Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: Something happened

Beyond a mundane declaration of befuddlement, it is also the title of a novel by Joseph Heller — his second novel published some 13 years after the successful first one that most people remember him by:  Catch-22.

It lacks the surrealism of the first novel; the absurdity of tragic events unfolding distinguishable from the logical and sequential manner in which we see the world, turned upside down by images of madness countering the reality of the insanity around.  The genre of the absurd — depicted in such movies as “Life is Beautiful” and in works such as Catch-22 — attempts to unveil the underlying insanity beneath the veneer of a world acting as if normalcy abounds.

Other movies that attempt to portray the absurd might include Sophie’s Choice, where the main character (played by Meryl Streep) keeps going back to the comfort of her insane boyfriend because that is the more comfortable reality she knows, having survived the insanity of the Nazi death camps.

But long before the genre of the absurd came to the fore, there was the brilliant short story by Cynthia Ozick entitled, The Shawl, which has been noted for bringing out the horrors of the holocaust through a medium — the short story — that captures the essence of absurdity and the surreal in a mere few dozen pages.  The story is a small bundle that reverberates so powerfully that it overshadows any subsequent attempts at depicting life’s absurdity.

Catch-22 elevated the absurd to a consciousness that brought further self-awareness of the unreality of the real — the Vietnam War — and tried to unravel the insanity amidst a world that tried to explain the event as something logical and sane.

Something Happened —  a book about a character who engages in a rambling stream of consciousness about his childhood, job and family — is perhaps more emblematic about the life most of us live:  seemingly logical, yet interspersed with events, reminiscences and memories that are faulty at best, and far from perfect.  The title itself shows a greater awareness of our befuddlement — of not knowing “what” happened, only that it did, and the inability to control the events that impact our lives.

Medical conditions tend to be of that nature — of an event that we have no control over, and yet, we are aware of its “happening”.  For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who have come to realize that something happened — a medical condition; a chronic illness that simply will not go away; a traumatic event that has had residual consequences which are continuing to impact; whatever the “something”, the “happened” part still resides.

Such recognition of the “something” will often necessitate the further recognition that it is now time to prepare, formulate and file an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in order to secure a future that is presently uncertain.

Consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in getting Federal and Postal employees Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and take the necessary steps to ensure that the “something” that “happened” is not one more tragedy in this tragic-comic stream of consciousness we call “life”.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


OPM Retirement for Mental or Physical Incapacity: Responsibility

What is it about the ascription of such a word, that there can be a direct correlation or, if taken in a different context, some mere connection but no causality?  We can say of a person, “He is responsible for X”, and yet never have directly encountered X or (if a person) never even have met X.

Thus of monsters and thugs throughout history, for instance, we might say that “Stalin was responsible for 20 million deaths, at least,” or that Mao was “responsible” for a 100 million peasants dying during the late 50s; or, of course, of ascribing to Hitler the countless millions; and, so that we don’t leave out other “responsible” monsters of history, of Pol Pot, Idi Amin and many others besides, though we cannot link a causality that would pass Hume’s skeptical test of anything more than events following one upon another, we nevertheless accept that all such political figures were “responsible” for the deaths of millions.

What is the criteria in coming to such a conclusion?  Is it a negative proposition — that if X had the power or position to prevent such events from occurring, then Responsibility-Y can be ascribed?  Or must it be a positive declaration: If X engaged in Acts A, B and C, then Responsibility-Y can be attributable to Individual-W; and further, if only Acts A & B, but not C, then less so; and if only Act A, but not B & C, even less so?

Responsibility”, of course, is a malleable and transitive concept; it can change with the contextual winds of opinion, historical perspective and a cultural shift of viewpoints.  Look at how we approach our Founding Fathers — of responsibility for the slave issue in the United States, but somehow excusing each if (A) any one of them willed that they would be freed upon their deaths, (B) that one was “personally” against the issue but for economic, practical reasons were “forced” to go along or (C) they treated them “kindly” and “responsibly” (here, we have a double-meaning of the term, for such an individual was both “responsible” as well as being ascribed the “responsibility” of being a slave owner).

Or, look at the manner in which America treated Native Americans — of a genocidal history no less cruel than Mao’s starvation of the peasantry; and yet, because of such grand concepts as “manifest destiny” and the depiction of an entire populace as “uncivilized”, we can avert “responsibility” by distancing the causal agents; and the greater distance between the agents, the less we ascribe responsibility.

On a lesser scale, what about work?  If work suffers and there is no reason for it but laziness and lack of attention, we ascribe “responsibility”.  But what if a medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties — is that Federal or Postal employee “responsible”?

The short answer is a “no” — and that is recognized by “the Law”, in statutes, regulations and case-laws cumulatively aggregated under the conceptual aegis of “Federal Disability Retirement Law”.  It is precisely because society recognizes that a medical condition itself — and not the individual — is directly responsible for one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, that Federal disability retirement exists as a benefit to pursue.

But it cannot be accessed until and unless there is an affirmative step taken by the Federal or Postal employee, by preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.  That is where “responsibility” comes into play as a direct causal link — of initiating the steps and actually filing.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement: And then we are gone…

The trailing ellipsis establishes a pause for reflection, and the finality of three periods for an emphasis upon the irreversible nature of the statement.  “And then” connotes that something preceded – a lifetime of activities, a century or less of human historicity involving birth, growth, work, struggles, etc. – existed before the conclusion of the life.

The “we are” slice of the sentence implies two additional variables: the universality of involvement – an event that excludes no one – and the present tense of that which is inevitable.  And what about the final word before the ellipsis?  The eternal nothingness; the inescapable conclusion to every novel, every short story, every figure of historical significance or otherwise; we all die.

We somehow try and escape or avoid that fate.  Heidegger’s observation that the whole of human activity is merely a project of distraction and avoidance – that we perform this busy-ness and that all-consuming work or hobby, not because it is inevitable, important, relevant or even interesting, but because to do nothing would be to face the reality of our own demise daily.

Perhaps that is somewhat of an overstatement.  And yet… In the end, plastic surgery, herbal teas and strenuous exercise may only prolong the terminal exit ramp for a fortnight or even a calendric cycle or two, but it is the “in-between” times that make all the difference in a person’s life.  And what of quality?  Does quantification by pure duration determine the worthiness of that “in-between” period, or is it better to have lived a short but “full” life, before the finality of nothingness comes upon one?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are suffering from a medical condition, such that the medical condition is making that preceding period before the universalization of finality becoming a reality “less than worthwhile”, the time may have approached, and perhaps even passed, that preparing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application has become not merely a necessity but a crisis of mandate.

Sometimes, in life, the choices are limited and the options presented somewhat less than the best of life’s offerings; yet, to live out that duration of what is future-oriented by enduring pain, suffering and illness in an atmosphere of hostility and adversarial contrariness for the remainder of the days yet to come, often become unbearable and unthinkable.

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, is often the only solution to a problem unsolvable. It is that moment before the part that goes, “And then…”, where the ellipsis has not yet reached the “we are” portion, and thus a crucial section of a life still to be lived.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Answering Questions

How do we come to learn how to do it?  Certainly, we come across certain eccentric individuals who defy every conventional norm, and somehow manage to appear as if they have done what otherwise we recognize as not having been completed.

Have you ever come across someone who just isn’t “quite right” – such that, when you ask a question, the tangents that flood forth and the meandering thought processes make it an arbitrary conclusion as to whether it was the specific question asked that prompted the incommensurate response, or just the mere fact of a tonal posit of a question-like query that compelled a verbal reaction, even if it has nothing to do with the substance of the question itself?

How do children learn how to answer questions?  Is it natural; is there a systematized process of acceptability; is it taught in any course with a heading like, “Elementary Basics 101: How to answer a question”; and do we presume that acceptable and normative constraints are just learned effortlessly?  Certainly, the classical educational approach of dialectical methodologies – of a question posited; raised hands, chosen orders and an answer provided; then the reinforced positive feedback by the teacher in either affirming or rejecting the response – is an approach that somewhat answers the mystery.

But what of that “weird” kid?  The one where the teacher asks:  “Is the earth round or flat?”  The kid answers:  “That is an oversimplification, as the geometrical constructs require a perspective that betrays ignorance of quantum physics, where flatness is a relative concept to roundness, and vice versa.”  Now, one may smile and wonder whether, perhaps such a child prodigy reveals an intelligence quotient beyond his age or class assignment, but all the rest of the kids would just roll their eyes about as the class bullies await for recess hour in order to beat that kid to a pulp.

But was the question answered, and to that end, satisfactorily?  Or, what if another kid, perhaps half-daydreaming, suddenly blurts, “It’s blue!  It’s blue!”  Did that kid answer it any less adequately than the first?  How do we learn to answer questions?

What if the questions are essentially legalese and incomprehensible, or of a “tricky” nature and makes one pause before moving forward?  Do questions posed, for instance, by law enforcement officials evoke greater caution (as in, “To the best of my recollection…”), and if so, why?  Is it because the stakes may be higher and the suspicion of the double entendre is always there?  Which brings us to the problem of Federal Disability Retirement applications, and specifically SF 3112A – Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

The questions posed on the Standard Form 3112A seem simple enough; but simplicity does not necessarily mean straightforward, and indeed, when a Federal or Postal employee is completing SF 3112A, it is best to go back to fundamentals and ask yourself, How did I learn to answer questions, and are these questions the type that may need additional help, because – though they may seem simple enough and not quite in legalese – there is some trickiness in the very simplicity of the query.

And it is the rule to remember, that the simplest questions require the greatest pause, where suspicion will warrant a more extensive pondering of reflective repose.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement Law: The voice of constructive criticism

It is rare for the individual to accept constructive criticism; rarer still, to invite and welcome it in any form, whether destructive, constructive or otherwise characterized as “positive”, “negative” or “neutral”.  The fact is that few of us accept any form of it at all, and quickly respond with the rebuttal:  “It’s not constructive”.  But why does it need to be?

Such a reaction assumes an inherent distinction that merely and preemptively places an obstacle to further engagement.  It may well be that, in the end, one can conclude as to the resultant characterization initially presumed, and perhaps even to attribute bad faith, unhelpful motivations and intended cuts.  But all of that should come at the end of the deliberative process, and not as the beginning firewall to prevent further discussion and consideration.

For some reason, the evolution of man has embraced the societal need to spend an exorbitant amount of time defending justifying, counterpunching and placing linguistic walls of protective measures in order to preserve the superficial appearances that we all deny we revere.  The irony of Western Philosophy is that, despite questions repetitively and exhaustively presented – with never any conclusive and satisfactory answers ever provided (like children and their eyes bulging with curiosity in a toy store) – the query never ends and the answers are forever avoided.

This age of modernity, however, has a new wrinkle:  as traditional philosophy has been relegated to insignificance and irrelevance by reducing it as a matter of language games and confusion in our thought-processes, so now the “new” approach is to avoid any substantive questions (and therefore any curiosity to have the answers) and, instead, to preserve and protect our superficial lives and appearances.

The beginning of Western Philosophy warned of this – from Parmenides and Heraclitus, and with the entrance of that irritant vagabond Socrates as related to us through the Platonic Dialogues – “appearances” were to be queried and investigated in order to get to the foundation of Being.  Now, we avoid even the appearance of superficiality in order to protect how shallow we are, and we do this by preemptively and viciously attacking the mere question in order to avoid any criticism at all.  This can obviously have dangerous consequences.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who want to consider preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the key to submitting a “winning” Federal Disability Retirement application is in being open to self-criticism, whether constructive, destructive or otherwise neutral.

Vigilance in life is always the key, and refining, streamlining and formulating an effective Federal Disability Retirement application should go through a rigorous “vetting” process, such that the questions of Socrates through his dialectical methodology of getting to the “truth” should never be subverted.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Medical Retirement from Civil Service: The Clock

It is an interesting device.  We can try and project back to a time of its non-existence, or at least when not every household owned one.  What could it have been like?  Where the hour was guessed at by the position of the sun – or was that not even part of the thought process?  Did the sun, dawn, dusk and twilight merely present a foreboding for a different paradigm?

Certainly, minutes and seconds likely had conceptual meaninglessness, and everyone worked, played and lived for the “moment”, without great regard or concern for the next day, the following season, or a decade hence.  Ship’s captains had a greater sense of future foreboding, though not necessarily of time, but of oncoming storms or changes in the currents; farmers lived season to season, and fretted as they still do about droughts or floods that might destroy crops; but as we entered into modernity, it was the grind of the clock that set the day for the city dweller, where payment for labor earned was remitted not by the rising and setting of the sun, but by increments of hours, minutes and labor beyond the darkness of a day ended.

At what point did time entrap us into a thought-process of expectancy that destroys the joy of a living moment?

If Friday provides a needed anticipation for a weekend of rest and repose, we immediately destroy and capacity to enjoy it by looking at the clock and realizing how many hours and minutes have passed by, and further denigrate our ability to appreciate by calculating the remainder of time.  We can become obsessed with the clock – its ticking diminution by projecting the decrease; the foreboding of what is yet to come, though it is merely within our minds; and the constant checking of incremental living of a life as against the clock that rules.

Medical conditions tend to remind us of the clock; or, perhaps it is the opposite, where the clock reminds us of our mortality when we suffer from a medical condition.  For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application may become a necessity, the clock can serve as both a reminder as well as an obsession of foreboding thought processes.

Yes, the clock is likely ticking in a proverbial sense in terms of the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service having the patience (does such an animal exist for either?) in trying to “work with” the medical condition (a euphemism often interpreted as, “You better become fully productive soon, or else”), but in a more real sense, the Federal or Postal employee must make a decision at some point as to the prioritizing of one’s health as opposed to the positional elements of the job which is increasingly becoming more and more difficult to fulfill.

By law, the Federal or Postal employee who is released, separated or terminated (yes, there is a distinction between the three, but for the Federal employee of Postal worker, not enough of significance to define them here), the Federal or Postal employee can file for Federal Disability Retirement within one (1) year of such separation from service.  Certainly, in that instance, the clock begins to tick, and not just in a proverbial sense but in real legal terms.  One need not, however, wait for such an event to realize the clock’s significance; watching the clock as the medical condition continues to deteriorate, is reminder enough that time rules us each day whether or not we succumb to it, or not.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire