OPM Disability Retirement under FERS: Factors to consider

The universe of thoughtful decision-making shrinks exponentially and in direct correlation with the pertinent and relevant information gathered, and it is too often the case that factors not considered are the very ones which lead to a non-decision or, more importantly, to a wrong conclusion.

What factors should be considered when a Federal or Postal employee is going to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset?

Certainly, age can be a factor — for, if OPM engages in a recalculation of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity at age 62, and you are fast approaching that age, the factor of “how long it takes” to get an OPM Disability Retirement approved (about a year, give or take a few months on either side of the equation); whether you get any backpay once it is approved (back to the last day your Agency or the Postal Service has paid you anything); and whether the time you are on Federal Disability Retirement counts towards your total number of years accrued until the recalculation age at 62 (it does) — should all be factors to consider.

Further, even if you are still relatively young, should those same factors be considered?  The short answer is an unequivocal “yes” — and probably many others, besides, including: Do I intend on working at another job in the private sector while on Federal Disability Retirement?  Do I have Service-Connected disabilities that can play a factor [sic] in the factors to be considered?

The universe of factors to consider in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, are innumerable; and then, there are likely factors that you have not even considered, but which may be prompted by consulting with an attorney who has already considered multiple factors besides, and who may be able to guide you in this complex process called “OPM Disability Retirement”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The mythology we create

Folklores and mythologies we have read as children; they stir the imagination, of gods in faraway lands in times now forgotten, and of tales of daring and courage in the moral plays of a universe now turned between the tides of time and the ebbing of history.

We are told that they were a manner in which to explain the unexplainable; that, until the great Age of Science came along and placed everything in its logical perspective, we once believed in the mythology of gods, superstitions and the folklore of our own imaginations.

But what of the mythologies we create in modernity?  Of the infallibility of science, when the very judgment and discourse is still based upon human frailty and self-interest?  Of phenomena which we cannot explain but somehow ascribe words that sound meaningful and complex to the understanding of others, and so we continue on in the mysteries we create?

And of mythologies we create — whether in our own minds without ever sharing with others, or the daydreams we are trapped in which we repeat almost daily, as an escape from the drudgery of the reality we must endure; or, perhaps of the lie that began as a pebble in the stream but kept growing over the years until it became a boulder that stemmed the tide of discourse and created a dam which fed a lake?

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 one’s Federal or Postal job, the mythology we create can be somewhat on a lesser scale of mischief or criminality.

It need not tell the story of a civilization’s origins or in explaining some overwhelming phenomena of the universe.  No, it can be a story that is created to explain away the excessive use of Sick Leave or Annual Leave; it can be the mere telling of a tale that tomorrow the medical condition will miraculously go away; or it can be in the very self-deception that you can continue to endure the pain and suffering and hide it from your coworkers, supervisors and the Agency as a whole.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit that allows for the Federal or Postal worker to retire early based upon one’s medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, however, it may require you to shatter the mythology we have come to create, and face the reality that the gods of thunder and lightening no longer throw down the zigzagging bolts of anger and revenge from high above, but rather, the rains of today may give way to the sunshine of tomorrow, explainable by the natural causes of science and that this amazing world of causality may yet be defined without purpose.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal & Postal Employee Disability Retirement: Fathoms and farthings

They are words seldom used by ordinary people, and are instead found within contexts now of limited usage except by reference to anachronistic novels and reference manuals, or perhaps in sea-faring settings where such terms are related to between seasoned old-timers in the field.

The former term refers to the unit of measurement for the depth of the ocean’s topography; the latter, a unit of currency so small as to have become obsolete by now with the inflationary course of history having relegated such amounts to irrelevancy, and ceasing to be recognized as legal tender by 1960.  Besides, it was a “foreign” currency as well, and was not a currency used in current usage within recognizable current vintage, anyway (yes, yes, a bad attempt at alliteration and a play on words).

What do they have in common?  They both measure a unit of X, of course; they are also words that have “meaning” only within certain contexts, whether of specialized oceanographic particularization or, as to the latter, within a historical context if one were writing a play, screenplay, novel or short story that included anywhere from the Victorian to the Elizabethan periods.  It is a reminder to us all that words come in and out of “meaning” and relevance based upon the context given and recognized.

Language games”, as the term Wittgenstein ascribed, retain their relevance and applicability depending upon the context of the usage adopted.

It is no different when preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application by a Federal or Postal employee, to be submitted through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.  Suddenly, the Federal or Postal employee is thrown into a “language game” that has been ongoing for decades, but is new to the Federal or Postal employee who must prepare an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Such terms as “The Bruner Presumption”, “viable accommodation attempts”, “Persuasive legal effect of other disability ratings,” etc., come into play.  Yes, you may be able to research and understand some of the terms, but the particularization and the anachronism of such terms may come back to haunt you unless you, as the Federal or Postal employee trying to submit an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, can fully comprehend the specialized nature of this complex process called Federal Disability Retirement.

For, like fathoms and farthings, it may be best to consult an attorney who has a long experience with such terms and usage in order to better heighten the chances of a First Stage Approval from OPM.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The title itself

Sometimes, it is good to go “back to the basics”.  Throughout these blogs for these past and many years, the attempt has been to relate common everyday experiences and life’s challenges to the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker struggling daily to maintain one’s career and to extend a career in the face of a medical condition.  Yet, the primary focus has always been to try and remain informative; to give some sense of the process of filing a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Sometimes, however, the title itself is sufficient, and one does not need the additional analogy, metaphor or “connectedness” to try and understand the process, and instead, all that is required is the title itself.

OPM Disability Retirement is a “medical” retirement.  It is based upon a medical condition that prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.  Yes, it can be a very, very complicating process, especially because there are potential pitfalls throughout the multiple administrative steps.  At each step of the procedural paths, there may be legal consequences that may not be correctible once the Federal Disability Retirement application has been submitted and a case number has been assigned at Boyers, Pennsylvania – i.e., a “CSA number” that begins with the number “8” and ends with a seemingly irrelevant “0” appended as the last of series of numbers.

Aside from the inherently complex questions posed on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, the initial question that one must face and answer is (A) Whether, as a practical matter, Federal Disability Retirement is worth it, and (B) Whether there is a good chance to become eligible for it.

As to the first question, the factors that must be considered are: One’s age (for, at age 62, all disability annuities are recalculated based upon the total number of years of Federal Service, including the time that one is on Federal Disability Retirement, and as it now takes at least a year to get approved by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the question needs to be asked as to how old one is, how close one is to reaching regular retirement, and whether one can last until such age of retirement and the accrual of enough service computation years of Federal employment, etc.), how many years of Federal Service, and whether the Federal agency or the Postal Service is threatening to proceed with termination or separation.  And as to the second question, issues concerning the type of medical condition, the severity, the impact upon the Federal or Postal positional duties, the extent of support, how much reliance of such support is based upon a VA disability rating, and multiple other factors.

The “title itself” is often quite simple; it is the subtexts, the parenthetical unknowns and the hidden potholes along the road to filing a Federal Disability Retirement application (here we go again with the analogies and the metaphors) that makes for a complex and complicated journey.  But, then again, hasn’t that always been the case throughout life – facing the title itself that seems simple enough, but finding out that it is a bit more difficult than first thought?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: The regularity of life

Metaphors abound, of course; of the stream of life, its cadence, likened to a steady march and the cyclical nature wrapped in the repetition of the growing dawn followed by the setting sun.  The regularity of life represents a rhythm and monotony that provides a blanket of comfort (there goes the metaphor, again) that can be extracted from the lack of chaos.

Most of us thrive best within the regularity of life’s monotony; it is the very few who seek and relish the chaos of life.  Some few seek the opposite precisely because they grew up hating the former; and other, the very antonym of life’s challenges, searching always for new adventures and challenges and upending everything in sight because of boredom experienced in some prior stage of life.

Whatever the causes, whatsoever the sought-out means for expression and self-satisfaction, one cannot exist without the other.  It is from chaos that one creates an order (hint: this is not a new notion; one might consult the first book of an otherwise unnamed book that “believers” often refer to); and it is only in the midst of the regularity of life that one can have spurts of its opposite; otherwise, the world of chaotic living could not be identified as such unless there is a contrasting opposite by which to compare.

Medical conditions “need” its very opposite.  Doctors often talk about “reducing stress” as an important element in maintaining one’s health; it is another way of saying that the chaos of life needs to be contained, and the regularity of life needs to be attained.  Medical conditions themselves interrupt and impede the regularity of life; as pain, it increases stress; as cognitive dysfunctioning, it interrupts calm.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the very fact of the medical condition itself can be the impeding force that disrupts and interrupts the regularity of life; and the chaos that ensues often necessitates an action that returns one back to the regularity of life.

Preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is often the first and necessary step in bringing order back into an otherwise chaotic-seeming mess.

It is, in the words of some “other” source, to attain the regularity of life from that which had become without form and void.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Life Lessons

Most of us stumble through it, and somehow end up down unexpected corridors of unplanned venues; and then we have the nerve to think that we can have kids and impart wisdom we never learned, refused to lived by, and rarely listened to.  It is said that hypocrisy is the characteristic of the common farce; it just happens to infect everyone else, and never ourselves.  But there is an evolutionary determinant even in the comedy of life; it used to be that Western Philosophy would teach us to always seek out the substance of a thing, and to recognize mere attributes and appearances for what they are — recognizing that superficiality conceals the essence of Being.

Now, there are popular books which tell us that “faking it” is okay, so long as everyone else is too stupid to know it.  Then, there is our job, our careers and that vocation at which we spend the majority of our lives pursuing.  One day, we wake up, and find that the manifestation  of a medical condition makes it impossible for us to continue.

What do we do about it?  Procrastinate.  Deny.  Avoid the issue.  But reality has a way of ignoring our pleas of ignorance and avoidance.  Harassment at work; Letters Warnings; imposition of a PIP; Proposed Removal; Removal.  It is not that we did not see it coming; we just hoped that life’s lessons would make a detour around our individual circumstances.

Fortunately, however, for Federal employees and U.S. Postal Workers, there is a consolation benefit in the event that a life lesson involving a medical condition impacts the Federal or Postal employee’s ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties as a Federal employee or U.S. Postal Service worker.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits allows for the Federal or Postal employee to have “another chance” at life’s misgivings, by providing a base annuity, allowing for work in the private sector on top of the OPM Disability Retirement annuity, and to garner a time for restorative living in order to attend to the medical conditions by retaining and maintaining one’s FEHB.

In the end, there is a conceptual distinction to be made between “Life Lessons” and “Life’s Lessons”; the former is what our parents and the juggernaut of historical inevitability tried to teach, and which we deliberately ignored; the latter is that which impacts us daily and personally, and to which we must by necessity respond.

For the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the Federal or Postal employee must file 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 lesson of life — whether as Life Lessons or as Life’s Lessons, is to take that stumbling former self who ended up in the corridors of the Federal Sector, and to straighten out the future course of events by preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application through OPM.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Noh & Other Masks

Every culture has some element of representative theatre of art, and Nogaku is the classical Japanese form which tells the narrative of human suffering, trials and challenges encompassing masks, elaborate costumes, and traditional music reflective of the times and periods of tragic and comic proportions throughout history.

Why are masks used?  What is it about the frozen caricature, that moment in time when a look, a grimace, a smile or an unconcealed filament of emotion that encapsulates human suffering, tragedy or a breeze of joy?  Masks frozen reveal but a singular moment — or so one assumes, until you look at it from a different angle, a changed light, or perhaps when one’s own emotions alter and bring to the stage the experiences and baggage accumulated throughout a lifetime.

Masks fascinate — look at the glee, fear and awe on a child’s face, and those memories frozen in time as the child claps, stares, puts the tiny involuntary hand to his or her mouth, as the play before unfolds, whether in life or on the stage.  We all wear masks; some to conceal, others to gloss over.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers suffering from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties, the daily mask in order to conceal the progressive deterioration of one’s health, is no different from the theatre of plays performed.

Only, for the Federal and Postal worker who must consider 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 “play” never ends, as real life is ongoing; and the mask worn changes not in response to the altering angle of light, but rather, because of the unremitting articles of life which slowly chip away at the brave face of time, like the dust of age which fades the painted Noh mask, whether on stage or in the arena of daily living.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire