CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Silhouette Man

The object/subject issue pervades discussions in Western Moral Philosophy; in simplified form, of the ethics of treating one’s fellow human being in a one-dimensional manner, as an object to be manipulated, deprived of, worked about, etc. Like a silhouette in front of a moonlit sky, objects in the world, both animate and inanimate, are encountered by the subject of “I”, and until a personal engagement involving conversations, exchanging of information, and other intersections of relational entanglements, the pathway of the subjective merely observes “others” as objects, with anthropomorphic projections of assumptions that moving creatures and other fellow beings also walk about with a similar consciousness as the “I” which occupies one’s particular body in a given space and time.

Supervisors and managers often treat employees in such a manner, despite years and even decades of an established employment relationship. “Go ask Ed, the IT guy”; “That’s Bob the Engineer’s department”; and similar such references which imply that, beyond the limited scope of what X is known to do within the narrow confines of work-related issues, nothing further is known about, or related to, in referring to a particular person.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, that is precisely what begins to happen, isn’t it? “John — you know…” “Karen — she called in sick again.” “Kevin won’t do that — you know, his ‘condition'”. And with knowing looks and furtive smiles, the reference to the one-dimensional aspect of having pigeonholed the individual into a recess of definitional confinement: the medical condition defines the Federal and Postal employee, and is known exclusively and objectified in concretized form.

That is why Federal Disability Retirement benefits are often the only viable option left for the Federal or Postal Worker; for, in being treated as a one-dimensional object, the ability to relate to others in the workplace in a subject-to-subject manner is lost, and often forever. Federal Disability Retirement benefits are available for all Federal and Postal Worker who are either under FERS or CSRS, if the minimum service requirements are met (5 years for those under CSRS, which is a given; 18 months for those under FERS). It is filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and is an employment benefit accessible for all Federal and Postal Workers.

Such accessibility allows for a passage away from a seemingly one-dimensional universe beset with suspicion, whispers, retaliations and shunning, and allows for the complexities of every human being to escape being viewed as a mere silhouette, like a cardboard figure at an amusement park waiting for a pop-gun to shoot it down.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Termination (Part 2)

There are times when an Agency will proceed and terminate a Federal or Postal employee based upon adverse grounds — of “Failing to follow proper leave procedures”, for being AWOL, for Failure to do X, Y or Z.  Such adverse actions may be the “surface” reason for the actual, underlying reason — that of one’s medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Once a proposed termination becomes an actual termination, then the course of action to take, of course, is to file an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board.  An Administrative Judge can often be of great assistance in defining and narrowing the issues, and in gently persuading and convincing the Agency to consider changing and amending the “surface” reason to the true, underlying reason of medical inability to perform the job.  The goal here, of course, is to do everything to help in “weighting” a disability retirement application in your favor, and while obtaining the Bruner Presumption in a case is not critical, in many cases, it can be helpful.  And the way to get the Administrative Judge on your side, so that the AJ will then try and persuade the Agency to consider amending a removal, is to obtain well-documented, well-written medical narrative reports from the doctors.  As is almost always the case, the underlying basis for any disability retirement application begins and ends with a well-written medical report.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Service Disability Retirement: Agency Support

Sometimes, the question comes up as to whether or not it is important to have the blessing or support of the Agency or the USPS, when filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS. My answer to such a question is fairly uniform and redundant:  this is a medical disability retirement; it is unwise to proceed to apply for Federal Disability Retirement benefits on the assumption that your Supervisor or Agency will be supportive, for there is no guarantee as to what “supportive” means (they may have a completely different understanding or definition of the concept than you do — something which you probably learned over many years of working in the Federal Sector), and further, the primary focus from the perspective of the Office of Personnel Management, is upon the medical evidence presented and how the medical condition impacts one or more of the essential elements of your job.  The Supervisor’s Statement should be minimized in importance and relevance, as much as possible, by ensuring that the rest of the disability retirement application is “excellent”.  By doing this, you neutralize any undue dependence upon an Agency’s alleged “support” of your application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Long, Longer & Longest View

I have often spoken of the need to take the “long-term” view in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS — both in terms of having patience for the inherently long process in terms of time, as well as in terms of preparing a case for not just the First Stage of the process, but further, for the second Reconsideration Stage, as well as for an Appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board.  This “long-term” view is meant to prepare a potential applicant for what it means to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; to not be overly concerned if you are denied at the first, or even the second stage of the process; and to be prepared financially to weather the “long haul”.  In short, it is meant to prepare the potential applicant for the long, and longer, view of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits. 

It is also necessary, however, to prepare one’s self for the “longest” view — that of maintaining and keeping safe the disability retirement benefits once it is approved — by preparing to be randomly selected every two years or so with a periodic “review” with a Medical Questionnaire.  The Medical Questionnaire is an innocuous looking form, asking for an “update”, and giving you 90 days to respond.  Be cautious.  Be aware.  Take it seriously.  Don’t wait for the 89th day to begin responding to it.  None of my clients who have gotten his or her Federal Disability Retirement benefits has ever lost it; people who have gotten Federal Disability Retirement benefits on their own and have later lost the benefit, have come to me to regain it; I have been successful in recovering the benefit, in every case.  However, it is not always easy — if only because the disability annuitant initially thought that it was an “easy-looking” form.  Preparation for the “longest view” begins not upon receipt of the Medical Questionnaire; it begins at the very, very beginning — when one first decides to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire