OPM Disability Retirement Benefits under FERS: Ballast for the soul

It is a plagiarized phrase, from a short story written by Brazil’s (often-considered) greatest writer, Machado de Assis.  It is that heavy material, where a large quantity of gravel, iron, metals, etc., placed low in a vessel in order to provide stability; the weight itself is what “grounds” the vessel so that the torrents of waves and storms of fury will not topple it.  Or, it can refer to the coarse gravel used in order to set railroad tracks, again allowing for stability of a foundation to prevent shifting, sinking or damaging movement.

When combined with the term, “the soul”, the concept created is one of conjoining the dual ideas of (a) providing a foundation with (b) an ungraspable concept of an entity that many believe does not even exist.  The “soul”, of course, is a controversial subject; for, it still remains from the vestiges of religious and philosophical discourses, and refers to an abiding entity that defies mortality, retains an identity beyond one’s physical appearance, and contains the essence of who a person is, whether in physical form or not.

Does the soul “need” a ballast?  Without it, does it merely flit about without duration or direction?

As a literary concept, it refers to the stability that individuals need in order to become more serious, more focused, and perhaps even more “mature”.  As a general idea, it comes to convey the concept of pragmatism and the need to be “grounded” in a universe where there exists so many beliefs, so many paths to get off course; and the dangers inherent in pulling people aside from living an authentic and fulfilling life are many, as evidenced by the number of wandering souls left to rot on the roadside of discarded souls.

What is the ballast for the soul?  Is it to be married and have a family?  Is it the immediate family one already has — or the extended one?  Or can a cadre of friends and one’s immediate neighbors provide the ballast for the soul?

For each individual, the answer to that question may differ and remain a mystery; but what is clear, mystery or not, is that the vicissitudes of life’s choices, without a ballast for the soul, are so numerous and of such great variety, that liberty of endless choices endangers the essence of every person. Health itself can be an unknown ballast; for, with it, we take for granted our ability to accomplish so many things in life; without it — when it is “lost” — we suddenly realize that the ballast of health can upend that which we took for granted — career; stability; sense of worth; sense of self.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers whose ballast has been lost because of a medical condition, it may be time to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Medical conditions are often the storms of life which topple the vessel once the foundation of stability has been robbed, and Federal Disability Retirement benefits can restore one’s sense of security such that a re-focusing upon the priority of health and well-being can be attained, so that the ballast for the soul can be reestablished in a world full of turmoil and tumult.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement: The historical data

How much historical data is too much?  Is there a correlation between “too much” and “loss of interest”? In other words, when a history book is written, does the interest shown by the reader begin to wane when a certain point of quantitative overload begins to overwhelm?  Further, does the audience for whom the historical data is written depend upon the extent given?

Certainly, “popular” historical narratives provide “juicier” content than more “serious” biographies, where the salacious aspects of a person’s life or of an event are put to the fore, as opposed to relegating them to footnotes or in those “fine print” pages at the back of the book.

If, for example, data is compiled for an internal study for the “Historical Society of X”, then certain detailed information without limitations might be included — i.e. how many times this or that civilization went to war, went to the bathroom daily, ate one kind of fruit as opposed to another, etc. But if that “study” were to be made into a biography of an indigenous tribe, to be sold to the general public, it might leave out certain of the more uninteresting data, or placed in footnotes or “background notes” at the back of the book.

At what point does a historical narrative become “tedious”?  Again, is there a correlation between “interest shown/sparked/waning/losing” and the extent of data provided?  Is there a “qualitative” difference as opposed to sheer quantitative overload?

These issues are important to keep in mind when a Federal or Postal employee begins to write one’s narrative in response to questions posed on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  For, there is always a tendency on the part of the Federal or Postal applicant to have this unquenchable desire to “tell one’s story”, as opposed to answering the question on SF 3112A in as precise, concise and incisive manner.

At times, some amount of historical background may be relevant and somewhat necessary, but unlike “internal studies” that have no cognizable consequences in providing “too much” information, an overabundance of irrelevant data provided may have a duality of negative results: First, it may take away from, and diminish, the “main point” of the narrative, and Second, you may be providing information that is inadvertently harmful to one’s OPM Disability Retirement case without intending to.

Remember always in a Federal Disability Retirement case, that the eyes that once see cannot be blinded after the fact, and it is better to provide information as a supplemental means in a Federal Disability Retirement case, than to have to explain, correct and amend after a denial is received from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire