OPM Disability Retirement: Accommodations and the Elegance of the Hedgehog

A French film (The Hedgehog) loosely following upon the novel (The Elegance of the Hedgehog), focuses upon the hidden life of an unnoticed individual, and through her providing a platform of unraveling the fears, aspirations, class differences and how we treat (or mistreat, as the case may be) each other based upon appearances and social constraints.  It is always the character of the child who uncovers the secret, as in the story of the emperor without clothes, and in this story, as youth has not yet been scarred by the juggernaut of societal preconceptions.

It is in the secret (and secretive) life of a janitor (for the French, the more refined title of a “concierge”), who hides her intelligence and love of literature for fear of appearing pretentious and thus facing the potential and threat of loss of her job attending to wealthy tenants — where the authenticity of a life’s worth reveals itself.  How the greater society reacts to an aberration of an entrenched social order disrupts the conventional manner in which people get along in a community.

The story presents lessons far-reaching beyond the obvious; and reaches into depths untraveled, including for Federal and Postal Workers who suffer from a medical condition and must contend with supervisors and agencies which view with suspicion workers who are “different” and do not follow the traditional routine of work and productivity. For it is precisely the Federal and Postal Worker, whether under FERS or CSRS, who must often walk with hesitancy and fear when they are suffering from a medical condition, such that the medical condition has begun to impact one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job.

Like the main character in The Hedgehog, revelation of the “secret” of one’s true being — of the medical condition, whether physical or psychiatric — would mean the potential adverse reaction of the agency.  Instead of providing for an accommodation of such a revealed “secret”, Federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service will instead counter the situation with predictable aplomb, and begin the systematic harassment and intimidation to further complicate matters.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, is quite often the best option for the Federal or Postal employee suffering from a medical condition.  Like the character in the Hedgehog, the fear of retaliation for revelation of a “secret” which others believe to be disruptive to the social order, forces one to conceal that which proves to be the essence of humanity — that vulnerability is the true test of who we are.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Futility of Waiting

The waiting game is perhaps the most frustrating aspect of any endeavor; for, in the end, dependence upon a third party to act, when the other person, entity or agency, may in fact never act, merely increases the sense of frustration.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application, ultimately filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS (Federal Employees Retirement System) or CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System — that grand old system which some were fortunate enough to squeeze into before the mid-80s when abolition and transition to FERS occurred), Federal and Postal employees will often think that they must “wait” for their agency to act, to perform some duty, to respond, to do something… when in fact waiting normally results in further non-action.

Since the preponderance of the evidence in proving a Federal Disability Retirement case is solely upon the Federal or Postal worker who applies, it is rare that waiting for anything from one’s agency will bear any substantive fruit of any kind.  While medical conditions continue to progressively worsen, one is left waiting; while time continues to march on, one is left waiting; and while resources get depleted, and more and more SL & AL is used up, the Federal and Postal worker is left with the proverbial empty bag.

No, there is ultimately nothing that needs to be waited upon in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application.  While dreams of the future are made with the stuff of patience, it rarely includes waiting upon an agency of the Federal Government to prepare one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  Better to go chase a cloud in the sky than to expect anything helpful.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Detracting Deviations

Multi-tasking is a glorified term for describing an ability to competently engage and perform more than one task at a time.  It was once encapsulated in the query:  “Can he walk and chew gum at the same time”?

In the modern age of technology, it has become accepted as a given that such variations of task-tackling is a necessity and conveys evidence of competence.  For, in a world beset with smart phones, computers, laptops, iPads, etc., where the implosion and delivery of information at an instant’s request and access through the push of a button is commonplace, the capacity to respond quickly and sufficiently are considered marks of competent survivability in today’s world.  But there is a growing body of medical evidence that undisciplined response to texting and other forms of technological communication stunts that part of the brain activity which is essential for judgment, focus, attention-span, etc.  The ability to stay focused and not deviate from a singular course of action is also an important tool — even in this day of multi-tasking necessity.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is a necessary component in compiling a successful disability retirement application, to convey an effective case of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that nexus between one’s medical condition and the inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Undisciplined deviation may accomplish a thousand tasks, but if the primary pipeline bursts because a main line was overlooked, such deviation from the primary purpose will have been for nothing.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Multiple Tracks

Multi-tasking is a relatively modern term, but the substance of which people have obviously been engaging in for centuries.  With the limitations imposed by the human anatomy, as well as the capacity of the human brain to effectively function and respond to stimuli from multiple sources, the problem for the human being arises when a coordinated effort to bombard an individual collectively and from a variety of sources is initiated with a purpose in mind.  Thus, the common idiom, “When it rains, it pours”.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to distinguish between those actions by the Agency which directly, or even in a peripheral manner, impact one’s Federal Disability retirement application, and those efforts by an Agency which are independently initiated, but have little to do with the Federal Disability Retirement process itself.

Agencies often act without thoughtful coordination, but a coincidence of actions may come about from different branches of the agency, without a connecting coordination between such branches.  Unfortunately, the mere filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application does not necessarily provide a legal tool against an agency; one has various other tools, such as invoking FMLA protection; utilizing the sources of a Union and initiating grievances and administrative appeals; and certainly, one should respond to any agency-initiated actions; but ultimately, the solution to the recognition that one is no longer medically able to perform one’s job, is to prepare, formulate, and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM.

That is the ultimate line of protection; that is why the benefit exists for the Federal and Postal employee.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Agency Actions prior to Separation

The question is often asked as to whether there is an adverse or detrimental impact upon a Federal Disability Retirement application if the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service initiates an adverse action, places an individual on AWOL, or administers a similar type of administrative sanction, action, etc.

The general answer is that such agency actions will not prevent or influence the prevention of a Federal Disability Retirement application from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, but such a generalized answer contains within the “details” certain implicit assumptions — the primary one being, that the medical support which would accompany such a medical retirement will be strong enough to withstand and effectively refute such an adverse action.

By “supporting medical documentation” is meant, at a minimum, two issues which the treating doctor of the applicant must address:  That, prior to separation from Federal Service, the Federal or Postal employee could no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, and further, that the medical condition is expected to last for at least 12 months.

Additionally, a third element would also be helpful — that the medical condition or disability began before the adverse action, or conversely, that the behavior or acts of the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant which precipitated the adverse response of the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service occurred after the origination point of the medical condition, and such an origination point can be ascertained.

This is because OPM will sometimes argue that the underlying motivation and purpose of the Federal or Postal applicant filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits was based not upon the medical condition, but because of the adverse action.  Further, the Merit Systems Protection Board has stated that such circumstantial evidence of underlying motive or intent can indeed be reviewed.  Rebuttal of such implied intent can best be proven by a doctor’s assertion.

Motives are a peculiar thing, but the casting of such underlying motives are often difficult to refute, unless a timeline of facts can counter them.  Motives are found only in the depths of one’s consciousness; and like the air we breath, the fact that we assert its existence does not necessarily prove otherwise, especially if the doubter is receptive to the poisonous whispers of finger-pointing.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire