FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The performance fallacy

The disproportionality that occurs between reality and make-believe is nowhere more apparent than in the Federal sector involving performance reviews prepared for Federal employees across all agencies and departments: of being “fully successful” and having those “outstanding” appraisals year after year, and yet….  You don’t feel that such appraisals, despite the blush that it may evoke, reflects the reality of what you have been doing.

The body that warms a position, despite its declining productivity, is the one the Supervisor or Manager does not want to lose; for, to retain a known quantity is better than to lose one and gain an unknown one.

Then, of course, there is the reality of the Federal employee who experiences a deteriorating medical condition, and has come to a critical juncture and decision-making point of what is often referred to as a “Gestalt” moment, or that “Aha!” experience, where one comes upon the realization that one is not immortal; and despite being brought up on Star Wars, the “Force” and other fantasies that human frailty can be overcome by sheer will of the mind — that, disregarding all of that childhood nonsense, we are growing old and beset with medical conditions that remind us that we are no longer the spry chickens just hatched from the warmth of a hayloft beyond the red barn’s rooster call.

Then, there is the “performance fallacy” — somehow, no matter how terribly we feel; no matter the amount of recent sick leave taken, or LWOP requested, the appraisals continue to exceed our level of productivity.

Considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management under FERS?  You have the medical condition and, more importantly, the medical support to move forward.

Then, you pause because of the “performance fallacy” — the question being:  How can OPM approve a Federal Disability Retirement application if the performance appraisals continue to reflect the “outstanding” columns of productivity?  The short answer:  That is why the foundation of a case must be built upon a strongly-worded medical narrative, which implicitly rebuts and preemptively answers all such concerns, and that is where consulting with an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement Law can be crucial to the successful outcome of a Federal Disability Retirement application.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Witnessing the residue

Most of us merely witness the residue; the process itself, the events leading up to the conclusion, and “during” as opposed to the “after”, and all of the miniscule details that make up “in between” are invisible, ignored, unimportant or simply not thought of.  We see the “end product”, only, and that is how it should be.  We don’t have time to watch the apple tree grow from a seedling; for sausages to be made; for politics to be compromised; and for other people’s problems to fester.  And even if we did, what difference would it really make?

We assume much – that characters we see in movies made from “based on a true story” (whatever that means – and how much artistic liberty was taken with the details of such a “true story”, and what part is true and what is not?) productions went to the bathroom in between shooting at each other and becoming heroes; or that when children are seen, there was once love between the couple (although, that can turn out to be a wrong assumption where adoption or other arrangements have been made) even if the residue we witness shows only acrimony, bickering and constant arguing.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers preparing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, “both sides” witness the residue – from the Federal Agency or Postal Service’s side, they witness the residue of a filing for a disability retirement, without knowing the long and arduous struggle that the employee had with the medical condition prior to coming to such a decision.  Or, for that matter, from the viewpoint of the supervisor or co-worker, such a decision may come as a complete surprise.

Conversely, from the viewpoint of the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, witnessing the residue of the Federal Agency’s reaction or the co-workers and supervisors who make comments, or say anything at all, is often an interesting phenomenon for its complete lack of understanding or empathy.  They simply didn’t know, didn’t care or didn’t take the time (or all three) in showing any concern during the long struggle with the medical condition.

The key, however, in witnessing the residue, is with respect to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management – the Federal Agency that reviews and makes a determination on all Federal Disability Retirement applications.  For OPM, it is important to formulate a concise narrative in answering the questions on SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  How much of the history; to what extent the minutiae and details of the past; and the precision of establishing the nexus between the medical condition and the job duties – these are all important in the proper preparation, formulation and filing of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, where witnessing the residue may be a void too important to neglect.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement Representation: Trains of life

There are trains that come and go daily; others, with lengthy destinations, like the Trans-Siberian Express traveling from Moscow to Vladivostok or the Venice-Simplon Orient Express visiting Paris, Venice, Istanbul, and places in-between; and others merely for the monotony of going to work and coming home.

Those who engage the latter often find that vacations utilizing trains are boring and uninviting; yet, for others who struggle through the vehicular traffic jams by rush-hour standards prefer it because you neither have to man the controls nor keep your focus upon the roads to avoid those who are inattentive to the rules of the road.

Relaxation takes many forms, multiple definitions and countless contextual feeds; we are all different, as are the trains of life.  Where it is going; the ticket we purchase; whether we have boarded the “right” train; whether the mistake was made at the ticket office or our lack of identifying the proper one to take; and, if the wrong one, can we still enjoy the scenic view or do we become consumed by the direction we are being taken?

What if we boarded the wrong train, but it turns out that the direction it is taking us fulfills every hope and dream we ever desired – do we still get off at the next stop, or do we muster courage enough to remain still and enjoy the view?  What if we stepped onto the “right” train, but knowing that we don’t really want to go that way, realizing that it has always been a mistake and nevertheless do so with reluctance and dread – do we force ourselves to continue on the journey despite our unhappiness and angst of drudgery?

Or, take it a step further – what if we buy a ticket, board a train and realize that it is not the right one expected, but upon being asked by the ticket-taker mid-trip, the official – whether intentionally or by lack of observance – makes no comment, punches the proper hole and moves on; do we sit with gleeful quietude and just let the train take us where we did not intend but are happy to experience?

That is often how life works – of trains that we intend to board, sometimes mistakenly take, and otherwise inadvertently travel upon; and that is how a Federal or Postal employee suffering from a medical condition should view filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. Sometimes, the ticket fails to match the trip; other times, while the intended destination corresponds perfectly, there is a “mishap” on the trip itself.

Perhaps the Federal or Postal employee never expected a medical condition; so be it, but plans for the ongoing train of life must nevertheless be made.  Preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is the next step where a Federal career must end because the Federal or Postal employee can no longer perform all of the essential element of one’s Federal or Postal position.

For, as the trains of life may be many, choosing the right “ticket” while waiting to board is just as important as identifying the train that will take you to the intended destination.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: The Agency’s Options Letter

Options presented in life often depend upon the preparatory avenues previously correlated over months and years in reaching such a point and destination; alternatives and the plenitude of opportunities rarely “just happen”, and like the football team which seemingly seamlessly executes its game plan, the practiced work left unseen behind the scenes is what allows for the openings to occur, both in sports jargon as well as in business life.

Whether the limits of available alternatives are constrained by the apparently known universe, or continue without knowledge, matters little; for, in choosing from a list of openings, one must know the menu before placing an order.  Thus, can a person choose a sixth option when presented with only five?  Or does lack of knowledge and negation of foresight delimit the available resources untapped and unencumbered?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers, there is often that dreaded “options letter” which the Federal agency or the Postal Service issues, as if the universe of actions to be considered is restrained by the content of the issuance serving the needs of self-interest, and not with concern for the Federal or Postal employee.  Such options presented by the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service are often 3:  Come back to work; seek accommodations; or resign.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition has resulted in exhaustion of Sick Leave, Annual Leave, and all FMLA benefits, the refusal by the agency or the U.S.P.S. to extend the granting of LWOP is often accompanied by the threat of sanctions, punitive actions and placement of the Federal or Postal employee upon AWOL status.

The options presented are thus onerous and unreasonable; for, as Option 1 is untenable (the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from coming back, and the agency and the U.S. Postal services knows this, as otherwise Sick Leave, Annual Leave and FMLA would not have been unnecessarily exhausted), and Option 2 (seek accommodations) is somewhat of a “given”, it is Option 3 (resignation) which the Federal agency and the U.S. Postal Service hope and expect the Federal or Postal employee to initiate.

Such an option allows for the least amount of thought and effort by the Federal agency, and it is this expectation, along with the threat of placing the Federal or Postal employee with imposition of AWOL status, that often wins.  But are there other options besides the ones presented by the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service? Perhaps.  But as life’s choices are revealed only through knowledge and wisdom, it is the one who seeks the avenues of counsel who discovers that universes besides the insular one within the parameters of the Milky Way portend of other life on planets yet undiscovered.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement: Blemish upon Historical Pride

People often get sidetracked upon irrelevant or peripheral issues of little to no consequence.  In the greater order of things important, it is self pride which often inhibits, prevents or otherwise delays the advancement and progression of self-interest.  One often hears people boast about never having missed “a day of work” in twenty years, or of the longest streak in some sports about games played, or consecutive appearances; or, that one has never taken a vacation.

But what of the quality and content of one’s work?  And, more importantly, where is the proper balance within the tripartite interaction between self, community and work?  When there is such weighted disproportionality of emphasis upon one, the other two must by necessity suffer.  For, the engine which propels such boasting of historical intactness is not one of a drive for excellence, but to merely maintain an unblemished historical record.  But records of inconsequential issues are quickly forgotten, and rarely besought; and when the impact of such maintenance of irrelevancy is upon one’s health, the dire reverberations foretell of impending doom.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who strive on merely to avoid a blemish upon one’s historical pride, despite the manifestation and impact of a medical condition upon one’s ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties, the issue to be confronted and overcome is the self-pride of one’s hubris, leading to a certainty of self-immolation and destructive behavior.  Wisdom is partly defined by one’s ability to perceive the changing of circumstances, and to adapt accordingly.  Fighting an irrelevant cause at the expense of one’s health and future security is the antonym of wisdom, and constitutes foolishness.

Consider preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.  When health becomes the paramount perspective of questioning within the tripartite intersection of issues to consider, then wisdom must prevail; and avoidance and neglect of the evolutionary code of self-preservation is an indicator that smart living has been replaced by the irrational fear that a blemish upon one’s historical pride is a factor even being considered by the greater universe of implacable uncaring.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


OPM Disability Retirement: The Netherworld between Sleep and Wakefulness

There is that moment of haziness, where sleep has not yet overtaken and consciousness has not yet been fully lost, where the philosophical abyss of Kierkegaard’s Either/Or stands in relation to knowledge, truth, insight and puzzlement, and where questions abound concerning the relationship between words and the objective reality of constellations clashing amidst bursting stars and black holes.

Sleep is a realm sought after; restorative sleep, a state of being which, without explanation or cause, we accept as a necessity of life’s conundrums.  Without it, or because of a lack thereof, functionality deteriorates, awareness becomes overwhelming, and the capacity to tolerate a normal level of life’s stresses becomes an issue of sensitivity and tearful breakdowns.  Sleep brings us to the other side of darkness; wakefulness, this side of paradise.

Whether because our genetic code has not yet adapted fully through the evolutionary process of survivability, or that technology outpaces the capacity of human intelligence to withstand the constant bombardment of stimuli upon organic receptors devised merely for hunting or gathering, we may never figure out.  Regardless, many are like the sleeping dead, where the netherworld between sleep and wakefulness remain unchanged, and profound fatigue, daily exhaustion and untenable mental fogginess and loss of intellectual acuity impacts one’s daily ability and capacity to make a living.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who must contend with such an exacerbating and complex state of health, the reality of going through the day, of coming home exhausted and forlorn, yet unable to turn that profound fatigue into a period of respite and restorative sleep, is a reality faced with the concerns of being able to continue in one’s Federal or Postal career.

Sleep disorders are often secondary medical and health issues, following upon primary physical and psychiatric disabilities; but they can also be a primary basis for preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

Whether diagnosed as Sleep Apnea, Insomnia, or a more generalized diagnosis of Sleep Dysfunction or Sleep Disorder, the impact upon one’s cognitive acuity as well as the physical exhaustion felt, which can lead to creating a hazardous workplace phenomena, the Federal or Postal employee who finds that the impact prevents him or her from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties, should consider that the health issue itself is a valid one, and a firm basis for preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM.

One may, here and there, experience the phenomenon of entering that netherworld between the dark chasm of sleep and the full orientation of wakefulness, and know that drifting between one and the other is likened to the necromancy of human complexity; but when such a condition remains a constancy in one’s life, then it may be time to consider filing for a Federal Disability Retirement annuity, lest the sorcery of life’s dreamworld waves the wand which withers the soul.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire