health as well as from the Agency’s perspective?  How long before my agency realizes that I am not capable of doing all of the essential elements of my job?  Will my excessive use of SL, AL or LWOP become a problem with the agency?  And what about my health?

These are just a series of beginning questions on the long road towards making one of the meaningful turns that confront the Federal or Postal employee in the quest for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Medical Retirement: Living “As If”

We all engage in it; it is a pastime, of sorts, which is enjoyed by the multitude, and reveals the imaginative capacity of the human animal, but with lingering questions concerning the evolutionary viability and purpose as to the utility of the need.

James Thurber’s “Walter Mitty” (the full title of the short story, which first appeared in The New Yorker in 1939, is “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”) relished the inherent escapism provided by the contrasting chasm between the monotony and oppressive reality of daily living in comparison to the far reaches of one’s imagination, thereby revealing the unconstrained heights of the human mind.

Living as if the reality of the objective world is not as it is, can be both enjoyable and healthy.  In this technological age of unfettered virtual reality, of computer-generated imagery melding the borders between that which constitutes reality and fantasy; and where little room is left to the imagination; perhaps the death of the world of imagination is about to occur.  Is that a good thing?

The problem with living “as if” has always been the other side of the two-edged knife:  the value of the first edge was always the creativity and imagination which revealed the powers of the human mind; but too much escapism, and one entered the world of self-delusion and consequential harm resulting from inattentive avoidance generated by reality’s harshness.

Some things just cannot be put aside for long.  Medical conditions tend to fall into that category, precisely because they require greater attendance to life, not less.  And that, too, is the anomaly of daily living:  when calamity hits, the world requires more, just when it is the reality of human compassion and empathy which is needed.

In the world of fantasy, those values of virtue which makes unique the human animal become exaggerated.  We enter into a world filled with excessive warmth, humanity, empathy and saving grace; when, in reality, those are the very characteristics which become exponentially magnified during times of crisis.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties in the Federal government or the U.S. Postal Service, the idea that the workplace may reveal support and accommodation for one’s medical condition is usually quickly and expeditiously quashed.

Federal and Postal workers who have given their unaccounted-for time, energy, and lives throughout the years, and who suddenly find that they cannot perform at the level and optimum capacity as days of yore, find that reality and fantasy collide to create a stark reality of disappointment.  When such a state of affairs becomes a conscious reality, consideration should always be given to filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

It is an employment benefit accorded to all Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, and must ultimately be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (if one is still with the agency or on the rolls of the U.S. Postal Service, then the application for Federal Medical Retirement must first be filed through one’s Human Resource Office; or, if separated but less than 31 days since the date of separation, also through one’s own agency; but if separated for more than 31 days, then directly with OPM, but within 1 year of separation from Federal Service).

In the end, of course, the wandering imagination of the human mind only reveals an innate calling and need to escape.  Whether that call into the far recesses of fantasy reveals a defect of human capacity, or a scent of the heavenly within the brutish world of stark reality, is something which we should perhaps never question.  For, even on the darkest of days, when clouds of foreboding nightmares gather to portend of difficult days ahead, it is that slight smile upon the face of a person daydreaming amidst the halls of daily reality, that sometimes makes life livable and serene despite the calamitous howls of ravenous wolves snarling in the distant harkening of time.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Benefits: The Afterthought

It is perhaps best that anticipatory planning, based upon predictive analytics, is an afterthought for human intuition and predilection of priorities in life.  Otherwise, one can remain in a world of obsessive preventative maintenance of efforts, and never accomplish what needs to be done today.

Future forebodings aside, and whether an individual engages in hazardous duties which exponentially increase the statistical curve for the onset of an occupational disease or injury, or the development of a medical condition through repetitive and overuse of a particular appendage or anatomy; regardless, the bifurcation of thought from the daily aches and pains from one’s body, warning of impending and future difficulties, is ignored and banished, to be reflected upon in some future corner of pondering.

Human beings have an almost unlimited capacity for relegating present concerns to the realm of an afterthought, and the benefit of disability retirement will naturally take a backseat for those in the youthful set, precisely because disability is associated with thoughts of avoidance, sort of in the company of old age, infirmity, and early onset of dementia.  As well it should be.  But for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who find themselves with a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, and therefore becomes a threat to one’s livelihood, the afterthought becomes the primary issue, and it is then that one sounds a heavy sigh of relief in knowing that an employment benefit includes a Federal Disability Retirement packet.  But once the acknowledgment comes to the fore, the reality further hits one, that you must prove your case, and it is not merely a matter of entitlement.

Federal Disability Retirement, filed through one’s agency if you are not separated for over 31 days, must ultimately arrive at the doorstep of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.  OPM is the agency which makes the decision upon a Federal Disability Retirement application (and that’s the reason why this medical benefit is also known as ”OPM Disability Retirement”).

While there are minimum time in-service requirements (18 months under FERS and 5 years under CSRS), it is the compendium of proving one’s case under the legal standard of preponderance of the evidence, which must be submitted in order to win.  Afterthoughts are human evolutionary means of avoiding unseen dangers; but when the afterthought becomes a present danger, it is time to become aware of the surroundings, context, and content of the formidable opponent one must face.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Can the Agency Accommodate You?

The term “accommodations” continues to be a highly misused one.  There is the general conceptual application, as when an agency attempts to do something to help a Federal or Postal employee by “allowing” for “light duty”, or allowing one to work at a reduced schedule, or to take sick leave, annual leave, or Leave Without Pay.  But such actions (as kindhearted as they might be intended) do not constitute a legal accommodation under disability retirement rules, statutes, laws or case-law. 

To legally accommodate someone must always mean that the agency does something, provides something, or creates something of a permanent nature, such that it allows you to perform the essential elements of your job.  Temporary measures, or allowing you to take time off, does not allow you to perform the essential elements of your job — instead, it merely allows you take time away from being able to do your job.  Remember, on the other hand, that there is nothing wrong with your Agency doing these things to “help you out”.  It simply does not constitute, or rise to the level of, an “accommodation” under the law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Filing II

People often come to me at the 2nd (Reconsideration) Stage, or the 3rd (Merit Systems Protection Board) Stage, and ask that I correct the mistakes made in the initial filing. Most mistakes can be corrected. Of course, it would have been better if the Applicant had done it properly the first time, for once the Office of Personnel Management views something which should not have been submitted, it cannot be easily retracted — only further explained.

There are, moreover, certain mistakes which cannot be “explained away” — such as deliberate omissions or deceptions. Thus, if the Office of Personnel Management gets the idea that there is an element of deceptiveness in a disability retirement application — either through omission or deliberate avoidance of an issue — then it becomes a difficult case to win. Honesty is always the best policy, and no Disability Retirement applicant should ever engage in any act of covering up any information. This is conceptually different from emphasizing the elements in a disability retirement application which favor an approval, as opposed to de-emphasizing those elements which tend to obscure the primary elements of an application. Such artful emphasis/de-emphasis should always be a part of every disability retirement application, coordinating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability with supporting medical documentation, to convey a consistent “whole” to the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire