OPM Disability Retirement Benefits: The picture album

Time was, every family had a picture album – that anachronism bound carefully in a large leather book-shaped monstrosity, kept safe where dust settles and mice scurry around; taken out for occasions where boredom is accentuated and friends or neighbors have stayed long past their welcome, and so it is taken out carefully, dusted off and laboriously paged through, telling of a history for each page, each photograph laid meticulously upon the thick plaster-backboard of a person’s history.

It used to be that we all had one picture for an event – or, two at most, once Peoples Drug (for those who are old enough to remember; and that, in and of itself, was somewhat of a historical marker – when “Peoples” Drug – the drugstore of the “people”, was bought out by successive entities of greater reserve until it finally became a nondescript, boringly corporate entity under the designation of “CVS”; somehow, something was lost when the corner drugstore started in a suburb of D.C. was engulfed by mergers and corporate purchases) declared a two-for-one sale.

Of course, we all kept in safekeeping those brownish negatives that neatly fit into those thin plastic columns (i.e., thrown into a drawer based upon the sequence of receipt) – you know, the ones you hated to slide out because you could never get it back in without bending them, and somehow you suspected that they were never meant to be fit within the columns of plastic in the first place.

Somehow, there was something quaint and innocent about a picture album that only had one shot of a slice of life that told a limited tale about a person’s continuum of historical detail – by contrast, today’s Smartphone and digital chip that can hold literally thousands of photographs, and the person who is willing to show all in a public display for everyone in the universe to see, by downloading, uploading, displaying and replaying, for a person barely in his or her twenties.

The picture album is an anachronism, telling in its humility, limited access and manifesting a humble origin of consciousness.  It is a relic that bifurcates a “before” and an “after” – of a time now gone and lost forever, replaced by an after that manifests a change most of us never asked for.

To that end, the picture album is likened to a Federal or Postal employee with a medical condition.  That Federal or Postal employee suffers from a history of that which most of his or her coworkers are completely unaware of.  And like the picture album that is taken out from the dusty bookshelves of a corner closet, when the Federal or Postal employee comes to a point of needing to file 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 reaction displayed by others is often one of boredom, lack of concern or even of interest shown in forced phoniness.  For, what others know or find out about a person’s life – even of his or her medical condition – is ultimately a private slice of life that is shared with quiet discretion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The dead, the dying and youth

Have you ever seen a flower arrangement that weaves together deadwood with bright and colorful summer explosions?  They tell us of that which reflects modernity:  The dead are forgotten in the background; the sick and dying are mere echoes fading quickly into a distant past; and it is only the vigorous who dominate and forcefully remain in the forefront.

How a society coordinates the interaction between the triad of life’s complex ingredients reveals the extent of its inner soul and character.  For, how many of us truly want to live in a pure State of Nature, where only the brute strength of predatory behavior would rule?  How many of us would survive in such a dystopian world, and for how long?

How we treat the remains, vestiges and memories of those gone; what we do with the ones still alive but deteriorating, suffering and lonely in their abandoned abodes; and whatever is left for the youth, what value of transference is imparted from the traditions longstanding, the obligations imparted, and the core values embraced – these determine the viability of a society in turmoil.

For, the dead reveal in constancy as to who we are by giving us a past; the dying, what we are made of by the example of how we treat the least of our community; and the value of youth is inherent in the lineage existent for the future continuation of a viable and vibrant tradition; and it is always the interrelationships between the tripartite worlds that determine whether and how.

We tend to want to compartmentalize, then to isolate each into their individual components such that one never interrelates with another.  But reality often will force a society to reflect upon such an artificial manner of conceptual isolationism, and sometimes it is by mere change of perspective that can lead to a paradigm shift of sorts.

Thus does this happen when we see a flower arrangement that artfully weaves the deadwood of winter with the vibrant colors of spring, and allow for even the panorama of fall leaves to still reveal beauty and breathtaking insights, and allow for the youth of summer blossoms to radiate, while at the same time giving deference to the others in the haiku of life.  It is often through a metaphor like this on a macro-scale that we can then glean a reflective outlook upon the microcosm of our own lives.

For the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker who sees him or herself as “less than worthy” – somewhat like the dying twigs in a flower arrangement otherwise filled with vibrancy and youth – all because a medical condition is becoming chronic and debilitating, one needs only look upon a flower arrangement that encompasses the triad of life’s natural flow.

Perhaps the agency is like those exploding blossoms of summer; and, more likely, the Federal Agency and the Postal Service will relegate the deadwood into the trash heap of corner offices and ignore those who are less productive.  But that is not a reflection upon the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition and can no longer perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position; rather, that is an indictment upon the Federal Agency and the Postal Service itself.

Filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is merely another way to maintain the constancy of society’s unstated promise – much like the flower arrangement that intersperses the dead, the dying and youth – by asserting that legal rights still matter, and a medical condition does not necessarily mean that one’s career is just more deadwood at the back of the arrangement, but can still reveal a promising future for greater productivity in the private sector of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Medical Retirement for Federal Employees: Functional architecture

It refers to those unnecessary trappings; but of course, the immediate question which follows is:  who determines necessity as opposed to aesthetic addendums otherwise of utilitarian vacuity.

The traditional approach in functional architecture is determined by the general principle that a building should be designed by the paradigmatic governance of the underlying purpose for which the structure should be constructed.  That is likely why government buildings are essentially drab and colorless, reflecting the purposive nature of a bureaucracy and administrative conduits.  The grandeur of the wealthy in pouring money into aesthetically pleasing facades, otherwise without any meaningful utilitarian basis, is a consequence of wanting to impress, as opposed to a functional capacity to reside.

In modernity, functionalism is akin to pragmatism, which is often seen as the heart and soul of this country’s success – of advancing towards the next technological innovation, accomplishing beyond the project paid for, and getting things “done” in order to calculate the worth and value of a person’s being.  At the cost of family, neighborhood, culture and normative constructs, we go for that which works, what pays and what can be sold.

Thus does the American model function on the motto of pragmatism:  Of what does it benefit a man if he cannot make a living from it?  And so the narrative goes that waves of immigrants gave up their native country, whether because of famine, wars, poverty or persecution, and traveled to a far-off foreign soil in order to carve out a living without the trappings once enjoyed.

But the concept of functional architecture can reach into other disciplines, as well – as in the composition of words into sentences, sentences into paragraphs, and paragraphs into pages of stream of consciousness.  One can, for example, add all sorts of unnecessary verbiage in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in response to the questions posited in Standard Form 3112A – Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

This can get one into what is often proverbially termed as “hot water”.  For, just as the three classic goals of architecture still remain relevant today – of utility, beauty and firmness (reflecting the conceptual generalizations of use, aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and structural integrity), so the same can be applied in preparing one’s Federal Disability Retirement application in the statements made:  Writing to the point of the Federal Disability Retirement application (utility); being comprehensible and coherent, with a purposive narrative (beauty); and, finally, firmness (maintaining the structural integrity of the narrative by building the proper linguistic foundation in formulating one’s answers on SF 3112A).

Thus, as with most things in life, functionalism does not merely apply to the discipline of architecture, but can easily be transmogrified into the complex administrative process of Federal Disability Retirement.  As the fullness of life is an admixture of interconnecting experiences, so the principles undergirding architectural integrity can teach us lessons in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Accepted Medical Conditions

The problem with “lists” is that, the moment one realizes that one is not on the list, the tendency is to simply give up and go home.  But lists are rarely exhaustive; rather, most are merely to provide a “paradigm” or “type”, as opposed to exclusionary intent by failing to specify or name.

PTSD

Federal Civilian employees with PTSD may qualify for OPM Disability Retirement depending upon the circumstances.  There is no need to prove that this condition is pre-existing or job-related

Thus, for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the critical issue to recognize is threefold:  First, becoming qualified for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM is not dependent upon having an officially identifiable diagnosis which matches a “list” compiled at OPM; Second, in some ways, the symptoms manifested are just as important as the underlying diagnosis, precisely because what the Federal or Postal employee “suffers from” is what impacts the capacity and ability of the Federal or Postal employee in performing the essential elements of one’s positional duties; and Third, because Federal Disability Retirement is based upon the nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional duties required in one’s job, there is a requirement of showing the “connection” between the Federal or Postal job and the manifestation of the diagnosed medical condition(s).

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (or Apnoea) may also qualify for OPM Disability Retirement if this condition causes fatigue and sleepiness in such a way that it interferes with work productivity

Thus, while a 1-to-1 ratio between a medical condition and an “essential element” of one’s positional duties is not required (the recent Henderson case reiterated that issue), a showing of incompatibility between the medical condition and the positional requirements is enough to establish eligibility for OPM Disability Retirement Benefits.  In the end, providing a “list” is somewhat more of a disservice than not, because no list would ever be complete, and an incomplete list has a tendency to dishearten and dissuade.

Sciatica and Low-back pain

Sciatica is a type of pain affecting the sciatic nerve, often as a result of repetitive strain injury.  U.S. Postal employees are especially vulnerable to low back pain and repetitive strain injuries when pulling “cages” (Mail Handlers); standing, twisting, turning, and bending when working with Flat Sorting Machines (Distribution Clerks); standing for long hours (Windows Clerks); and when sitting in mail trucks and carrying heavy mailbags on their shoulders for several hours (Letter Carriers)

That being said, there are overarching “types” of medical conditions in either categories:  of Psychiatric (Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety, Anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal ideations, Paranoia, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Psychosis, ADD, ADHD, OCD), but which also fall under the general aegis of “cognitive dysfunctions” as well; and of Physical (Chronic Pain, Degenerative Disc Disease, Cervical degeneration; disc bulges and herniations; disc impingements; RSD; chemical-sensitivity issues; Asthma; pulmonary issues; anatomically-targeted issues involving hands, wrists, knees, feet, etc.; as well as GERD, Sleep Apnea, Profound Fatigue; IBS; residual effects from treatment regimens; symptoms which impact, directly or indirectly, the ability and capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties); and many, many more.

Doctors' OPM narrative

Doctors are usually familiarized with SSDI rules, not with OPM Disability law; so, even if they are willing to help, they will be typically unable to do so

There:  the disservice has been accomplished; like being back in elementary school where the “list” for the most popular, the coolest and the best dressed did not recognize your name, for Federal and Postal employees, the focus needs to always be upon that “secondary” issue of the 2-part nexus: Whatever the “it” is, is it impacting your ability or capacity to perform one or more of the essential elements of your job?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: Of Tomorrow’s Dreams Delayed

We like to think that our lives progress unencumbered in a linear line of advancement, with nary a bump or an obstacle unconquerable, and but for the occasional exuberance of planned erraticisms, the journey should be a smooth ride without surprises.  But just as planes sometimes fall from the sky, and nature betrays its perfection by mistaken errors of comedic turmoil, so the linear aspect of constancy often must confront the bumpiness of expectations.

Life rarely turns out as planned, and the more we plan, the less we expect fulfillment.  Perhaps that is the great tragedy of loss of youthful innocence.  In the end, it is how we face up to that realization that plans are meant to be altered, that unexpected curtailment of expectations unrealized merely represent the reality of the universe, and that in the end, the process of “how we face” it is more important than the desultory buoyancy of cynicism.

On a rollercoaster or other thrill-seeking device, there is often that final moment of exhilaration, that last pause before the turn; perhaps that is precisely why we seek such madness, for life itself rarely presents us with a similar and parallel event.  Instead, like the medical condition which slowly, steadily, and with monotonous rage progresses to debilitate, the constancy of repetitive boredom in life mirrors the tragedy of human proportionality and graveyards filled with unnamed tombstones.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition results in an inability to perform the essential elements of one’s positional duties, the bumping up against the tides of obstruction means that one must prepare, formulate, and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, or even CSRS Offset.

Life’s unfair advantage at throwing down an obstacle in the midst of a promising career should never betray the need to adapt and consider the alternatives beyond; and for the Federal or Postal worker who can no longer perform all of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal position, the likelihood that the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service will engage in harassment and ultimate termination of employment, is greater than not.  That is why, of tomorrow’s promises and dreams delayed, it is necessary to prepare, formulate and file for OPM Disability Retirement benefits today, so that the tomorrow of dismal dalliances may be deemed a desirable date of this day’s inestimable worth.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire