Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Paradoxical Soiling of Sacrament

Can a person enter a religious institution (i.e., a church, a synagogue, etc.) without an intent to worship, but merely as an onlooker, and yet assume the role of a congregant without soiling the sacrament of its grounds? Tourists do that all the time, and perhaps mere “visitors” who desire to “try out” a church or other institution.

Is there a paradox in taking pictures of old Roman grounds of sacred pasts? Do we somehow justify actions by assuming one role (e.g., as a tourist and not a member) without the intent of what is originally meant of the place we visit? Can a person lie to one’s self, or unintentionally deceive others merely be entering a place of worship, or does one declare the status properly by having a digital camera in tow?

Similarly, if a Federal or Postal Worker goes to work without declaring one’s medical condition, and is able to for many years mask and conceal the inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, is there anything wrong with such deception — except perhaps that one is doing grave harm by progressively and purposefully deteriorating one’s own body?

Federal and Postal Worker have a tendency to do that, and in today’s harsh and competitive work environment, holding onto one’s job at all costs appears to be the rule of thumb, until it becomes apparent to everyone around, and lastly to one’s self, that one cannot continue in the same vein, any longer.

In that event, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, becomes the only viable option left; assuming, of course, that one has a body, mind or soul left to enjoy in retirement. But that is always the paradox of soiling any sacrament — especially the sacrament of one’s own body.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Price of Good Intentions to Deceive

Can one possess good intentions to deceive?  Such a paradoxical claim would normally constitute what is commonly referred to as an oxymoron, as the concept of “good” would countermand the opposing construct of deception.  Thus, it is not the intention itself which makes for the conundrum, but rather the originating focus of the will to act.

For the Federal and Postal employee who masks one’s medical conditions, whether of a physical nature, a psychiatric condition, or concerning the medications which are prescribed and taken at the direction of one’s medical provider in order to alleviate the symptoms of the condition and perhaps as a palliative measure, the price which one pays for not immediately informing one’s agency may range from nothing, to unforeseen consequences far into the future.

Is it technically “deception” to engage in a negative — i.e., to not immediately inform?  Is there an affirmative duty to convey or otherwise divulge such private information, if the medical condition has not yet become so apparent as to openly manifest an impact upon one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job?

Conversely, does the supervisor and the agency perform a service of “good” if performance ratings continue to reflect superior or outstanding, when more recent work has clearly diminished in volume and/or quality, but because of past performance and an ongoing sense of loyalty, the supervisor wants to just “sign off” by regurgitating past evaluations and assigning a current date?

Ultimately, in a Federal Disability Retirement case, one must at some point divulge the medical condition, if not merely at the time of filing one’s Federal Disability Retirement application through the agency’s Human Resources Department.  The timing of such divulgence, however, can sometimes impact the reactionary impulses of an agency.  In the end, the Agency must complete SF 3112D in response to the applicant’s filing; and whether the agency was previously informed or not, an effort to see whether an appropriate accommodation can be made will become an integral part of the process.

From the perspective of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the issue of timing — of the good or neutral intentions of the applicant — rarely comes into play.

As for any “deception” involved, the only one who would be harmed by any such intention would be the one who bravely attempts to continue working through the pain of the condition itself, and the harm which continues to progressively deteriorate the Federal or Postal employee who attempts to perform all of the essential elements of one’s position.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Gov. and USPS Disability Retirement: Excessive Reliance

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is never a good idea to proceed with excessive reliance (or any at all, for that matter) upon expected or presumed actions on the part of one’s Agency.

The preponderance of the evidence in proving a Federal Disability Retirement application is always upon the Federal or Postal worker, and one should affirmatively and pro-actively proceed without regard to what the Agency will do, says it will do, or might do during the process.

Yes, the Agency has its portion to complete; yes, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management does review the entirety of the Disability Retirement packet, including the standard forms which the agency must complete, along with other personnel information that is forwarded to OPM.

But the crux and essence of a Federal Disability Retirement applications always remains the medical information gathered and submitted, along with the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, in conjunction with the asserted nexus constructed between one’s medical condition and the positional duties of one’s job.

Any other approach is merely to run a fool’s errand for a fiefdom from which one is attempting to flee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: When Should the Agency Be Informed?

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the question is often asked whether and when an Agency should be informed of the impending Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Such a question & answer is almost always a discretionary one, and there is not a “right” answer — only one which can result from the tailored responses of specific and individual circumstances.  For, on the one hand, the Agency will often already suspect that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and therefore the automatic loss of the applicant/employee, is an inevitable future certainty, and therefore such notification is merely a formality.  

The Agency is often anxious to have the backlog of work created by the employee’s non-attendance or sporadic attendance resulting from the chronic medical conditions, to be abated at some point, and therefore hiring a replacement is something which the Agency wants accomplished as soon as possible — and one might argue that informing the Agency is the “right thing” to do.  

But in representing a Federal or Postal employee in a Federal Disability Retirement case, the “right thing” always is looking after the best interests of the client, and informing the agency prior to filing is not always in the best interests of the client.  For, on the other hand, informing the Agency too soon will often result in unintended consequences — of reactions and initiated actions upon being informed of the very intention of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

While unfortunate and even perhaps “retaliatory” in nature, Agencies often act/react only upon official notification of an intention.  In other words, the proverbial “elephant in the room” is only noticed when the elephant actually stomps its feet (or is it “hooves”?).  Whether and when is a discretionary decision by the Federal or Postal employee.  

Ultimately, of course, when the Federal Disability Retirement application is filed through the Agency for further processing before being forwarded to the Office of Personnel Management, the Agency will be fully informed.  But as to “pre-informing” the Agency — that all depends upon the individual circumstances of the Federal or Postal employee, taking into account first and foremost the best interests of the client when represented by an OPM Disability Retirement attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Agency Tendency

A Federal or Postal Worker who has worked for any number of years, already knows (intuitively) what the Agency’s response is going to be when he or she files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS:  Self-protection, minimal cooperation, and a “know nothing” and “do nothing” approach.  This is merely the tendency of most agencies.  Every now and then, there is an exception to this general perception of how a Federal Agency will respond and react; normally, however, any such exception is merely a reflection upon an exceptional individual — a supervisor who is truly looking out both for the best interests of the agency, as well as for a Federal or Postal worker who deserves praise and cooperation as he or she enters into a difficult phase of life. 

Agencies tend to respond in a “self-protective” mode; of covering itself; of being uncooperative, thinking that an individual who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is (A) no longer of any use to the agency, (B) reflects badly upon the overall perception of the agency, or (C) is merely faking the disability.  The truth of the matter is that a Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits has probably exhausted all possible alternatives, and has killed him/herself in trying to continue to work.  However, sympathy and empathy are two emotions which Agencies sorely lack in, both qualitatively and quantitatively; and as with all tendencies, it is good to be aware of them, if only to be on guard.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal OPM Disability Retirement: Notifying the Agency

Fervent loyalty by the Federal and Postal Employee to want to work for as long as possible, and to do the best job possible, is often taken for granted; what is not as common, however, is a “bilateral loyalty” — meaning, loyalty shown by the Agency back to the Federal or Postal employee, especially when such loyalty is needed, during the long process of filing for, and obtaining, disability retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management.

In representing a client, I am often asked whether or not the Agency should be notified of our intentions immediately, and my response always is: It depends. If there is a strong and positive relationship between the employee and supervisor, where there are strong indicators that the Agency will be supportive during the lengthy process, then I will often advise informing them fairly quickly. More often, however, the Agency has had a long history of acting in a “less than sympathetic” manner — and that is in most cases. In such cases, I normally advise to wait until the disability retirement packet has been prepared and finalized, and it is ready to be submitted to the Personnel or District H.R. Office. Each case must be looked at independently, and there are never any easy answers. Agencies are comprised of individuals; individuals are complex beings, with the potential for compassion and empathy, but just as well with a potential for cold disregard for the plight of an individual. So long as Agencies are comprised of individuals, Agencies themselves act as individuals, and each case must be viewed in that light.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire