Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Traps and landmines

They are not just set on the roadsides of war zones or in public squares where the greatest damage can be projected; for, by analogy, they are in existence as metaphors of human deviancy and evil intents. Traps are deliberately set with motives and intentions to capture; landmines and other devices are put in place to maim, injure or kill.

Then, of course, there are analogies used and metaphors employed — of legal traps and linguistic landmines; of contracts that “hide” language in miniature fonts that are designed by clever lawyers to mislead and draw into a cobweb of entanglements meant to enclose, corner and — like traps and landmines — either to capture or to destroy.  Linguistic landmines and traps are the ones we encounter more often than the ones in war zones.

In other countries, in far away places where we see reporters “embedded” and whispering in hushed tones of urgency to give us a sense of danger and exotic misadventures, we get a sense of what real traps and landmines are all about.  But in this country, within our universe of relative calm and peace but for the periodic tumults of tragedies in the next city, the farther town or that “big city” out there — in such relative calm, it is usually just a casual trap of language or a landmine of a metaphorical sort.

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 applicant for Federal Disability Retirement must be cautious and wary of the legal and linguistic landmines and traps in the very preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement Application.

Those innocent-looking forms, such as SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability — while they do not pose the same danger as a mousetrap to a mouse or a landmine to a wandering child on foreign soil — nevertheless, they can become problematic unless you are aware of the dangers posed, much like those traps and landmines we hopefully will never encounter in war zones and conflicts afar, in a metaphorical sense.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Retirement for Medical Incapacity: The boxes in Standard Forms

For some forms, it is a convenience to have a restrictive, limited “box” in which to put the “x” into, or maybe the needed “Not Applicable”; others, however, try and contain a limited narrative and force succinctness into the standardization of answers.  That is all well and good, and perhaps from a bureaucratic standpoint and perspective, the conformity of forms and the mandatory “answers within a box” makes for streamlining of paperwork.

The reality, however, is that some questions cannot be answered — and more importantly, should not — within the proposed space allocated, and so you have two (2) choices: decrease the font size in order to fit a greater substance of the narrative within the provided box, or attach a continuation sheet despite no indication in the standard forms for allowance of such cheekiness of presumptuous creativity.

How does one identify which Standard Form should be prepared and completed within the confines of standardization, and which ones should not?   First, a conceptual identification should be applied: Which ones are merely “informational” that request only singular answers, and which forms make queries that compel for narrative answers?  Once that initial, identifying bifurcation is made, then the next step is to determine whether an adequate and sufficient response can be stated within the “box” provided within the font-size allowing for regular eyesight that does not require extraordinary magnification, or if a continuation sheet is necessary.

Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, certain Standard Forms are merely informational — for example, the SF 3107 series which asks for basic, factual information.  Then, of course, there is the SF 3112 series, and especially SF 31112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

For the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker under FERS, who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the greater mistake has often been to quickly annotate within the boxes provided a swift “jotting down” of the medical conditions one “feels” — as if the body parts providing temporary sensations for a given day, or even the lack thereof, will sufficiently satisfy the eligibility requirements that must be met in order to become approved for a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.

Make no mistake about it: there can be dire legal consequences if SF 3112A is not completed properly and sufficiently.  And always remember the philosophical dictum: That which is necessary may not be necessarily sufficient, and that which is sufficient may not be sufficiently necessary.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Witnessing the residue

Most of us merely witness the residue; the process itself, the events leading up to the conclusion, and “during” as opposed to the “after”, and all of the miniscule details that make up “in between” are invisible, ignored, unimportant or simply not thought of.  We see the “end product”, only, and that is how it should be.  We don’t have time to watch the apple tree grow from a seedling; for sausages to be made; for politics to be compromised; and for other people’s problems to fester.  And even if we did, what difference would it really make?

We assume much – that characters we see in movies made from “based on a true story” (whatever that means – and how much artistic liberty was taken with the details of such a “true story”, and what part is true and what is not?) productions went to the bathroom in between shooting at each other and becoming heroes; or that when children are seen, there was once love between the couple (although, that can turn out to be a wrong assumption where adoption or other arrangements have been made) even if the residue we witness shows only acrimony, bickering and constant arguing.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers preparing to 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, “both sides” witness the residue – from the Federal Agency or Postal Service’s side, they witness the residue of a filing for a disability retirement, without knowing the long and arduous struggle that the employee had with the medical condition prior to coming to such a decision.  Or, for that matter, from the viewpoint of the supervisor or co-worker, such a decision may come as a complete surprise.

Conversely, from the viewpoint of the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, witnessing the residue of the Federal Agency’s reaction or the co-workers and supervisors who make comments, or say anything at all, is often an interesting phenomenon for its complete lack of understanding or empathy.  They simply didn’t know, didn’t care or didn’t take the time (or all three) in showing any concern during the long struggle with the medical condition.

The key, however, in witnessing the residue, is with respect to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management – the Federal Agency that reviews and makes a determination on all Federal Disability Retirement applications.  For OPM, it is important to formulate a concise narrative in answering the questions on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  How much of the history; to what extent the minutiae and details of the past; and the precision of establishing the nexus between the medical condition and the job duties – these are all important in the proper preparation, formulation and filing of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, where witnessing the residue may be a void too important to neglect.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal Employees: Content

What do we mean when we distinguish between “content” as opposed to “context”?  Are the two always distinguishable, and if so, are there any features or characteristics that make inseparability a potential difficulty?

We have all heard the famous phrase from King’s speech about being judged by the “content” of one’s character, as opposed to the “color” of one’s skin – a deviation of sorts from the more customary reference to the distinction made between appearance and reality, form versus substance, or even of spiritual versus material (although, as to the latter, one will often hear the metaphysical argument that it is the spiritual which is the “real” reality, and that the material is merely that fleeting, temporal existence that lasts for only a limited time).

Can the two truly be separated so cleanly as to allow for harmless independence – or, like the Siamese twins that share a vital organ, would any attempt necessarily devastate both?  For, isn’t it the very appearance of a thing that attracts and allows for an investigation further into the inner depths of the thing attracted towards?  Doesn’t context always matter when looking into the content of a thing, whether it is an incident, a conversation or a person of whom one is interested in committing to for a lifetime of relational considerations?

We often like to make such grandiose claims of bifurcating distinctions, when in fact the reality of the matter is that both are needed in order to complete the picture of the whole.

One may argue, of course, that content nevertheless is “more important” than context, or that substance by definition is of greater consequence than appearance, and by fiat of ascribed significance, one often argues that the former is necessary but perhaps not sufficient without the latter, whereas the latter is not unnecessary, but nevertheless cannot be made without unless one wants to walk about through life with a missing leg or a part of one’s soul left behind.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, always remember that – in preparing the SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability – the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is looking for both content and context, and thus must one always be wary and cautious about the implementation of both.

SF 3112A is a trick form.  The questions seem simple enough, but what is put in there; the legal consequences of what medical conditions are included; the result of failing to include certain other conditions that may later be of greater consequence; these, and many more pitfalls, obstacles and unknown legal impact that may or may not be made aware of – well, OPM is not going to tell you beforehand, or help you out, and will indeed judge the Federal Disability Retirement application based upon the content of what is included, and not by the “color” of contextually missing information.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: How Long Can Negation Define Living?

The tipping point where negation of living constitutes greater time spent than affirmative enjoyment of the activity engaged, is determined by individual choices and preferences.  Some individuals retain a higher threshold for pain, discomfort, and capacity to endure; and the fact that an MRI reveals a degenerative or decaying physical attribute does not necessarily correlate with the capability to ignore or otherwise minimize the magnitude of pain.

To what extent one avoids “doing something” in order to contain the pain; deny the self from pursuance of an activity in order to endure; to maintain quietude and an immobilized sedentary state of being in an effort to make the worn body and troubled mind last for a day, a week, or a decade longer; such are the efforts expended in a life of negation, in order to continue to “live”.  But is life defined by a quantum?  Or, is quantity in any way related to quality?  In “elder law”, there is often a discussion about “quality of life” issues, but the fact is, such a question and concern pervades with significance throughout one’s life, and not just towards the twilight of living.

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 positional duties in the Federal Sector or the U.S. Postal Service, the question of when “enough” is already “too much” is one which haunts, tails, latches on as an appendage of inflamed emotions, and refuses mere hand-waving as an irritant to swat away.

Yes, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a major step in one’s life, but at some point, the alternative left unstated and ignored must be directly confronted and faced with courage, pragmatism and prudent behavior.

Habit of negation can become so intertwined with one’s daily life, that it remains as a compromise allowed because one believed that no alternative was offered.  But as a life defined by negation becomes, at some point, a qualitative issue where all joy has been sucked out of the vibrancy of rightful ownership, so the choice to change in order to attain a semblance of a past life, memorialized in times of youth where pain and psychiatric disorders were merely hypothetical constructs hinted at by “others” in the community, so taking an affirmative step in order to be released from the confines of daily toil and turmoil is often the best and most hopeful avenue towards a life of positive images.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM is often the best choice left in order to “move on” towards a greater definition of “life as living” once forgotten because of the constant harassment and fear imposed by the Federal agency and the U.S. Postal Service.  At some point, negation cannot define living, as life is more than avoidance, and there is joy to be found beyond Federal employment and the U.S. Postal Service.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement: Life as a Byproduct

When it happens, or how, is of insignificant notice; the incremental arrival, where past segments of time seemed to traverse epochs where memories captured mere millennia of lifetimes; and then, one day, you wake up and yawn, and your life has taken on an incidental, tertiary level of importance.  One has been living by negation for so long, any positive or affirmative step has become a ghost of not just a Christmas past, but of decades evaporated.

Can life long be lived as a mere byproduct, where time, space and the centrality of one’s essence is shoved aside, and separateness of identity is relegated to occasional hellos and furtive glances of suspicious canopies?   Can a life of negation — of avoiding pain, trying to merely survive the day, or of constantly worrying about the next adverse action which might be initiated against you — is that “living”, or merely life as a byproduct?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, where the medical condition (whether physical exclusively, psychiatric, or a cross-combination of both) prevents the Federal or Postal worker from being able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, the daily grind of avoidance, fearful of the next stressor of the day, and the constant battle to get some recuperative period of rest and peace away from the turmoil of work and one’s constant fight against the medical condition, leaves the human soul depleted and defeated, to the extent that life is merely a secondary and incidental experience; the true and focused task is intertwined with fear, angst and dread for each day.  Is that really a way to live?

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, may not be the answer to all of life’s problems; but for that segment of society, the Federal Sector and the U.S. Postal Service employees — it is at least a small step and a beginning.

Life’s problems did not aggregate in a single day; and just as the ancient Chinese proverb admonished that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, so the life of a Federal or Postal employee can return to the essence of being, as opposed to a mere byproduct, when once we take steps to attain a level of restorative peace and begin to fulfill promises made but broken in past moments of progressive deterioration, when health was once taken for granted but now considered the gift of blessings forgotten in previous baskets of happiness and joy, lost but never forever regretted.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire