OPM Accepted Disabling Conditions: Suicidal Ideations

It is perhaps the final vestige of societal taboo; for, at what point the human animal realized that self-destruction became an option is open for debate.  In the Animal Kingdom, it is rare to find species openly seeking to end life; the struggle to survive and the Darwinian inherency for self-preservation and survival remains as vibrant as ever.

Being diagnosed with “suicidal ideation” is normally associated with psychiatric conditions of Major Depression and Generalized Anxiety, where the acceptable level of stress-tolerance exceeds the capacity to withstand.  Each individual is a unique creature; in this cookie-cutting mold of society where people get lost in the importance of position, fame, accolades and a false sense of admiration, it becomes commonplace to question one’s sense of worth and value.

Psychiatry has never been a perfect science; some even question the validity of its approach, as it has now become overwhelmingly a pharmacological event, with some semblance of therapeutic intervention thrown in as an afterthought.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal Service workers who are contemplating 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 even CSRS Offset, the existence of suicidal ideations (or otherwise simply known as “having suicidal thoughts”) is often lost in the compendium of diagnosed psychiatric conditions, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), where a significant event has intervened which has resulted in traumatic reverberations in one’s life; Anxiety (or more officially identified as Generalized Anxiety Disorder); Major Depression; Bipolar Disorder, with spectrum symptoms of manic phases and depressive states; as well as schizophrenia and paranoia.

For relevance to filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM, the existence of suicidal ideations is often one more indicia of the seriousness of the diagnosed psychiatric conditions, but should never be determinative in whether one’s psychiatric condition is “serious enough” in order to be eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Indeed, there are many, many Federal and Postal employees who file for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, who suffer from Major Depression, Anxiety, PTSD and other forms of psychiatric conditions, without ever suffering from suicidal ideations, and yet are fully qualified for, and become entitled to, Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Further, as Federal Disability Retirement is based upon the algorithm of showing the nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional requirements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the impeding aspect of suicidal ideations may be negligible.  Rather, from a medical standpoint, it is one more factor of concern and consternation within a long list of diagnoses and symptoms which cumulatively form the basis for an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: External-Internal Linkage

Thoreau’s observation that the mass of men lead “lives of quiet desperation” holds a profound place in daily acquiescence to the stresses of modernity; the influence and linkage between the internal workings of biology, psychology and the interplay upon health and wellbeing, and the greater macro-impact from the inevitable encounters with the external, objective world of phenomena, cannot be ignored or otherwise avoided.

The rise of self-help methodologies, of yoga, meditation, exercising and diversionary activities, is merely a reflection of the exacerbation of the internal connection as directly impacted by the external world; the linkage is there; we simply fail to otherwise recognize or acknowledge it.  Stress in the workplace is an accepted part of one’s employment; it is when stresses rise to the level of a hostile workplace that the law allows for some form of alleviated responsiveness.

But filing lawsuits, confronting the obvious, and publicly decrying boorish behavior and actions constituting illegal harassment often compounds the internal turmoil fraught with stresses upon one’s psyche; and one wonders in the end, who wrote the laws governing the litigation of such employment disputes, as special interests from trial lawyers to employers, union conglomerates to corporate lobbyists all had a hand in writing up a statute to protect the singular employee of limited means.

“Quiet desperation” infers resignation and defeat; and for many, the image of the rugged individual who stands alone to fight until death or destruction is the standard to compare one’s own limited power and actions to be employed.  But as the internal linkage to the external world cannot be denied, so health and well-being can be destroyed by the interplay with a continuing hostile workplace.

For Federal and Postal employees 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 Federal or Postal job, insistence upon continuing one’s chosen career is often a choice to the detriment of the internal affairs of man, with little impact upon the macro-efficiency of the agency.

Federal Disability Retirement is an option of choice for the Federal or Postal worker who is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS-Offset, and is often mandated by the deteriorating health of an individual (internal), necessitated by the inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties (external), and by showing by a preponderance of the evidence that the former impacts the latter (linkage), one can qualify for the benefits and salvage the quiet desperation enveloping and engulfing the insular life of an individual seeking help in the dark meanderings of a lonely outpost, where the echoing howl of a single wolf reaching out to the eclipsed moon on a cold and windy morning represents not an animal in distress, but a recognition that the wider world out there is part of man’s destiny for things greater than showing up for work to follow the demands of a bureaucracy lacking of empathy or concern.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Achieving the Objective

We often hear of people striving to achieve “the good life”, or perhaps, sometimes it is characterized as the “easy life”; one of leisure, pleasure, lack of worries (financial or otherwise), and at least in evocative pictorial representations, surrounded by multiple beautiful people all with dentures which gleam with gaiety and unbounded mirth.

How one achieves such a state of ecstasy (by following directions provided), where it exists (some utopian tropical island which can only be reached via a private plane), when to begin (by calling a certain toll-free number), and what to do (respond to the advertisement within the specified time period offered), are somewhat murky, but belief in such an objective to be achieved keeps human hope alive.  Somehow, such predilections of a state of finality seem hollow in the face of reality; it is the latter with which we must contend on a daily basis; the former is merely a fantasy left for dreamers and fictional characters.

For Federal and Postal employees who face a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s chosen Federal or Postal vocation, there is little extra leisure time to engage in such phantasms of thought.  Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, takes a clear, analytical approach, and one which cannot be sidelined by daydreams of virtual realities in a hemisphere of utopian musings.  But, then, Federal and Postal employees who suffer from medical conditions and must contend with the agency’s hostile response to such matters, already understand the necessity of engaging reality versus the world of imagination.

While it is sometimes preferable to get lost in the parallel universe of ecstatic fantasies, it is always the harsh reality of this world which must be the ultimate objective of achievement.  Fantasies are left for those precious hours of sleep one can enjoy; the rest of the waking hours must be to tackle the reality of the real.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Discretion

Discretion” is little used term and concept in the world we live in.  Instead, the focus is always upon one’s “right” to speak about anything, to expose everything, to assert one’s demands, etc.  But the conceptual applicability of the term should not be ignored in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS —  one must be “discrete” as to which issues to include in such an application.  

By “discretion” is not meant to imply any attempt to hide or obfuscate an issue; rather, because Federal Disability Retirement is an administrative process with its own inherent rules and laws, there is a containment of the types of issues which one should stick to.  For example, one should minimize and stay away, as much as possible, from such issues as “workplace harassment”, “hostile work environment“, “employee harassment”, etc.  Such issues might be relevant in an EEOC case, but potentially detrimental to a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

There are Federal and Postal employees, however, who will insist that such issues “need to be brought up” in order to “expose” such injustice.  But everything has a proper time, place, and jurisdictional forum.  Discretion is always a relevant concept — but to recognize that discretion is a necessity in and of itself requires discretionary judgment; something that is sorely lacking in this day and age.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Stress

“Stress” is always the “problem child” in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  If a Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job because of an intolerance to a certain level of stress, then certainly it should be considered as a basis for preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, either under FERS or CSRS.  However, treatment modalities must be engaged — normally, via a psychiatrist or psychotherapy.

Further, there are always issues which will come about in basing the primary medical condition as “stress” — aside from the fact that it is a generic designation which will often have corollary designations, such as Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, etc.  For example, can one define “tolerance to stress” as an essential element of one’s job?  It is certainly an inherent element, implicit in many multi-tasking jobs and ones which require a high level of responsibilities or is subject to timeliness in quotas and work production.  But when issues concerning stresses which arise as a result of “personnel issues” (i.e., interaction with supervisors, coworkers, etc.), then it becomes a “problem-child” which is best avoided, for numerous reasons, including the possibility and danger of having one’s Federal Disability Retirement application denied based upon a “situational disability“.  Concepts and thoughts to ponder, when preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: A Hostile Work Environment

Unfortunately, reality often outperforms and upstages any attempt at fictional characterization of the workplace.  Often, the meanness and temperamental behavior of a supervisor in the “real” workplace can never be properly represented by an actor’s attempt in a sitcom or a drama; the persistent, irrational, capricious and outright cruel behavior and acts of “the boss” or one of his/her underlings can never be accurately depicted in fiction.  Further, the reality of the consequences of such behavior can be devastating.  Workplace stress resulting from demeaning behavior, intentional acts to undermine, cruel and arbitrary acts against a specific employee, can all result in serious medical consequences.  

It is all well and good to talk about internal procedures — of filing an EEOC Complaint; filing a grievance; filing a complaint based upon discrimination, etc.  But beyond such agency procedures to protect one’s self, there is the problem of the eruption of a medical condition, be it Major Depression, Anxiety, panic attacks, physical symptoms of IBS, chronic pain, headaches —  some or all of which may result from such stresses in the workplace.  There is no diagnostic tool to establish the link between the medical condition and the workplace stress.  

For Federal and Postal employees thinking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, there is the context of harassment & stress in the workplace, and then the medical condition which prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job. Sometimes, it is difficult to bifurcate the two.  That which is difficult, however, must sometimes be accomplished in order to be successful.  The origin of the medical condition may have to be set aside, because it “complicates” the proving of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  If one is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the story — however real — of the workplace harassment, may have to be left behind.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Sometimes, It is the Wrong Question

If the question is asked, “Is it difficult to get Federal Disability Retirement benefits based upon a Stress Claim?” — within the context of the poorly-worded question, you may get a wrong answer.  This is because it is the wrong question to begin with.  

The concept and term “stress claim” is more appropriately formulated in the context of an OWCP claim.  It implies that one is claiming for compensation based upon a situation — a hostile work environment, a harassing supervisor, etc. — because the origin and inception of the medical condition generically characterized as “stress” implies that it is the workplace which is the originating responsibility for the very medical condition claimed.  

Such a question would thus imply a multitude of irrelevant considerations for purposes of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, such as the causality of the claim, whether the cause is merely situational (is it the supervisor causing the stress?  If so, if a Federal or Postal worker moved to another office or agency, could he or she work in the same job?), or contained within the context of the workplace. The problem with using the term “stress” in a question is that, whether as a noun or a verb, it implies too much while revealing too little.  If expanded upon (e.g., while stress may be the origin, is the medical condition Major Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, etc.), then the entire question takes on a new form.  Sometimes, the problem begins with the question asked which is poorly worded; and to a poorly worded question, a wrong answer might be given.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Psychiatric Disabilities — Origin versus Situational

While the issue concerning “situational disability” has been previously discussed and written about in my various blogs and articles, it is helpful to keep in mind certain conceptual distinctions when preparing to file for Federal or Postal Disability retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

The concept normally applies to psychiatric disabilities, and specifically to two major areas:  Major Depression and Anxiety.  The paradigm of such a case often involves a Federal or Postal worker who has had some difficulties, conflict with, harassment by, etc., a supervisor or coworker within the agency. The Federal or Postal worker begins to manifest symptoms of anxiety, depression, panic attacks, etc.  An EEO Complaint is filed; a grievance is filed; perhaps, several such alternative venues of legal processes are utilized.  Despite fighting back, the hostile work situation fails to resolve itself.  More importantly, the psychiatric medical condition continues to worsen.  

Does this simple hypothetical constitute a basis for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, or is it precluded by the legal preclusion of “situational disability”?  As with all generic paradigms, the answer is:  It all depends.  

One must look at the chronicity of the psychiatric medical condition; whether the symptoms pervade all aspects of the life of the Federal or Postal Worker; to what extent the psychiatric medical conditions impact his or her ability to perform the essential elements of the job; and to what extent the Federal or Postal worker can perform such a job in a different environment.  It is in the details of the conceptual distinctions made, which determine the course of viability in filing for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Potential Drawback

One of the potential drawbacks in pursuing collateral employment issues concomitantly with a Federal Disability Retirement application is that, as such employment issues are active and clearly in the collective consciousness of the Agency, the Supervisor, and all involved, the issue itself often gets sneaked into a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS via the back door.  

This is not necessarily a negative thing, but can be a potential drawback if the Supervisor insists upon inserting the details of the collateral action in the Supervisor’s Statement.  Whether such insertion and accompaniment with a Federal Disability Retirement application is “proper” or not, is a separate matter.  From the perspective of the applicant who is awaiting a decision from the Office of Personnel Management, it matters not as to the proper actions of the Agency.  What such actions by the rogue supervisor does, is to deflect the focus away from the medical issue, and redirects the reviewing official/representative at OPM that the “reason” for one’s early retirement is not one based upon a medical issue, but rather, is because of stresses or other factors caused by a hostile work environment, harassment issues, etc.  This is normally a proposition which can be easily sidestepped, by arguing to OPM that whether or not such workplace issues have any basis or not, the treating doctor has nevertheless stated X, Y & Z.  However, it can still be problematic, and that is why collateral workplace issues should be avoided, if at all possible.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Those Workplace Issues

In preparing a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there are often multiple collateral issues which arise:  Harassment issues; Unequal Treatment; EEOC issues; Hostile Workplace issues; Discrimination issues; and multiple other issues which may or may not be viable complaints.  Such complaints have their proper place, in the proper forum, within the proper context.  As I have written multiple times previously on this issue — these employment issues should be avoided in the context of preparing for and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Many of these employment complaints may be viable ones to pursue; some may be pursued concurrently while seeking Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and will not ultimately defeat or impact such an application (remember that in law, not only can an attorney speak out of three or four sides of his mouth; one is also allowed to make contradictory legal arguments at the same time).  

The point is that such collateral arguments and issues should not be a part of the application itself.  It may be fine to pursue such workplace issues in a separate and different forum — just not in the process of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  If the issue is brought up, the Office of Personnel Management may well use it against you, stating, “Your medical conditions seem to occur as a result of your allegation of the actions of your Supervisor. As such, you suffer merely from situational disability.”  Case denied.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire