CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Silhouette Man

The object/subject issue pervades discussions in Western Moral Philosophy; in simplified form, of the ethics of treating one’s fellow human being in a one-dimensional manner, as an object to be manipulated, deprived of, worked about, etc. Like a silhouette in front of a moonlit sky, objects in the world, both animate and inanimate, are encountered by the subject of “I”, and until a personal engagement involving conversations, exchanging of information, and other intersections of relational entanglements, the pathway of the subjective merely observes “others” as objects, with anthropomorphic projections of assumptions that moving creatures and other fellow beings also walk about with a similar consciousness as the “I” which occupies one’s particular body in a given space and time.

Supervisors and managers often treat employees in such a manner, despite years and even decades of an established employment relationship. “Go ask Ed, the IT guy”; “That’s Bob the Engineer’s department”; and similar such references which imply that, beyond the limited scope of what X is known to do within the narrow confines of work-related issues, nothing further is known about, or related to, in referring to a particular person.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, that is precisely what begins to happen, isn’t it? “John — you know…” “Karen — she called in sick again.” “Kevin won’t do that — you know, his ‘condition'”. And with knowing looks and furtive smiles, the reference to the one-dimensional aspect of having pigeonholed the individual into a recess of definitional confinement: the medical condition defines the Federal and Postal employee, and is known exclusively and objectified in concretized form.

That is why Federal Disability Retirement benefits are often the only viable option left for the Federal or Postal Worker; for, in being treated as a one-dimensional object, the ability to relate to others in the workplace in a subject-to-subject manner is lost, and often forever. Federal Disability Retirement benefits are available for all Federal and Postal Worker who are either under FERS or CSRS, if the minimum service requirements are met (5 years for those under CSRS, which is a given; 18 months for those under FERS). It is filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and is an employment benefit accessible for all Federal and Postal Workers.

Such accessibility allows for a passage away from a seemingly one-dimensional universe beset with suspicion, whispers, retaliations and shunning, and allows for the complexities of every human being to escape being viewed as a mere silhouette, like a cardboard figure at an amusement park waiting for a pop-gun to shoot it down.

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

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

OPM Disability Retirement: Fairness

“Fairness” is a difficult concept to set aside, even when it is in the best interests of one to do so.  The underlying list of supporting reasons may be many — that the Agency engaged in acts X, Y & Z; that the Agency or named Supervisor did certain things, etc.

In a Federal Disability Retirement case, it is often not a good idea to focus upon issues of fairness.  In representing clients, my focus is upon proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a Federal or Postal employee is eligible and ultimately entitled to receiving Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Issues of agency actions; whether a Federal or Postal Worker was treated “fairly”; whether the National Reassessment Program is “fair”; all of these issues become peripheral, and sometimes harmful to the process of filing for and obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

To paraphrase an old adage, it is my job to keep that which is central to the issue, my center of attention, and to sweep aside the superfluous as just that —  distractions which should not be allowed to impede or otherwise impact the purpose of the entire process:  to get an approval from the Office of Personnel Management for one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire