Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Fear & Darkness

The veil of darkness provides a contrast; for the predator, it allows for an advantage in stalking its prey; for the prey, the shimmering shadows reverberate of the unknown, but still, if one remains calm and quiet, an equality of disadvantage is allowed for, in that the predator must maneuver through the identical lack of visual acuity as they prey.

The singular equalizer for both predator and prey, in the calm shadows of darkness, is fear.  For the former, waiting and hoping that fear will flush out its prey by making a noise or venturing out thinking that a different location will provide for a safer haven; for the latter, it is the extent of one’s imagination which often leads to defeat; of fear instilled and mixed with images of what may happen, what could be out there, and where will it all end?

Why nightfall stirs the deep recesses of one’s imagination is a mystery; and even in the midst of civilized society, in the safety of one’s home, as one attempts to turn to the refuge of sleep for restorative relief, it is often then that thoughts of fear pervade in the dark of night, and in the void of one’s mind.  Such fear reaches back to the days of primitive life, and is complicated by the unknown.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s job performance; and where supervisors and agencies have been stirred to initiate adverse actions or discussions have already occurred of such dealings, it is often those primitive chasms from times past, of fear of the unknown, which must be countered with systematic and pragmatic steps to secure one’s future.

Man, in his essence, has not changed much over time; those in power still act as predators, and prey upon the scent of weakness.

Federal and Postal workers who suffer from medical conditions may need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, in order to escape the predatory practices of one’s agency.  Ultimately, the modern equivalent of the veil of darkness is ignorance, and in this case, not knowing the law and one’s rights is often the greatest harm suffered by Federal and Postal employees; and the modern equivalent of fear?  It is still the stepping into the unknown.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Complication of Accommodations

The problem with most people is that they come at a conversation with a selective focus — and listen for that which they want to hear, and filter all other information which fails to fit the paradigm of their predetermined perspective.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question of accommodations via Standard Form 3112D comes to the fore — often because of the selective focus of issues on the part of OPM.

The fact that an agency may have engaged in work-place modifications, or allowed for temporary alleviation of certain elements of one’s job description; or even provided a state-of-the-art ergonomic chair with 3-speed controls with horizontal landing mechanisms — does not mean that the agency was able to, or did, accommodate the Federal or Postal employee under the legal meaning of that which constitutes a viable “accommodation” .

For, that which the agency does must allow for the Federal employee to perform the essential elements of his or her job, and any such attempted “accommodation” which does not meet that standard, is technically not an accommodation at all.  It is merely an artifice and a cosmetic make-over in an effort by the agency which allows for the agency to declare that they have “accommodated” the individual Federal or Postal employee.

Rarely does the question on SF 3112D get accurately responded to; for, the concept of “attempted” accommodations is precisely the point — if it was attempted, and did not work, then the agency has an obligation to concede and describe that point; but from the Agency’s myopic perspective, any “attempt” constitutes an accommodation, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will embrace such an assertion with open arms.

What to do about it?  Always focus upon the central point of a Federal Disability Retirement application — it is a medical retirement.  Thus, the doctor’s opinion is sacrosanct, and should be repetitively emphasized.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: “What If” Scenarios

The problem with “what if” scenarios is that they rely upon fear.  What if I file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and the agency then removes me?  What if I file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and OWCP decides to send me to a Second-Opinion doctor and begins the process of trying to get me off of their rolls?

Fear and the anticipation of unknown future events is often the trigger-mechanism to prevent a person from acting.  The fallacy of making decisions based upon such fear factors, however, is an obvious one:  The agency can begin the process of removal with or without the Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement (because of one’s medical conditions, his or her attendance, overuse of sick leave, less than full performance of duties, etc., is normally quite obvious to the agency already, anyway); OWCP can send the Federal or Postal employee to a second-opinion doctor or cut off benefits arbitrarily with or without the Federal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; and in general terms, “what if” scenarios can occur even if the event in question is never pursued.

Fear is the factor which bullies, totalitarian regimes, and Federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service relies upon.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is merely the great equalizer against the fear factor.  That which can happen regardless of a triggering event, will occur anyway; so the logical conclusion should be to decide to file for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits in order to acquire the “safety-net” against the future possibility (and probability) of adverse actions which the Agency is already likely contemplating.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Projecting Forward

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS (while the statutory references and case-laws applying to each retirement system may be different, the basic substantive laws governing each are essentially identical), it is important always to project forward, to prepare for the eventuality, and to consider the options so that events don’t take control, as opposed to the Federal or Postal Worker (to the extent possible) maintaining control of the present and future events as they unfold, with the multiple and varied contingencies which can reasonably be predicted.  

For instance, upon an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application from the Office of Personnel Management, the rate of annuity compensation begins at 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of service.  That first year, then, should be looked upon as a “transition” period for the Federal or Postal worker — with the full knowledge that in the following and subsequent years, the annuity will drop down to (and remain until age 62, when the disability retirement annuity becomes recalculated and converted administratively into a regular retirement, based upon the total number of years of Federal service, including the time on Federal Disability Retirement) to 40% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of pay.  

That being said, viewing the first year of annuity payments as a “transition” year means that one should be projecting forward as to what one will do in the following and subsequent years.  What kind of work will one do?  How will you make up the difference and reduction in annuity payments?  What preparations are or will be made for the reduction?  Will supplemental income be needed?  Will it be part-time or full-time?  What is the maximum allowable earned income which one can receive?  These are all transition questions which are important in planning for the projected future, forward.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Bipolar Disorder

Bipolar Disorder is classically characterized by extreme and unpredictable mood swings between depression and manic episodes, and such alternating swings of highs and lows impact upon one’s judgment, perception, orientation, and ability to maintain a rational perspective.  This psychiatric medical condition, with its symptoms of lethargy, racing thoughts, delusional thought processes leading to long periods of excitability, alternating with unrelenting and intractable depressive moods, impacts many different kinds of duties and daily living activities.  It can impact physically-intensive job duties, and not just cognitive-intensive core elements of one’s job. 

For Federal and Postal employees who are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand the psychiatric medical condition; whether a medication regimen returns one to a sufficient level of functional sufficiency such that one can continue to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job; and, if not, then how best to prepare, formulate, construct and complete a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.  What is often known as OPM Disability Retirement is a benefit which must be fought for, in order to secure one’s future ability to receive an income — perhaps to reach that level of functionality that one may return to the labor force despite the medical condition.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Continuing Confusions

In Federal Disability Retirement law under FERS & CSRS, the issue concerning accommodations can continue to remain a rather confusing area of law.  This is especially true when an Agency allows for an individual, either in the Postal Service (which is becoming rarer because of the prevailing winds of the National Reassessment Program) or in the non-Postal, Federal sector, to remain in a position and perform much of the lighter duties of the job, and to allow for one or more of the essential duties of the job to be delegated to others, or not be performed at all.  Now, such a situation can continue on for years, and there is nothing inherently wrong with such an arrangement (aside from the fact that the other Federal workers to whom such work is “delegated” may grumble and complain about fairness or, more likely, that some of the work is never completed), especially if the work which the injured individual performs is valuable to the Agency — even in such a “light duty” status.  

What must be kept in mind, however, regarding the relevance and significance to filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, is that throughout the entire time-period of being on such light duty, the Federal or Postal worker could have, at any time, filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and should have been approved.  This is because such temporary “light duty” arrangements never constituted an “accommodation” under the law, and the Federal or Postal worker was eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits regardless of remaining in the “light duty” job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Preparing for the Future

The problem of a “good worker” is that they rarely prepare for a future in which he or she is not as productive as in the present time.  Good workers don’t think in terms of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and instead plow ahead despite the medical condition(s) , the pain, discomfort, or other signs of impending future consequences.

Federal and Postal employees work hard on a daily basis; many continue to work through their medical conditions, despite signs that they should heed, and despite warnings and protestations from their treating doctors.  Yet, preparation and groundwork for a potential Federal Disability Retirement applicant is often helpful.

Some simple tips:  Don’t try and mask or hide the symptoms of a medical disability or condition from your doctor.  It is important for the doctor to annotate such complaints or symptoms which have manifested themselves, first for purposes of treatment, and secondarily for purposes of establishing a history of the condition.

Further, don’t think that hard work in and of itself will engender irreversible loyalty from your Agency.  If a future time comes when you need the support of your Agency in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, don’t expect the Agency to suddenly show an undying sense of loyalty for all of those years of work and sacrifice; more likely, an Agency will show an acute sense of selective amnesia.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire