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.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The title itself

Sometimes, it is good to go “back to the basics”.  Throughout these blogs for these past and many years, the attempt has been to relate common everyday experiences and life’s challenges to the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker struggling daily to maintain one’s career and to extend a career in the face of a medical condition.  Yet, the primary focus has always been to try and remain informative; to give some sense of the process of filing a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Sometimes, however, the title itself is sufficient, and one does not need the additional analogy, metaphor or “connectedness” to try and understand the process, and instead, all that is required is the title itself.

OPM Disability Retirement is a “medical” retirement.  It is based upon a medical condition that prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.  Yes, it can be a very, very complicating process, especially because there are potential pitfalls throughout the multiple administrative steps.  At each step of the procedural paths, there may be legal consequences that may not be correctible once the Federal Disability Retirement application has been submitted and a case number has been assigned at Boyers, Pennsylvania – i.e., a “CSA number” that begins with the number “8” and ends with a seemingly irrelevant “0” appended as the last of series of numbers.

Aside from the inherently complex questions posed on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, the initial question that one must face and answer is (A) Whether, as a practical matter, Federal Disability Retirement is worth it, and (B) Whether there is a good chance to become eligible for it.

As to the first question, the factors that must be considered are: One’s age (for, at age 62, all disability annuities are recalculated based upon the total number of years of Federal Service, including the time that one is on Federal Disability Retirement, and as it now takes at least a year to get approved by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the question needs to be asked as to how old one is, how close one is to reaching regular retirement, and whether one can last until such age of retirement and the accrual of enough service computation years of Federal employment, etc.), how many years of Federal Service, and whether the Federal agency or the Postal Service is threatening to proceed with termination or separation.  And as to the second question, issues concerning the type of medical condition, the severity, the impact upon the Federal or Postal positional duties, the extent of support, how much reliance of such support is based upon a VA disability rating, and multiple other factors.

The “title itself” is often quite simple; it is the subtexts, the parenthetical unknowns and the hidden potholes along the road to filing a Federal Disability Retirement application (here we go again with the analogies and the metaphors) that makes for a complex and complicated journey.  But, then again, hasn’t that always been the case throughout life – facing the title itself that seems simple enough, but finding out that it is a bit more difficult than first thought?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Disability Retirement: The Habit

No, this is not about that peculiar creature that Tolkien created who used to rule the earth but now hides in little dirt hutches in the deep recesses of forests (don’t all children and adults who have read his works believe in their heart of hearts that Hobbits still exist, and we just don’t see them?); rather, this, too, is a creature of sorts, just not the imaginary creation that gave joy to so many.

How is it that we come to learn it?  Is there a numerical value that must be first ascribed before the regularity of X becomes a Habit-Y?  What constitutes a definition of the repetition, and how is it learned, as opposed to unlearning certain types of constancies?  Is there a numerical value that further transforms a habit into an obsession, and where is the dividing line and what demarcates the distinction we thus impose?

If a dog, each morning upon the awakening by an alarm clock set by his master, rolls onto his back and waits until he gets a nice tummy-rub, and never deters or detours from such a habit, can he, too, unlearn it?  Is a habit, moreover, merely a settled tendency, such that the rest of those around may expect it to occur, but when it does not, is not necessarily a surprise or a disappointment, but a mere reliance that “normally” occurs but is not mandated by a turn to another direction?  When the expectation does not come to fruition, do we simply say, “Well, normally it is his habit, but perhaps he changed his mind”?

Kant, for instance, was known to take his walk at a specific time, and it was said of him that the townspeople set their watches against his daily routine and habit.  Does not that sound more like an obsession?  Is the difference one where there is greater ease to “break” the regularity, whereas an obsession is where such a tendency cannot, and is no longer a “voluntary” act?

Additionally, is there a difference with a distinction between a “habit”, a “ritual” and an “obsession”?  Or, is there no clear line of bifurcation (or is it “trifurcation”?), but the lines can cross over easily – as in, when we engage in a habit, sometimes there are rituals that are performed – washing one’s hands in the same way as always; combing one’s hair a set number of strokes; skipping over a particular crack in the sidewalk on the way home; and are rituals merely of greater intensity with obsession than with a habit?

And what of necessities that arise?  Such as filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for Federal and Postal employees – do people not file because their “habits” are entrenched in a belief-system that one must just “buck up” and ignore the warning signs of a medical condition that continues to deteriorate and progressively debilitate?  When do habits stand in the way of doing that which is “reasonable” under the circumstances?

Here is a thought: For Federal and Postal employees suffering from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing all of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job, let not habit become an obsession, and instead, allow for the rituals of life to free you from the habitual obsession of ritualistic redundancy, and instead, begin preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement from Federal Government Employment: Byzantine Iconoclasm & Compromise

It was a period in history when religious images and icons were considered heretical.  It resulted not merely in the rejection of new such images, but in the active and aggressive destruction of venerated art, sculptures, etc., and the persecution of those who created or owned them.  The term itself has come to represent an unyielding, irrational stance, unmoved by rational discourse, and even more to the point, aggressive in stamping out all opposition.

“Compromise”, on the other hand, has come to represent the ability and capacity to accept something other than the original starting points of two or more conflicting views, victims or vantage vats; for some, it reflects weakness and meekness in the willingness to capitulate beyond principles, setting aside cherished beliefs for the sake of concession and agreement.

What happens when an individual possesses the personality characteristics of an iconoclast, but circumstances dictate flexibility for compromise? Beliefs are great to have; that, and a dime, won’t even buy a cup of coffee, anymore, and it is this conflict which often arises which tempers the spirit of human pursuit and happiness of infernal contentment.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal Workers who suffer from a medical condition, where the medical condition impacts one’s capacity and ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, the internal conflict between enduring the pain and turmoil of one’s medical condition, and the need to keep one’s commitment to family, employment and self-sacrifice, come to the fore, and is often reflective of the historical clash and intersecting conflict between Byzantine Iconoclasm and Compromise.

We often think that our own situation, in its microcosmic relevance, has never been known, unlikely to have been experienced, and stranger than fiction of verse.  But as Aristotle often notes in observing the physical universe, there is a “substratum” concealed by the elements merely seen by the observing eye, which continues on imperceptibly whether we know it or not; and for humans, that underlying unchangeableness falls under the generic aegis of the “human condition“.

Often, changing circumstances require a fresh perspective and a willingness to re-prioritize our lives.  For the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker who must face the very-real prospect of a change in career and future goals because of a medical condition, the first order of priority must be one’s health and attending to his or her ongoing medical condition.

Once that has been established, then one must ask, Is continuing on in the same way — like the Byzantine iconoclast of yesteryear — impacting my health?  If the answer is a truthful, “Yes”, then one must consider preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in order to attain a state of circumstances where one’s health is not progressively being destroyed by one’s employment.  For, in the end, compromise from a prior set of circumstances is not indicative of weakness or concession of principles; it is merely to embrace the wisdom of ages long ago lost, and to recognize that those images destroyed in the fervor of Byzantine Iconoclasm never extinguished the true essence of religious belief, but merely the product of human creativity in service to the principles of beauty and art.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Medical Retirement: Those Rare Moments of Clarity

They come under unexpected circumstances, in inconvenient durations, and by the twilight of moon when sleep is required but the sought-after lull of morning sunrise interrupts despite the caverns of echoing remembrances of memories once savored, but like wisps of willows floating effortlessly down valleys of dreamy cascades, we reach out to them in the middle of the night, only to grasp at the emptiness in darkness surround.

Poetry was once upon the lips of strangers, as the Elizabethan Era represented the golden age of linguistic fervor; but like all such resurgences of purported renaissance, the period lasted but for a moment in history, as epochs of fallen dinosaurs became fodder for oil slicks and Disney movies.

It is often in the very contrast of opposites that clarity comes to the fore; and thus does the mundane and the boredom of constancy do a disservice, by maintaining a semblance of normalcy and unfettered favor.  When does that moment arrive?  Often, it is in the midst of pain that we see through the hypocrisy of that solemn friendship; and in the endurance of suffering, the truth behind the facade of relational contentment.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who finally come to a realization that the “mission of the agency” is not quite as important as one’s own health and well-being, it is often almost too late, but never quite so.  Federal Disability Retirement benefits are there for Federal and Postal employees who can no longer perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, due to a medical condition — whether physical, psychiatric, or a mixed emotional combination of both — which prevents them from doing so.

The problem is one of self-flagellation; of thinking that to file for Federal Disability Retirement is to somehow have let others down, become a turncoat, or have failed in the eyes of “them”, as their expectations have not been met and the crestfallen expressions demean and devalue the efforts expended thus far.

Clarity comes in small caches of catatonic canopies of cornered consciousness; when it does come, one must grab it and never let go.  Society always tries to bamboozle; but when the Federal or Postal employee faces the stark choice between the greater organism of harm, or the lesser evil in favor of one’s health and future security, that rare moment of clarity must be decided upon within a wink of time, before the door of perceptual horizons slams shut again, and you are left forever in that darkness of ignorance where shrieking gnomes are tortured by day and flesh-eating gargoyles creep about through the night.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire