Federal Disability Retirement: Fate & Consciousness

The concept of fate attaches a sense of termination and determined outcome; and consciousness beyond mere awareness of presence where a self-reflective realization of one’s self, the “I” in a world among others, and the further mirror-image of stepping outside of the self and having the capacity to recognize the “I” as another you among a multiplicity of others, creates the question of free will, self-determination and conscious action.

Whether the end of anything and everything is predetermined; whether causal forces in a universe of physical laws control and conform individual actions; and further, whether one’s conscious and deliberative intent makes a whit of difference in the macrocosmic universe of dialectical forces, is a puzzlement to be pondered perennially in Western Philosophical thought,especially in today’s debate involving the attempt to make language conform to pure scientific materialism.

Whatever the outcome of the debate encompassing mind/body dualism, the existence or not of consciousness where materialism and language reductionism to physical terms involving neurotransmitters and organic, genetic compounds explaining behavior and psychology, the individual who must live and act still holds to the idea that one’s choices in life make a difference, however small, insignificant and irrelevant. And, for the singular individual, a decision which may have no impact in a macro sense, but of a large and important consequence in the tiny, microcosmic universe of one’s personal life, whether fate and deliberative consciousness in decision-making makes any difference at all, is something we cling on to.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from continuing to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties in the Federal or Postal position, the fate and conscious decision to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS, or CSRS Offset, is a major decision of life-shaking and earth-shattering proportions.

In the end, the great philosophical debates which have dominated Western thought must be put aside when personal life-events predominate. Such mind-enhancing discussions are nice for a day, or between colleagues and in the ivory tower of academia; but the reality of a medical condition, the possibility of the end of a career, and the need to decide upon one’s future, while all of relative insignificance in proportional contrast to The Great Debate; in the end, for the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal Worker, the onset of a medical condition and the need to file for OPM Disability Retirement benefits from OPM will possess greater significance than the question of fate, consciousness and the consequences of believing in a predetermined universe. Or, to paraphrase Bertrand Russell, when one is overcome with thoughts about the greater universe, it may just be that we have an unsettled stomach.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Disability Retirement for Federal and Postal Employees: The Diatribe

There may well be an appropriate time for a lengthy diatribe.  The act itself often finds its impetus in bitterness; it also implies a lack of control, overwhelmed by anger and originating in attribution by an act of injustice.  But where emotion controls rationality, the loss of sequential propriety normally results in a corresponding lack of coherence and comprehension.

For Federal and Postal Workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal Worker is under FERS or CSRS, the urge to right past wrongs is a compelling force which often erupts in a diatribe of sorts, within the content of a Federal Employee Disability Retirement claim. This is, unfortunately, a self-defeating proposition.

Yes, agency actions often comprise a compendium of injustices; yes, treatment of coworkers can be the basis of collateral actions; yes, discriminatory behavior may be a justifiable basis for filing EEO actions; but, no, weaving one’s frustration into the substance of a Federal Disability Retirement application is not the right path to take, for the simple reason that it is not the appropriate venue in which to vent.

Federal and Postal Workers who intend on filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, need to bifurcate the issues, and recognize the practical dualism in existence:  OPM is a separate Federal agency from the one employing the chronically ill or injured Federal Worker who intends to submit a Federal disability Retirement application (in most cases, unless of course the Federal employee works for OPM — and even then, the section which reviews the Federal Disability Retirement application is separate and distinct within the agency).

Context and appropriateness are invisible lines which need to be followed.  Diatribes may have their place in literature; it rarely serves a useful purpose in filing for CSRS or FERS Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

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 Federal & Postal Employees: The Job Description

Remember that the official Job Description may provide an antiseptic-like delineation of the major functions of a particular position.  From that, one may infer, imply and extract the daily physical and cognitive requirements in order to efficiently perform those major functions.

However, in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one must remember that it is never a wise endeavor to think that the Office of Personnel Management will infer, imply or extract anything, leaving aside making the logical connection between a Job Description and the physical, emotional and cognitive requirements to implement the job requirements.

As such, in formulating the impact between one’s medical conditions and the essential elements of one’s job, it is encumbent upon the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits to make explicit that which is implicit; to reveal that which may be contained “between the lines”; and to make sure that, instead of infering, implying or extracting, that the daily physical, emotional and cognitive requirements are boldly revealed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Life Changes

Major life changes occur at some point for everyone —  new births; deaths; marriage; major illnesses.  The trauma of a life-changing event such as a medical condition which impacts one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, is further exacerbated because of the financial impact that such a life-event can have upon a Federal or Postal employee.

While Federal Disability Retirement benefits do not fully make up for the loss of income (for FERS employees, it pays 60 percent of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years the first year, and 40% every year thereafter until age 62, at which point it gets converted and recalculated to regular retirement; while the Federal disability retirement calculation for CSRS employees is slightly more complex), it is at the very least a point of security — a base amount of income in which one can rely upon.

This is important, because with a major life-changing event, it is essential to focus one’s energies upon resolving, attacking, or otherwise handling that life-event, and not have the worries or distractions which take one’s energies away from focusing upon the one life-changing event.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: The Law

Technically, the law does not have to be applied at the administrative, agency-level of the Office of Personnel Management.  Let me clarify:  one likes to always think that when an applicant for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is filing for the benefit, that the agency which oversees the application will review it with an overarching umbrella of criteria which is governed by an objective foundation deemed as “the law”.  Thus, in a perfect world, one might imagine an efficient line of technocrats sitting in cubicles, all with a reference book containing the relevant laws governing the eligiblity criteria for Federal Disability Retirement.  But that would be in a perfect world; and since such a perfect world fails to exist, what we have is an arbitrary sprinkling of various personnel, who collectively comprise the Office of Personnel Management, some of whom apply the law well, and some of whom apply the law less than competently. 

To some extent, the arbitrary methodology applied at the agency level is counter-balanced with the threat of a review by an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board, followed by a Full Review at the MSPB, then to be further appealed to at the Federal Circuit Court level; but it is nevertheless sometimes disconcerting that, at the Agency level, this peculiar animal called “the law” is not uniformly applied in all cases, at all times.  And sometimes rarely.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The “Cover” of an FCE

Most doctors are unfamiliar with the process of obtaining Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS, but are more often than not familiar with the process, procedures, and correlative headaches associated with Worker’s Comp benefits.  Because of this greater familiarity, there is often an underlying suspicion that comes along with it — that rendering any medical opinion must be accompanied by some underlying justification and “objective” methodology of supporting the medical opinion.  And this is understandable. 

In this day and age of malpractice lawsuits, of questioning every test, procedure and opinion, it is rare that a medical doctor is comfortable and secure in rendering a medical opinion about one’s ability or inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, based solely or primarily upon clinical examinations and reviewing of diagnostic results.  Enter the FCE — the “Functional Capacity Evaluation”.  The FCE provides “cover” for a doctor’s medical opinion, because the doctor can point to an apparently “objective” evaluation — a third party rendering a number of physical tests, exertional exercises, physical capacity movements, etc., which serve to provide a framework from which a doctor can render an “objective ” opinion.  Why it is accepted that pointing to someone else’s evaluation — as opposed to relying upon one’s own clinical examinations, reviewing one’s history, reviewing diagnostic test results, etc. — is any more valid, is a great mystery.  But if it makes the doctor feel more comfortable, then a person considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS should go ahead and agree to submit to an FCE, if that is what it takes to get the doctor on board.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire