Federal Disability Retirement: The Structural Problem

It is what we never want to hear, and fear most:  that statement from an “expert” who informs us that it is a “structural problem“.  Not cosmetic; not superficial; not unessential; but that word, concept and image which goes to the very heart and foundation of the damage:  the center of the universe.  When the damage occurs there, and the rotting vein of progressive deterioration touches upon that central nervous system, then it becomes “structural”, and all of the rest may come falling down in a sudden dustheap of crumpled carcasses.

So long as it involves only the peripheral concerns, we keep telling ourselves that it doesn’t matter, that the foundation is still solid and they are mere extremities of lesser concern.  We do that with pain and other irritants of life.  And with medical conditions that don’t double us over or completely debilitate us.  So long as there remains a semblance of structural integrity left, one can go on and continue without regard to the symptoms which become telltale signs of impending doom.

For the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker who has arrived at the point of finality where one can no longer just venture forward, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management becomes the best remaining option.

We wait because it is in the very nature and essence of procrastination that the inevitability of ignorance, neglect, disregard and sidestepping can delay the confrontation with that which we fear to know, refuse to acknowledge, and take comfort in detracting from the encounter with the truth of established verifiability.  As with science, the flat earth, and the view from a geocentric universe, no one wants to be told that there is a structural problem.

Too often, the Federal and Postal employee who finally comes to a point of needing to admit that preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is and has become a necessity because he or she has worked until the last straw was placed on the back of the proverbial camel.

Medical conditions announce harbingers of events to come, by symptoms calling for attention and attentiveness.  While the news from the architect that the problem is a “structural” one may not be welcome, it was always an indicator that the inevitable was on the fast-track of necessity and predictability; we just turned our heads aside in hopes of another day.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


OPM Medical Retirement Attorney: The Cauldron of One’s Past

The oversized iron pot hangs over the open fire, and the gurgling of ingredients steams and burps the lid in predictable sequences of rhythmic timing; the aroma is an admixture of sweet and mysterious combinations of one knows-not-what; perhaps of bones, marrow and herbs, here a whiff of something which touches upon the dark recesses of one’s memory, and there a hint of harboring horrors, reminding us of past deeds and loathsome reminiscences.

The figure who stands hunched over the source of pervading uprisings, is covered in a dark shawl; a bony hand gripping the large wooden ladle, mixing, turning, crouching over to sniff and taste; and from the chasm of the figure’s hollow mouth, toothless and echoing a chamber of snorting chafes, the sigh of satisfaction emits, as the cauldron of one’s past is ready to be served.  And so the story goes.

Who among us would want the fullness of one’s past and history of deeds to be revealed?  What pot would hold the full taste of one’s misdeeds, private concerns and actions engaged?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the process itself sometimes feels like one is forced to partake of a witch’s brew — who will be in the mix?  What private information will have to be revealed?  When will the pot of information be ready?  Who will mix the ingredients?  The mysteries contained within the mixture of the witch’s brew is indeed terrifying.  Every process which is unknown and, moreover, unknowable, is one fraught with concerns and trepidation of purpose.

For Federal and Postal employees under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the decision to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is like the witch’s cauldron — it must bring to the fore one’s current circumstances (the medical condition), the impact upon the future (finances, future job prospects, etc.), and potentially the confrontation with one’s past (agencies love to do that).

The key is to understand the complexities of the administrative process, and to maneuver through the bureaucracy of the witch’s brew.  In doing that, one must always be cognizant of the cauldron of one’s past, and keep out of the reach and grasp of those bony fingers which reach out to encircle one’s throat, lest you become an ingredient in the admixture of the skeletons found at the bottom of the pot.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


OPM Disability Retirement: Reversal of Fortune

Life itself rarely reflects a steady, linear progression on a graph; the zig-zagging representing times of economic turmoil more accurately profiles a person’s span of existence.  Moreover, one’s career is not necessarily the essence or paradigm of a given life’s experience; there are multiple factors, including emotional, births and deaths, marriages and medical conditions.  How does one quantify an experience?

The methodology we seek is often purely in monetary parallelism:  if one receives pay raises and cash rewards, then one’s career is considered to be on an upward trajectory; if one gets a reduction in salary (with or without a concomitant demotion in position), then the loss of linear progression is deemed a failure of sorts.  But like marriages, and life itself, careers never merely reveal a positive path of progressive purity; ask Elizabeth Taylor, who skews every statistical analysis of marriages and divorces.  And then, of course, there is the interruptive influence of a medical condition.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers, the daunting doldrums of a medical disability reveals many things not reflected on a graph of life:  the bother; the interruption of a career; the fear imposed; the dealings with coworkers; the reaction of the agency or Postal Service; the need for surgical and other procedures; a whole host of activities not previously contemplated.

For the Federal and Postal employee who finds that a medical condition begins to prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, consideration then needs to be given for filing with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, or CSRS Offset, of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Yes, unfairness is a characteristic of life not reflected in the graph of microeconomics; yes, sometimes experience teaches us that the proverbial cards are stacked against us; and yes, reversals of fortune constitute a reality rarely taught in classroom social studies.  But as life’s experience is never accurately or fully represented by mere lines and numerical paradigms, so a biography of a historical figure can never be captured, as fortunes and reversals thereof can never embrace the complexity of human folly.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement: The Stolen Soul

Superstitions often have a grain of truth in them; otherwise, they would not have endured the test of culture, time and governance of actions in ensuring their longevity and pervasive countenance.

Aboriginal tribes and remote communities far removed from the technological modernity of this growing world; pockets of secluded peoples and those who simply shy away from the spotlight of drones like druids of yore; once, there was a belief that having a photograph taken or an image drawn constituted the stealing of a soul.  We don’t believe that.  We no longer believe such nonsense.

Such belief systems constitute an anomaly tantamount to insanity, or at the very least a level of eccentricity bordering upon an unacceptable level of non-conformity.  Indeed, instead, we have gone in the opposite direction of the extreme: many no longer visit ancient and sacred sights with a view by the naked eye, but through the lens of a video camera never to be detached from the “on” button; and we deplete and exhaust the personal “I” within the sanctity of our selves by posting the most personal of information on Facebook and other public forums for full view and entertainment, reserving nothing of a private nature.

For, in the end, the technology of the internet is merely an advanced form of the singular photograph of yore; and as the daguerreotype of yesteryear represented the technological advancement of securing frozen images in a given time, of a place cemented within the historicity of events and contexts of human occurrences, so the voluntary dissemination of information about ourselves is merely a logical extension of that loss of privacy and depletion of the soul.

The soul is not inexhaustible; and is that not why there is so much emptiness and loss of value in the world?  Of the content of information which we consider “personal” and “private”, that which concerns our medical condition tops the list.  Yet, in the context of Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, agencies and the U.S. Postal Service will inquire, demand of, and insist upon, release of medical information beyond that which constitutes allowable breach of confidentiality, leaving aside the issue of good taste.

Of course, when the Federal or Postal employee decides 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, then the onus of proof (by the legal standard of “preponderance of the evidence”) is entirely upon the Federal or Postal employee, and in that event, such submission of medical information is voluntary and must be done in order to secure the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  But before that, Federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service will often demand medical information without limits or respecting of privacy.

A response by the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker should be carefully considered, lest there be a later conflict when filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  For, often, during a time and circumstance prior to filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the issue is one of wanting to continue to work; and, in any event, unconstrained dissemination of information of the most private nature — that of medical information — should always be carefully guarded.

In the end, releasing of medical information is like that superstitious sense held sacredly by those aboriginal tribes now lost in the deep forests of forgotten time; once, we believed that a single photograph would steal our soul, to be forever tortured in the chasms of an enemy’s grip; today, such a suspicion has been replaced with the foolhardy belief that we can give of ourselves indiscriminately, without the stolen soul suffering the agony of public scorn.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement Law: Loss of Meaning

What it is that motivates a person to achieve greatness; whether the factor of that which does, or purports to be, and to what extent the outward articulation of the elements of a driving force corresponds with the esoterically objective truth underlying the learned and expected statements for public consumption; these, we may never know.

Most of us engage in repetitive monotony of actions; whether by fear of societal retribution, the judgment of peers, a sense of responsibility and obligation; or, perhaps even by sheer ignorance and stupidity, where the instinctive drive is merely based upon the base hunger for accumulation of material objects; as self-reflection is rarely a consideration of serious intent, so the onset of what some deem a mid-life crisis is often nothing more than a pause in unthinking acts of greater thoughtless chasms in void and vacuity.

Medical conditions, and the impact of a debilitating injury or disease, can be the prompting nudge for change and upheaval. Whether because a medical condition forces one to consider a redistribution of life’s priorities, or merely because they interrupt the capacity and ability to continue in an unthinking manner; regardless of the motive, change becomes an inevitable consequence of an unexpected medical condition.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits 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, is an option of limited choice.

For, as the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, so the dependency upon the agency to provide a “reasonable accommodation” is ultimately an act of futility.  “Reasonable accommodation” is merely that which is accorded in order to perform all of the essential elements of the job; it does not do away with any of the elements, and thus is rarely conceivable, and practically impossible to implement.

Federal and Postal workers who are prevented from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, at least have the option of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits. Many in the private sector have no such benefit, and are thus left to disparate means and desperate devices.  Often, the onset of a health condition becomes a crisis of meaning, where the medical condition itself compels the Federal or Postal worker to question the meaning and value of one’s work and accomplishments.  But the loss of meaning need not occur as a necessary or inevitable consequence.

Federal Disability Retirement accords an opportunity of a second bite at the proverbial apple; there is life after Federal Medical Retirement for those who get beyond the long and arduous bureaucratic process, and the meaning of one’s existence need not be the harbinger of fate, but merely a door opened for future endeavors of thoughtful exercises and prioritizing of values.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire