Actions and Principles of Federal Agencies toward Their Employees with Disabilities before FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement

Can a person possess a core principle which declares that one should not be cruel to animals, but yet intimidate and harass a coworker?  Is it possible that one can state adherence to a philosophy, but act in ways contrary to such a declaration of fidelity to such a public policy?  Does authenticity and correlation between words and actions matter?

Of course, the simple answer is that hypocrisy has always been rampant throughout history, and one need only look at politics to come to the conclusion that speaking out of both sides of one’s mouth (as the proverbial adage is often conveyed) is a state of being that one can easily live with.  Thus the conundrum: Every and any question which begins with, “Is it possible that…” is one which has already been answered by the whims of history.

Public policy statements which declare that Federal agencies will seek every “reasonable” effort to accommodate an individual’s disability, are replete but often empty, precisely because words are open to interpretation.  And perhaps that is the “out” which many find easily excusable, in justifying the dissonance between words and actions.

Fortunately, for Federal and Postal employees, there is always the viable option of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS. It is the “safety hatch” which can be used against agencies and the U.S. Postal Service in order to circumvent that self-contradicting public policy statement that medical conditions which impact one’s ability/inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, will be “accommodated” to the extent that such accommodation is “reasonable”.

Since that which is reasonable is open to interpretation, the reality of retaining a Federal or Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, becomes as rare as that individual who speaks and acts in consistent harmony of fidelity to both.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, where the impact is felt directly in the workplace, and where the supervisor who kicks his dog in the privacy of his home but volunteers his time with the local SPCA begins to speak earnestly about the “mission of the agency“, it may be time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; for, in the end, principles and actions matter when it touches upon one’s personal health, and the need for restorative relief from a workplace which defies consistency of either.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Universe of the Possible (Part I of II)

Children are brought into the extensive and unlimited world of the “possible”, precisely because (we believe) it provides for greater expansion of the fertile, creative mind.  But for the adult, the world of the “possible” is conceptually meaningless, and without objective import; for, the statement and belief, “X is possible”, retains no boundaries, and therefore it allows for all manners of fears, frauds and frivolities.

It is interesting to listen to news stories which confuse the concepts between the universe of the “possible”, and that which is “probable”.  When a report is issued beginning with, “Sources say it is possible that X occurred,”, it is of no greater or lesser value than if one declares that it is “possible that aliens from Mars intervened in an event”.  Both are equally possible.  It is only when facts enter an equation that the universe of the “possible” becomes contained to the smaller world of the “probable”.

For Federal and Postal employees who have encountered the “real” world of medical conditions, dealings with unsympathetic agencies, confrontations with supervisors and managers, the world of the “possible” quickly shrinks to the harshness of one’s immediate environment.  Concurrently, however, as fears and thoughts of potential agency actions magnify concerns and ruminating upon the unknown, one often allows for those childish dreams to wander, and to entertain the universe of the possible.

Get the facts; obtain proper counsel and advice; for it is only when facts and advice based upon real-world events are gathered, that one can properly limit the unlimited universe of the possible and deal with the reality of the probable.

For Federal and Postal employees who must make decisions for a real future, where filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must be seriously considered, and where an encounter with the bureaucracy and administrative processes circumscribed by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management must be followed, it is important to recognize that the universe of the possible is merely for children and the unbounded imagination of childhood; whereas the world of the probable is what adults must contend with daily.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Fear & Darkness

The veil of darkness provides a contrast; for the predator, it allows for an advantage in stalking its prey; for the prey, the shimmering shadows reverberate of the unknown, but still, if one remains calm and quiet, an equality of disadvantage is allowed for, in that the predator must maneuver through the identical lack of visual acuity as they prey.

The singular equalizer for both predator and prey, in the calm shadows of darkness, is fear.  For the former, waiting and hoping that fear will flush out its prey by making a noise or venturing out thinking that a different location will provide for a safer haven; for the latter, it is the extent of one’s imagination which often leads to defeat; of fear instilled and mixed with images of what may happen, what could be out there, and where will it all end?

Why nightfall stirs the deep recesses of one’s imagination is a mystery; and even in the midst of civilized society, in the safety of one’s home, as one attempts to turn to the refuge of sleep for restorative relief, it is often then that thoughts of fear pervade in the dark of night, and in the void of one’s mind.  Such fear reaches back to the days of primitive life, and is complicated by the unknown.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s job performance; and where supervisors and agencies have been stirred to initiate adverse actions or discussions have already occurred of such dealings, it is often those primitive chasms from times past, of fear of the unknown, which must be countered with systematic and pragmatic steps to secure one’s future.

Man, in his essence, has not changed much over time; those in power still act as predators, and prey upon the scent of weakness.

Federal and Postal workers who suffer from medical conditions may need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, in order to escape the predatory practices of one’s agency.  Ultimately, the modern equivalent of the veil of darkness is ignorance, and in this case, not knowing the law and one’s rights is often the greatest harm suffered by Federal and Postal employees; and the modern equivalent of fear?  It is still the stepping into the unknown.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Lives of Trepidation

Most of us live lives of subtle trepidation.  Whether borne of childhood experiences of insecurity or fears, psychologists and mental health professionals can perhaps shed some light upon a theory or proposed paradigm of explanatory adequacy.

In adulthood, it turns to reticence and self-limitations, where avenues are deliberately avoided and potentialities remain consciously unfulfilled.  It is all well and good for others to declare such pithy catchphrases, such as, “There is nothing to fear but fear itself,” and other such banners and choruses intended to lift up one’s spirits; but the reality of the harsh world around us more often than not confirms, magnifies and reinforces the very fears and anxieties which limited us in the first place.

Thus does one begin life with inborn fears, and stumbles about and experiences confirmations by the harsh reality which we encounter on a daily basis.

Medical conditions, whether physical or psychiatric, tend to magnify and delimit those subtle trepidations.  For the Federal and Postal Worker who finds him/herself with a medical condition which impacts one’s ability and capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s job, Federal Disability Retirement benefits, filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, may be the best option and choice to take.

It is perhaps one avenue where a benefit does not confirm one’s subtle trepidations of life, but rather, counters it by allowing for a modicum of security, while pursuing another vocation, and concurrently allowing for that rehabilitative period of quietude in order to recover from one’s medical conditions.

It is well that such a benefit exists for the Federal and Postal employee; for, as a subset of the greater society which has no such availability to the benefit provided by Federal Disability Retirement, the “rest of us” must trudge along with those subtle trepidations and make our way in this harsh reality of our own making.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Interaction with EEOC & Other Legal Processes

I am often asked if other legal processes already filed — an EEOC Complaint, a corollary adverse action being appealed, etc. — will have an impact upon a Federal Disability Retirement application.  My general answer is, “No, it will not have an effect upon filing for Federal Disability Retirement.”  The second question which often follows, is:  What if the EEOC filing contradicts the Federal Disability Retirement application?  While the full answer to such a question will differ from case to case, depending upon the peculiar and particular circumstances of each individual case and application, my standard response to the second question will often contain a responsive query:  Have you ever heard of an attorney speaking out of two or three (or four) sides of his mouth?  As attorneys, we make multiple (and sometime contradictory) arguments all the time.  I am not concerned with the factual or legal arguments in a concurrent/parallel EEOC case; my job is to make sure that my client obtains a disability retirement — and if it somewhat contradicts the arguments made in an EEOC complaint, so be it — for, after all, I’m merely an attorney, and such inherent contradictions only prove the fact that lawyers have at least four sides to every mouth.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Agency Supervisors

Federal Agencies, and the Postal Service, can act as little fiefdoms, with minimal oversight in the use of power. There is no school which teaches the proper use of power; power is something which is too often misused, misapplied, and abused. And, those who possess power, often exponentially apply it when the focus of such power has become vulnerable. Federal and Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, who are in the vulnerable position of necessarily filing for disability retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS because of the imposition of an unwanted medical condition which impacts and impedes his or her ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, are especially in a sensitive position, precisely because they are at the complete mercy of the Supervisor. Supervisors need to understand and appreciate the great power which he or she possesses. The powerful need not misuse such power in order to show how powerful he or she is; indeed, it is in the very act of kindness, empathy, and the ability to show sensitivity and “human-ness” which is the true showing of the powerful. Supervisors should “bend over backwards” to show what it means to truly be a Supervisor — one who recognizes and appreciates the long years of loyal service the disabled employee has shown; empathy for the vulnerable situation the employee now finds him/herself in; kindness in the treatment of the employee. Such kind treatment will go a long way towards encouraging a sense of community and family within an agency, and will foster the other employees in the department, office, and greater agency to work that much harder, knowing that it is not “just a job” — but a career worthy of greater devotion.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Federal Disability Retirement: The Danger of Situational Disability

The danger of falling into the trap of situational disability, which is one of a number of reasons for denying a disability retirement application, can come about quite regularly. Especially because, in the face of contending with a medical disability that is serious enough to warrant changing one’s career, of filing for medical disability retirement — there is often the Agency’s contentious response, of needing to have the continuity of the work accomplished, of being insensitive and lacking compassion for the applicant; in such a context, the applicant views the Agency’s response as hostile.

The employee/applicant, then, in filing for disability retirement, will often make the mistake of focusing upon the hostile work environment, or the lack of compassion and empathy on the part of the Agency — and this will often warrant a denial of disability retirement based upon the medical condition of the applicant as being “situational disability” — meaning that the medical condition of the employee/applicant is limited to the work situation of that particular office or agency. This is a completely wrong-headed approach for the applicant.

That is why, when I represent my clients, I am singularly focused upon the 2 or 3 main issues that form the essence of a disability retirement case, and insist upon focusing my clients upon those very same issues, while setting aside those tangential issues which can ultimately defeat a disability retirement application. Understand that these peripheral, tangential issues may well be “important” to my client — but I would not be doing my job in representing my clients if I allowed the peripheral issues to become “front and center” — for that would be a disaster for my clients. I represent people to obtain disability retirement benefits. That is my job. That is my focus. If I allow my focus to waiver, then I am not representing my clients properly.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire