Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Beast of Burden

The burden is undertaken by those have little choice in the matter, but who willingly submit to the responsibility and obligation.  Traditionally, the “beast of burden” (other than being a Rolling Stone song) refers to a somewhat-domesticated animal, perhaps a donkey or an ox, who must bear the weight of man’s work.

In law, the “burden” is one of proof — of the affirmative obligation to present one’s facts, persuasive argumentation based upon such facts, and the application of the relevant law which supports both the facts and the arguments.  The “other side” in the litigation has no burden at all, and can simply sit and do nothing, if he or she so chooses, and see whether or not the plaintiff, the appellant or the Federal Disability Retirement applicant has submitted sufficient proof such that he or she has met his/her burden of proof.

As the weight placed upon a beast of burden is often heavy and demanding, so in a similar vein the litigant who has the burden of proof should always expect to exceed what is “necessary” in any given case.  For the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is indeed a heavy burden to bear in order to meet the legal criteria of a Federal bureaucracy who has the unmitigated power and authority to approve or deny.

The burden of proof — it is as heavy as that which we place upon a beast of burden, and the weight of such responsibility can overwhelm us, lest we have the reserve of strength to plod onward.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Agency & the Burden of Proof

In a Federal Disability Retirement case, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the burden of proving one’s medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, always remains with the individual Federal or Postal applicant.

Certainly, there are actions by the agency which may add to such proof (e.g., declaring that the Federal or Postal worker is “not fit for duty” will further concretize an assessment made by a third party; or initiating a separation from Federal Service based upon one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of the job will trigger the Bruner Presumption, which then invokes a rebuttable presumption and shifts the “burden of production” (note that it is not the shifting of the “burden of proof” — a conceptual distinction important to recognize) over to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Waiting for one’s agency to act upon anything is, however, a very dangerous venture to begin with; thinking that one’s own agency will provide the proof necessary to establish one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits would not only be dangerous, but foolhardy.  For, at its most fundamental level, the fact that the very entity which makes a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application (OPM) is one which is separate and independent from the agency for which one works, creates a chasm which only further magnifies the inherent problem.

OPM pays little to no attention to what the agency does — except, perhaps, when the agency attempts to directly confront and challenge a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Otherwise, don’t look for help from one’s agency (generally speaking) when one is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; such unfounded reliance will only disappoint, at best.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Myth of Sisyphus

Albert Camus’ classic essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus“, involving the Greek mythological figure who was condemned by the gods to perform a meaningless task in repetitive perpetuity, is appropriate as a metaphor for the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Camus’ point was to reveal the absurdity of the human condition, and yet to find meaning in the penultimate meaninglessness of that very human condition — to reverse the philosophical template where essence precedes existence, and to instead grapple with meaning, value, significance and substance in the midst of human toil and turmoil.

For the Federal or Postal Employee, the heroics of continuing to work in the face of a progressively deteriorating medical condition, can seem like the task of Sisyphus:  the meaning and value of such toil is questioned; the chronic pain or uncontrollable psychiatric symptoms begin to loom larger in proportion to the lack of sensitivity by coworkers, supervisors, and even family members and friends.  Yet, like Sisyphus, it is important to continue the day-in and day-out work, if only to survive for the next day.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit available for the Federal or Postal worker who finds that he or she is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  It is, in many ways, an avenue to break away from the repetitive toil — a pathway which Sisyphus himself did not have.  It allows for the recuperative timeframe, and to perhaps move on to another career or vocation, away from the work which either contributed to the deteriorating medical condition, or one which could no longer be pursued because of the medical condition.  Either way, pushing the boulder up the hill and watching it roll down the hill, only to push it back up the next hill, is a manner of living which constitutes mere existence, as opposed to embracing the potentiality of the human condition.

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is an option which any Federal or Postal worker who has a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, should be seriously considered.  It is a benefit which was not available to Sisyphus; it is available to all Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS or CSRS, as long as you have the minimum 18 months (for FERS employees) of Federal Service (it is assumed that if you are under CSRS, you already have a minimum of 5 years of Federal Service).  Sisyphus, of course, is presumably still rolling that boulder up the hill (or watching it descend), as we speak.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire