OPM Medical Retirement under FERS: Castles in the air

Is it the same idea as Cervantes’ Don Quixote who charges at the wind mills?  Or of Don McLean’s soulful lyrics when he wrote, “And if she asks you why you can tell her that I told you, That I’m tired of Castles in the Air.”?

Is there a difference between dreams and visions realized, and those that remain as castles in the air?  Are such unrealized castles merely the childish remnants that were left behind within the bundled laughter of grown-ups who saw the folly of youth, or are they they vestiges of frustrations discarded because, when we “grow up”, we realize that reality doesn’t quite share the optimism of youth’s unfettered vision?

Whatever the origin, wherever the spark, it is important to preserve a semblance of a dream, even if never realized.  The “dungeon” is its antonym, where all such dreams drain because the lowest point of any location is where the water flows and the desolation of a desert abounds.

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, it may well be that castles no longer exist in the air or elsewhere; that the medical condition itself has become the “reality” that one must deal with, and castles — in the air, on the ground, or somewhere far away — is a luxury one cannot afford to even consider.

And filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management may be the farthest thing from childhood dreams of what you saw yourself achieving; but in the end, it is the best option available precisely because it frees you from the workplace harassment, embarrassment and resentment where work is no longer compatible with your medical conditions; and as for those castles in the air?

They may still be there once you can focus upon and regain your health; for it is the dream even unrealized that allows for human creativity to spawn and spread, but the pain of a chronic medical condition is what makes of us all the Don Quixote who charges at harmless windmills.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


OPM Disability Retirement Benefits under FERS: Who we are

That is a rather presumptuous title, one might declare; for, it is always the “we” that others presume to know, as opposed to limiting the declarative within the restrictive confines of one’s self, family and surrounding community.

What is the great equalizer that allows for the collective plural pronoun?  Is it television (i.e., do “we” all watch the same shows and thus form a conglomerate of a universal consciousness)?  There was once a time when one could argue that a unity of convention existed — especially harkening back to the days when there were essentially 3 networks to choose from, and where all three were similar in content, thought and approach.

In modernity, is it the Internet?  But the worldwide “web’ is too diverse to narrowly formulate a cumulative effect of similar normative beliefs.

Perhaps that is why society in general is so diverse and fractured; where even a simple consensus amidst a small community cannot be reached, and how geographic differences have become exponentially and irreversibly altered and separated from one another.

Who are we?  Yes, the inversion substitution of the second word with the third makes the declarative into a query, and changes the entire subject matter.  It is, perhaps, both a statement and a question, and neither make sense, anymore.  And so we are left with a singular voice — of a monologue and an aside, or as in a play, a soliloquy, where the character asks the universal question, Who am I?  Am I the collective consciousness of my direct descendent, and does that have meaningfulness, anymore?  Why do we seek answers by purchasing and sending away “DNA kits”, as if the spiral spectrum of cellular anomalies would be able to answer the question which haunts us all?

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 potential loss of one’s identity within the community of Federal and Postal workers is often the step that is difficult to take.

One’s identity, purpose, drive and dreams are often bundled up into an inseparable conglomeration of work and identity, and to separate from that self-identification is often a difficult venture to undertake.  But the danger, of course, is that you may be forcibly separated if you do not take the steps necessary to protect your identity.

The Agency will ultimately terminate you, and the harassment because you have taken too much Sick Leave, Annual Leave, FMLA or LWOP is inevitable.  Better that you file for FERS Disability Retirement benefits and retain a semblance of who you are, lest the Federal Agency or the Postal Service does that to you unilaterally, leaving you with the question, Who do they think they are?


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Answering Questions

How do we come to learn how to do it?  Certainly, we come across certain eccentric individuals who defy every conventional norm, and somehow manage to appear as if they have done what otherwise we recognize as not having been completed.

Have you ever come across someone who just isn’t “quite right” – such that, when you ask a question, the tangents that flood forth and the meandering thought processes make it an arbitrary conclusion as to whether it was the specific question asked that prompted the incommensurate response, or just the mere fact of a tonal posit of a question-like query that compelled a verbal reaction, even if it has nothing to do with the substance of the question itself?

How do children learn how to answer questions?  Is it natural; is there a systematized process of acceptability; is it taught in any course with a heading like, “Elementary Basics 101: How to answer a question”; and do we presume that acceptable and normative constraints are just learned effortlessly?  Certainly, the classical educational approach of dialectical methodologies – of a question posited; raised hands, chosen orders and an answer provided; then the reinforced positive feedback by the teacher in either affirming or rejecting the response – is an approach that somewhat answers the mystery.

But what of that “weird” kid?  The one where the teacher asks:  “Is the earth round or flat?”  The kid answers:  “That is an oversimplification, as the geometrical constructs require a perspective that betrays ignorance of quantum physics, where flatness is a relative concept to roundness, and vice versa.”  Now, one may smile and wonder whether, perhaps such a child prodigy reveals an intelligence quotient beyond his age or class assignment, but all the rest of the kids would just roll their eyes about as the class bullies await for recess hour in order to beat that kid to a pulp.

But was the question answered, and to that end, satisfactorily?  Or, what if another kid, perhaps half-daydreaming, suddenly blurts, “It’s blue!  It’s blue!”  Did that kid answer it any less adequately than the first?  How do we learn to answer questions?

What if the questions are essentially legalese and incomprehensible, or of a “tricky” nature and makes one pause before moving forward?  Do questions posed, for instance, by law enforcement officials evoke greater caution (as in, “To the best of my recollection…”), and if so, why?  Is it because the stakes may be higher and the suspicion of the double entendre is always there?  Which brings us to the problem of Federal Disability Retirement applications, and specifically SF 3112A – Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

The questions posed on the Standard Form 3112A seem simple enough; but simplicity does not necessarily mean straightforward, and indeed, when a Federal or Postal employee is completing SF 3112A, it is best to go back to fundamentals and ask yourself, How did I learn to answer questions, and are these questions the type that may need additional help, because – though they may seem simple enough and not quite in legalese – there is some trickiness in the very simplicity of the query.

And it is the rule to remember, that the simplest questions require the greatest pause, where suspicion will warrant a more extensive pondering of reflective repose.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


FERS Disability Retirement Application: The tools we have for use

The foundation is always “all-important”; but there are other tools at one’s disposal, and the question is:  Do we know and recognize what those tools are, and if not, how can we use them out of ignorance?

How does SSDI intersect with FERS Disability retirement – not the issue of offsetting the concurrent payments after approval of each (that is merely a monetary calculation that has nothing to do with getting a FERS Disability Retirement application approved); rather, should an approval of an SSDI application have a legal impact upon a FERS Disability Retirement?  How about a denial – but one with a statement in the SSDI denial letter acknowledging that the FERS Disability Retirement applicant is unable to perform the duties of his current/former employment, but may be able to do “other employment”?

How should a mixed removal be utilized to its most effective manner?  If a person is removed partly for his or her medical inability to perform the essential functions of the job, but also because of AWOL issues or excessive LWOP usage, does it undermine the application and efficacy of a Bruner Presumption argument?

What should be done with a Department of Veterans Affairs rating?  Is it always persuasive, never determinative?  Even if persuasive, should it always be introduced, or is discretion the better part of valor – or, in the case of a FERS Disability Retirement application, the better part of value in using it as “proof” for a Federal Disability Retirement application?  Should medical documentation be indiscriminately submitted?

In other words, in a FERS Disability Retirement application, does the FERS Disability applicant have any rights as to dissemination of medical documentation, especially those portions which do not go to the substantive centrality of one’s claim in requesting a Federal Disability Retirement approval?  To what extent can the FERS Disability Retirement applicant and his/her attorney have the right to act as the “gatekeeper” in providing sensitive medical documentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management?

Tools – we have them; but of what use, efficacy or relevance are they, if they are left in reserve without pragmatic utilization?  And, as to the “reserve” – should the FERS Disability Retirement applicant keep in tow any of the tools, or should they all be used in an aggregate, cumulative powerhouse of aggressive and forceful argumentation?

Tools – to have them is one thing; to use, another; but more than that, to know what to use, when, how, and to what applicable relevance; that is the power behind the inertness of that which can be enlivened by knowledge, information and discretionary utilization.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire