OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: The Temptation of More

It is similar to the proverbial truth of the “straw that broke the camel’s back”; or of the wise commoner who saved the king’s daughter from drowning, and who was offered a bounty of rice, to which he proposed the following: on each square of the chessboard, a doubling of the number from the previous square.  The temptation of the exponential factor is almost always unable to be resisted; that is the converse principle by which we live: by adding one (we are told), it will make our lives less complicated (so we believed).

Technology and the addition of each innovation would buy us more leisure time; work and stress would be lessened, because the salesman persuaded us that it would be so.  And so we have become accustomed, attuned, and trained to think in a linear, progressively upward trend; that the more we accumulate, the happier we will become, until one day the economics of aggregation become so burdensome that the weight of all of those additional threads of straw pile upon us with ever-growing pressures of daily living, and the salesman who sold that last gadget has walked away with the sack full of rice, content to have saved our lives (or laughing all the way to the bank with a knowing grin).

It is the conditioning of a cumulative-based society.  And, of course, when the burden is further exacerbated by a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to remain at the same purchasing power of economic viability, we are willing to sacrifice our health for the sake of more stuff.  For the Federal and Postal Workers who have dedicated their collective lives to furthering the mission of one’s agency, it is often a little more complex and complicated than just the economic issue; it is entangled with a sense of self-sacrifice, and a loyalty tending towards irrational discourse.  Perhaps this is a natural course for things; perhaps it is “the mission” which first tempted and attracted the Federal or Postal Worker to begin with.

In any event, Federal and Postal Workers fight to the end before contemplating filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, and often to the detriment of one’s own health.  Federal Disability Retirement benefits are there, however, for the Federal or Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job. Whether under FERS or CSRS, it is ultimately filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

While it is an annuity which will reduce the purchasing power of the Federal or Postal employee, the question which all Federal or Postal employees must ask is the following: What is the priority of one’s life, and at what point in our lives did we come to believe that acquiring things were more important than life itself?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Bucket List

The notion itself has gained a level of popularity which defies the dignity of established social norms; somehow, there is underlying a suspicion that generations of staid individuals secretly desire for things they never acquired. A life of quietude is no longer acceptable; one must now traverse the Himalayan mountains and meditate in the far reaches of unexplored valleys in order to achieve a complete life; and as the virtual world of video sensations require an ever-heightened magnitude of excitement and accelerated testosterone levels, growing up and making a mere living in one’s own town constitutes a wasted life.

Bucket lists represent a proportionality of quiet desperation; for, the longer the list, the greater exponential symbolism of one’s failure to have accomplished a desired completion of life.  Aristotle’s contemplative perspective of a worthwhile life is no longer the paradigm; quantity, magnification, and romantic notions of adventure and comic book-like excitements represent the pinnacle of value.  Until, of course, the reality of human frailty and the mortality of finitude brings one back to the starkness of daily living.

Medical conditions have a peculiar way of bringing one back to reality, and humbling one into realizing that, bucket lists aside, there are mundane levels of priorities which override such artificial conceptual constructs of self-fulfilling interests. Being pain-free; having one’s short-term memory remain intact; the mere ability to walk from one’s car to the office, etc.  Medical conditions tend to force upon us the true priorities of one’s life.

For Federal and Postal employees who have come to a point in their careers where a medical condition prevents them from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position, the “bucket list” is satisfied with one item on the list:  How best to attend to one’s medical condition.  OPM Disability Retirement is an option which must always be considered by the Federal or Postal employee, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, in order to satisfy the checkmark. Filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is a long, bureaucratic process which must be waded through in order to attain the desired end.

While an arduous administrative process, it is not quite as physically difficult as climbing a mountain, nor as exciting as diving from a cliff’s edge down a ravine into the deep blue of a cavernous lake;no, Federal Disability Retirement is a mundane process which may allow for a time to attend to the needs of one’s medical conditions, and perhaps to go on to engage a second, alternate vocation.

It is perhaps not on the top of most people’s bucket list. But then, such lists were always just another creation of Hollywood, meant to be completed in storybook fashion by those whose teeth are perfectly straight, white beyond nature’s coloring, and viewed in panoramic settings with a cup of steamed latte.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: A Conscience for Work

It is a rare animal which one discovers, when a Federal or Postal worker looks forward to the day when he or she is preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  

The concept of “conscientiousness” entails the traits of acting in accordance with the dictates of one’s conscience, and one’s conscience is formed and molded by the complex web of core and foundational beliefs — a system of accepted world-view developed throughout the course of one’s lifetime, refined by experience and applied through trial and error.  That concept is discovered in the Federal and Postal worker who has struggled and endured through the various medical conditions that he or she suffers from, and it is indeed rare that the Federal or Postal worker has a “desire” to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

Having said this, however, does not deny the reality that there is a “necessity” to file, when the Federal or Postal worker has come to a point in one’s life where “wants” and “needs” clash.  

One may want to continue to work; the reality of one’s medical condition, however, may dictate the need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The fact that one has a conscience for work is a “good” thing.  However, where the desire for X contradicts the need for Y, and where Y entails a medical condition which is clearly preventing one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, then the clash of “desire” as opposed to “need” must give way, where the former must be recognized as subservient to the predominance of the latter.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Medical & Legal Issues

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, sometimes there is an inevitable intersection between the Medical Issues involving the patient and doctor, and the Legal Issue embracing the Client-Lawyer-Doctor.  

Often, in terms of filing for FMLA protection, or taking too much sick leave, being placed on leave-restriction by the Agency, etc., or in the very question as to whether it will reflect negatively upon a Federal Disability Retirement application if one continues to work without taking any sick leave — these “mixed questions” will intersect between the medical and legal arenas.  

The conceptual distinction and bifurcation of the two issues is important to maintain.  First and foremost, one’s medical condition should always be considered as the primacy of concern.  Obtaining the proper medical care and taking care of one’s health and medical needs should be absolute and inviolate.  The secondary question of how it will reflect upon a Federal Disability Retirement application, inasmuch as it is a “paper presentation” to the Office of Personnel Management, should be an afterthought.  For, after all, the whole purpose of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is to take care of the primary consideration — that of one’s health and medical needs.  If one takes care of “first things first”, then the “second” things will naturally fall into place.  

Now, having said that, how an Agency attempts to characterize a Federal or Postal employee’s attempt to attend to one’s medical conditions can of course sometimes impact a Federal Disability Retirement application, and should be responded to aggressively and in a timely manner.  But the substance of any such response, if it is based upon the medical condition, will always “correct” any such agency mis-statement.  

Integrity in a situation always prevails, and that is the whole purpose of having Federal Disability Retirement benefits and the laws which govern such benefits, in order for the Federal or Postal employee to attend to one’s medical conditions first, and then to “move on” in life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Best Indicator

When is the right time to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS?  Because the process can be a rather lengthy one (6- 8 months minimum from the beginning of the process of gathering the necessary medical documentation, etc., to receipt of an approval letter from the Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C.), the question of when to begin the preparation, formulation, and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application may depend upon several factors.  Obviously, a frank discussion with one’s treating doctor is a good starting point.  

As for indicators, only the Federal or Postal employee who is suffering from the particular medical condition can know — either explicitly because of something that happened in the workplace or because of a medical emergency, or implicitly/intuitively.  As for the latter, if a Federal or Postal employee is exhausting his or her Sick Leave and Annual Leave, and is taking LWOP; has filed for FMLA; has been placed on a PIP; or, as is more often the case, is using the evenings and weekends as mere “recovery times” in order to drag one’s self to work, only to continue and perpetuate the vicious cycle of work, deteriorating condition, exhaustion, sleep, work, deteriorating condition … ad nauseum and ad infinitum (or so it would appear), then such an unacceptable condition of existence may be an indicator that it is time to consider formulating, preparing, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement in a Tough Economy

Healthy individuals may wonder why, in such a tough economy, an individual would consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS.  This is an economy which has been shrinking and shedding employees.  Yet, for the Federal or Postal employee whose health and increasingly debilitating medical conditions directly impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, the choice is actually not all that convoluted. 

Where a Federal or Postal employee can no longer perform the job; where sick leave and annual leave have been exhausted to go to doctors’ appointments, or just to stay home to recover enough to make it into the office for another day; or for those who are on LWOP for greater than the time working; in such circumstances, the stark reality is that a disability annuity is better than what the future may offer otherwise.  Removal for unsatisfactory performance; being placed on a PIP; being told that there is no more work at the Postal Service; being counseled for performance issues; these are all indicators of the proper choice to make.

Yes, it is a tougher economy; but when the economy begins to rebound, the first people that private employers turn to hire are those who are essentially independent contractors; and, especially with the looming overhaul of private health insurance, a former government worker who carries his or her own health insurance is, and can be, an attractive worker to a private employer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Initial Step Is the Most Difficult

I find that the initial step in filing for Federal Disability Retirement is the most difficult step for people to take.  It is often a psychological block.  I have spoken on this issue in the past.  For a Federal or Postal worker, especially in these constrained economic times where the job market outside of the Federal Sector appears restrictive, at best, the pressure of one’s medical conditions and the impact upon one’s job, results in an anxiousness when it comes to filing for federal disability retirement under FERS or CSRS.  Certainly, it is a significant pay cut.  Certainly, it is a worry that — although one may be able to make up to 80% of what one’s (former) Federal salary currently pays — it may be that the private sector may not offer the opportunities to make up the difference in the pay cut.  Yet, the choices are often stark and untenable; for, at some point, it becomes clear that one’s medical conditions prevents one from performing the essential elements of the job. 

As such, the only and best choice is to move forward:  in fact, even in this economy, creativity will be rewarded.  Private companies actually find independent contractors who carry his or her own health insurance a plus; part-time work is offered more readily in a bad economy precisely because it allows for companies to obtain necessary work and skills without having to pay the “extra” benefits.  The initial step is the most difficult; after stepping beyond the difficulty, Federal and Postal workers who obtain disability retirement benefits find that there is a different and better future — even in this economy.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire