OPM Medical Retirement: Days of Sisyphean Drudgery

The Myth of Sisyphus is well known, both because of the philosophical essay written by Camus, as well as through the Greek mythological narrative of the condemned figure to toil in endless meaninglessness, by rolling the boulder up the hill, only to watch it go down, and to repeat the process all over again.

For Camus and the existentialist viewpoint, it is in the very act of absurdity itself that meaning and significance can be derived; for the Greek citizen of yesteryear, it was perhaps the circularity of the human condition which provided for relevance in the telling of the myth. In either extrapolation, the powerful and profound story provides for an image of consequence in this modern age of technological overload, where causes are no longer believed in, customs no longer adhered to blindly, and social constraints no longer attached by meaningful obedience.

The absurdity of daily toil has come to a fruition point, where the great expanse of information in the age of the internet now destroys any definitional meaning, either in words, relationships, or for lives and livelihoods.  Crisis points often infuse momentary meaning in meaningless and mindless midpoints; and so, at the pinnacle of balance, just as the boulder meets the midpoint of the hill and balances for a millisecond upon the hill before “deciding” to roll forward, the point of reflective relevance engulfs Sisyphus within a frozen moment of infinity.

Medical conditions often have a similar effect and impact upon a life; for, in the turmoil of trauma, one asks those reflective questions as to the mundane:  what does it all mean?  What is the point?  But perhaps such questions of eternal queries last only for a brief moment in time, before pain, fear, angst and anxiety overtake; and in this physical world where materialism and the scientific narrative prevails and predominates, getting beyond pain and through the day, only to experience insomnia and unsolicited loss of solace is not enough to attain a meaningful existence.

Are there solutions?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, there is a likening of the work performed with the Sisyphean plight of the Greek mythological figure:  the greater bureaucracy representing the scene of turmoil; the medical condition representing the task itself; and the heroic feats of the meaningless in the context of the greater significance of life, surviving medical conditions and getting beyond pain, despondency, depression and anxiety, and the exit one attempts to find in order to escape from such a condition, leads one to that moment of absurdity and balance of the boulder at the pinnacle of the hill.

For the Federal employee and the Postal worker, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, is a way to attain a level of restorative capacity in order to escape the vicious circularity of the toil which only further exacerbates one’s medical condition.

While never the answer to all, obtaining OPM Disability Retirement benefits allows for one to move forward, and to progress beyond the absurd.  Otherwise, the disabled Federal employee or the injured U.S. Postal Worker may find him or herself caught in the web of another narrative put forth by another well-known existentialist philosopher, entitled, No Exit.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability: Perennial Issues

Like perennial plants, some issues continue to repeatedly crop up; once planted, they keep showing up in various question-forms.  The one which needs to be addressed, again, is the “1-year” issue:  there are actually two (2) questions which keep resurrecting themselves: A.  Filing a disability retirement application within 1 year of separation from service, and B. A medical condition which must last for a minimum of one year. 

As to the former:  The statute of limitations begins to toll when a person has been officially separated from Federal Service.  This means that the Agency must take you off of the Federal rolls.  If you continue to receive a paycheck, you are likely not separated (unless, of course, it is some form of a severance paycheck); if you receive a paycheck with “0-balances”, you are still not likely separated. If you are injured and you haven’t worked for a year, but you have not received notification that you have been separated from Federal Service, the 1-year mark has likely not begun.  On the other hand, if your SF-50 or PS Form 50 states that you are separated, then you are separated.  At that point, you have one (1) year to file your Federal Disability Retirement application. 

As to the latter (Issue “B” herein):  In most cases, it is a prospective issue.  It doesn’t mean that you must “have been” medically unable to work for a year; it doesn’t mean that you have to wait around for a year, out of work and penniless, for a year; it doesn’t mean that you must be on OWCP or on LWOP or on sick leave for a year — instead, it means that your medical condition must last for at least a year.  In other words, as is the case with most medical conditions, after a couple of months, your doctor should have an opinion — a “prognosis” — of how long your medical condition which impacts your ability to perform the essential elements of your job, will likely last, within reasonable medical certainty.  Indeed, since the Federal Disability Retirement process often takes from 8 – 10 months (from start to finish) to obtain an approval, by the end of the process, the full year will likely have occurred anyway.  In other words, you don’t need to wait around for a year to show that you can’t perform the essential elements of your job; indeed, that would be foolish. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Lawless Supervisor

Every now and then (or perhaps more often than we like to think) a Supervisor will fill out the SF 3112B (Supervisor’s Statement) with such venom and innuendo and half-truths, as to make the disability retirement applicant out to be John Gotti’s half-brother and reincarnate of the conceptual paradigm of the greatest incompetent the Federal Government has ever seen (next to the Supervisor himself, of course). Or, it will state that the applicant has been “under investigation”, or that he/she has “mislead” the Agency, or other such half-truth, unsubstantiated allegation. The problem in addressing such a Supervisor’s Statement with the Office of Personnel Management (if, in fact, one has the opportunity to address the issue before it gets to OPM or, as is more often the case, if the disability retirement application is denied, and the Supervisor’s Statement is referenced in the initial decision of denial), is the following: If you address it too forcefully, or emphasize it, then you are in danger of focusing the “fight” on the truth or falsity of what the Supervisor has said. In other words, you have essentially allowed the Supervisor to win the fight by shifting your focus upon the venom of the Supervisor. It is more likely the wiser course of action to grant minimal attention to the Supervisor’s Statement; give it the due response it deserves, addressing the falsity of the statement, and how it is entirely unsubstantiated; and, sometimes, express outrage that OPM would have even considered such scandalous charges when it has been unverified; then focus most of the attention upon the validity and force of the Medical Narrative Report that accompanies the disability retirement application. For, after all, always remember that this is a “Medical Disability Retirement Application” — with the emphasis upon “medical”, and not “Supervisor”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire