FERS Employees Disability Retirement System: Isolation

Isolation is not accurately reflected by the image of an individual stranded on an island; rather, in modernity, isolation is the real-life situation of a person who is fully connected on Social Media, is surrounded by crowds of people, is seemingly engaged with others — and yet remains in isolation.

That is the conundrum of modernity, is it not?  Greater “busy-ness” in the social arena = a wider sense of isolation.  Activity is not the same as productivity; having less time does not result in greater wealth; and working harder doesn’t mean that you are any closer to the goals which have been set.  Somehow, pushing buttons on an electronic keyboard or on scratch-resistant glass is not quite the same as the touch of a human hand.

Medical conditions only magnify and intensify one’s sense of isolation, precisely because the medical condition itself makes one feel that one’s own body is a pariah in a universe of contentious forces.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the growing sense of isolation felt is often part of the problem — the “pariah” effect, where others tend to see you as the wounded prey who must be abandoned in order to save themselves.

Consult with an OPM Disability Attorney who specializes in FERS Disability Retirement Law, and consider whether the growing isolation felt will allow you to continue in your Federal career, or whether it is time to leave the isolation behind and find an endeavor where your talents will be better appreciated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal and Postal Employee Disability Retirement: Meaning & Mediocrity

Although the words and the concepts behind them may never come to light, they haunt us throughout our lives without even knowing it.  “Meaning” is what drives an individual; the self-awareness of mediocrity is what tugs at us as we fail to achieve the goals which drive.

Most of us, at some point in our lives, come to the conclusion that — though each individual is unique and possesses certain talents and exceptional qualities — mediocrity is what defines us.  Yes, yes — when we were children of loving parents, they constantly drilled into us the “special” gifts we were to the world, of being “the best” and how we could grow up to be anything we wanted, etc.  But at some point in adulthood, we came to the realization that there were others, as well, who were better at things than we were, and that the vast majority of individuals reside somewhere in the middle of talents disbursed at the gates of birthrights.

Yet, despite that realization that we belong to the ranks of mediocrity, we find meaning in the things we do, of who we are and of what small accomplishments we can achieve.  And that’s okay — for, not everyone needs to be a superstar or take the lead role in life; every theatrical play must have minor role players; otherwise, there would only be a one-person act, and that can become boring, fast.

Meaning is what fuels the engine; a realization of mediocrity is merely a reality-check that is relative.  One needs only to look up at the stars on a clear night to reveal the insignificance of our existence relative to the vastness of the universe, no matter how talented we are.  Yet, to the pet dog or cat (the latter is added only to avoid discriminating against cat-lovers) who is well taken care of, and whose lives are one of comfort and love — for them, the master is not among the ranks of mediocrity, but of a special set of individuals taken in the highest regard.  And from that small hollow of greatness, meaning can be extracted.  For, what better meaning in life than to give another living being happiness and joy?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition has likely ended one’s career with the Federal Agency or the Postal Service, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits often leaves one with a sense of mediocrity and loss of meaning.  Yet, like all processes, it is simply another bump along the rough road of life, and it is important to realize that there are other things to achieve beyond one’s Federal or Postal career, and that meaning can still be found after the end of one’s Federal or Postal career.

Consult with an Attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement Law today, and begin to find greater meaning in a world beset with mediocrity; and, in the meantime, go and pet your dog or cat, for they find great meaning and certainly do not see you among the ranks of mediocrity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Claims: The chasm between illness and time

Illness creates the need for time and forces time to stand still for treatment, recuperation, attending, and resting.  Time is the commodity we no longer have in modernity, where the busy-ness of life’s travails just to survive forces everyone to walk about in a daze of exhaustion and thoughtless fatigue for fear of failure in this driven society.

The chasm between illness and time is that blur of life that happens so quickly that any notion of enjoying, of pausing, of that proverbial “stopping to smell the roses” is quickly dispensed with, thrown out the window along with the baby and the bathwater.  There is no chasm, no space, no time between time, and that chasm between illness and time develops only because we are forced to create it – by waiting for the doctor, waiting for the diagnosis, waiting upon the prognosis, waiting for the treatment to take effect, waiting for the medication to kick in; waiting, and allowing for the development between illness and time.

Time, according to Augustine, is the anticipation between memories held and events thought to occur based upon present circumstances beheld.  Physicists and Astronomers would differ, and would instead refer to moving objects and spatial divides that account for past memories, future movements and the sense of eternity in between.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition necessitates considering 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, the chasm between illness and time is better marked by anticipating what the Agency or the Postal Service will do (rather predictable, given their negative track record on how they treat employees in general), determining the future of staying put in a job where one is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal position; and, based upon the medical condition itself, to weigh that against the lengthy process of getting a Federal Disability Retirement approved at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

There is a chasm between illness and time, but the best time spent is in preparing for the future, and perhaps consulting with an attorney who specializes in practicing Federal Disability Retirement law.  Just a thought to pass the time away.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Meaningful turns

How many turns do we make on any given day?  Not just actual ones, like those turns while driving a car, but figurative ones, as well.  If a person approaches you and asks, “Did you make the right turn?” — what is the response?  Is there a “right” answer?  Is there a relationship in the English language between the terms “right”, “left” and the physical attributes we possess?

If a person tells of another, “He’s way out in left field,” is that because we attribute the term “left” with residues of the negative?  And, how did the terms “left” and “right”, when referred to in politics, come to have a meaning of equivalency?  Was the fact that right-hand dominance was historically preferred to left-handedness, to the extent that teachers once used to punish those students who naturally attempted to utilize their left hands in handwriting, drawing, etc., account for the linguistic dominance and preference given to the term “right” as opposed to “left”.

Do we understand the concept with greater presumption when a person says, “He made a left turn and got lost,” even if the person actually made a right turn and found himself in an unfamiliar neighborhood?  And what of “meaningful” turns – are there such things, as opposed to spurious and meaningless ones?  How often we confuse and conflate language with figurative speech and objective facts; and then we wonder why most people wander through life with confusion, puzzlement and an inability to cope.

Russell and the entire contingent of British linguistic philosophers, of course, attempted to relegate all of the problems of philosophy to a confusion with language – and, of course, only the British, with their history of Shakespeare and the sophistication of language, its proper usage and correctness of applicability could possess the arrogance of making such an argument.

But back to “meaningful turns” – in one sense, in the “real world”, every turn is meaningful to the extent that we turn and proceed towards a destination of intended resolve.  But in the figurative sense, it refers to the steps we take in mapping out consequential decisions.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to prevent the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal worker’s position and duties, the “meaningful turn” that one must consider should by necessity ask many questions:  How long can I continue in this job?  What are the consequences of my staying, both to my health as well as from the Agency’s perspective?  How long before my agency realizes that I am not capable of doing all of the essential elements of my job?  Will my excessive use of SL, AL or LWOP become a problem with the agency?  And what about my health?

These are just a series of beginning questions on the long road towards making one of the meaningful turns that confront the Federal or Postal employee in the quest for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Medical Retirement: Living “As If”

We all engage in it; it is a pastime, of sorts, which is enjoyed by the multitude, and reveals the imaginative capacity of the human animal, but with lingering questions concerning the evolutionary viability and purpose as to the utility of the need.

James Thurber’s “Walter Mitty” (the full title of the short story, which first appeared in The New Yorker in 1939, is “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty”) relished the inherent escapism provided by the contrasting chasm between the monotony and oppressive reality of daily living in comparison to the far reaches of one’s imagination, thereby revealing the unconstrained heights of the human mind.

Living as if the reality of the objective world is not as it is, can be both enjoyable and healthy.  In this technological age of unfettered virtual reality, of computer-generated imagery melding the borders between that which constitutes reality and fantasy; and where little room is left to the imagination; perhaps the death of the world of imagination is about to occur.  Is that a good thing?

The problem with living “as if” has always been the other side of the two-edged knife:  the value of the first edge was always the creativity and imagination which revealed the powers of the human mind; but too much escapism, and one entered the world of self-delusion and consequential harm resulting from inattentive avoidance generated by reality’s harshness.

Some things just cannot be put aside for long.  Medical conditions tend to fall into that category, precisely because they require greater attendance to life, not less.  And that, too, is the anomaly of daily living:  when calamity hits, the world requires more, just when it is the reality of human compassion and empathy which is needed.

In the world of fantasy, those values of virtue which makes unique the human animal become exaggerated.  We enter into a world filled with excessive warmth, humanity, empathy and saving grace; when, in reality, those are the very characteristics which become exponentially magnified during times of crisis.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties in the Federal government or the U.S. Postal Service, the idea that the workplace may reveal support and accommodation for one’s medical condition is usually quickly and expeditiously quashed.

Federal and Postal workers who have given their unaccounted-for time, energy, and lives throughout the years, and who suddenly find that they cannot perform at the level and optimum capacity as days of yore, find that reality and fantasy collide to create a stark reality of disappointment.  When such a state of affairs becomes a conscious reality, consideration should always be given to filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

It is an employment benefit accorded to all Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, and must ultimately be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (if one is still with the agency or on the rolls of the U.S. Postal Service, then the application for Federal Medical Retirement must first be filed through one’s Human Resource Office; or, if separated but less than 31 days since the date of separation, also through one’s own agency; but if separated for more than 31 days, then directly with OPM, but within 1 year of separation from Federal Service).

In the end, of course, the wandering imagination of the human mind only reveals an innate calling and need to escape.  Whether that call into the far recesses of fantasy reveals a defect of human capacity, or a scent of the heavenly within the brutish world of stark reality, is something which we should perhaps never question.  For, even on the darkest of days, when clouds of foreboding nightmares gather to portend of difficult days ahead, it is that slight smile upon the face of a person daydreaming amidst the halls of daily reality, that sometimes makes life livable and serene despite the calamitous howls of ravenous wolves snarling in the distant harkening of time.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Benefits: The Afterthought

It is perhaps best that anticipatory planning, based upon predictive analytics, is an afterthought for human intuition and predilection of priorities in life.  Otherwise, one can remain in a world of obsessive preventative maintenance of efforts, and never accomplish what needs to be done today.

Future forebodings aside, and whether an individual engages in hazardous duties which exponentially increase the statistical curve for the onset of an occupational disease or injury, or the development of a medical condition through repetitive and overuse of a particular appendage or anatomy; regardless, the bifurcation of thought from the daily aches and pains from one’s body, warning of impending and future difficulties, is ignored and banished, to be reflected upon in some future corner of pondering.

Human beings have an almost unlimited capacity for relegating present concerns to the realm of an afterthought, and the benefit of disability retirement will naturally take a backseat for those in the youthful set, precisely because disability is associated with thoughts of avoidance, sort of in the company of old age, infirmity, and early onset of dementia.  As well it should be.  But for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who find themselves with a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, and therefore becomes a threat to one’s livelihood, the afterthought becomes the primary issue, and it is then that one sounds a heavy sigh of relief in knowing that an employment benefit includes a Federal Disability Retirement packet.  But once the acknowledgment comes to the fore, the reality further hits one, that you must prove your case, and it is not merely a matter of entitlement.

Federal Disability Retirement, filed through one’s agency if you are not separated for over 31 days, must ultimately arrive at the doorstep of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.  OPM is the agency which makes the decision upon a Federal Disability Retirement application (and that’s the reason why this medical benefit is also known as ”OPM Disability Retirement”).

While there are minimum time in-service requirements (18 months under FERS and 5 years under CSRS), it is the compendium of proving one’s case under the legal standard of preponderance of the evidence, which must be submitted in order to win.  Afterthoughts are human evolutionary means of avoiding unseen dangers; but when the afterthought becomes a present danger, it is time to become aware of the surroundings, context, and content of the formidable opponent one must face.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: OWCP Dilemma

Benefits received through FECA (Federal Employees’ Compensation Act), administered through the Department of Labor and otherwise known under the acronym of OWCP, provide for temporary total disability compensation during the time that a Federal or Postal employee is injured and is unable to go back to one’s former job.

It pays well.  The problem, often, however, is that it pays well enough just to maintain a person to prevent him or her from drowning.  This dilemma is highlighted by the fact that a Federal or Postal employee who is receiving OWCP benefits (scheduled awards excepted) is unable to work at a job (with some exceptions regarding a person who had already been employed at a second job when injured at his primary vocation) or receive additional earned income.

Federal Disability Retirement benefits, on the other hand, whether under FERS or CSRS, allows for earned income up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.

While the Federal or Postal worker is allowed to concurrently file for, and get approved, both Federal OWCP benefits as well as FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement benefits, if both are approved, you must choose between one or the other approved benefit, and allow the unchosen one to remain inactive.

While FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement benefits, filed and obtained through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, pays less than OWCP benefits, it is the added advantage of being able to work at another vocation which makes it more attractive.

It is like the difference between a shipwrecked victim who can hang onto a small floating device as opposed to a raft with oars; while the former allows for survival, it is the latter which will ultimately take one to the destination of final fruition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: A Real-life Hypothetical

Assume the following hypothetical:  A Federal or Postal employee who is 48 years old, with 25 years of Federal Service, engages in a type of work which is repetitive, day in and day out (yes, even this sentence is repetitive and redundant), full time, over the course of those 25 years.  

One day, while moving a piece of furniture at the direction of his spouse, he feels a sudden and sharp pain in his back.  He has to sit down and rest for a while.  The “for a while” turns into a visit to the emergency room, then to his family doctor.  The MRI shows a disc bulge at L5-S1, with multi-level disc degeneration, spinal stenosis, and other degenerative changes.  Despite multiple modalities of treatments, including epidural steroidal shots, physical therapy, variances of medication regimens, etc. (and you can even add a surgical intervention), the pain continues to worsen and deteriorate his medical condition.  The chronic pain prevents him from performing his job.  Whether sedentary or physical, the high distractability of the pain results in his poor performance.  

Can he/she file an OWCP claim?  Such a claim is submitted and rejected, because the issue of causality cannot be established.  An appeal is filed, and it is again denied.  The treating Neurologist and Orthopaedic Specialist are unwilling to establish a direct causal link.  But one argues:  Do those 25 years of repetitive work account for nothing?  Can it all have occurred because of the singular occurrence?  Does my medical condition reflect that of a person twice my age merely because of a single incident?  

It is precisely because causality is the crux of OWCP, that Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is an important benefit for all Federal and Postal employees. OWCP/FECA is a benefit which is great for the limited role it plays; Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit with wider applicability, and the chance for the Federal or Postal employee to enter into another phase of life.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: OWCP Acceptance & Federal Disability Retirement

Case acceptance by the Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (DOL/OWCP) makes it easier for the Agency to make a determination on issues of accommodation, which is one of the elements which must be established in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  

On the one hand, when a Federal employee has been deemed to be “permanent and stationary”, the issue as to whether or not the Agency can reassign the Federal employee, or accommodate him such that the employee can continue to perform all of the essential elements of his or her job, can be easily established, in conjunction with and through the cooperation of a case manager from OWCP.  But even a modified job does not preclude an employee from filing for, and being eligible for, Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, precisely because such a modified or “light duty” job is not a permanent position, but rather an ad hoc set of duties as described in the prevailing case of Bracey v. OPM.

On the other hand, when a Federal or Postal employee has been accepted by OWCP and placed on “temporary total disability” — even if the “temporary” nature of such compensation continues on and on for many years — then it makes it easy for the Agency to simply forget about the employee and not even search to see if accommodating the individual is even possible.  

Thus, being placed on OWCP often makes it a simple administrative matter for the Agency.  No accommodations need to be searched for, and the Agency can move on, leaving the Federal or Postal employee in perpetual limbo.  

Concomitantly, however, for the Federal or Postal employee, the fact that one’s medical condition has been accepted by OWCP/DOL can be used as one element to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, to show that being on OWCP has some evidentiary weight that (A) the Agency is unable to accommodate the Federal or Postal worker, and (B) that there is persuasive evidence that another Federal Agency has determined that the Federal or Postal employee is disabled, and (C) that receiving temporary total disability is an indicator that one is unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  

Nevertheless, beyond the proof of acceptance by OWCP, the Federal or Postal employee must still affirmatively prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the medical evidence proves that one is unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job. Being on OWCP may have some minimal persuasive impact; it is still up to the Federal or Postal employee who is preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application that he or she is eligible for the benefit.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire