Medical Retirement under FERS: Revisiting Updike

He wrote about mundane things; of middle class neighborhoods, Pennsylvania towns in which he grew up; farmlands before strip malls replaced them against the skyline of cornfield rows; and of affairs that grew naturally out of a revolution emancipated from the Sixties; of quiet sufferings and the rhythmic monotony of ordinary lives.

John Updike was an “in-betweener” — too young to fight in WWII, too old to have been drafter for the Vietnam debacle; and so he experienced the quietude and normalcy in between the two bookends of this country’s tumult and trials.

Updike was a voice for generations who saw the post-war era, of baby-boomers and American prosperity at its zenith; of the loss of any normative confluence of moral dictum and the abandonment of constraints once imposed by Protestantism.  All, of course, with a twinkle in his eye and a ready smile.  The Internet abounds with photographs of this uniquely American author — almost all with that thin smile as if he was about to share a private joke.

The Tetralogy of the Rabbit novels (actually a quintet if you include the last of the series, a novella entitled “Rabbit Remembered”) evinces a country gone soft after the harsh period of the Great Depression, the Second World War, the Korean conflict and the Vietnam era that undermined the ethical mandates known for generations before, unleashing a liberty of hidden sins like a bubbling cauldron of untamed desires.  But in the end, he is best known for the mundane, the ordinary, and how life in the suburbs of a prosperous nation left an emptiness unspeakable except by a voice given in narrative brilliance, from an author who was a regular contributor to The New Yorker.

Somehow, he made the ordinary seem exciting, even relevant.  By contrast, modernity has focused upon the rich and famous, and of greater unreachable glamour where perfection surpasses pragmatism.  Updike was able to make the commonplace seem important, the ordinary appear significant and the monotony of the mundane as not merely prosaic.  And isn’t that all that we seek, in the end?

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 loss of relevance, the ordinary and the commonplace is what often scares the Federal or Postal employee.

The job itself; the career; the monotonous routine of going to work, yet finding relevance in the act of “making a living” — these were all taken for granted in Updike’s short stories.  That other stuff — of infidelities and dalliances — were a deviation that Updike tried to point out as mere fluff in otherwise ordinary lives; and of medical conditions, they upend and disrupt the normalcy we all crave.

Federal Disability Retirement is a means to an end — of bringing back balance within a life that has become disrupted, but it is a way to bring back order where disruption to the mundane has left behind a trail of chaos.  And to that, the twinkle in Updike’s eyes and the thin smile would tell us that he would approve of such a move which will return you back to a life of mundane normalcy.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Artemis for Our Age

Perhaps the most venerated of the Greek deities; but why?  As protector of young girls, the Greek mythological figure is always associated with the hunt, carrying with her a bow and arrow, accompanied by a loyal deer; is it chastity and fidelity that make her so attractive?  Do we have an Artemis for our Age — someone whom we can look up to, to feel the warmth of love and pure presence, if only to provide comfort in times of turmoil?

We give lip-service to terms like “community” and how it “takes a village” to bring up a child; of the importance of “family” and “family-values”; and yet….  When words are merely utterances without an action to follow, do they ring as hollow as the sound of an echo in a dark cave where no one can hear?  Is it because we have become so cynical in modernity that we cannot fathom an Artemis for our Age?  Does believability depend upon ignorance, and does ignorance result in the greater bliss where faith and happiness can coexists despite the dreary conditions of daily existence?  Did Greek Mythology develop because of a need for human beings to explain the anomalies of the universe, and was it science that destroyed the structure of such paradigms?

Without an Artemis for our Age, the promise of creativity in the innocence of childhoods yearning for something more than the reality of daily existence becomes a mere hope without even the scent of faith.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are seeking to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS, the ugliness which develops in the very process of such seeking is often what destroys any faith in an institution.  Medical conditions, once revealed, tend to bring out the worst in agencies: Suddenly, “loyalty” is no longer a concept discoverable; “empathy” is a far cry from reality; and “accommodation” becomes a foreign concept even when there are laws to try and protect it.

The Artemis for our Age has simply become the use of laws as the weapon to wield; and when a Federal employee needs to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, legal representation is what forces the Agency and OPM to comply with the law, and that is about as close as we can get to in finding an Artemis for our Age.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: The Misfit

The herd mentality must of necessity have a survivability factor; otherwise, there is little to explain the illogical repetition of the historical recurrence of human folly for behavioral anthropology.  In the modern era, being “different” is a sign of rebellion, and the cultural tidal wave of the Sixties in altering the normative landscape of music, art, religion and social customs, revealed the pinnacle of self-destructive behavior — until it became clear that being a misfit itself was merely the convention.

Behaving “normally” means that one does not make “waves”; in a highly bureaucratized society, the importance of non-innovation and complete compliance is regarded as sacrosanct.  Loud, boisterous behavior; conduct outside of the normative inflexibility of societal perspectives; that which is acceptable as quirkiness or eccentricities, as opposed to destructive explosions of tendencies bordering upon insanity; the invisible line between the misfit and clinical commitment to a psychiatric facility is a thin reed, indeed.

Often, however, it is uncontrollable circumstances which impose upon an individual the unwanted label of being an “outsider”.  Medical conditions often have a tendency to promote such a state.  It is like being labeled a plague-carrying contagion by the CDC; once whispered, the rumors begin to spread.

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 job, being labeled a misfit becomes a “given”. Others begin to shy away from an association; some are told bluntly not to have contact with “that one”.

Loss of normative acceptance within any community or society is an important factor for success; somehow, despite all of the legal safeguards, EEO regulations and protective statutes applying to disabled individuals, the herd mentality of yore nevertheless prevails.  For Federal and Postal workers, the only pragmatic exit is to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Is it a retreat or an escape?  Not really; rather, just a means of looking out for one’s own best interests.  The medical condition itself should always be paramount in considering one’s life; attending to it properly means that one must have the time and energy to treat the underlying malady; and continuing in an employment atmosphere where acceptance is avoided, and empathy is rare, is also an unstated definition of engaging in self-flagellation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire