Federal Employee Medical Retirement System: Smiley, Ace of Hides

Similarity of consonant alliteration can evoke and prompt collateral thoughts and memories; likewise, phrases which sound somewhat familiar, yet distinctively remain apart.

Historically, spies were the masters of subterfuge, of appearing as that which they are not.  Then, of course, there is the complexity of the “double agent”, where the appearance is twofold in concealment:  acting with apparent fealty to one source, pretending to be diabolically loyal to a second, when in fact reverting back to the first; and the potential play upon an infinite multiplication of conundrums involving questionable ties of patriotism.  Smiley was the ace of them all, as the fictional character of unperturbed and unflappable creation by John le Carre.

In real life, as in the world of imagination, it is indeed the facial characteristic of the smile which hides; and it is that much more pronounced with the addition of the electronic smiley face that is thoughtlessly pasted whenever deemed appropriate.  Because the smile covers all defects, hides much reality, and conceals deportments of denigrated despair, it remains the choice of frozen acceptance.

People with medical conditions often attempt to smile more than usual, if only to hide the reality of the pain and despair of life.  For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents them from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the veil of a smile is often what the agency expects, and nothing more.

Agencies rarely show a fealty towards an employee who no longer can perform as days of yore; and help, guidance or assistance by a Human Resource Office should be viewed with suspicion and pause, leaving aside the question of whether actions are taken for the best interests of the Federal or Postal employee, or for the benefit of the agency.

Smiles hide realities; they can mask pain, and also present a picture of friendliness when in fact the knife has already been readied for the backside of an unsuspecting victim.

Federal Disability Retirement benefits, filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal worker is under FER, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is something which should be considered by any Federal or Postal employee who is experiencing the two-faced subterfuge of an agency which purports to support, but in fact has shown signs of a hostile working environment.

Smiles are nice, and can sometimes be genuine signs of a person’s demeanor; but, more often, they hide the true deportment of intent; and while George Smiley could alter the character of the geopolitical sphere of power shifts and the passing of state secrets, it is the state of the ordinary Federal and Postal employee that is most impacted by actions of agencies which show no loyalties.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for the Federal or Postal Employee: Character Questions

Questioning one’s character occurs in multiple guises, by subtle and overt means, through self-reflection and conspiracies of consorts; one can question through self-reflection, when an intended result falls short of expectations; one can do it to others, when that which was promised was unfulfilled; or, we can do it out of sheer meanness, when rumors and unverifiable gossip can eat away at the fabric of one’s unprotected persona and self-image.

The offense of questioning one’s character is grave, indeed, and the responsiveness of reactionary rectitude is often tied to the sensitivity of one’s self-image, the reputation one holds within a given community, and the sense that one must maintain and control the opinions of others.  Indeed, in this world of Facebook and rampant, unconstrained and un-restrainable opinions thrown about throughout the ethereal universe of the Internet, the questioning of one’s character is something which must be responded to with a callous disregard.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who must contend with a hostile work environment when a medical condition begins to impact one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, the issue of character questioning falls to the forefront without notice, without warning, and without a capacity to quickly respond.  Suddenly,  those years and decades of dedicated service are open to questioning; what one did in the past counts for naught; what one is currently doing is discounted because it falls short of coworkers’ expectations because of the enormous contributions of the past, which now account for little; and what is anticipated for the future is set aside, as one becomes a nobody in a universe which only takes into account the present actions and current accolades.

The fact that a medical condition is the culprit of one’s diminished professional capacity means little; and as the agency rarely reveals any underlying capability for empathy, the choices become limited: filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is often the best and most viable option. Federal Disability Retirement is a means to an end:  the means requires that the Federal or Postal employee attains a level of security such that the medical condition itself can be the primary focus; the end is for the Federal or Postal employee to remain productive for the future, and to utilize the talents and as-yet-unrealized contributions to society for the many years to come.

Character questioning is a game of sorts, and one which empty souls and superficial artifices of valueless individuals engage in; the question itself should never involve a self-reflection of doubt based upon the invalid criticism of others, but the forthright confidence of the Federal or Postal employee who still has many years of valuable contributions left, in a society which screams for character.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: OWCP Disability & OPM Disability

A good indicator that an individual is on OWCP Disability, and not on OPM (Office of Personnel Management) Disability, is that the Federal or Postal employee did nothing other than to file a “CA” form.  Further, OWCP Disability is granted for occupational diseases, or for injuries sustained while “on the job”.  Another indicator (an important one) is that, in order to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, multiple forms must be filled out, including:  Application for Immediate Retirement; Applicant’s Statement of Disability; a Supervisor’s Statement; and multiple other forms.  

The term “disability” is often thrown about in confusing ways, such that a person who is on “disability pay” or “on disability” may think that one has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  The confusion is an important one to recognize, because a person who is eligible and entitled to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS must do so either while a Federal or Postal employee, or within 1 year of being separated from Federal Service.  If a Federal or Postal employee fails to file within the statutory timeframe, he or she will lose this benefit forever.  That is why it is important to make a distinction between “OWCP Disability” and “OPM Disability”, precisely because while one is on OWCP Disability, one should also probably be considering filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits at some point.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal OPM Disability Retirement: Be Discerning

In many ways, there is too much information “out there” about anything and everything.  The area of Federal Disability Retirement Law under FERS & CSRS is no different (and, admittedly, the irony is that I may be adding to the compendium of information with my incessant blogs, articles, reflections, etc.).  The real problem, however, is not necessarily the quantity of information, but rather the quality — and for Federal and Postal employees who are attempting to understand all of the issues surrounding Federal Disability Retirement, it is often difficult to categorize and separate and distinguish between “good” information and “bad” information.  For instance, there is the local/district Human Resources personnel for an employee’s Agency.  Agency H.R. offices are made up of “people” — both good and bad, both competent and incompetent; both helpful and downright ornery.  Then, there is the Office of Personnel Management.  There are multiple internet sites, blogs, a plethora of lawyers (though, there are not that many lawyers who are versed in the area of Federal Disability Law).  The bottom-line issue is not one of “quantity” of information, but how to discern between “good” information and “bad” information.  Too often, a person will call me and tell me that “so-and-so told me that X occurs when you file for Federal Disability Retirement — is that true?”  My response is of a standard nature:  I do not sit and argue or contradict some third person whom I have never met, and against a statement which may have been taken out of context.  Instead, I ask my caller, potential clients, and anyone and everyone who reads my writings, to look at the substance of what I write and say; review the consistency of what I have written, and make your own judgment:  Discern well by checking out the facts, and seeing if what others have said about me, or what I have said, rings true.  Be discerning.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: the Bruner Presumption – Agency Actions II

One must never misunderstand the law and its application.  This is true in any legal arena of every area of law; when it comes to Federal Disability Retirement law, the misunderstanding of an application of law can have direct and irreparable consequences:  the failure to secure disability retirement benefits and, therefore, the financial security for one’s future.  The “Bruner Presumption” is one such application of law which is often misunderstood.  Without revealing all of its proper applications, it can (and is) often misunderstood to be equivalent to a “presumption of innocence” — but that would be wrong.  The Bruner Presumption comes about as a result of an Agency Action — of removal based upon the employee’s medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of the job.  With or without the Bruner Presumption in Federal Disability Retirement law, the “Burden of Production” — i.e., of the medical documentation, the factual establishment that the Agency is unable to accommodate the individual — still rests and remains with the applicant.  One must never think that the applicability of the Bruner Presumption makes a case a “slam dunk” of any sort.  This is especially so where we are talking about those medical conditions which are often viewed as “suspect” by the Office of Personnel Management — such as Fibroymyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity cases, etc (by “suspect”, however, I do not mean to imply that such medical conditions make it harder for an applicant to get it approved; rather, it merely requires that the one who is preparing such an application, do it properly, thoroughly, and with legal force).  Remember that the initial, and continuing, burden of production always remains with the applicant; what the Bruner Presumption merely does is to “shift” some of the weight of the burden of proof over to OPM, and in the event of an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board, of placing a Federal Disability Retirement case into a more favorable light with the Administrative Judge.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability retirement: End of Summer and Postal VER

Summer is almost at an end. The Postal Service, through the auspices of the Office of Personnel Management, is offering Voluntary Early Retirement (VER). For many, this is a positive thing; the decision to take the VER should be a financial decision. An analysis comparing the monetary return should be made between what an employee would receive under the VER and under disability retirement; if the financial difference is great, then obviously the employee should consider filing for disability retirement after the VER has been approved.

Remember that the employee would have one (1) year to file for disability retirement benefits, after the individual has been separated from service. Steps should be taken now, however, before accepting/filing for the VER, to establish the medical condition and disability prior to separation from service. This can be done by discussing the medical condition with one’s treating doctor, before the VER is applied for. Such early steps will help ensure the success of a future filing for disability retirement benefits — because the employee must establish that the medical condition impacted one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job prior to separation from Federal Service.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire