Medical Retirement for Federal Employees: The fallacy of just-ology

It is the manner in which we dismiss the relevant, the attitude of minimizing and the conduct of our nature in modernity; just-ology is the capacity to turn one’s back upon something and dismissively wave a hand and declare, “Oh, it’s just___”.  It’s just a minor set-back; it’s just X being X; it’s just a passing phase; it is just….

The mindset itself is one that can incrementally, insidiously creep beneath the surface of what we actually believe; for, the word itself — ‘just’ – is a peculiarly insignificant word, and one that is surreptitiously inserted amongst other words, concepts, hidden between phrases and carelessly dropped between lines of greater thoughts.  As an adjective, it connotes the moral compass of a person or society; as an adverb, it often implies precision or exactness; but in common, everyday usage, it is that word which minimizes, limits and casts away into the garbage heap of irrelevance.

It is precisely by the exactness of defining something so narrowly that the precision itself makes it irrelevant.  It “puts X into its proper place” by defining it “just” so.  Precision is good; precision for accuracy’s sake is even better; but when precision minimizes to the extent of insignificance, it can be misleading.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition for many years just won’t go way, and just keeps getting worse, and just continues to prevent the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, it just may be time to begin 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.  Just in case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement Benefits: The picture album

Time was, every family had a picture album – that anachronism bound carefully in a large leather book-shaped monstrosity, kept safe where dust settles and mice scurry around; taken out for occasions where boredom is accentuated and friends or neighbors have stayed long past their welcome, and so it is taken out carefully, dusted off and laboriously paged through, telling of a history for each page, each photograph laid meticulously upon the thick plaster-backboard of a person’s history.

It used to be that we all had one picture for an event – or, two at most, once Peoples Drug (for those who are old enough to remember; and that, in and of itself, was somewhat of a historical marker – when “Peoples” Drug – the drugstore of the “people”, was bought out by successive entities of greater reserve until it finally became a nondescript, boringly corporate entity under the designation of “CVS”; somehow, something was lost when the corner drugstore started in a suburb of D.C. was engulfed by mergers and corporate purchases) declared a two-for-one sale.

Of course, we all kept in safekeeping those brownish negatives that neatly fit into those thin plastic columns (i.e., thrown into a drawer based upon the sequence of receipt) – you know, the ones you hated to slide out because you could never get it back in without bending them, and somehow you suspected that they were never meant to be fit within the columns of plastic in the first place.

Somehow, there was something quaint and innocent about a picture album that only had one shot of a slice of life that told a limited tale about a person’s continuum of historical detail – by contrast, today’s Smartphone and digital chip that can hold literally thousands of photographs, and the person who is willing to show all in a public display for everyone in the universe to see, by downloading, uploading, displaying and replaying, for a person barely in his or her twenties.

The picture album is an anachronism, telling in its humility, limited access and manifesting a humble origin of consciousness.  It is a relic that bifurcates a “before” and an “after” – of a time now gone and lost forever, replaced by an after that manifests a change most of us never asked for.

To that end, the picture album is likened to a Federal or Postal employee with a medical condition.  That Federal or Postal employee suffers from a history of that which most of his or her coworkers are completely unaware of.  And like the picture album that is taken out from the dusty bookshelves of a corner closet, when the Federal or Postal employee comes to a point of needing 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, the reaction displayed by others is often one of boredom, lack of concern or even of interest shown in forced phoniness.  For, what others know or find out about a person’s life – even of his or her medical condition – is ultimately a private slice of life that is shared with quiet discretion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Disability Retirement: A mote in society’s dustbin

What is the greatest fear?  Is it to be forgotten, cast aside, without a mere footnote in the linear history of societal acknowledgments?  Must society now adjust to the credited observation of Warhol’s dictum, that fame’s span of 15 minutes is too lengthy, given the fast-paced nature of modern technology?  Is watching one’s self in a public forum the satisfying conduit for vicarious living, such that it makes content the populous who would otherwise revolt in the disparity of despairing livelihoods?

The Biblical reference of comparing the mote in someone else’s eye, as opposed to the beam in one’s own, is of interest beyond the failure to recognize the reflection of insincerity displayed by lack of self-awareness; more than that, it is the comparative disparity which fails to prod.  While the mote itself is the foreign substance which irritates and prompts the pointing finger, it also represents the insignificance of life’s judgments in general, to the way in which we all live.  It is the tiniest piece of substance, and yet the finger-pointing it prompts reveals a readiness to judge, and is reflective of a character defect in us all.

And when that mote is extracted and flicked away, it floats unnoticed into the greater dustbin of society, where morning mists evaporate in the rising sun of daily tumult, and where giants of men with promise and potentiality fall with a thud and a shudder for all to hear.

It is irrelevancy of which we fear; that no one will have noticed, and the imprint of our lives will matter not against the rising tides of artifices constructed in the imagination of our own awakenings.  How many nameless tombs echo the mournful solitude of an estranged life in a world devoid of warmth and snuggles?  Why are teddy bears, stuffed animals and lifeless companions purchased with purrs of gleeful delight?  We are but mere motes in the dustbin of society; moreover, we fear being extracted, even from that status of being an insignificant irritant, and flicked away where even the shadows remain unnoticed and when mice scurry away with but barely an ear’s twitch.

That is why Heidegger’s comment that we engage in projects to avoid the ultimate meaning of our lives — the extinguishment of one’s conscious soul — reverberates with haunting excess.  Of course, some would scoff at that philosopher and retort that his shame in participating in the Third Reich revealed the true nature of his philosophy; but that is for another day to reflect upon.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who believe — nay, “feel” — that their work is not “done” with the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, and therefore must endure the humiliation piled upon the progressively worsening medical condition despite the self-immolative process of remaining, the real fear is the underlying, subterranean seething of man’s refusal to be cast aside as a mere irrelevancy, like a mote in society’s dustbin.

In the end, however, does it really matter whether the “mission of the agency” has been accomplished (remember that bureaucracies and their foundational rationale for existence never comes to a terminus; a new one is always adopted as perpetual replacements in the linear eternity of a behemoth’s lifespan), or the last truckload of mail has been delivered?

Federal and Postal employees are known for their “dedication” and conscientious resolve; but when filing 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, becomes a hindrance because of an unfounded and unjustified adherence to a principle which does harm to one’s own health, then the mote in the eye of one’s brother becomes more than an simple comparison to the beam in one’s own eye; it becomes itself a mote which should be flicked aside into the dustbin of society’s joke, where the laughter is directed upon all who have fallen for the epic comedy of life itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Accepted Medical Conditions

The problem with “lists” is that, the moment one realizes that one is not on the list, the tendency is to simply give up and go home.  But lists are rarely exhaustive; rather, most are merely to provide a “paradigm” or “type”, as opposed to exclusionary intent by failing to specify or name.

PTSD

Federal Civilian employees with PTSD may qualify for OPM Disability Retirement depending upon the circumstances.  There is no need to prove that this condition is pre-existing or job-related

Thus, for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the critical issue to recognize is threefold:  First, becoming qualified for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM is not dependent upon having an officially identifiable diagnosis which matches a “list” compiled at OPM; Second, in some ways, the symptoms manifested are just as important as the underlying diagnosis, precisely because what the Federal or Postal employee “suffers from” is what impacts the capacity and ability of the Federal or Postal employee in performing the essential elements of one’s positional duties; and Third, because Federal Disability Retirement is based upon the nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional duties required in one’s job, there is a requirement of showing the “connection” between the Federal or Postal job and the manifestation of the diagnosed medical condition(s).

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (or Apnoea) may also qualify for OPM Disability Retirement if this condition causes fatigue and sleepiness in such a way that it interferes with work productivity

Thus, while a 1-to-1 ratio between a medical condition and an “essential element” of one’s positional duties is not required (the recent Henderson case reiterated that issue), a showing of incompatibility between the medical condition and the positional requirements is enough to establish eligibility for OPM Disability Retirement Benefits.  In the end, providing a “list” is somewhat more of a disservice than not, because no list would ever be complete, and an incomplete list has a tendency to dishearten and dissuade.

Sciatica and Low-back pain

Sciatica is a type of pain affecting the sciatic nerve, often as a result of repetitive strain injury.  U.S. Postal employees are especially vulnerable to low back pain and repetitive strain injuries when pulling “cages” (Mail Handlers); standing, twisting, turning, and bending when working with Flat Sorting Machines (Distribution Clerks); standing for long hours (Windows Clerks); and when sitting in mail trucks and carrying heavy mailbags on their shoulders for several hours (Letter Carriers)

That being said, there are overarching “types” of medical conditions in either categories:  of Psychiatric (Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety, Anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal ideations, Paranoia, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Psychosis, ADD, ADHD, OCD), but which also fall under the general aegis of “cognitive dysfunctions” as well; and of Physical (Chronic Pain, Degenerative Disc Disease, Cervical degeneration; disc bulges and herniations; disc impingements; RSD; chemical-sensitivity issues; Asthma; pulmonary issues; anatomically-targeted issues involving hands, wrists, knees, feet, etc.; as well as GERD, Sleep Apnea, Profound Fatigue; IBS; residual effects from treatment regimens; symptoms which impact, directly or indirectly, the ability and capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties); and many, many more.

Doctors' OPM narrative

Doctors are usually familiarized with SSDI rules, not with OPM Disability law; so, even if they are willing to help, they will be typically unable to do so

There:  the disservice has been accomplished; like being back in elementary school where the “list” for the most popular, the coolest and the best dressed did not recognize your name, for Federal and Postal employees, the focus needs to always be upon that “secondary” issue of the 2-part nexus: Whatever the “it” is, is it impacting your ability or capacity to perform one or more of the essential elements of your job?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Which Forms, How to Fill Them Out, and What to Put

Filling out forms is a part of life.  At some stage in our lives, we are required to complete forms.  For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties as a Federal employee (which encompasses the full spectrum of positions, from secretaries, administrative assistants, to scientists, Information Technology Specialists, 1811 Law Enforcement Officers, etc.) or a U.S. Postal worker (including Craft employees, Managers, Postmasters, Supervisors, etc.), preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application may become a necessity.

Thus, the act of “form filling” must be confronted.  On computers, of course, if you have been completing online queries, the “autofill” option may be presented.  But the limitation of such an option, and the unavailability of that choice, should become readily apparent when attempting to complete the various “Standard Forms” required of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

For any remaining CSRS employees intending to file for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, the series embodied under the designation of SF 2801 must be completed, along with the SF 3112 series.  For all of the rest of the Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who came into Federal or Postal Service after around 1985, and who are under FERS, the SF 3107 series must be completed, and as well, the SF 3112 series of standard forms.

Thus has the question, “Which Forms?” been answered.  As for the remaining two questions:  How to fill them out and What to put —  the “how” is, to put it mildly, with care and trepidation; the “what to put” is too complex to elucidate in this forum.  The series of “informational” forms — SF 2801 series for CSRS employees and SF 3107 for FERS employees — are fairly straightforward (e.g., full name, date of birth, Social Security number, agency name and location, military service, etc.).

It all comes back to the SF 3112 series which becomes problematic — for that is where the Federal and Postal employee must “prove” the nexus between one’s positional duties and the medical conditions by which one is prevented from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.  For that, the Federal and Postal employee must go “outside” of the boundaries of the forms themselves, and consult documentation obtained from the doctor, and make legal arguments based upon wise counsel and advice.

As with much of life, it is never as easy as a bureaucracy promises; indeed, the complexity of life is in the very bureaucratization of administrative forums.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire