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 Employment: The narrative we write

Each of us carries a narrative within; the David Copperfield segment of our otherwise unrevealed lives.  It is who we are; the past that enlivens or diminishes; the memories of yesteryear or just a fortnight ago; and it resides continually until that day of atonement or the diminishment though dementia of fated unkindness.  What we say; how it is written; how it is related through the handed-down oral traditions of storytelling and bemused tales of a Dickensian happy endings (excepting Little Nell and other debatable few unnamed); and how it is told, in what manner, with what punctuations and unctuous phraseology applied; these matter, especially when others are listening.

Perhaps, in modernity, the oral traditions of storytelling have disappeared, like graveyards unvisited because of loss of faith.  Once, family members were buried on the plot of land in the pasture behind; now, that plot is another suburban home, easily fungible and sold if profits justify enough.  Lineage is irrelevant, except to search one’s genealogy in order to establish the bloodlines unique to resist disease and incest; and as children listen not to the storyteller at dinnertime, but to rap singers on iPods and Smartphones, and digitized voices in virtual fields of games and electronic media; even they get their sense of who the “I” is, by songs uttered with vitriol and You-Tube clips streaming for self-aggrandizement.

We lament that which we have no control over, yet do nothing to exert but a trifle of influence.  The standard adage should remind us:  “Garbage in, garbage out”; and, yet, who among us steadfastly maintains the duties of the vanguard who must imperviously maintain a standard of who is invited and what is kept out?  Or, does “popularity” rule, and the old edict by a shoe company trying to dominate the cutthroat world of sales and profitability, “Just do it” – is that the philosophy we follow?  Or, how about, “If it feels right (or good), then…”

The narrative we write is the storyline that follows, and the byline that stamps its approval at the bottom of the tale acknowledges who we are, what we believe in and where we intend to go.  What would your response be if a child suddenly came upon you and asked, “Who are you?”  Would the narrative that bespeaks include struggles encountered, battles engaged and promises kept?  Or would the story be a confused delineation of a skeletal clutter, barely recognizable as a unique reflection of the angels we fly with?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are preparing, formulating and 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, the narrative we write, especially on the Standard Form 3112A, is perhaps the penultimate component of the essence of the effective Federal Disability Retirement application.  How it is written; what information it should contain; the relevant period of discourse; the proper delineation in answer to the queries; these must all be taken into account before submitting it to OPM.  And, just as the response to the query by the curious child should give one pause, greater reflection before submitting an SF 3112A to OPM should be taken, lest the narrative we write reflects that which we no longer want to own.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement from Federal Employment: Intestinal Fortitude

It is a word past its prime; one which was prevalent and pervasive in use during this author’s childhood, and represented a more refined way of saying, “guts” or “courage”.  It is one which brought forth a seeming awe and sense of credibility to the person who uttered the words, and once stated, it spread like wildfire amongst the pseudo-intellectuals and wanna-be William-F-Buckley-Jrs of the world.

Of course, no one could effortlessly drop a line of Latin like he could, and just as the death of an icon can fade the philosophical context of a given epoch, so words can lose their efficacy from generational transfer to the next; yet, the substance and essence of the meaning of the word remains like the vestige of wisdom displayed in a singular utterance from the toothless mouth of one’s grandfather, where the wide-eyed child looked from a vantage point well below, peering upwards with awe and disconsolate foreboding against the shadows of a crackling fireplace exuding warmth and tenderness amidst the melodious voice of loving care.  Use of words can be distinguished from the power of persuasion such usage can engender.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who need to consider the next step in preparing, formulating and 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, there are often three (3) primary issues to be kept in mind.

First, there is a vast difference with a real distinction, between having a medical condition, and proving that one’s medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties.  The former concerns medical care and a doctor’s expertise, exclusively; the latter remains the territory of the attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law.

Second, the affirmative step in making progress towards filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM must be of the Federal or Postal employee’s own choosing.  No amount of persuasion, harassment or good old-fashioned pestering can move the mountain, and it often takes a crisis of realization until such an important decision is finally made.

And, third, whether of guts, courage, forward-thinking or intestinal fortitude, that step to be taken can be a life-altering advancement into an unknown future; but in the end, when a medical condition arises, the necessity of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM becomes a positive affirmation that the future for the Federal or Postal employee can be secured through an annuity which represents something beyond mere wasted effort for all of those years of service to the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, and whether by intestinal fortitude or something else, such dedication to service is a mark of honor well-deserved.

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

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Approvals & Disapprovals

Approvals of Federal Disability Retirement applications under FERS & CSRS, for an attorney who specializes exclusively in that area of law, are self-evidently a professionally satisfying bit of news.  If the OPM Disability approval occurs at the initial stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process, all the better; it means that everything was properly prepared and executed. 

Disapprovals, of course, constitute a temporary setback.  It is a disappointment.  Professionally, it means that the Office of Personnel Management found something wanting; it may not be substantive; it may be as simple as the OPM Representative being in a bad mood on a given day. At the same time, it is a challenge for the Attorney — a time to redouble one’s efforts, discern what is needed to win at the Reconsideration Stage, and win the full confidence of the client.  Winning a case only lasts for the day of the win.  Every attorney worth his or her salt wants to win every case. 

Watching the Olympics during these couple of weeks, it is interesting to see how “winning” is an inherently human desire.  But as with everything in life, it is not just winning; it is how one wins.  Watching each athlete conduct him or herself, it is interesting to observe how there are “winners for the moment”, and “winners in a greater-context-of-life”.  This is not to even discuss the “losers” — or those who believed they should have gotten a gold medal, but instead had to “settle” for silver or bronze.  How one loses at anything in life —  a sporting event, a contest, competition, or a legal case — and how one responds to the “loss”, is what is important.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Decisions during the Process

In making decisions during the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is obviously important to make the “right decision” at each stage of the process.  Thus, for example, if a person files for Federal Disability Retirement, at the first stage it is important to determine which medical conditions to identify and base the application upon; at the Second, Reconsideration Stage, it is important to first identify what substantive concerns which the Office of Personnel Management is proposing (in any given denial of a Federal Disability Retirement case, it is often not that obvious what the OPM Representative is actually stating), and how to go about rebutting and answering the concerns (as opposed to taking a “shotgun approach” and trying to answer each and every concern expressed by the OPM Representative), and further, at the Merit Systems Protection Board, it is vitally important to place all evidence, legal precedents, arguments and objections on the record, so that if the Administrative Judge in the case denies your claim, you have a legal basis to file an appeal.  As always, it is important to see the entire application submission, from beginning to end, as a “process”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire