Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: The Reset Button

We often hear in geopolitical circles about international relations taking a fresh turn because of a metaphorical and figurative ”reset” button which has been pushed.

Whether any substantive changes have taken place; regardless of an alteration in the behavior of one or both parties; the important event which seems to predominate in such declarations of a new partnership or alliance, is that the words which are spoken are now rearranged, and the harsh language of previous decades, or perhaps not even a fortnight ago, reflects a forgiven past with happy days ahead.

Often, however, the lack of substantive change manifests itself quite quickly, as words have the extent of impact only within the context of that momentary declaration of purpose.  Beyond the statement itself, unless the alteration itself is imposed upon the substantive behavior of the individual, group, entity or country, the reality of an unchanged heart slowly reveals its true nature as circumstances test the essence of who or what a person or country truly represents.

The real problem with the concept of a “reset” button is that it only works if both parties to an accord push the metaphorical object.  Eagerness by one side to declare the change of relationship is often the rule, while the “other” party who is the one who really needs the resetting of behavior stands by in silent indifference with a wry smile.  Ultimately, it is the need for change which underlies the entire resetting of a relationship.

For Federal and Postal employees who have come to a point in their career where a medical condition continues to impact the ability to perform the essential elements of their job and positional duties, the proposal and imposition of adverse actions, such as a Performance Improvement Plan (commonly known as a “PIP”); suspensions; letters of reprimands; Leave Usage Restrictions; or Proposed Removals — all are actions by the agency which reveal that a resetting of the relationship between the agency and the individual is sorely in need.

The ultimate tool for that resetting of the relationship, is for the Federal and Postal employee to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS.  While taking such a step may not alter the behavior of the agency, it at least changes the relationship by letting the agency know that the underlying medical condition is the primary cause for the deterioration of the employer/employee relationship, and further, that the severing of ties will be the ultimate outcome.

Moreover, in the case of an OPM Disability Retirement, the pushing of the reset button is never to change the relationship for the benefit of the agency, but merely to change the relationship itself in order for the Federal or Postal employee to attend to the substantive importance of one’s health and wellbeing.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Watchful Eyes

The falcon flies in our midst; with an unknown distance of its perimeter to prey, it suddenly appears, perched with watchful eyes for squirrels, rabbits, other birds, etc.  Its flight is silent and graceful, and long before people realize its presence, the silence and sudden muteness of wildlife activity reveals the fear imposed by its mere appearance.  It flies silently, swiftly, and with a grace which demands awe and respect.  From its high vantage point, the targeted prey below rarely stands a fair chance of avoidance.  Those eyes are focused, with a singular vision operating to corner, catch and consume.  Organisms under a microscope must feel a similar sense, if indeed they become aware of being studied and prodded.

People, too, who are being surveilled and inspected; there is often a sixth sense of being constantly and vigilantly watched.  Federal and Postal Workers who are under the onerous burden of a Performance Improvement Plan (the acronym of a “PIP”) have that same sense.  It is not a positive or productive feeling; it is, instead, a dread of knowing that the “watching” part is merely a prelude for further actions forthcoming, like the noiseless glide of the hawk above.

Being under the constant gaze of a predator often requires preventative action on the part of the prey; for Federal and Postal Workers who come to recognize that his or her job performance is deteriorating because of a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management may be the best option and course of action to take.  Because it is taking such a long time to get an approval these days, preparatory steps should be taken early.  Waiting for a separation from service, while still allowing for time thereafter to file, is normally not the wisest course.

As it is always better to be the “watcher” than the “watched”, so the Federal and Postal employee who needs to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits should take the affirmative steps to prepare for an eventuality — that time when, like the hawk who has made a decision to target its prey, the Federal or Postal Worker has a place of refuge to enter.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Impending PIP

The Performance Improvement Plan (otherwise known by the acronym, a “PIP”) is the formal imposition of an administrative procedural process to “assist” the employee into improving his or her specific work requirements, or for modification of certain behavior issues.

From the Federal Agency’s perspective, it invokes a paper trail which will justify additional future actions, if necessary.  From the Federal employee’s viewpoint, it should serve as a warning that unknown other conversations and discussions have been ongoing, and the PIP is merely a surface revelation, with much underworld life and activity unrevealed but indicated by the issuance of the PIP.

If a medical condition is a large part of the reason why underperformance and poor performance justifies the issuance of a PIP, then revelation of the medical condition in response to the PIP should be considered.

Concurrently, because a PIP is an open and declared step towards ultimate and likely termination — especially when the physical or mental condition will continue to prevent the Federal employee from being able to meet the requirements of the PIP — it is a good idea to begin the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Being a sitting duck merely means that you are the target in a shooting gallery; before your turn comes up, it serves the Federal and Postal employee well to chart one’s own course before it is determined for you.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Thoughtless Agency Actions

The term, “oxymoron” comes from the Greek, meaning “sharp dull” — a phrase or concept which embraces two or more contradictory terms.  When was the last time that the combination of terms, “thoughtful” and “agency” made any sense?  

Thus, it is a waste of one’s time to rant and get upset over an agency’s actions because of bad timing (i.e., to propose a removal during the holidays; to initiate a PIP on the day before Thanksgiving; to suspend a person without pay on a Federal employee’s birthday; and other such coinciding thoughtless encounters).  It is fine to be upset for a moment because of the thoughtless actions of an agency; to continue to heave insults and focus upon the thoughtlessness, however, is a waste of one’s time, and ultimately misunderstands the role, intent and goal of an Agency.  

The reason why “thoughtless” and “Agency” do not ultimately and technically comprise an oxymoron, is because inherent in the very definition of the entity identified as a Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, is the idea that it is indeed a Hobbsian Leviathan which a singular purpose of “doing” something, whatever that “something” is.  

In the administrative process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, one should expect that one’s Agency, or the U.S. Postal Service, will engage in multiple thoughtless actions.  That is the innate nature of a Federal agency, or the U.S. Postal Service.  And, inasmuch as Federal Disability Retirement involves medical conditions, a sense that “empathy” and “sympathy” are called for — of a person’s career coming to an end; of an often progressively deteriorating medical condition, etc. — one would think that the agency would consider putting some thought into their actions.  But that would be asking too much.  

Federal Disability Retirement is an option which the agency sees as merely a problematic solution that needs to be dispensed with — yes, an oxymoron, but a truth, nonetheless.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The PIP

Let’s be very clear:  while the designation of a Performance Improvement Plan is often characterized or defined as an “opportunity” for both the Agency as well as the Federal employee to assess the performance of an individual, in order to show areas of needed improvement, to identify areas of needed accommodation, etc., the truth of the intended placement of a PIP is one clear roadmap:  To get rid of you.  It is a way for the Agency to have an “objective” basis in which to propose a termination of a Federal employee.  It is a way for the Agency to be able to say to the Judge, “Hey, we tried; we gave him/her the opportunity to improve…”

The consequences and linkage between a PIP and a Federal Disability Retirement application, however, is almost always there to take advantage of:  The Performance Improvement Plan (a corollary for the Postal employee is the “Investigative Interview”, or other similar nonsense) is proof-positive that one’s medical conditions directly prevent one from performing all of the essential elements of one’s job.

The key is to try and document the linkage — between the initiation of a PIP and having the Agency acknowledge that there are underlying medical conditions which caused the necessity of a PIP initiation, as well as leading to the resulting failure within the PIP.  While it may be that the Federal employee wants to continue to work, and not file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the reality is that the initiation and institution of a PIP is a good indicator that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is no longer a choice; it has become a necessity.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Why Agencies Act

I am often asked why the Federal Agency will go out of their way to remove an individual based upon every conceivable reason other than the true and underlying reason:  One’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  Despite submitting medical reports; despite a Supervisor’s knowledge of the daily pain and suffering of an employee; despite it all, the Agency will often focus upon the employee’s conduct or lack of work production, or upon the number of absences; then place the employee on a Personal Improvement Plan (PIP) ; refuse to grant LWOP; then propose to terminate the individual based upon all of the myriad actions they have taken.  

When the query arises as to why the Agency will not just propose the removal based upon his or her medical inability to perform the job, the answer is often:  We are not a medical facility and we cannot make that determination.  But that is normally not the underlying, driving reason.  It is more often than not because agencies have a single-track mind to act in a self-determined manner.  Ultimately, however, when one files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, while a removal based upon one’s “medical inability to perform one’s job” is the most “helpful”, other forms of removals can actually enhance the Federal Disability Retirement application, by focusing upon the fact that the negative performance indicators can only be explained by the parallel medical conditions which were clearly impacting the employee.  Sometimes, that takes a little more effort — such effort which the Agency failed or refused to engage in.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Agency Adverse Actions

Agency actions of an adverse nature seem to go hand-in-hand with filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.  If one pauses for a moment, one can easily understand the underlying reasons:  Medical conditions often result in attendance problems or impact the ability of a Federal or Postal employee to perform all of the essential elements of the position.  Disability Retirement eligibility is precisely that which attempts to prove the latter point — of the impact upon one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of the positional requirements.  

Thus, when attendance, performance or conduct concerning the positional requirements become an issue, the Agency will often begin initiating adverse actions — ranging from instituting a “Performance Improvement Plan” (PIP), memorandums of warnings, suspensions, and removals.  While adverse actions reflect negatively by their definition, the positive aspect of such adverse actions, in combination with Federal Disability Retirement, is that the adverse action, having the underlying basis of resulting because of one’s medical condition and because of one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, can actually be used to argue for a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement approval.  As with most of that which is “true” in life, the irony of this cannot be overlooked.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire