FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Resilience

One often hears about the fragile ecosystem of which we are a part.  We speak of such natural orders as if they are somehow separate and distinct from our own existence, and indeed, because we create insular communities and artificial oases of cocoon-like existences, differentiated from the rest of the natural world, we can refer to such organic systems as if they are merely textbook civilizations of another universe.

The linear line of manufacture-to-production, then to commercial commodity-to-consumption, where we pick up neatly packaged goods at the local grocery store, alienates us from the harsh reality of the slaughterhouse.  Just for academic interest-sake, look up the history of polio and how interconnected the epidemic came to be as a result of cleanliness, antiseptic living, and the desire to dominate our environment.  By separating ourselves and creating our own artificial universe of separateness, one wonders whether human frailty is another one of those unintended consequences.

The counter to such a view, of course, is the known resilience of human beings.  Even devastating and debilitating medical conditions often serve to magnify the strength of human character.  That is why, for Federal and Postal employees who find themselves in a situation where the medical condition has come to a critical point of impacting one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, such Federal and Postal employees have often waited until they cannot wait any longer.  While not the wisest of decisions, it shows the resilience and determination of human beings.

Yes, Federal and Postal employees often have the unwarranted reputation of being civil servants who don’t “really” earn their money; but that is merely the ignorant groans from an unknowing public.  Federal and Postal employees whom this author has had the privilege to represent, are to a person workers who have dedicated their lives to the detriment of their own suffering.

For Federal and Postal Workers who need to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, no amount of apologies for such a decision should be necessary.  For, in the end, the most important of ecosystems which needs to be preserved and protected is that comprised of the individual human body, which is a self-contained ecosystem in and of itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Mourning for Things We Never Knew

We often reminisce for things we never knew, but imagined we once had or hoped to have; of small towns and neighborhoods where caring concern characterized a sense of community and belonging; or perhaps it was from our remembrances, formed and solidified from old television shows we grew up with, when once innocence of times of yore remained with us to form dreams of a brighter future.

Health and monotony tends to have a similar effect. The former, because we take it for granted; and the latter, because we mistakenly believe that crisis equals excitement, when in fact security of daily living without eruptions of emergency management is the quietude which most of us seek, though we fail to appreciate it.

For the Federal and Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, the times of yore when a life without pain is barely remembered, and where the lingering effects of an extensive medication regimen was once comprised of a single multivitamin pill, the thought of wanting to return to a “time prior to” is often at the forefront of daily reminiscences, and constitutes the limited hope for the future.

At some point, however, as medical conditions continue to deteriorate, and as the surgical interventions, palliative medical procedures and list of countermanding medication regimens increase in volume and expand in extent, it becomes clear that the impact upon one’s attempt to maintain an appearance of normalcy can no longer be tolerated.

When the Federal or Postal employee’s medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, it is time to consider preparing the steps to formulating a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Such a Federal Disability Retirement application must be ultimately filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, and because the waiting process can be quite lengthy, the initial steps should be contemplated fairly early in the recognition of medical condition-to-impact upon one’s job.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit there for Federal employees under either FERS or CSRS, and is a compensatory system enacted precisely for those Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition which impacts one’s ability to perform one’s job.

Longing for a time once remembered is an activity of comforting reminiscence; the reality of the present, however, awakens us from the slumber of such daydreams of an era once blinking on the horizon of a time long passed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: The Hearty Laughter

Laughter is therapeutic; it is an expression, often spontaneous, responding to an event, a circumstance, a joke; sometimes, merely upon meeting an old friend and becoming flooded with reminiscences of mirthful times long ago.

It is a response of physical, emotional and mental totality; the body reverberates with joy and the echoes emanating from deep within; the flood of emotions are released; the mind becomes relaxed and unguarded.  Often, however, it is the eyes which are most telling.  Listen to a person laughing, and you may be fooled; watch a person’s eyes as he laughs, and it may reveal a dissonance which contradicts and raises suspicions.  For, laughter can also be the veil which attempts to conceal.

Similarly, in this economy of heartless efficiency, the Federal and Postal worker who must daily attempt to work through one’s pain or psychiatric condition in order to continue to work, despite suffering from a medical condition such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, there comes a point where the capacity to present one’s self contradicts the reality of what is actually occurring.

Most Federal and Postal workers are such dedicated workers that they continue to work through a progressively deteriorating medical condition to one’s ultimate detriment.  At some point, the dissonance and contradiction will reveal itself; and it is at such a crisis point when the Federal and Postal Worker comes to realize that Federal Disability Retirement benefits, filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, must be considered.

Whether one should wait until that flashpoint arrives is an individual matter.  But like the hearty laughter emanating from the deep chasms of a person whose eyes reveal pain and sadness, the Federal or Postal Worker who continues to put on a brave face each day, knows that as all the world is a stage, the actors must one day face the reality of the world in which we live.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: The “Almost” Medical Inability to Perform Termination

Often, Agencies will proceed to propose a removal of a Federal or Postal employee based upon reasons which clearly “imply” one’s medical inability to perform one or more of the essential functions of one’s job, but explicitly, based upon other stated reasons — e.g., “Failure to Maintain a regular work schedule” or “Being Absent Without Official Leave (AWOL)“.

Then, the frustrating scenario is when the Agency — in the body of the proposed removal letter — refers to and acknowledges the existence of multiple medical conditions which form the foundation, reason and justification for being unable to maintain a regular work schedule or being absent from the job (whether with or without official sanction or approval).

The key in such circumstances, of course, is to try and attempt to make the “implicit” (references to one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s inability to perform one’s job) “explicit” (having the Agency change or amend the reasons to instead state:  “Removal based upon the employee’s Medical Inability to Perform his or her job”).

Such a change, of course, would be helpful in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, precisely because it would invoke the Bruner Presumption, which would then make it that much more difficult for the Office of Personnel Management to deny a Federal Disability Retirement application.  For, that is the ultimate goal:  to obtain an approval of the Federal Disability Retirement application; and any such advantage gained brings the Federal or Postal employee one step closer to that ultimate goal.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Developing a Case

In most cases, the normal process of disability retirement for the First Stage of the process is anywhere from 6 – 8 months; some fall towards the 6-month range; some take longer than the 8-month range.  The difficulty in most cases is that the potential disability applicant/annuitant obviously wants to get through the process as quickly as possible, most often in order to get a sense of security for the future, that he or she will have the certainty of the Federal Disability Retirement annuity.  All of this is understandable. 

The process — of preparing; of submitting; of waiting as it winds through the various Agency channels and finally to Boyers, PA and then to OPM in D.C. — is a process of high anxiety and anticipation.  Sometimes, however, cases must be patiently developed.  By “developed”, I merely mean that, at times, the doctor is not ready to provide the proper medical narrative report, or to state in explicit terms that a person is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of his or her job, and that the medical condition will last for at least one (1) year.  Patience with the doctor as different modalities of treatments are applied, is often crucial in the development of a case.  My involvement in a case, even before it is fully developed, is preferred, only if to guide the client as the medical case develops, or — as is often the case — on issues involving how to respond to an Agency which is just as anxious for the whole process to begin and end, as is the client.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement in a Tough Economy

Healthy individuals may wonder why, in such a tough economy, an individual would consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS.  This is an economy which has been shrinking and shedding employees.  Yet, for the Federal or Postal employee whose health and increasingly debilitating medical conditions directly impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, the choice is actually not all that convoluted. 

Where a Federal or Postal employee can no longer perform the job; where sick leave and annual leave have been exhausted to go to doctors’ appointments, or just to stay home to recover enough to make it into the office for another day; or for those who are on LWOP for greater than the time working; in such circumstances, the stark reality is that a disability annuity is better than what the future may offer otherwise.  Removal for unsatisfactory performance; being placed on a PIP; being told that there is no more work at the Postal Service; being counseled for performance issues; these are all indicators of the proper choice to make.

Yes, it is a tougher economy; but when the economy begins to rebound, the first people that private employers turn to hire are those who are essentially independent contractors; and, especially with the looming overhaul of private health insurance, a former government worker who carries his or her own health insurance is, and can be, an attractive worker to a private employer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire