Medical Retirement under FERS & CSRS: The Gathering

They come from afar, and wide across the expanse of multiple cities, towns, and whether from rural areas or suburban neighborhoods, the criss-crossing of America is a tradition reserved for those special holidays where families gather, friends reminisce and relations pick up where old memories had left off.  “The Gathering” may be a once-yearly event, or perhaps a couple of times, and only once in a decade moment; however often, whatever the occasion, it is a time of recollection, reminiscence, restoration and rejuvenation.

Sometimes, even a gathering with people you hardly knew, or didn’t particularly like, is enjoyable enough, and though you might in the middle of the chatter say to yourself, “Why am I even here?” —yet, it is the mere presence of belonging that harkens one back to the lanes of memories that will not let go, like the dog that has locked its jaws onto your pant-leg and will not release you until you have finally relented.

Of course, there are other “types” of gatherings that are not so enjoyable or which bring a sense of warmth and joy — as in the “gathering” of Supervisors or Managers in conjunction with Human Resource Personnel who attempt to subvert, initiate adverse actions and conspire to make the life of a Federal or Postal employee a “hell on earth”.

Federal employees and Postal workers who suffer form 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 are at a stark disadvantage when it comes to filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits: Often, the Human Resource Office of one’s own agency is neither helpful nor mindful of the confidentiality of even asking a casual question.

A simple question like, “What forms need to be completed in order to file for Federal Disability Retirement?” — may suddenly lead to a wildfire of rumors and innuendoes concerning one’s motive, intention and future plans, and suddenly the “point-person” becomes the pariah and a gathering of managers and supervisors suddenly materializes like a an unexpected dust storm in the middle of the Gobi Desert.

Not all gatherings are equal; some are for the happiness of memories recollected; others, a conspiracy to initiate adverse actions and to undermine the future plans of a well-intended act.  For the Federal employee or Postal worker who must begin to prepare, formulate and file an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, “The Gathering” one should be most concerned about is the one to which you were never invited, so beware of the things you say, to whom you say it, and when you make the query.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: Season’s end

The cyclical nature of the seasons provides for comfort in its monotony of regularity; we are subject to nature more than we realize, and the onset of the next season means the end of one, the beginning of another and the endless cycle of repetitive regularity.

That concept, in and of itself, is a strange one, is it not?  Of “repetitive regularity”; for, can “regularity” encompass a series of elements without repetition?  And, is not repetition itself the foundation of regularity?  Is there a distinction with a difference to be made?

If a person goes to the same coffee shop every day, at the same hour, and orders the same cup of coffee each and every day of his life, we would describe that person as being a “regular”.  Further, we might describe what he does as “repetitive”, and thus would say of him: “He engages in an act of repetitive regularity”.

That perspective would be a fairly accurate one from an objective, outsider’s viewpoint.  But what about from the subjective perspective – from the person himself who goes to that same coffee shop each and every day?  He might say: “No, it is not repetitive, because each cup of coffee, to me, is a brand new one, just as each day I wake up is a new day; and, besides, I might wake up one day and go to a different coffee shop, and then you would not consider me to be a ‘regular’.”

Would such a statement be accurate?  Would it be truthful?  And what about the short time-frame within which we assign so quickly the label of “regular”?  From an omniscient viewpoint, would doing X for a month, a year – or even a decade – properly constitute “regularity”, when eternity is the standard by which it is being judged?

A season’s end and the next one’s beginning can certainly be considered as repetitive regularity; for, that is often what we rely upon as a security of comfort, in the very knowing of the next one coming. That is the insidious impact of a medical condition, is it not?  That it creates uncertainty, and suddenly repetitive regularity is no longer guaranteed, as if the season’s end may be its last.

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 duties, the medical condition itself may be likened to the season’s end.

Fortunately, there is the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement, however, and that may, as well, be likened to the repetitive regularity of a season’s end – only, it is the onset of the “next season”, and that is some comfort upon which to take refuge, like the flock of geese that fly south for the warmer climate of tomorrow.

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: Avoidance

There are always activities and interests to pursue; that is the “stuff” of which life is comprised.  Heidegger referred to the multiple and endless projects as a means of distracting ourselves from the ultimate fate of our existence; but in truth, it is far less complex than that.  Keeping busy is a means of filling in the void of daily toil, and where activity tires the soul, thoughtfulness is replaced with silence.

Have you ever met a person who talks a mile-a-minute, and is seemingly always on the way out, never to have time to pause for breath?  It is as if the grim reaper of time and eternity is just behind, on his tail, about to determine the inestimable worth of a life pursuing the unfulfilled dreams of gnomes, children and elves who jump into hobbit-holes like the white rabbit which Alice followed into the hole of Wonderland.  It is, in the end, an avoidance of sorts, where one knows in the subconscious of harbored secrets that a time in the near future will come, and fall upon the waiting soul like a weight of gold.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer in pain, or in psychiatric modes of inconceivable anguish, the need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is often delayed by deliberate avoidance.  And that is certainly understandable.

The direct confrontation with the problems of life and daily living is less preferable than the enduring activities which keep one’s soul busy with the flurry of thoughtless projects.  But as time tolls regardless of one’s efforts to procrastinate, so the politician who kicks the proverbial can down the chute of endless and moronic drones of discussion, focus-groups and formed committees for further study, is merely avoiding the inevitable.

It is first and foremost the entrance of the medical condition.  Then, slowly, the realization that it simply won’t go away, no matter how busy one is, and how unfair life has become.  Then, the progressive impact upon one’s physical and cognitive capacities ensues.  When the two roads converge, it is time to consider preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Avoidance of necessity may work for a fortnight, but the projects which make up life’s “stuff” can only fill the void for a season, if that.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Pretending

It is the creative imagination which ultimately separates man from his counterpart; and, in the end, those costumes we display, and wear as vestiges of who we were, what we have become, and how we want others to appreciate us — in the aggregate, they reveal either our pretending selves, or at the very least, our pretentiousness.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who have a medical condition, such that the medical condition necessitates filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the extension from childhood through adulthood is best personified in the ability and capacity to “pretend” — assume the role of the loyal civil servant; march on in quiet suffering; brave through in silent grief the turmoil of a progressively worsening medical condition.  But when “pretend” encounters the reality of pain and self-immolation of destruction and deterioration, there comes a point in time where childhood fantasies and dreams of want and desire must be replaced with the reality of what “is”.

That annoying verb, “to be”, keeps cropping up as an obstacle of reality, forever obstructing and denying.  Reality sometimes must hit us over the head with harsh tools of sudden awakenings; for the Federal or Postal worker who must consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the wake-up call is often the alarm-clock that rings after a long weekend, when rest and respite should have restored one to healthy readiness on the workday following, but where somehow the face of pretending must still remain.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire