OPM Disability Retirement Benefits: The misplaced comma

It is such an inconsequential mark in the universe of imprints that pervade, and yet so significant, but in a cloak of anonymity, when misplaced.  It possesses the same features as other punctuations of grammar — identical to the apostrophe, the same in mimicking as the singular quotation mark that is so prevalent; and the same shape is used in multiple diacritic writing systems common within Ancient Greek writing systems, and still survives apparently in the written systems utilized in Latvian, Romanian and Livonian.

It allows for clauses to appear, to become dependent and separated, and to confine into a separate meaning where the conceptual clause, whether dependent and leaning for support upon the main thought expressed, can convey an independence of meaning that adds and modifies the original idea.

It is the misplaced comma that makes one pause and ponder — why must we hesitate here?  Why did they put a red-light in the middle of the sidewalk?  Why does the sign say, “No passage” in the center of a store, and yet we can step beyond the red line and still proceed?

Does the misplaced comma apply in spoken language?  Take the following example: You are standing and talking to a friend, and the friend says: “Now, I want you to — no comma, here — know that tomorrow it is going — no comma, here — to rain— here, there is a comma — and therefore we have to have — no comma here — our umbrellas with us.”  Aside from rendering an irritating manner of speaking, it was all so unnecessary, wasn’t it?  We don’t have to apprise others of a misplaced comma unless it is actually misplaced, and when speaking as opposed to writing, it is not needed because the hesitation in speech itself tells us of the comma, whether misplaced or not.

In written form, however, the misplaced comma — again, aside from being a mere irritant — compels us to pause, to hesitate, to take a reflective millisecond — like coming upon a crack in the sidewalk when we were kids and thinking, “Should I skip and jump over it or just be brave and step on the crack?”

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 pervasive feeling of one’s tenuous position in the workforce is often likened to a misplaced comma.  You no longer “fit” into the mission of the agency.

Others begin to hesitate when approaching you; there is “talk about” you that you sense, and there appears to be commas all around, bifurcating, separating, creating dependencies that seem to segregate and confine, like invisible fences — nay, commas – that have been placed all around.

It is then time to begin to prepare, formulate and file an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee or Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.  Consult with an experienced attorney and replace the misplaced comma with an emphatic period that will end the misery that continues to deteriorate.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Sorrow behind the facade

How do we know a person’s sorrow?  Of other emotions, we question and retain suspicions, but why is sorrow placed on a separate plane, untouchable and abandoned as sincere despite warranted evidence to the contrary?  Of love, we question constantly — as to sincerity, whether fidelity has been maintained and preserved; of joy or happiness, daily do we self-analyze and evaluate; but of sorrow — once the tears pour forth upon the event learned and considered, there are few who doubt for fear of being tarred as the cynic who had no feelings or remorse.

There are instances — of an unnamed president who purportedly was seen joking and laughing on his way to the funeral, but suddenly turned dour and despondent in facial expression once recognition was noted of cameras filming and spectators observing; or perhaps there are relatives who are known to have hated a deceased kin, but arrived at the funeral out of obligation and duty; of those, do we suspect a less-than-genuine sorrow?  Is it because sorrow must by necessity be attached to an event — of a death, an illness, an accident, or some other tragedy that we consider must necessarily provoke the emotional turmoil that sorrow denotes?  But then, how do we explain the other emotions that are suspected of retaining a facade and a reality beneath — again, of love and happiness?

Medical conditions, especially for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers, are somewhat like the sorrow behind the facade.  Few will openly question it — whether because to do so is simply impolite or impolitic — but some will suspect as to its validity, especially when self-interest is at stake.  The declaration, “Is there a malingerer within our midst?” will never be openly spoken.  For, what is the evidence — excessive use of SL, AL or LWOP; frequent doctor’s appointments; inability to maintain the level of productivity previously known for; lack of focus and concentration at meetings; inability to meet deadlines, etc.

For others, these are harbingers of irritants that delay and impact the agency as a whole; for the Federal employee or Postal worker suffering from the medical condition, they are the symptoms and signs beneath the brave facade that is maintained, in order to hide the severity of the medical condition in a valiant effort to extend one’s career.  There comes a time, however, when the reality of the medical condition catches up to the hidden truth beneath the facade, and once that point is reached, it is time to prepare, formulate and file an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

In like manner, the sorrow behind the facade is similar to the medical condition in and around the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service — both may be real, but it is the “proving” of it before OPM that is the hard part.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The content

It is ultimately the content that matters, especially in a technical, administrative procedure where tone and context become secondary.  After all, we are addressing a “medical” issue – a cold, clinical subject when it comes to filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

What should be included?  How far back?  What is meant by the “essential” or “core” elements of a job?  Does the capacity and ability to arrive at work for the duration of completing assignments in and of itself constitute an “essential” element of the job?  What if the job can be performed, but one simply cannot drive to the job?  Must I address failed efforts by the agency to “accommodate” me, and does the term “accommodation” have a narrower legal meaning than the way it is loosely used by my agency?

These and multiple other questions go to the heart – the content – of the issues presented when preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Content is all important, and the audience to whom the Federal Disability Retirement application is intended is relevant to keep in mind.  If you are standing in line at a grocery store, or at a Post Office, and someone remarks to you, “You are obviously in pain.  Go ahead in front of me” – such kindness and consideration may prompt you to explain, in somewhat abbreviated form, the content of what your medical condition is.  However, if that same person who showed such consideration turned out to be a close family member, who either already knows about your condition or is otherwise intimately familiar with the circumstances and the history of your medical condition, your response may be somewhat different.

How much history of the medical condition needs to be related to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; what medical records need to be attached and accompany the narrative report that creates the “bridge” and “nexus” between the medical condition and the essential elements of the job duties – these all fall under the general aegis of “content”, and must be carefully considered in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The changing straw

The “straw that broke the camel’s back” is a known idiom that essentially reveals to us the last in the series of incidents or actions that cumulatively result in the destruction of the whole.  What in the series preceding the last straw; of what weight and import; to what significance may be attributable, we rarely focus upon; it is the last one in the series that we focus our attention upon, precisely because we assume that it is the causal connection to the event that conclusively occurs with a finality of actions.

Yet, as Hume would point out, the fact that a “final straw” placed upon the camel’s back resulted in the next event following, does not establish a causation where that final straw was in fact the cause before the effect.  It merely shows us that X occurred prior to Y’s conclusion.  If a rooster awakens and makes his morning call and the sun rises upon the horizon, and thereafter an earthquake shakes the foundation of the planet, do we conclude that the rooster was the final straw, or that the rising of the sun “caused” the tectonic shifts beneath?

No – the idiom itself, of course, is not meant to be analyzed in that manner; rather, it is a “saying” that merely denotes that, upon a series of events, issues or actions, there comes a boiling point of finality where enough is enough.  But the evolution of societal norms does, indeed, allow for the straw to change over time.

Once upon a time, people “stuck it out” and remained married – if only to keep one’s vows, or for the “sake of the children”, or perhaps some other noble purpose.  Now, the “straw” that results in a divorce has changed – it can range from “failing to communicate” or even because one spouse has gotten bored of the other.  With that changing straw, people tend to tread lightly, given the low threshold of tolerance.  Law is somewhat like the changing straw – perhaps not the substance (although that can change through legislative action), but certainly the application.

For Federal or Postal employees who are 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 issue to always be kept at the forefront is the changing straw throughout – what is the “straw” at work which will help make the decision?  What “last straw” is needed before the cumulative effects of the medical conditions persuade you to realize the need to file?  What “straw” of the law needs to be applied to persuade as to the viability of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application?

There are many “last straws” in life, and much of them change as time goes on; the law, however, remains fairly constant, except for the “last straw” of legal opinions that often alter the landscape of substance and applicability.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire