Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Clarion Call that Never Comes

Medical conditions are often subtle in their subversive impact — a slow, progressively deteriorating manifestation, characterized by pain, depletion of energy and stamina, and with manifestations of symptoms which may not be immediately noticeable with a passing glance.

Most of us meet and greet each other with hardly a glance; of “hello-how-are-yous” as polite niceties which are never meant to be seriously responded to; and in the course of such brief human contact, would not know — nor care to be informed of the details — of how a person truly “is” in the context of his or her life, medical condition, or well-being.

For the Federal or Postal employee 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, being ignored at work by one’s peers, coworkers and supervisors may have become a daily and expected occurrence.

In Medieval times, a clarion call represented a clear and loud trumpeting announcing an event, a call to action, or perhaps the arrival of someone of significance, relevance and importance.  For the Federal or Postal employee who may have to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, an expectation of an analogous call may never come, should not be waited upon, and likely will not occur.

Quietude is the pervasive norm in a society which is impersonal and unable to address each other with compassion or empathy.  Don’t expect a clarion call to be the focal point in deciding to act upon one’s medical condition; it is a call which will likely never be trumpeted, nor heard even if made.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: When It Is the Right Time

Most people know; and still others, know that the “right” time has already passed, and is long overdue.  Doctors have already shaken their heads in disbelief, disgust or with regretful expressions of facial futility; family members have begun to whisper behind backs; friends have stopped asking to include you for events which may require physical exertion or extensive conversations which require focus, concentration or cognitive stamina.

Federal and Postal employees all across the United States, and overseas where Civilian workers are stationed, put in long and dedicated hours to accomplish the mission of agencies.  The general public at large has been allowed to critically eye the Federal or Postal worker because they are being paid through high taxes, etc.  But Federal Disability Retirement is not a “handout”; it is merely an employment benefit which allows for disabled workers to go out and remain productive in the private sector, by being allowed to make up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays — and thereby continue to pay back into the system through paying of taxes, and essentially keeping it a “self-paying” system.  

No amount of shame or embarrassment should accompany the decision to file for Federal Disability benefits.  It is simply an acknowledgement which has already been realized by friends, family, and often one’s own treating doctor:  the right time has come because you have already “fought the good fight“, and it is time to move on to the next phase of life, and allow for the recuperative period of life take its course.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Fish or Cut Bait

Colloquial expressions often develop over time because of their shorthanded effectiveness; they are the antiquated equivalent of text-messaging abbreviations, but with greater meaning and potency because of their time-testedness and allowance for a slow, evolutionary progression within a society.  Such expressions allow for a blunt statement which removes all doubts as to meaning; and the statement itself is all that is necessary, with surrounding silence revealing all.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, a person contemplating initiating the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement must ultimately come to the decision of moving forward, or not.

Such a bifurcation of clarity in making the decision is necessary both for the sanity and health of the Federal or Postal employee who must make the decision, as well as for the agency who either wants full productivity from its employees, or an ability to “accommodate” the medical condition (in accordance with the governing laws concerning the legal issue of accommodations in the workplace) in order to reach an acceptable level of productivity.

Fish or cut bait; in four words, such a colloquial expression says it nicely:  Initiate the process, or live with the pain and progressive deterioration.  Already, in the very act of trying to explain or “add on” to the expression, nothing of value has been accomplished because the expression itself is sufficient.  As such:  silence.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Advancing from Thought to Action

In speaking with thousands of Federal and Postal employees, it is the pervasive thread of the final step which emanates from the uniqueness of each case, where the realization of that which separates the personal circumstances from the “rest” of us, can be summarized as follows:  The career of the Federal employee; the dedication and loyalty shown; the acknowledgment of how much our ego, our self-worth, and sense of who we are is dominated by the perception of what we do in the working compartment of our lives; and as Vonnegut said so eloquently, “So it goes”.  

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is that “final step” which is so difficult to take — of transitioning from thought to action, from theoretical construct to practical application; of accepting a diminution, and ultimate elimination, of continuing to engage in that worthy endeavor variously called, “a career”, “one’s profession”, or the answer to the question which every encounter poses:  “So, what do you do?”  And it should be understandable.  

So much of one’s life is taken up by one’s work, that to consider the option because of circumstances beyond one’s control — of a medical condition which has come to impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of that which defines the Federal or Postal employee — is a difficult step to take.  But it is better to control the options available than to allow for circumstances to dictate one’s future; better to work out a timetable than to submit to an emergency; and better to drive a graceful road, than to be forcibly strapped into a roller coaster.

The step from thinking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement, to acting upon it, is a major event in one’s life.  But to delay, procrastinate, and ultimately allow for others to determine one’s destiny, is an option worse than taking the necessary step.  Indeed, it is no option at all, but an uncontrolled event.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Procrastination

Someone once said that procrastination is a wonderful thing — it allows for a lag-time between the future (for those things which need to get accomplished at some point), the present (those things which require attention immediately), and the past (those things which needed to get done, but whose time has passed, and with each passing moment, the urgency of which is diminishing because it doesn’t matter, anyway).  But procrastination has a way of “catching up” — where the piling up of past non-action combined with the present need to act, finally explodes when there is no future left to wait for. 

Preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS should not be compiled based upon a paradigm of procrastination.  Waiting for the last moment, or simply putting together a voluminous box of medical records and quickly filling out an SF 3112A by listing a compendium of known or suspected medical conditions, then quickly concluding that they impact one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, will only further raise the chances of a denial from the Office of Personnel Management

When a medical condition impacts a Federal or Postal employee and his or her ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, there is certainly a sense of urgency.  However, the urgency to quickly file a case must be weighed and balanced against the future likelihood of success.  This is a long, long, process, and the extra time it may take — weeks or months — to properly prepare, formulate and file a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, will help to prevent the problems of procrastination.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Feel of a Treadmill

The analogy of a treadmill is an apt one; each of us have been on one, and know the “feel” of one which is set at too slow a pace, or too fast a pace.  It is also a metaphor for life itself; that on some days, one feels that the energy level is in perfect consonance with one’s self; at other times, one wonders whether the treadmill will push us off because we are not able to keep pace with it.  Federal and Postal workers who are suffering from a medical condition because it impacts the daily performance of one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, often feel the threat of the treadmill.  

With Supervisor’s threatening less-than-satisfactory performance evaluations, to placing a worker on a PIP; to the chronic and daily symptoms which impact one’s productivity at a job; the measure of whether one can keep pace with the treadmill, or if one is in danger of being pushed off, is a valuable self-appraisal in determining whether it is time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Often, what stops the Federal or Postal Worker is doubt and fear about the process.  Yet, despite the complexity of the process, the treadmill at work never stops, and whether or not one can continue on it until retirement, is a question which only the Federal or Postal worker who is suffering from a medical condition, can ask and answer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Time to File

When should I file?  This is a question which is asked often; it is a telling, revealing question, because it is often a rhetorical question.  It is as if the question begs to be answered with an unequivocal, “You must file now”.  Aside from the time it takes, which is generally between 6 – 8 months from the time the entire process begins until the time the Office of Personnel Management approves an OPM Disability Retirement application at the First Stage of the process (and certainly this general time-frame needs to be taken into account because of financial circumstances, accrued sick and annual leave which may be used, and multiple other factors for consideration), the Federal or Postal worker who is contemplating when to file an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits generally knows the answer to the question.  As a general rule, if one asks the question, then the answer is already known.  If one is expecting a PIP, comes home each day dreading and exhausted, living with the anxiety that the Agency is waiting for an excuse to get rid of the employee; if each night and weekends are spent just recuperating in order to make it into the office for another day, then to ask the question, “When should I file?” becomes merely a tautology.  To arrive at that point is to make it into an emergency; it is better to project into the future; as a football coach once said, “The future is now.”

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire