OPM Retirement for Medical Incapacity: The boxes in Standard Forms

For some forms, it is a convenience to have a restrictive, limited “box” in which to put the “x” into, or maybe the needed “Not Applicable”; others, however, try and contain a limited narrative and force succinctness into the standardization of answers.  That is all well and good, and perhaps from a bureaucratic standpoint and perspective, the conformity of forms and the mandatory “answers within a box” makes for streamlining of paperwork.

The reality, however, is that some questions cannot be answered — and more importantly, should not — within the proposed space allocated, and so you have two (2) choices: decrease the font size in order to fit a greater substance of the narrative within the provided box, or attach a continuation sheet despite no indication in the standard forms for allowance of such cheekiness of presumptuous creativity.

How does one identify which Standard Form should be prepared and completed within the confines of standardization, and which ones should not?   First, a conceptual identification should be applied: Which ones are merely “informational” that request only singular answers, and which forms make queries that compel for narrative answers?  Once that initial, identifying bifurcation is made, then the next step is to determine whether an adequate and sufficient response can be stated within the “box” provided within the font-size allowing for regular eyesight that does not require extraordinary magnification, or if a continuation sheet is necessary.

Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, certain Standard Forms are merely informational — for example, the SF 3107 series which asks for basic, factual information.  Then, of course, there is the SF 3112 series, and especially SF 31112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

For the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker under FERS, who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the greater mistake has often been to quickly annotate within the boxes provided a swift “jotting down” of the medical conditions one “feels” — as if the body parts providing temporary sensations for a given day, or even the lack thereof, will sufficiently satisfy the eligibility requirements that must be met in order to become approved for a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.

Make no mistake about it: there can be dire legal consequences if SF 3112A is not completed properly and sufficiently.  And always remember the philosophical dictum: That which is necessary may not be necessarily sufficient, and that which is sufficient may not be sufficiently necessary.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

How much OPM Disability Retirement Pays?

“What will the benefit pay?”  That is often the primary concern of a Federal or Postal employee who must consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), and it is certainly a valid first question.

The greater concern that cannot be overlooked, however, is the one that involves calculating the cost of NOT filing.  In the end, those Federal and Postal employees who must consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits have three fundamental options: Stay put; resign and do nothing (or wait for termination/separation proceedings to occur, which amounts to the same thing); or file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS.

The benefit of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity is quite simply calculated as 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of service for the first year (offset by 100% of any Social Security Disability benefits received during the concurrent payments received) and 40% of the average every year thereafter (offset by 60% of any Social Security Disability payments received during those years), until age 62, at which point the Federal Disability annuity is recalculated as “regular retirement” based upon the total number of years of Federal Service, including the time that the disability retiree has been on Federal Disability Retirement.

Thus, the “greater” benefit in calculating the cost has to take into account the fact that one is actually “building up” one’s own retirement by the years one stays on disability retirement — for, those very years that you are receiving a disability retirement annuity count towards the total number of years of Federal Service when it is recalculated as “regular” retirement at the age of 62.

Yes, it is true that on the cost/benefit ledger that one should review before filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, you need to take into account the lesser income and the lengthy bureaucratic process that must be engaged, but you should also never forget what the originating basis for considering such filing compelled the consideration in the first place: Your health.

Calculating the cost of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits too often places the emphasis on what is lost — in terms of monetary gain and loss, etc.  But in calculating the cost of filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted and considered to and by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the primary issue involves one’s deteriorating health and whether you can continue to remain in a job which has clearly become inconsistent with the medical conditions one is suffering from.

In the end, calculating the cost must go beyond the lessening of income; it must calculate the cost of one’s health, which is the single greatest asset one possesses.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Employees: Content

What do we mean when we distinguish between “content” as opposed to “context”?  Are the two always distinguishable, and if so, are there any features or characteristics that make inseparability a potential difficulty?

We have all heard the famous phrase from King’s speech about being judged by the “content” of one’s character, as opposed to the “color” of one’s skin – a deviation of sorts from the more customary reference to the distinction made between appearance and reality, form versus substance, or even of spiritual versus material (although, as to the latter, one will often hear the metaphysical argument that it is the spiritual which is the “real” reality, and that the material is merely that fleeting, temporal existence that lasts for only a limited time).

Can the two truly be separated so cleanly as to allow for harmless independence – or, like the Siamese twins that share a vital organ, would any attempt necessarily devastate both?  For, isn’t it the very appearance of a thing that attracts and allows for an investigation further into the inner depths of the thing attracted towards?  Doesn’t context always matter when looking into the content of a thing, whether it is an incident, a conversation or a person of whom one is interested in committing to for a lifetime of relational considerations?

We often like to make such grandiose claims of bifurcating distinctions, when in fact the reality of the matter is that both are needed in order to complete the picture of the whole.

One may argue, of course, that content nevertheless is “more important” than context, or that substance by definition is of greater consequence than appearance, and by fiat of ascribed significance, one often argues that the former is necessary but perhaps not sufficient without the latter, whereas the latter is not unnecessary, but nevertheless cannot be made without unless one wants to walk about through life with a missing leg or a part of one’s soul left behind.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, always remember that – in preparing the SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability – the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is looking for both content and context, and thus must one always be wary and cautious about the implementation of both.

SF 3112A is a trick form.  The questions seem simple enough, but what is put in there; the legal consequences of what medical conditions are included; the result of failing to include certain other conditions that may later be of greater consequence; these, and many more pitfalls, obstacles and unknown legal impact that may or may not be made aware of – well, OPM is not going to tell you beforehand, or help you out, and will indeed judge the Federal Disability Retirement application based upon the content of what is included, and not by the “color” of contextually missing information.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: How Long Can Negation Define Living?

The tipping point where negation of living constitutes greater time spent than affirmative enjoyment of the activity engaged, is determined by individual choices and preferences.  Some individuals retain a higher threshold for pain, discomfort, and capacity to endure; and the fact that an MRI reveals a degenerative or decaying physical attribute does not necessarily correlate with the capability to ignore or otherwise minimize the magnitude of pain.

To what extent one avoids “doing something” in order to contain the pain; deny the self from pursuance of an activity in order to endure; to maintain quietude and an immobilized sedentary state of being in an effort to make the worn body and troubled mind last for a day, a week, or a decade longer; such are the efforts expended in a life of negation, in order to continue to “live”.  But is life defined by a quantum?  Or, is quantity in any way related to quality?  In “elder law”, there is often a discussion about “quality of life” issues, but the fact is, such a question and concern pervades with significance throughout one’s life, and not just towards the twilight of living.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition,such that the medical condition begins to prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties in the Federal Sector or the U.S. Postal Service, the question of when “enough” is already “too much” is one which haunts, tails, latches on as an appendage of inflamed emotions, and refuses mere hand-waving as an irritant to swat away.

Yes, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a major step in one’s life, but at some point, the alternative left unstated and ignored must be directly confronted and faced with courage, pragmatism and prudent behavior.

Habit of negation can become so intertwined with one’s daily life, that it remains as a compromise allowed because one believed that no alternative was offered.  But as a life defined by negation becomes, at some point, a qualitative issue where all joy has been sucked out of the vibrancy of rightful ownership, so the choice to change in order to attain a semblance of a past life, memorialized in times of youth where pain and psychiatric disorders were merely hypothetical constructs hinted at by “others” in the community, so taking an affirmative step in order to be released from the confines of daily toil and turmoil is often the best and most hopeful avenue towards a life of positive images.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM is often the best choice left in order to “move on” towards a greater definition of “life as living” once forgotten because of the constant harassment and fear imposed by the Federal agency and the U.S. Postal Service.  At some point, negation cannot define living, as life is more than avoidance, and there is joy to be found beyond Federal employment and the U.S. Postal Service.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: Life as a Byproduct

When it happens, or how, is of insignificant notice; the incremental arrival, where past segments of time seemed to traverse epochs where memories captured mere millennia of lifetimes; and then, one day, you wake up and yawn, and your life has taken on an incidental, tertiary level of importance.  One has been living by negation for so long, any positive or affirmative step has become a ghost of not just a Christmas past, but of decades evaporated.

Can life long be lived as a mere byproduct, where time, space and the centrality of one’s essence is shoved aside, and separateness of identity is relegated to occasional hellos and furtive glances of suspicious canopies?   Can a life of negation — of avoiding pain, trying to merely survive the day, or of constantly worrying about the next adverse action which might be initiated against you — is that “living”, or merely life as a byproduct?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, where the medical condition (whether physical exclusively, psychiatric, or a cross-combination of both) prevents the Federal or Postal worker from being able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, the daily grind of avoidance, fearful of the next stressor of the day, and the constant battle to get some recuperative period of rest and peace away from the turmoil of work and one’s constant fight against the medical condition, leaves the human soul depleted and defeated, to the extent that life is merely a secondary and incidental experience; the true and focused task is intertwined with fear, angst and dread for each day.  Is that really a way to live?

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, may not be the answer to all of life’s problems; but for that segment of society, the Federal Sector and the U.S. Postal Service employees — it is at least a small step and a beginning.

Life’s problems did not aggregate in a single day; and just as the ancient Chinese proverb admonished that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so the life of a Federal or Postal employee can return to the essence of being, as opposed to a mere byproduct, when once we take steps to attain a level of restorative peace and begin to fulfill promises made but broken in past moments of progressive deterioration, when health was once taken for granted but now considered the gift of blessings forgotten in previous baskets of happiness and joy, lost but never forever regretted.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement from OPM: Identity Crisis

It is how we view ourselves as one entity among others; where the I-Thou relationship corresponds to the perspective we have of ourselves, of others, and within the micro and macro-communities we engage and with which we interact.  Who we are; how we see ourselves; what constitutes value and worth; whether productivity is defined merely by the volume of paperwork shuffled, or in the manufacturing of items shipped to far-off places; and the constancy of eyes which discern the essence of a person’s place in society.  One’s identity is intimately and intangibly intertwined with one’s job, profession and vocation of choice — or where one simply “fell into” the morass of growing from teenager to adulthood.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who begin to suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s livelihood, the vocation one has aspired to for the past few years, decades, and throughout one’s lifetime; or for the Postal worker and Federal employee who have viewed the position as merely a “pass-through” job in order to obtain certain credentials and qualifying clearances; in either cases, when a medical condition begins to prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, there often erupts a crisis of identity, precisely because of the intimacy between one’s health and one’s capacity and ability to work.

The proverbial “identity crisis” occurs precisely because of the intersection between the tripartite conditions which society has placed with a burden of chaotic rationale:  Who we are; What we do; Our value tied to productivity and “doing”.  Where health begins to deteriorate, the ability and capacity to remain “productive” diminishes; regression of “doing” reduces one’s market value in a society which idolizes comparative worth; and as what we do becomes less valuable, who we are shrinks in the eyes of the macroeconomic stratosphere of societal valuation.

Time to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  For, when the Federal or Postal employee begins to embrace the identity crisis of this vast bureaucracy of the Federal sector or the U.S. Postal Service, it is time to move on.

“Moving on” is to simply accept the devaluation system of monetary policy of the Federal agency and the U.S. Postal Service; but it is the personal identity crisis which must always be dealt with, and for the Federal or Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s perspective of self-worth, it is time to exit from the abyss of deterioration, and take the positive and affirmative step by preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire