Federal Disability Retirement: The Pathway of Choice

Pathways are peculiar entities; pre-Google Map times, they were a maze of forbidden routes, romanticized by a generation who were familiar with the television series, Route 66, and about hitchhiking, wrong turns, Robert Frost’s famous poem and Rand McNally road maps.

Now, of course, Google guides, directs, and (sometimes) allows for avoidance of unnecessary delays.  But is it the pathway of choice, and even more importantly, is the pathway chosen the best one for each one of us, the most advantageous for us, and the one which ultimately is in our best interests?  If the pathway that is chosen is simply so because all others are never known, or merely because that is the Robert-Frost-look-alike, when in fact it is delimited because of our lack of knowledge, is it really out of choice or of necessity?

Perhaps the career chosen is not turning out to be the realization of one’s dreams; or, as sometimes happens, an unfortunate set of circumstances has intervened — like a medical condition — and suddenly the pathway of choice that we thought would fulfill our hopes and dreams no longer seems possible; then what?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal Service workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition no longer allows us to perform all of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal positional duties, the pathway of choice for the immediate future may seem constricted:  Stay put and suffer; walk away with nothing; or, prepare, formulate and file an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

That is the tripartite fork in the immediate road on the way to one’s pathway of choice; but then, there are other “forks in the road” beyond, such as being able to work at another job after one has been approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether in the private sector or in a state, county or municipal employment scenario.

Don’t be restricted to the immediacy of one’s pathway of choice, for there are many forks beyond, and the pathway of choice as dictated by Google maps only tells you which turn to make in the next quarter mile, and not about what may be chosen in future lives yet unforeseen.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


OPM Retirement for Medical Incapacity: The boxes in Standard Forms

For some forms, it is a convenience to have a restrictive, limited “box” in which to put the “x” into, or maybe the needed “Not Applicable”; others, however, try and contain a limited narrative and force succinctness into the standardization of answers.  That is all well and good, and perhaps from a bureaucratic standpoint and perspective, the conformity of forms and the mandatory “answers within a box” makes for streamlining of paperwork.

The reality, however, is that some questions cannot be answered — and more importantly, should not — within the proposed space allocated, and so you have two (2) choices: decrease the font size in order to fit a greater substance of the narrative within the provided box, or attach a continuation sheet despite no indication in the standard forms for allowance of such cheekiness of presumptuous creativity.

How does one identify which Standard Form should be prepared and completed within the confines of standardization, and which ones should not?   First, a conceptual identification should be applied: Which ones are merely “informational” that request only singular answers, and which forms make queries that compel for narrative answers?  Once that initial, identifying bifurcation is made, then the next step is to determine whether an adequate and sufficient response can be stated within the “box” provided within the font-size allowing for regular eyesight that does not require extraordinary magnification, or if a continuation sheet is necessary.

Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, certain Standard Forms are merely informational — for example, the SF 3107 series which asks for basic, factual information.  Then, of course, there is the SF 3112 series, and especially SF 31112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

For the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker under FERS, who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the greater mistake has often been to quickly annotate within the boxes provided a swift “jotting down” of the medical conditions one “feels” — as if the body parts providing temporary sensations for a given day, or even the lack thereof, will sufficiently satisfy the eligibility requirements that must be met in order to become approved for a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.

Make no mistake about it: there can be dire legal consequences if SF 3112A is not completed properly and sufficiently.  And always remember the philosophical dictum: That which is necessary may not be necessarily sufficient, and that which is sufficient may not be sufficiently necessary.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Witnessing the residue

Most of us merely witness the residue; the process itself, the events leading up to the conclusion, and “during” as opposed to the “after”, and all of the miniscule details that make up “in between” are invisible, ignored, unimportant or simply not thought of.  We see the “end product”, only, and that is how it should be.  We don’t have time to watch the apple tree grow from a seedling; for sausages to be made; for politics to be compromised; and for other people’s problems to fester.  And even if we did, what difference would it really make?

We assume much – that characters we see in movies made from “based on a true story” (whatever that means – and how much artistic liberty was taken with the details of such a “true story”, and what part is true and what is not?) productions went to the bathroom in between shooting at each other and becoming heroes; or that when children are seen, there was once love between the couple (although, that can turn out to be a wrong assumption where adoption or other arrangements have been made) even if the residue we witness shows only acrimony, bickering and constant arguing.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers preparing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, “both sides” witness the residue – from the Federal Agency or Postal Service’s side, they witness the residue of a filing for a disability retirement, without knowing the long and arduous struggle that the employee had with the medical condition prior to coming to such a decision.  Or, for that matter, from the viewpoint of the supervisor or co-worker, such a decision may come as a complete surprise.

Conversely, from the viewpoint of the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, witnessing the residue of the Federal Agency’s reaction or the co-workers and supervisors who make comments, or say anything at all, is often an interesting phenomenon for its complete lack of understanding or empathy.  They simply didn’t know, didn’t care or didn’t take the time (or all three) in showing any concern during the long struggle with the medical condition.

The key, however, in witnessing the residue, is with respect to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management – the Federal Agency that reviews and makes a determination on all Federal Disability Retirement applications.  For OPM, it is important to formulate a concise narrative in answering the questions on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  How much of the history; to what extent the minutiae and details of the past; and the precision of establishing the nexus between the medical condition and the job duties – these are all important in the proper preparation, formulation and filing of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, where witnessing the residue may be a void too important to neglect.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Employee Early Medical Retirement: Sleep Disorders

Sleep disorders; non-restorative sleep; Sleep Apnea; Sleep dysfunctions; altogether, they can cumulatively comprise distinguishable medical disorders, but often are lumped together, and can encapsulate differing and almost opposite conditions, including idiopathic hypersomnia, major hypersomnolence disorder, insomnia, narcolepsy, and similar medical disabilities.  Often, the effects and symptoms are the major issues, resulting in profound and intractable fatigue; inability to focus or concentrate; lack of mental acuity, etc.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from various sleep disorders and varying severity of such sleep dysfunctions, the impact can be severe and palpable.  Whether in a sedentary, cognitive-intensive position where mental acuity and focus, concentration and attention to detail are impacted; or in “safety-related” work where reliance upon full awareness, wakefulness and perceptual judgment of one’s surroundings are critical; sleep disorders can have a direct and negative impact upon the Federal or Postal worker’s ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of the positional requirements.

Such sleep dysfunctions and sleep disorders are viable medical conditions which form a foundational basis for a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

In past ages, people used to merely associate and dismiss daytime somnolence as mere “laziness” and lack of willpower; fortunately, we now know better, and such knowledge is reflective of a small but incremental advancement in human progression, which is always an amazing feat in this cesspool of ignorance we deem as civilization.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement: How Long Can Negation Define Living?

The tipping point where negation of living constitutes greater time spent than affirmative enjoyment of the activity engaged, is determined by individual choices and preferences.  Some individuals retain a higher threshold for pain, discomfort, and capacity to endure; and the fact that an MRI reveals a degenerative or decaying physical attribute does not necessarily correlate with the capability to ignore or otherwise minimize the magnitude of pain.

To what extent one avoids “doing something” in order to contain the pain; deny the self from pursuance of an activity in order to endure; to maintain quietude and an immobilized sedentary state of being in an effort to make the worn body and troubled mind last for a day, a week, or a decade longer; such are the efforts expended in a life of negation, in order to continue to “live”.  But is life defined by a quantum?  Or, is quantity in any way related to quality?  In “elder law”, there is often a discussion about “quality of life” issues, but the fact is, such a question and concern pervades with significance throughout one’s life, and not just towards the twilight of living.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition,such that the medical condition begins to prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties in the Federal Sector or the U.S. Postal Service, the question of when “enough” is already “too much” is one which haunts, tails, latches on as an appendage of inflamed emotions, and refuses mere hand-waving as an irritant to swat away.

Yes, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a major step in one’s life, but at some point, the alternative left unstated and ignored must be directly confronted and faced with courage, pragmatism and prudent behavior.

Habit of negation can become so intertwined with one’s daily life, that it remains as a compromise allowed because one believed that no alternative was offered.  But as a life defined by negation becomes, at some point, a qualitative issue where all joy has been sucked out of the vibrancy of rightful ownership, so the choice to change in order to attain a semblance of a past life, memorialized in times of youth where pain and psychiatric disorders were merely hypothetical constructs hinted at by “others” in the community, so taking an affirmative step in order to be released from the confines of daily toil and turmoil is often the best and most hopeful avenue towards a life of positive images.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM is often the best choice left in order to “move on” towards a greater definition of “life as living” once forgotten because of the constant harassment and fear imposed by the Federal agency and the U.S. Postal Service.  At some point, negation cannot define living, as life is more than avoidance, and there is joy to be found beyond Federal employment and the U.S. Postal Service.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire