Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Quiet Walks of Einstein and Godel

The name of the former evokes an immediacy of recognition coupled with awe; of the giant in physics and intellectual greatness beyond ordinary excellence. The latter is lesser known, but within esoteric circles of academia, particularly in mathematics, of equal stature in accomplishment familiar in his chosen field; of the intellectually formidable Incompleteness Theorem.

The two knew each other, and enjoyed the company of one another. They took long walks together. One wonders what Einstein and Godel spoke about. Of theoretical constructs and intellectual exercises so beyond the capacity of common people, that a mere snippet of eavesdropping would explode the mundane mind’s limited ability to comprehend. But, just as likely, they may have conversed about ordinary events, of wars and rumors of wars; of cars, classics and carpeted hallways in your home and mine. It was a time of quietude; of solitude between two great minds; of ordinary walks by a pair of extraordinary men.

Such paths of convergence enlivens one’s imagination, of what was, and could have been. And for lesser minds (which includes all of us), the need for a quiet walk is a human desire. Yet, despite his brilliance, Godel suffered, and suffered greatly. Perhaps the proportionality of greatness and suffering is to be expected.

For Federal and Postal Workers who suffer from a medical condition, it does one well to pause as to the lessons which can be learned: from suffering; of the need to find a respite from such human turmoil; of finding a path; and of friendships forged. Often, when a medical condition explodes upon the horizon of one’s life, it is important to find a pathway out of one’s traumatic microcosm.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, allows for a rehabilitative period for the Federal and Postal Worker — if only to begin a second vocation in the private sector after a partial recovery from the medical condition which cut short one’s chosen Federal or Postal career.

All Federal Disability Retirement applications are ultimately filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and in order to qualify, one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence one’s eligibility for the benefit. And in attaining the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement, perhaps the focus of the Federal Disability Retirement annuitant can turn to a less troublesome walk down a path of solitary quietude. Or, if one is lucky, to find a soul mate, as Einstein and Godel surely were to each other, to enjoy the conversations which life’s moments of friendship and warmth are meant to embrace.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: Restorative Measures

Sleep obviously has an evolutionary purpose.  Anxiety, stress, negative thoughts and perspectives; aggressive behavior, combativeness (otherwise known to spouses as “being grumpy”); inability to maintain one’s focus, concentration, attention to detail; all of these, and much more, can often be ameliorated by a good night’s sleep.

Stress is the overarching component which becomes exacerbated by lack of sleep; it feeds upon all other aspects of the human body, by impacting physical endurance and stamina, by increasing one’s cognitive dysfunctions and capacity to process the quantitative and qualitative amassing of information; and it is thus the vicious cycle of lack-of-sleep leading to greater-stress resulting in increased inability to attain a state-of-restorative sleep. Throughout, stress can be the invisible thread which ties the binds of cyclical ruination and self-destruction.

For Federal and Postal employees who find that a medical condition has impacted one’s ability to maintain a continuity of restorative sleep, consideration in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, filed through one’s agency if one is still employed or not separated for more than thirty one (31) days, or filed directly to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management if separation has already occurred but one still falls within the 1-year timeframe of the Statute of Limitations, must always be an option.  Federal Disability Retirement allows for one to reach that plateau of self-restorative venues, by having the time and proper perspective to seek out effective medical treatment, not otherwise distracted by the countless demands of one’s Federal or Postal job.

Stress is the silent robber who stealthily destroys one’s health by a thousand cuts; lack of restorative sleep is the subtle, pernicious and progressively deteriorating condition which turns slowly into a crumbling foundation; and failure to act upon correcting the steady onslaught of self-decomposition will only lead one to a state of paralysis, where the shifting plate tectonics will one day reach a crisis point of collision, in the convergence of stress, anxiety, physical collapse, and self-ruination; all because we couldn’t get a good night’s sleep.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Independence of Each Program

The disparate nature of each Federal program, with little to no intersecting coordination amongst them (with the exception of SSDI and FERS Disability Retirement benefits in the coordination of payments upon approval of each) betrays the unplanned, thoughtless creation of each program, as well as a sense that each agency wants to maintain its feudal control and assertion of independent power.

That perhaps explains, in part, why each program ignores the extent of persuasive authority the approval of another program should logically have, upon an approval and acceptance by the “other” program.  Does it make sense that being granted “unemployability” status under the Department of Veterans Affairs ascription of percentage disability ratings would only have a nominal impact upon a FERS Disability Retirement application?  Or that an SSDI approval would have, at best, a persuasive effect upon a FERS Disability Retirement?

It is somewhat more understandable that a case accepted by OWCP/Department of Labor would have minimal impact upon a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application, precisely because the former is set up as a program of rehabilitation in an effort to return the Federal or Postal employee back to his or her job.

The only true “coordination” of benefits occurs between SSDI and FERS — and that, only if both are approved, and payments are received concurrently; but even then, there are often overpayment problems, lack of the left hand knowing what the right hand is doing, etc.

Thus Coordination and intersection between departments, agencies and various programs rarely occurs.  Agencies tend to want to remain independent.

Such lack of coordination, however, does not mean that the FERS or CSRS Federal or Postal employee should not force a legal argument upon OPM when a significant finding is made by another agency or program.  For, in the end, it may not be the U.S. Office of Personnel Management which listens, but an administrative judge at the MSPB, or a 3-judge panel on the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals; in which case, a precedent will have been set, for all to (hopefully) follow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The “Cover” of an FCE

Most doctors are unfamiliar with the process of obtaining Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, but are more often than not familiar with the process, procedures, and correlative headaches associated with Worker’s Comp benefits.  Because of this greater familiarity, there is often an underlying suspicion that comes along with it — that rendering any medical opinion must be accompanied by some underlying justification and “objective” methodology of supporting the medical opinion.  And this is understandable. 

In this day and age of malpractice lawsuits, of questioning every test, procedure and opinion, it is rare that a medical doctor is comfortable and secure in rendering a medical opinion about one’s ability or inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, based solely or primarily upon clinical examinations and reviewing of diagnostic results.  Enter the FCE — the “Functional Capacity Evaluation”.  The FCE provides “cover” for a doctor’s medical opinion, because the doctor can point to an apparently “objective” evaluation — a third party rendering a number of physical tests, exertional exercises, physical capacity movements, etc., which serve to provide a framework from which a doctor can render an “objective ” opinion.  Why it is accepted that pointing to someone else’s evaluation — as opposed to relying upon one’s own clinical examinations, reviewing one’s history, reviewing diagnostic test results, etc. — is any more valid, is a great mystery.  But if it makes the doctor feel more comfortable, then a person considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS should go ahead and agree to submit to an FCE, if that is what it takes to get the doctor on board.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Service Disability Retirement: Differing Legal Criteria

Similar benefits, at the State, Local, Private levels, and at the Federal level, each contain differing legal criteria for eligibility. Thus, for instance, Social Security Disability benefits require one set of standards of eligibility; private disability insurance policies require a different set of standards; and state disability benefits often differ from state to state.  This is of course true of Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS and CSRS — where the legal standard of eligibility is different from Social Security, Worker’s Comp, and State or private disability criteria.

Often, a question is asked whether a medical narrative report which is prepared for submission to the Office of Personnel Management can be used for submission for other “similar” benefits.  The short answer is, “It all depends”, but the long answer is that, in most cases, one must be very cautious.  When I represent a Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS, one of the first steps in preparing a viable case is to request of the treating doctors a detailed medical narrative report.  One must understand that the treating doctor has, generally speaking, next to no idea as to the legal criteria that must be met under FERS or CSRS.  Furthermore, the treating doctor has no legal knowledge as to the differences between private disability insurance policies, State, Social Security, OWCP or FERS & CSRS.  It is the job of the Attorney to make sure and guide the treating doctors as to the criteria which must be met as to the particular and specialized field for which the medical narrative is being prepared.  This must be done with care, and with detailed guidance.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire