Federal Government & USPS Disability Retirement: Self-Perception

The ability of Man to not only have a consciousness of the detached, objective world of phenomena, is shared with all other species; rather, it is the further capacity to have an awareness of self, and step outside of one’s self and be able to view the person who occupies the “I” as one among others, which makes for a higher level of awareness.

Whether other animals share that sense of self-identity in addition to the basic level of consciousness by which we respond and react to the stimuli around us, is always an interesting intellectual debate and discussion to engage.  The problem for the vast human population is not whether we share such second-level consciousness with other species, but rather, how accurate is our self-perception, and to what extend does it do more harm than good.

The capacity of self-awareness is likely tied to the evolutionary process for survivability; yet, such a level of consciousness must be an accurate one, lest it distort one’s reality and the ability to respond appropriately to one’s environment and surroundings.  This is the conundrum for the person who suffers from a medical condition: Are decisions able to be made objectively?  And for the compounding complexity of a psychiatric condition, can one make sound judgements concerning one’s future?

For the Federal and Postal Worker whose medical conditions are impacting one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, there is the telltale sign of job performance; but as the vast majority of agencies simply pass people along, such a criteria often lacks in objective measurements.

Ultimately, one “knows” whether one can continue in the same vein as before. For the Federal and Postal Worker, the option to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is one which should always be considered.  The benefit itself is available as part of one’s employment compensation package, and in this day and age where the constant barrage of stresses in the workplace take their toll upon one’s health, it is a benefit worth considering to preserve one’s survivability in this vast chaos called civilization.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Getting Disability Retirement when Working for the Federal Government: The Sanctuary

They are artificial pockets of safe havens; deliberately set aside, we hear of them as “wildlife refuges”, “bird sanctuaries”, and similar anomalies created for other species, but not our own. It is perhaps a testament to human beings that we care so much for the protection of other species, with little regard for ourselves.

But sanctuaries, by their very definition, are important for the preservation and longevity of each individual and the greater genus of one’s species; whether a temporary sanctuary set aside as a sacrament to be guarded; a day of sabbath fenced off from all other days; an interlude of quiet reading, listening to music, or merely enjoying the company of one’s spouse, relatives or friends; a mind, body or soul preserved, to ready one’s self to face the harsh realities of the world of business, finance, competition and combativeness.

For Federal and Postal employees who face the added realities of a medical condition such that the medical condition begins to threaten one’s ability to continue in one’s chosen career field, the option of attempting to secure a more permanent sanctuary by filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is available so long as certain minimum requirements are met.

For FERS employees, the Federal or Postal Worker must have a minimum of 18 months of Federal Service. For CSRS employees, the Federal or Postal Worker must have a minimum of 5 years of Federal Service. Beyond that, there are complex statutory guidelines which must be met, which are a combination of medical, legal and factual criteria which must be proven by a preponderance of the evidence.

Throughout the administrative process, one must always attempt to create and preserve that cognitive and emotional sanctuary in order to survive the battles ahead; as wildlife preserves require careful planning, so such efforts should similarly be applied to protect the value of the human species.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Treating Doctor

There is efficacy and motivational bias.  Sometimes, unintended consequences result in the coalescence of both, but where the result is unaffected by the underlying reason for acting upon an event.

In OWCP cases, the motivational bias almost always includes the intent of the Department of Labor to try and save money, and to steer the injured worker to undergo treatment (if one can call it that) and oversight with one of “the company” doctors who can quickly declare a person to be healed and ready for return to full-time duty, despite protestations of pain, discomfort and limitation of movement, all to the contrary.

It is no accident that the ever-present Worker’s Comp Nurse who infringes upon the patient-doctor relationship by imposing her presence upon each visit, agrees whole-heartedly with any such assessment of full recovery, and ignores the pleas of the patient/OWCP benefit-recipient.

By contrast, those who are filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, are encouraged to speak with their longstanding treating doctors, as opposed to merely going to a doctor whose motivational bias may stem from the source of one’s payment.

Treating doctors who have a long tenure of doctor-patient relationships have little underlying motivation to do anything but look out for the best interests of the patient.  If Disability Retirement is the best course, then that will be what the treating doctor will support.  It is ultimately the relationship that has been established over the many years, which makes for all the difference.  And that difference is worth its incalculable weight in gold.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Intersection with VERA

Questions always abound when Federal agencies and the U.S. Postal Service offer incentivized programs under the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) propounded by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  In accepting a VERA, the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition must take into account whether the VERA should take the place of a Federal Disability Retirement application, or whether it will merely be the first step in the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement.

Often, because Federal Disability Retirement takes many months in order to secure and procure, Federal and Postal employees considering such an option will elect to accept a VERA in order to have some income during the time of filing for, and waiting upon, a decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Questions which the potential Federal or Postal VERA annuitant should ask themselves include: What impact does a Federal Disability Retirement application have upon a VERA? Is there an offset between Social Security and the VERA annuity, as opposed to the offset which occurs under Federal Disability Retirement, and if so, which provides greater financial sense? Are there provisions where, if the Federal or Postal employee accepts a VERA, one must repay any lump sum incentive which is offered, if one subsequently files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and gets it approved?

While it often makes sense to accept a VERA, then to subsequently file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits within one (1) year of being separated from Federal Service as a result of the VERA, one should nevertheless do so with full knowledge and information.

As a final point, in addition to obtaining all information and basing one’s decision upon full knowledge, the fact that the years which one is on Federal Disability Retirement counts toward the total number of years of one’s Federal Service, should always be factored in — especially if one lives to be a ripe old age, where one’s retirement nest egg will be an important future consideration.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Preserving One’s Rights

Often, loss of vigilance occurs as a result of the relief of attaining something; once gotten, the fight to get it suddenly disappears, and the overwhelming sense of relief is likened to the response of a balloon which deflates upon a pinprick.

But vigilance is the key to ongoing success.  There is never a time to be nonchalant; to attain is merely another step in a process, and that process must be fought for just as diligently as during the time of fighting to reach a goal.

For Federal and Postal workers who are preparing to file, or who are in the process of filing, for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the goal of getting an approval from OPM for a Federal Disability Retirement is merely an intermediate step.  Once attained, the goal is to preserve and to protect.  Fortunately, that is a fairly simple matter — one of maintaining regular contact with one’s doctor; of making sure that one’s doctor will continue to support one’s case in the event that the Federal or Postal annuitant receives a medical questionnaire from OPM.

OPM disability retirement is not like OWCP; because you are allowed to work at other employment and make up to 80% of what your former job currently pays, there is normally nothing wrong with engaging in normal activities which would violate any rules (unlike OWCP cases, where investigators will often videotape individuals to show the engagement of activities contrary to medical restrictions, etc.).  But let not victory lead to lack of continuing vigilance; as that which was won can only be maintained with an attitude similar to keeping to the path which guided one to achieve the goal in the first place.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Process Mentality

The importance of understanding that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, as a “process”, is critical in reaching the mental preparedness necessary to endure the potentiality of the lengthy encounter.

The analogy of the approach should be likened to the difference between WWI and WWII — of trench warfare as opposed to a blitzkrieg.  It is the former which must be prepared for, and not the latter.

For, at each step of the way — from waiting for the proper medical reports to be prepared by the treating doctors, to formulating the narrative of one’s statement of disability; to waiting for the agency to complete the processing of their potion (i.e., the Supervisor’s Statement and the Agency’s Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation efforts); to the intake processing unit of OPM at Boyers, PA, then down to Washington D.C. where assignment of the case will take some time; to final assignment of the case, and potential routing for review by a contract doctor — this is all merely at the First Stage of the process.

If it is denied at the First Stage, then one must fight the process through the Reconsideration Stage, and possibly beyond.

Thus is the mental preparation at the outset required in order to survive the multiplicity of bumps and turns within the process itself.  It is best to know the trials in order to survive the process, and to prepare for it as best one can.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Bureaucracy and the Objective Algorithm

On the one hand, objectivity can be viewed as a positive thing; for, with it, one is assured that all applications are treated equally, by the implementation of identical criteria across the board.  “Gut feelings”, personal beliefs, and that “sixth sense” is eliminated; and thus is fairness achieved by the equal treatment of all cases, and “exceptional circumstances” are not, and cannot be, considered.

What such an approach gains in large-scale application, however, may lose out in individual cases.  For, if experience and age accounts for anything, it should allow for decisions made outside of the mainstream of thought, based upon those very factors which make up the difference — wisdom from years of engaging in a particular endeavor.

The problem with the bureaucratization of a process is precisely that it fails to allow for exceptions; but concomitantly, it is precisely those unique circumstances which cry out for a carved-out exception.  In a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there are always cases where all of the facts and circumstances reveal eligibility; but in applying the mathematical (and thoughtless) algorithm of criteria-based analysis, there may be something missing.  Perhaps the doctor would not, or could not, say exactly X; or the test results revealed nothing particularly significant.

In some ways, the medical conditions identified as Fibromyalgia or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome represent such scenarios.  In those instances, it is important to descriptively convey the human narrative in a particularly poignant manner.

The administrative bureaucracy is here to remain among us; to rise above the level of thoughtless application of a criteria, however, one must creatively encourage the phoenix to rise from the ashes of boredom, and span its wings to include those others who deserve the benefits of Federal Disability Retirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire