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.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS Disability Retirement: Night wanderings

Ever open your eyes in the middle of the night and, instead of falling quickly back to sleep, allow for the eyes to wander across the silent room where others are still and asleep — the dog on the floor (or perhaps curled at the foot of the bed where human warmth has gathered for the pure comfort serving the creature) and the partner beside; the quiet glow of the digital numbers in bold red reflection; the pictures on the walls — though you “know” what they depict, the shadows hide them, and yet you believe you “see” them because familiarity arouses the imagination even in darkness; and the squeezing sense of silence so overpowering that you wonder about the universe at large and who, like yourself, is awakened by silence itself?

It is in those moments that, just before the panic of realization sets in that tomorrow is just a few hours away, we realize that mortality is a condition we must face; that the child’s imagination cannot revisit yesterday’s remorse; and the saddest of all truisms: For the most part, this is a cruel and uncaring universe.  Where do such thoughts originate?  Is it just the dream-world when sleep battles with sanity and one’s night wanderings will not suppress the bustle of the day’s meanderings?

Perhaps clarity comes in the wake of slumber’s twilight; whatever the phenomenon, night wanderings bring one into the netherworld of the “in-between”, where reality is not quite recognized and a dream is not ever fulfilled.  That is the type of experience that the Federal and Postal worker experiences when confronted with a medical condition that impacts one’s ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position: not quite in the reality of the world’s harshness, not yet tested by the Agency’s or Postal Service’s full force of cruelty and uncaring.

Will they put me on a PIP?  Will they require a “Fitness for Duty” evaluation?  What happens when my FMLA is exhausted?  Will the agency just cut me off?

It becomes clear at some point that the Federal Agency and the Postal Service are not there as a friend or colleague looking out for your bests interests, and that you must initiate the process of looking out for yourself by preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be ultimately submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Those night wanderings often have the advantage of giving clarity to a reality beset with the quietude of pure silence, but then morning arrives and the clash of the day’s reality awakens within us the cruelty of the world around.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement from OPM: The Statement

We often hear of various events or transactions in the public arena where a “statement” will be issued, and such a conveyance of information is often prepared, pre-written, read from a piece of paper or plastered upon a teleprompter where the delivering individual merely reads from a text that has been previously written and composed.

It is like a musician who varies not from the score before him, or the player who follows the conductor’s baton with precision of a mime; to vary is to veer, where error becomes the hazard to avoid.  That initial “statement” to the listeners, the recipients, the audience, or however and whomever you want to characterize it as — why is it so important that it is conveyed, portrayed, delineated and communicated in just a “right” manner?

Is it not similar to the importance of preparing an SF 3112A — the Applicant’s Statement of Disability?  Isn’t the SF 3112A a foundational, “first impression” statement that needs to be prepared carefully, with meticulous formulation, like a novel’s opening sentence that must captivate and draw in the reader’s attention?

Granted, the SF 3112A is answered in response to questions required to be formulated by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for the Federal or Postal employee to provide, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset; but the limitations imposed by space and the relevance of the answers given to questions queried should not detract from the importance and significance of preparing the “Statement” well, in a preconceived and well-prepared manner.

What is the sequence?  When should it be prepared?  What content must it possess?  Should direct quotes from the medical records and narrative reports be included?  How carefully should it be annotated?  Must the Applicant’s Statement of Disability on SF 3112A be confined to the spaces provided?

These, and many other questions besides, should be carefully considered, and to do so, the best way to be well-prepared is to consult with an attorney who specializes in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement Application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement Representation: Hope springs

“Eternal”, of course, is the ending and attachment that most would declare if asked to fill in the blank.  How many of us know of the origin of the statement, what it means, from whence it comes (yes, yes, a Google search is only one finger button away)?  It is often an afterthought – a “throw-away” line that one scatters about in response to someone else’s statement about “hoping to do X” or having “hope that X will happen”.

The reactionary response that is commonly stated is, “Well, of course hope springs eternal.”   The origin of the saying comes from Alexander Pope’s work, “An Essay on Man”, where he wrote:

Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always to be blest.
The soul, uneasy and confined from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

What was he referring to?  It could be interpreted in many ways – of a reference to a life hereafter and the reason for living, struggling and being tormented in this life, with a view towards an eternal reward; or, that so long as there is hope, things will change for the better if you just stick around long enough.

Without hope, the devastation of life’s turmoil may never allow for a person to get beyond this day; it is with hope that is kept in the human breast that the eternal promise of a better tomorrow becomes possible; for, otherwise there is just fatalism to look forward to, or as Pope stated, a state of existence where “Man never is”.

The word-pictures evoked from Pope’s work are beautifully put, and provide images that allows for multiple interpretations.  The word “springs” is a carefully chosen word, for it gives the idea both of calm (as in the tranquility of a running spring) as well as a jump forward (as in “spring forward”), and thus establishes multiple meanings when tied to the reference point of “hope”.

Hope, ultimately, is the ingredient that allows for life to live for a future yet undetermined and yet to be defined.  That is what is important for Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition is beginning to prevent the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job.  For, what other hope is there than Federal Disability Retirement benefits?

As the ongoing medical condition and the deteriorating aspect of the medical condition begins to squeeze out any hope left; and the impact it is having on one’s career and future starts to question the viability of any hope to be had; it is hope from X to Y – i.e., a future with a difference – that allows for hope to foster and thrive.

That is why, for the Federal or Postal employee who recognizes that hope in continuing in one’s job is no longer a reality, it becomes important to consider preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, precisely because hope springs eternal.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement under FERS & CSRS: The character of each day

What does the day bring?  Do we awaken, put our finger up to the winds of time or the breeze of the day and ask that question before getting up, dressing and opening the door into a world beyond that may or may not fulfill the promises we believe to be granted?  Or, regardless of the indications, the barometers that forewarn or the compass that fails to direct, do we nevertheless move forward and tackle the challenges faced or otherwise deliberately and willfully avoid?

Does it make a difference, in an “objective” sense, whether we consult the horoscope or check the biodynamic calendar to see if it is an “unfortunate” day to engage in this or that activity; or to stay away from groups of people identified by certain signs or symptoms, revealed or otherwise concealed?

What determines the character of each day – the world at large, the elements within, of the person who steps out into the world?  Or, like the old puzzle that even the Sphinx could not answer, is it by genetic dominance, predetermination and the innate structure of our DNA, or the environment that one is brought up in that forms and conforms the individual personality, content and essence of an individual?

It is always interesting to observe the ritualistic tendencies of each individual that one engages in before battling the turmoil of the day’s challenges; whether one exercises before or after; does eating a meal energize or bloat; are there superstitions embraced before the car door is opened and shut and the engine of time begins the day; these and more determine the character, for many, of each day.

For the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker who must by necessity battle with the medical condition unasked for, unsolicited and without regard to a choice of superstitions allowed, the character of each day has already been somewhat determined.  The only question remaining is, can you endure the harassment from the job, the lack of respect and the constant undermining of accommodations requested by forging forward despite the lack of character in others already shown each day, or is it time to prepare an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset?

Sometimes, the character of the each day is determined not so much by the content of one’s own inner strength, but by the lack thereof in others, and that is something that you cannot do anything about except to “move on” and leave behind the Federal agency or the Postal facility that fails to show any character at all, each day or any day.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement from Federal Government Employment: Terms

Language is a malleable vehicle.  There have been times in the history of language, when the staid and stodginess period of loss of vibrancy became the rule, followed by epochs of radical vicissitudes, upheavals and counter-conventional revolutions in the medium of language games.  Whether this encapsulated slice of linguistic alteration, upending traditional forms of communication because of electronic media and the hype of language abbreviated by Twitter, Texting and Tablet Titillations, will last the short life of technological innovation and obsolescence, is yet to be determined.

For example, the time of Shakespeare’s linguistic explosion of experimentation and expansive usage became in retrospect a richness of entering into connotative language meanings from which we benefit to this day.  But steadiness, continuity and conditions of stability are also important in order to take the proverbial breather to accept, embrace and assimilate (a term widely used for contextual purposes in modernity applied to immigration reform, as well) the linguistic revolutions that become incommensurate with meaning, communication and conveyance of terms.

Terms are important, both in common usage and in technical application.  In the arena of Federal Disability Retirement Law, different words are splayed about, sometimes without regard to proper application, especially when the “law” often requires a greater attention to precision of meaning.  Some simple and common crossovers of linguistic confusion involve:  “medical retirement” and “disability retirement” – do they mean the same thing?

If reference to either term involves the submission for an early retirement to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, then the answer is “yes”, they do mean the same thing.  Federal Disability  Retirement is identical to “Federal medical retirement” if by such words the query is referring to filing for an early retirement based upon the Federal or Postal worker’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position, and therefore the intention is to access an early annuity because of one’s early retirement based upon the medical condition, and submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Some other terms often confused or conflated:  “On-the-job injury” or “pre-existing condition”; these terms are often used in the language-arena of Worker’s Compensation issues, and rarely have any import – or applicability, at all – in the context of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  For, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the applicant is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, it matters not whether or not one has been disabled “on the job” or away at a skiing accident; instead, what is important is the impact of the injury or disease upon one’s ability and capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position.  As for a “pre-existing” condition – that, too, is more likely appropriately defined in an OWCP context, and rarely in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application.

In any event, “terms” are meant to be used within a context-appropriate content of filings, and in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, it is important to clarify and conform to the applicable statutory mandates in defining and using the terms which are most appropriate and effective.

For, in the end, the explosion of language during the era of Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Age reverberates with critical linguistic richness to this day; yet, if we were to have a conversation with a bloke from that era, the terms employed would not only confuse us, but confound us with a profound sense of despairing lack of cogency despite our self-aggrandizing declarations of superiority and advancement in the modern parlance of greater self-esteem.

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