OPM Disability Retirement: Answering the question

What constitutes “answering the question”, and more importantly, how does one determine when its opposite occurs — NOT answering the question?  Does the former occur if the questioner fails to follow up, and does the latter become an issue if the person asking responds with, “That doesn’t answer my question,” or some such similar declarative assertion?

Take the following hypothetical:  Person A asks Person B, “So, where do you come from?”  Person B answers, “The skies of Normandy were grey on that June day in 1944.”  Now, Person A could have various responses to such a statement, as in:  1.  “No, no, I asked where you came from.” 2. “Are you telling me that you come from Normandy, France?”  3.  “That doesn’t answer my question.”  4. Or, silence, with no follow-up.

Person B, of course, could similarly respond in variegated ways, as in:  A.  “I just told you.”  B.  “Yes” or “No” (in response to the follow-up question, “Are you telling me that you come from Normandy, France?”).  C.  Silence, or “Yes it does.”  D.  Nothing further.

It may be that Person B simply has a poetic bent, and from his perspective, the mundane query was answered in a metaphorical, literary manner.  More to the point, however:  Who determines if a question has been answered (leaving aside the further query of whether the answer itself has “sufficiently” or “fully” been responsive to the question) — the one who asks, or the one who answers?

In a normal conversation, of course, the issue rarely comes about; in an argument where one or the other side, or both, are trying to get answers and defeat the other side, the heat of the moment may determine the answer to the question; and the penultimate paradigm of the question, “Who determines whether the question has been answered?” occurs in the highest form during a deposition or cross-examination in the legal arena.

Observing what occurs during a court proceeding is an interesting experience of human behavior; of the back-and-forth between counsels and the witnesses being deposed or examined, as in:  “You didn’t answer the question.”  “Yes, I did.”  “I asked you…”.  “Asked and answered.”  “Objection, the question has already been asked and answered.”  And on and on until a singular point is pursued to an exhaustive level ad infinitum and ad nauseum.

Is the issue of what constitutes an answered question somewhat akin to the question or “original intent” — i.e., that just like an author’s original intent as to the meaning of a written document is what should rule, similarly, the person who asks the question has the sole power to determine whether or not the question asked has been answered, and moreover, adequately and sufficiently answered?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are beginning the process of preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, these questions concerning the “answering of questions” will and should come to the forefront when confronted with the questions asked on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

Inasmuch as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has promulgated the questions in a carefully-crafted manner, there are some inherent pitfalls and dangers in what constitutes an adequate response, a sufficient answer and the complete delineation that rises to the level of a satisfactory statement.

SF 3112A is replete with unanswered questions within the very substance of each question, and the answers you provide are best guided by an attorney who has had the experience of legal encounters previously, and who specializes in the Law of Federal Disability Retirement.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Distractions

They are the projects of life of which Heidegger recognizes, allowing for avoiding the inevitabilities of life’s challenges; of fate, mortality, future insecurity, and death.  What quantifiable slice of one’s life is governed by distractions?  Must it always be less than 50% in order to remain so, and if it exceeds that halfway point, does it then become something substantive and not merely the peripheral meaning of what it means to “be distracted”?  If a distraction is considered to be an aside – that which waylays a person’s attention by focusing upon a central project of life’s endeavor – what then defines an inversion of that perspective?

Take, for example, the following:  A mechanical engineer is working on a technical project that consumes one’s focus, concentration and attention to detail, but has a unique and eccentric ophthalmological condition, whereby the eyes are compelled to follow any and all red objects that pass by.

Now, the company has attempted to accommodate the medical condition by requesting that no employee shall enter into the mechanical workshop wearing red, but on this particular day, some investors are visiting, and a man in the troop of intruders is wearing a red tie, and a woman in the entourage is sporting a red sweater.  They go from bench station to the next cubicle, within the purview and arc of dimensional periphery of the eccentric man’s attention, and with each movement, every sidelong blur, his eyes are “distracted” by the red moving objects.

Out of every minute of work, fully 45 seconds are spent on focusing upon the red objects that detract from the necessary mental acuity attending to the project at hand, and indeed, while they are far enough away such that from an objective viewpoint, the objects are mere inches in proportion and are of a distance as to almost be unnoticeable to others in the group of engineers, for the eccentric mechanical engineer, it is the focal point of his attentions.

The distraction is such that it disrupts the sequence of testing conditions and interrupts the validity of the technical precision required, and a coworker finally declares, “You’ve been too distracted and the project has to be scrapped.”  Would we agree that, because of the numerical disproportionality of concentration attributable, “red-object observation” takes precedence as the primary project, and it is the engineering project that is the distraction?  Or, because it is a medical condition of which he “cannot help it”, do we excuse the distraction in its entirety?

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 positional duties, the central point made here is precisely how the Federal agency and the Postal facility views the issues significant in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Federal Agencies and the U.S. Postal Service possess a myopic view of “work”, and even if the Federal or Postal employee is able to continue making valuable contributions to the workplace, they often see the differentiation between “work” and “distractions” as one quantifiable by time alone.  This is too bad, but a reality that must be faced.  For, medical conditions are not mere distractions; they are life’s interludes that can often be faced and overcome, if only outmoded ideas about what constitutes workplace contributions are set aside, and realize that even distractions delaying the central mission of a Federal agency or Postal facility are not the most important, or even of much significance, when it comes to the worth and value of a human life.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement: The Usual Dialogue

Much of our daily dialogue is determined by rote repetition.  Discourse throughout a typical day need not be given much thought; breakfast routine; interaction with colleagues and coworkers; declarative statements which have been repeated hundreds of times, both by one’s own voice as well as by others; salutations which require merely an audible sound; and the sun sets upon another closure of human inertia.

Then, some dialogues awaken the soul.  A sudden discovery of infidelity (though, given the pervasive appearance of popular culture, that, too, is quite commonplace); a perpetrated criminal act; a discussion with one’s doctor concerning a medical condition.  Even the latter, of course, from the doctor’s viewpoint, can be quite commonplace.  But for the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker who has been pursuing one’s Federal or Postal career for years, decades, etc., the self-realization that a medical condition may end the financial security represented by one’s job, is a traumatic event in and of itself.

All options for the future must be considered; and the daily dialogue of rote routine must be cast aside.  This is not a time for niceties; it is an event for thoughtful action.  Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is an affirmative step which one must pursue aggressively.

The inertia of past repetition of life’s puzzlements; the frightening prospect of an uncertain future; these must all be cast aside, and the reality of facing a time of forced creativity must be fully engaged.  And then, of course, there is the added anxiety that the administrative specialists at OPM will view your own application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits as just another ho-hum event, one which is merely part of their usual dialogue.

It is up to the Applicant him/herself, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, to ensure that the Federal Disability Retirement application is cogent, clear, concise and convincing — in other words, not part of that daily dialogue of thoughtless repetition.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal OPM Disability Retirement Lawyer: The Scent of Decay

Animals steer clear of it; the growing stench is a warning, a harbinger for the wary; it is only an attraction to vultures and other scavenging birds of prey; civilized societies deal with it by slapping an FDA food label on items, long before the bacteria of decomposition begins to cannibalize and self-immolate.

The reality of the olfactory response is to curl up one’s nostrils; the metaphor encapsulates the recognition of weakness and vulnerability, and the herd mentality of attacking the weakest in the evolutionary race of disseminating one’s greater gene pool by diminishing the population of the weak, thus providing a justifying basis for extermination and dominance.

In the microcosmic context of a Federal workplace, the scent of decay compels a reconstituting of loyalties and forgetfulness of past accomplishment; what you did yesterday, matters little; what you have the potential to do, matters most; what you can no longer do, destroys all mattering.

For U.S. Government employees and Postal workers, the time for change comes not necessarily with the seasons of nature, but when a medical condition begins to impact one’s ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.  Medical conditions represent vulnerability; and whether the Federal or Postal employee has the best of relationships with one’s supervisor, coworkers or the agency and department as a whole, the scent of decay immediately follows upon a diminution of productivity and potentiality.

The evolutionary human instinct to follow the dominant and ignore the vulnerable is one which defies replacement by artifice and societal niceties; suddenly, the star employee has found disfavor, and it matters not whether the fault can be attributed to laziness, incompetence — or a medical condition which cannot be controlled or helped.

OPM Federal Disability Retirement is an employment benefit which accompanies all Federal and Postal employees who are under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset; it allows for Federal and Postal employees who can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, because of a medical condition, to obtain an annuity in order to move forward in one’s life.  Once obtained, there is a possibility for a second vocation, and to earn up to 80% of what one’s (now former) Federal or Postal position currently pays, on top of the Federal Disability annuity itself.

As man lives no more in the wilds of pure survivability, where beast and burdens of hunger have been replaced by white collars and polite salutations of meaningless vacuity; so the appearance of empathy and magnanimity of intent may mask, for a time, the scent of decay; until the pounding hoof prints fade in the settling dust of that herd which sensed the vulnerability, where the howling pack of wolves and wild beasts come gathering in the twilight of snarling tensions; and standing still in a forest of wild beasts will not save the doe from the savagery of civilized society; for, while headlight hunting may be outlawed, it is the frozen deer in the headlights which waits upon a desolate tundra while the scavengers await the reaching arms of the scent of decay.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire