Federal Employee Disability Retirement Benefits: Writing a life

It is lived; or so we attempt to do so.  This thing called “life”; neither an art form, and forever unaccompanied by instructions or even a cheap compass; most are abandoned at the junkyards of forgotten corners, where the trifecta of raw sewage, mistreatment of body and spirit, and the crass exposure to the detritus of human discontent coalesce to present the irony of birth preceding an inevitable death.

Heidegger taught that we engage in projects in order to avoid the ultimate outcome; for Nietsche, nihilism opened doors for optimism contrary to the preceding generations of convoluted castaways; and while Zen and Hindu mysticism explained away the agony of the body, the remaining torture of living the reality of the now somehow wasn’t enough to extinguish the suffering groans of an impervious universe devoid of feeling, empathy, regard or constancy.

If the implements to create are not provided, and cannot be afforded no matter the toil from birth to death, of what use is the life given if living it cannot be achieved?  Moreoever, how can one engage in the writing of a life, let alone the living of it?

Autobiographies are mostly forgotten narratives undertaken merely to dispose of haunting ghosts of passing groans; and biographies, only for those who become a footnote in the dustbin of society.  And thus are we forsaken, like the cross abandoned on the hilltop where agony was first embraced in an effort to expiate the sufferings of our forefathers.  And then we are asked to write a life — no, not merely to live it, but to engage in art as reflective of ugliness.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are attempting to prepare an SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, the arduous expenditure of describing even a slice of it can mean the difference between securing one’s future or losing a lifetime’s career of investing in the Federal sector or the U.S. Postal Service.

Whether the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the labor of preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application must by necessity describe the impact of the medical condition, its nexus to the Federal or Postal worker’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal position, and to “prove” it by a preponderance of the evidence.

Such a daunting task is tantamount to writing a life — perhaps, one could appease, merely a slice of one, a portion of a greater whole, and an abbreviated compendium in an abridged form.  Nevertheless, the task involves the aggregation of descriptive narrative, a coherent structure of prose encapsulating facts, evidence and a legal argumentation with a focus towards meeting a statutory criteria for eligibility; indeed, some could argue that the entire project is one demanding something well beyond the mere writing of a life; it is, moreover, to convey and communicate the most private of concerns before a public forum in a maze of bureaucratic complexities amidst an administrative nightmare in a sequence of conundrums.

Yes, living a life is hellish and unaccompanied by direction or explicit purpose; writing a life is even worse — for it entails the remembrance of things past, the present undone, and a future filled with uncertainties but for the successful execution of preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The Peripatetic Nature

But for a rarity, we seek its very opposite; consistency, stability, and the duration of longevity; these, we believe, provide for that which we didn’t have ourselves, yearn for, or seek to give to our own offspring.  In domestic legal proceedings, we hear tell of incongruent arguments where, in the midst of separation, the parties delineate what is in the “best interests of the children” — of remaining in the family home, maintaining a stability of regularity, etc.

From our limited micro-perspective, the loss of constancy when contrasted with the length of one’s own mortality from birth to death, is but a linear insignificance in comparison with the age of the universe.  Conceptually, we recognize this; and yet we constantly fight against it.  Our forefathers maintained a single job from youth to death; then, someone thought of the idea of “retirement”, and suddenly there were mandatory age requirements and proposals floating about concerning the “golden years”, all the while keeping pace with mass constructions of nursing homes and home healthcare services.

The incongruity and self-contradictions are palpable, but somehow we get away with it all.  Is man a seeker of stability, or does he possess a peripatetic nature?  Beyond such a question is the tendency to reject and resist being “forced out”.

For the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties, the persistent harassment, the hostile work environment created, and the progressive insistence of pernicious pettiness invoked to make life unpleasant — these are all signs to acknowledge that one must “move on” with life.

It is difficult enough to deal with a medical condition; harder still to attend to it in conjunction with work-related pressures.

Stability of purpose is often what we thought we wanted; and for the peripatetic traveler, perhaps moving to another phase of life is an easy thing; but for the rest of us, change — even recognizing the necessity and inevitability, especially for the Federal or Postal employee who must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset — is something that is hard to accept, given the true nature of man, even if we all think of ourselves as Aristotelian philosophers.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement from Federal Employment: Epochal Dawns

There are those momentous events in life which we mark and memorialize; and, in the end, whether the cumulative bag of goodies amounts to a positive aggregate, or a negation of sorrows, we determine in the quietude of private thoughts.  Avoidance of future uncertainty is a talent wrought only by humans; for animals of other species, they cannot afford such luxuries, as survival in the here and now constitutes reality of future causality.

For us, there is today; tomorrow will take care of itself within the constructs of fear, angst and uncertainty; and as Heidegger would have it, the projects we savor are the ones which delay thoughts of tomorrow, death, and the certainty of extinction.

What are those epochal dawns?  For Federal employees and U.S. Postal Workers, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, it can include the advent of a medical condition.  In the beginning, in retrospect, perhaps it was of minor consequence; left as merely an afterthought, a nagging pain, or perhaps a singular moment of sudden urgency.  But the chronicity of life often parallels the longevity of a condition, and what was once a mere quibble may have turned into that momentous event.

Medical conditions belong in the bag of goodies set aside as “negatives”; and it may well lead to the necessity of considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Avoidance of the issue will not switch the bag of goodies from the negative to the positive; but once that decision is made to file an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, it is up to each Federal and Postal employee to determine whether the future course of events — that “hereafter” and “post-disability retirement life” — will mean that there is yet a future of positives, and not merely a reverberation of past negatives.

And what of that “epochal dawn”?  It remains so only if the event itself stays in a motionless rut of stagnation, like those old films of a dying carcass stuck in the mud of a scorching desert sky, where the vultures of a future abyss fly above, waiting for their pick of tenderloin.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement Attorney: Out to Pasture

There is a natural proclivity by the previous generation to resist the transference of authority before its designated time; the conflict arises not as to the inevitability of such change, but rather as to the appropriate context, procedural mechanisms instituted, and the care and sensitivity manifested.  And that is often the crux of the matter, is it not?

The brashness and lack of diplomacy and propriety; the insensitive nature of youth in trying to take over before paying one’s proper dues; and a sense that the young are owed something, without paying the necessary price through sweat and toil.  And the older generation?  From the perspective of the young, they are often seen as intractable, unable to face the reality of the inevitability of generational transfer; the ideas once seen as new and innovative are mere fodder for laughter and scorn.

Such treatment of those on their “way out” are often given similar application for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who show a need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Such employees are viewed as those being “put out to pasture”, and as something less than human, partial in their worth, lacking of completeness, and needing to be shoved aside to make room for the healthy and fully productive.

Resentment often reigns; the insensitivity of the approach of agencies in their bureaucratic indifference is often what prevails; and once the exit is complete, those who were once the warriors and conquerors of yesteryear, are mere vestiges of forgotten remembrances of dissipating dew.

Always remember, however, that there is another perspective than the one which is left behind.  For the Federal or Postal employee who is put out to pasture by one’s agency, there is new ground to break, fresh challenges to embrace.  The pasture that one enters need not be the same one that the former agency considers; it is the one which the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement annuitant plows for himself, and whatever the thoughts and scornful mutterings of that agency left behind, they now have no control over the future of the Federal or Postal employee who has the freedom to follow the pasture of his or her limitless dreams.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: FERS & SSDI

Of course one must file for SSDI (Social Security Disability benefits) when a Federal or Postal employee under FERS (the Federal Employees Retirement Systems, as opposed to CSRS, the Civil Service Retirement System) files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  If approved by Social Security, there is a 100% offset of benefits in the first year, and a 60% offset of benefits every year thereafter until age 62.  The real underlying question for most people, is how aggressively one should, or one wants to, pursue Social Security benefits.  This is often determined by what one plans to do after becoming a Federal Disability Retirement annuitant.  For, if you plan to work part or full time, and think that you will be earning more than the yearly ceiling allowable under SSDI, which is around $12,000.00 per year, then it is probably not worthwhile to pursue it very aggressively.  On the other hand, if you plan on relying exclusively on your disability annuity, it is probably a good idea to pursue it with the intent of obtaining it. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: When to File

I still get calls by people who state that (A) they are waiting for a year before they are going to file for FERS or CSRS disability retirement, (B)  It hasn’t been a year since they have been on LWOP, but it almost will be, or (C) They are waiting to be terminated so that their year will begin.  Quiz:  Which of the above (A, B or C) is the correct basis upon which to decide to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?  Answer:  None of the Above. 

Since OPM disability retirement can take anywhere from 6 – 8, sometimes 10 months to get (beginning the time-sequence from the time a doctor is contacted to provide a medical report, to putting the entire packet together, to getting it to the Agency Human Resources Personnel, to getting it to Boyers, PA, to getting it to Washington, D.C., to getting an initial approval, etc.), it is:  A.  Not a good idea to “wait a year” because there is no reason to wait; B. You don’t need to wait a year on LWOP to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and:  C.  You don’t need to get terminated, or separated from Federal Service, in order to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits. 

Let me re-emphasize:  The “1-year rule” has to do with the following:  A.  You have one (1) year from the date you are separated from Federal Service to file for disability retirement — but you can file at any time, whether separated or not, as long as it is not after 1 year after being separated from service.  B. Your medical condition must be expected to last for a minimum of 12 months — but your treating doctor should be able to tell quite easily whether or not the medical condition for which you are being treated will last that long — normally within a couple of months of treatment. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability: Standard Forms

Remember that Standard Forms are produced with the intent of having you believe that you are constrained by the questions as posed, by the space as constrained, and by the language as restricted.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  All forms, including governmental standardized forms, are merely inquisitive templates requesting information.  If the form fails to ask the proper question, or does not pose a question such that it does justice to your particular situation or problem, then you should freely ask the question you believe should be asked, on a “continuation page”, or in an addendum created by you or your attorney.  In disability retirement applications, this is especially true of Standard Form 3112A (Applicant’s Statement of Disability).  Instead of answering only the constraining questions as posed within the framework of the form, it is often appropriate to add another page and create, and subsequently answer, relevant questions which are neither posed nor implied by the Standard Form.  This is not to say that the applicant should abuse the process by adding irrelevant questions; rather, it is to allow for the “full story” of a disability retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Employee's Usefulness

Federal Employees and Postal Employees should never consider or entertain the thought that filing for disability retirement benefits is a negative judgment upon his or her lengthy and productive career.  It is merely a statement of reality — that the Federal and Postal employee has had a good career; medical conditions may have shortened the first career, but this merely means that there will be opportunities to have a second career; and, in no way does it mean that there is a blemish upon the Federal career; merely that it is time to move on to something else.  And, indeed, the interruption of the Federal or Postal career as a result of impeding medical conditions merely is a statement that you are no longer a “good fit” for a particular kind of job. Further, if you are removed from the Federal sector because of your medical inability to perform your job, such a removal is a “non-adversarial” and “non-disciplinary” action, and therefore (again) should not, and cannot, be considered a “blemish” upon one’s career. And, finally, it is often the case that it is precisely because of the long and loyal hours you put into your job, that you paid a price for such loyalty — by embracing the stresses of the job, of working despite impending medical conditions.  In other words, very often I see that the stresses inherent in the position took a large and heavy toll upon the individual, such that medical conditions resulted from the long years of such heavy toll.  There is never a need to feel guilty about taking disability retirement; you’ve paid your dues; it is time to move on to another phase of your life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire