OPM Disability Retirement Benefits under FERS: Who we are

That is a rather presumptuous title, one might declare; for, it is always the “we” that others presume to know, as opposed to limiting the declarative within the restrictive confines of one’s self, family and surrounding community.

What is the great equalizer that allows for the collective plural pronoun?  Is it television (i.e., do “we” all watch the same shows and thus form a conglomerate of a universal consciousness)?  There was once a time when one could argue that a unity of convention existed — especially harkening back to the days when there were essentially 3 networks to choose from, and where all three were similar in content, thought and approach.

In modernity, is it the Internet?  But the worldwide “web’ is too diverse to narrowly formulate a cumulative effect of similar normative beliefs.

Perhaps that is why society in general is so diverse and fractured; where even a simple consensus amidst a small community cannot be reached, and how geographic differences have become exponentially and irreversibly altered and separated from one another.

Who are we?  Yes, the inversion substitution of the second word with the third makes the declarative into a query, and changes the entire subject matter.  It is, perhaps, both a statement and a question, and neither make sense, anymore.  And so we are left with a singular voice — of a monologue and an aside, or as in a play, a soliloquy, where the character asks the universal question, Who am I?  Am I the collective consciousness of my direct descendent, and does that have meaningfulness, anymore?  Why do we seek answers by purchasing and sending away “DNA kits”, as if the spiral spectrum of cellular anomalies would be able to answer the question which haunts us all?

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 Federal or Postal job, the potential loss of one’s identity within the community of Federal and Postal workers is often the step that is difficult to take.

One’s identity, purpose, drive and dreams are often bundled up into an inseparable conglomeration of work and identity, and to separate from that self-identification is often a difficult venture to undertake.  But the danger, of course, is that you may be forcibly separated if you do not take the steps necessary to protect your identity.

The Agency will ultimately terminate you, and the harassment because you have taken too much Sick Leave, Annual Leave, FMLA or LWOP is inevitable.  Better that you file for FERS Disability Retirement benefits and retain a semblance of who you are, lest the Federal Agency or the Postal Service does that to you unilaterally, leaving you with the question, Who do they think they are?


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


FERS Disability Retirement: Beyond the weekend respite

It is always something to look forward to: Whether the regular rhythm of the 2-day, the “extra” delight of the 3-day, and the deliciously unexpected 4-day weekend when the time of rest is doubled and by the end of it, you’d almost forgotten about the frenzy of your day-to-day work schedule.

Do we “make up” for sleep?  Those so-called experts who claim that loss of sleep, once lost, can never be redeemed, clearly don’t know what they’re talking about.  A couple of naps; an extra hour of dozing; of coming to a profound realization that the sun can actually rise while a person is still asleep, and that consciousness need not precede the earthly rotation that allows for a peek of dawn — these are all revelations that can come on the weekend.  But then there is Monday; or the day after the 3-day weekend; and the day after that.

Years ago, in the idealism of one’s youth, one resolved never to live like this: As each day is a gift from God, one should not lack the relish of living during the week any more than on the weekends.  Yet, that is the cycle that most of us accept — of a bifurcation of leisure/work, enjoyment/dread.  And, in the end, there is nothing wrong with such a distinction; except when there is a despised exaggeration between the two.

The weekend is meant to be the respite away; but when the respite engenders a greater fear and dread of the following Monday, where restorative sleep cannot be attained no matter how much slumber is embraced, and when pain and recovery can never attain a level of coherent balance, then it is time to reconsider: Is this how life is meant to be lived?

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 Federal or Postal job — and, just as importantly and concurrently, where beyond the weekend respite there never seems to be an end to the race for recovery — it is time to consider filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits under FERS.

When leisure is merely a time of suspension in the dreaded Mondays of work’s cycle; and where the treadmill of life’s spectrum between work and time-off is so out of balance that one cannot distinguish between the waking moment and sleep, or work and play because the medical condition is all-consuming; then, it is time to consult with an attorney who can guide you through the complex process of filing a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


FERS Disability Retirement Benefits: The Resistance

The initial reaction to such a title is the obvious one: To what?  Of course, Newton’s Third Law of Motion comes immediately to mind — of every action having an equal and opposite reaction; thus, when one posits a “resistance”, the natural query must refer to its opposition, as in, “What is it that we are resisting?”

Throughout our “stages of life”, we either comply, conform, “go along with the crowd” — or resist doing so.  There are “middle” ways, of course, and yet to compromise and resist “half-way”, or in a half-hearted manner, often seems to ruin the whole point of any resistance, doesn’t it?

If one is to be a revolutionary, the point is to be one completely, or not at all.  During the Sixties, there was the famous line (often misattributed to Abbie Hoffman, the Beatles and others) which declared that the movement’s participants would “never trust anyone over 30” — spoken by Jack Weinberg in response to a hostile interviewer.  The underlying point of the statement is quite clear: By the age of 30, most people have “sold out”, conformed, lost their youthful vigor to resist; or, put more simply, accepted the status quo and have become cynical.  Yet, isn’t there a natural inclination to “belong”, to not stand apart from the crowd, and to be able to live a quiet, unassuming life?

“Resistance” can thus have a duality of meanings — it can imply that one is part of a movement involving resistance to the status quo or, even its opposite; that one resists change and is integrally a participant of the status quo.  Resistance to change is the greater dominating force.  Change is a fearsome entity where the unknown is to be avoided at all costs.  To be a part of “the resistance” that refuses to conform — well, that is best left to those under 30, unattached and without obligations and responsibilities.

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 Federal or Postal job, resistance to change is often the factor that procrastinates, and keeps a person in a “muddle of the middle” where conditions deteriorate but one stubbornly insists upon maintaining the status quo.

But as medical conditions deteriorate and as the Federal Agency or the Postal Service persists in seeking change — by forcing the issue and initiating adverse actions in order to fill the position with a person who is able to perform all of the essential elements of the position — resistance to change must be replaced with becoming a part of the resistance: By preparing and submitting an effective Federal Disability Retirement application with OPM and forging ahead into a future yet unknown.

Remember —even Jack Weinberg became a class of individuals that he resisted, and went on to become a consultant and an adjunct faculty member; in other words, he was once in the “Resistance”, then became that opposite and equal force to fulfill Newton’s Third Law of Motion.


Robert R.McGill,Esquire


OPM Disability Retirement Appeal: Second Opportunities

In life, how often do we get a “second opportunity”?  To correct a past mistake; to avoid the consequences of an error committed; to rekindle a damaged relationship; and other acts of revitalized and redemptive scenarios rarely allowed.

Second opportunities, and the rare third ones, allow for erasures to be made, modifications to be incorporated and additional, corrective information to be inserted.  Of the following, what would one think? “Oh, a mistake was made in the contract which goes against you, but not to worry, go ahead and make the changes and we can sign everything again as if … “ Or: “Oh, your rich aunt disinherited you after you called her that horrible name and in a drunken rage knocked her over the head with vase, but not to worry, she forgives you and has placed you back in her will.”

Those are, to be sure, instances of second opportunities, but rarely to be had and more likely to occur in fictionalized accounts of redemptive fantasies otherwise unpublished because of their unlikely occurrences.

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 Federal or Postal job, the “Second Opportunity” (and the “Third”) comes in the form of the Reconsideration Stage, and then an appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Don’t let such an opportunity for corrective action slip through the “proverbial fingers” by making the same mistake twice.  It is, at either the Reconsideration Stage or the appeal to the MSPB, an opportunity to fill in any gaps (whether merely perceived by OPM or substantively existing, it doesn’t really matter); and to reinforce any lack of medical evidence by having the opportunity to supplement, and even modify, statements made or omissions allowed.

Some OPM Disability Retirement cases may be weak in their very essence, whether because of lack of medical support or because of other reasons undefinable; other cases may simply need further development, explanation or supplemental evidence to “shore up” the unpersuasive peripheral issues that have appeared in the case.  Both the Reconsideration Stage, as well as the appeal to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, open opportunities to resolve one’s case in one’s favor — by being granted the ultimate end and goal with an approval of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

The road to attain that goal, however, must sometimes travel through multiple doors and second opportunities, and that is how one should see the Second (Reconsideration) and Third (an appeal to the MSPB) Stages of the process in trying to get one’s OPM Disability Retirement application approved.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


OPM Retirement for Mental or Physical Incapacity: Responsibility

What is it about the ascription of such a word, that there can be a direct correlation or, if taken in a different context, some mere connection but no causality?  We can say of a person, “He is responsible for X”, and yet never have directly encountered X or (if a person) never even have met X.

Thus of monsters and thugs throughout history, for instance, we might say that “Stalin was responsible for 20 million deaths, at least,” or that Mao was “responsible” for a 100 million peasants dying during the late 50s; or, of course, of ascribing to Hitler the countless millions; and, so that we don’t leave out other “responsible” monsters of history, of Pol Pot, Idi Amin and many others besides, though we cannot link a causality that would pass Hume’s skeptical test of anything more than events following one upon another, we nevertheless accept that all such political figures were “responsible” for the deaths of millions.

What is the criteria in coming to such a conclusion?  Is it a negative proposition — that if X had the power or position to prevent such events from occurring, then Responsibility-Y can be ascribed?  Or must it be a positive declaration: If X engaged in Acts A, B and C, then Responsibility-Y can be attributable to Individual-W; and further, if only Acts A & B, but not C, then less so; and if only Act A, but not B & C, even less so?

Responsibility”, of course, is a malleable and transitive concept; it can change with the contextual winds of opinion, historical perspective and a cultural shift of viewpoints.  Look at how we approach our Founding Fathers — of responsibility for the slave issue in the United States, but somehow excusing each if (A) any one of them willed that they would be freed upon their deaths, (B) that one was “personally” against the issue but for economic, practical reasons were “forced” to go along or (C) they treated them “kindly” and “responsibly” (here, we have a double-meaning of the term, for such an individual was both “responsible” as well as being ascribed the “responsibility” of being a slave owner).

Or, look at the manner in which America treated Native Americans — of a genocidal history no less cruel than Mao’s starvation of the peasantry; and yet, because of such grand concepts as “manifest destiny” and the depiction of an entire populace as “uncivilized”, we can avert “responsibility” by distancing the causal agents; and the greater distance between the agents, the less we ascribe responsibility.

On a lesser scale, what about work?  If work suffers and there is no reason for it but laziness and lack of attention, we ascribe “responsibility”.  But what if a medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties — is that Federal or Postal employee “responsible”?

The short answer is a “no” — and that is recognized by “the Law”, in statutes, regulations and case-laws cumulatively aggregated under the conceptual aegis of “Federal Disability Retirement Law”.  It is precisely because society recognizes that a medical condition itself — and not the individual — is directly responsible for one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, that Federal disability retirement exists as a benefit to pursue.

But it cannot be accessed until and unless there is an affirmative step taken by the Federal or Postal employee, by preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.  That is where “responsibility” comes into play as a direct causal link — of initiating the steps and actually filing.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement: And then we are gone…

The trailing ellipsis establishes a pause for reflection, and the finality of three periods for an emphasis upon the irreversible nature of the statement.  “And then” connotes that something preceded – a lifetime of activities, a century or less of human historicity involving birth, growth, work, struggles, etc. – existed before the conclusion of the life.

The “we are” slice of the sentence implies two additional variables: the universality of involvement – an event that excludes no one – and the present tense of that which is inevitable.  And what about the final word before the ellipsis?  The eternal nothingness; the inescapable conclusion to every novel, every short story, every figure of historical significance or otherwise; we all die.

We somehow try and escape or avoid that fate.  Heidegger’s observation that the whole of human activity is merely a project of distraction and avoidance – that we perform this busy-ness and that all-consuming work or hobby, not because it is inevitable, important, relevant or even interesting, but because to do nothing would be to face the reality of our own demise daily.

Perhaps that is somewhat of an overstatement.  And yet… In the end, plastic surgery, herbal teas and strenuous exercise may only prolong the terminal exit ramp for a fortnight or even a calendric cycle or two, but it is the “in-between” times that make all the difference in a person’s life.  And what of quality?  Does quantification by pure duration determine the worthiness of that “in-between” period, or is it better to have lived a short but “full” life, before the finality of nothingness comes upon one?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are suffering from a medical condition, such that the medical condition is making that preceding period before the universalization of finality becoming a reality “less than worthwhile”, the time may have approached, and perhaps even passed, that preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application has become not merely a necessity but a crisis of mandate.

Sometimes, in life, the choices are limited and the options presented somewhat less than the best of life’s offerings; yet, to live out that duration of what is future-oriented by enduring pain, suffering and illness in an atmosphere of hostility and adversarial contrariness for the remainder of the days yet to come, often become unbearable and unthinkable.

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, is often the only solution to a problem unsolvable. It is that moment before the part that goes, “And then…”, where the ellipsis has not yet reached the “we are” portion, and thus a crucial section of a life still to be lived.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire