FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: External-Internal Linkage

Thoreau’s observation that the mass of men lead “lives of quiet desperation” holds a profound place in daily acquiescence to the stresses of modernity; the influence and linkage between the internal workings of biology, psychology and the interplay upon health and wellbeing, and the greater macro-impact from the inevitable encounters with the external, objective world of phenomena, cannot be ignored or otherwise avoided.

The rise of self-help methodologies, of yoga, meditation, exercising and diversionary activities, is merely a reflection of the exacerbation of the internal connection as directly impacted by the external world; the linkage is there; we simply fail to otherwise recognize or acknowledge it.  Stress in the workplace is an accepted part of one’s employment; it is when stresses rise to the level of a hostile workplace that the law allows for some form of alleviated responsiveness.

But filing lawsuits, confronting the obvious, and publicly decrying boorish behavior and actions constituting illegal harassment often compounds the internal turmoil fraught with stresses upon one’s psyche; and one wonders in the end, who wrote the laws governing the litigation of such employment disputes, as special interests from trial lawyers to employers, union conglomerates to corporate lobbyists all had a hand in writing up a statute to protect the singular employee of limited means.

“Quiet desperation” infers resignation and defeat; and for many, the image of the rugged individual who stands alone to fight until death or destruction is the standard to compare one’s own limited power and actions to be employed.  But as the internal linkage to the external world cannot be denied, so health and well-being can be destroyed by the interplay with a continuing hostile workplace.

For Federal and Postal employees 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 Federal or Postal job, insistence upon continuing one’s chosen career is often a choice to the detriment of the internal affairs of man, with little impact upon the macro-efficiency of the agency.

Federal Disability Retirement is an option of choice for the Federal or Postal worker who is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS-Offset, and is often mandated by the deteriorating health of an individual (internal), necessitated by the inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties (external), and by showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the former impacts the latter (linkage), one can qualify for the benefits and salvage the quiet desperation enveloping and engulfing the insular life of an individual seeking help in the dark meanderings of a lonely outpost, where the echoing howl of a single wolf reaching out to the eclipsed moon on a cold and windy morning represents not an animal in distress, but a recognition that the wider world out there is part of man’s destiny for things greater than showing up for work to follow the demands of a bureaucracy lacking of empathy or concern.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Exaggerated Supervisor’s Statement

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the Federal and Postal employee should focus upon those aspects of the OPM Medical Retirement which are under his or her “control” — directly or indirectly — and not worry excessively about those things which are beyond one’s control or responsibility.  

Thus, obtaining the proper medical documentation; accurately, succinctly and coherently formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability on SF 3112A, etc., are within the purview of one’s control and responsibility.  Having the Supervisor complete the Supervisor’s Statement — SF 3112B — is part of the required final Federal Disability Retirement packet; what is contained within the parameters and confines of the form itself, however, is often beyond one’s control.  

While one assumes that a Supervisor’s Statement will be completed with a fair amount of accuracy, it will necessarily contain a certain perspective, intent, and often a sense of “protecting” the agency’s interest and goals.  Thus, the Supervisor will often overstate the extent of an attempted accommodation engaged in, real or imagined, in order to justify its actions concerning the Federal or Postal employee.  Further, it will often mis-state the concept of “light duty” and how it relates to accommodating the Federal or Postal employee.  In other sections of SF 3112B, it may over-state and exaggerate the employee’s conduct or impact of the medical conditions upon the Agency’s workload.  

An exaggerated Supervisor’s Statement will often be helpful to a Federal Disability Retirement case. Don’t be too hasty in attempting to correct inaccuracies and differing perspectives; sometimes, the exaggerated statements are merely differences of opinions and viewpoints, and may in fact be helpful in obtaining an approval from the Office of Personnel Management.  

In any event, a Supervisor’s Statement is beyond one’s control — and undue focus upon those issues beyond one’s control can detract from the greater mission at hand.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: A Hostile Work Environment

Unfortunately, reality often outperforms and upstages any attempt at fictional characterization of the workplace.  Often, the meanness and temperamental behavior of a supervisor in the “real” workplace can never be properly represented by an actor’s attempt in a sitcom or a drama; the persistent, irrational, capricious and outright cruel behavior and acts of “the boss” or one of his/her underlings can never be accurately depicted in fiction.  Further, the reality of the consequences of such behavior can be devastating.  Workplace stress resulting from demeaning behavior, intentional acts to undermine, cruel and arbitrary acts against a specific employee, can all result in serious medical consequences.  

It is all well and good to talk about internal procedures — of filing an EEOC Complaint; filing a grievance; filing a complaint based upon discrimination, etc.  But beyond such agency procedures to protect one’s self, there is the problem of the eruption of a medical condition, be it Major Depression, Anxiety, panic attacks, physical symptoms of IBS, chronic pain, headaches —  some or all of which may result from such stresses in the workplace.  There is no diagnostic tool to establish the link between the medical condition and the workplace stress.  

For Federal and Postal employees thinking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, there is the context of harassment & stress in the workplace, and then the medical condition which prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job. Sometimes, it is difficult to bifurcate the two.  That which is difficult, however, must sometimes be accomplished in order to be successful.  The origin of the medical condition may have to be set aside, because it “complicates” the proving of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  If one is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the story — however real — of the workplace harassment, may have to be left behind.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Agency Supervisors

Federal Agencies, and the Postal Service, can act as little fiefdoms, with minimal oversight in the use of power. There is no school which teaches the proper use of power; power is something which is too often misused, misapplied, and abused. And, those who possess power, often exponentially apply it when the focus of such power has become vulnerable. Federal and Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, who are in the vulnerable position of necessarily filing for disability retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS because of the imposition of an unwanted medical condition which impacts and impedes his or her ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, are especially in a sensitive position, precisely because they are at the complete mercy of the Supervisor. Supervisors need to understand and appreciate the great power which he or she possesses. The powerful need not misuse such power in order to show how powerful he or she is; indeed, it is in the very act of kindness, empathy, and the ability to show sensitivity and “human-ness” which is the true showing of the powerful. Supervisors should “bend over backwards” to show what it means to truly be a Supervisor — one who recognizes and appreciates the long years of loyal service the disabled employee has shown; empathy for the vulnerable situation the employee now finds him/herself in; kindness in the treatment of the employee. Such kind treatment will go a long way towards encouraging a sense of community and family within an agency, and will foster the other employees in the department, office, and greater agency to work that much harder, knowing that it is not “just a job” — but a career worthy of greater devotion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire