Stress after a medical condition in the Federal workplace
Filing for Federal Disability Retirement through one’s agency, and ultimately with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal Worker is under FER, CSRS or CSRS-Offset, is both a reflection of life’s inevitable vicissitudes, as well as a timed indicator for needed change. It can be considered as one of life’s major traumas, as it combines a compendium of a tripartite composite: A medical condition; impact upon a significant component of one’s life — that of one’s employment, career and vocation, which one worked so hard to achieve; and a necessary alteration of employment leading to financial instability, downsizing and economic turmoil.
Stress becomes an inherent part of the entire administrative process in filing for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits. It is a time when stress is least tolerable, because of the impact of the medical condition upon one’s life and capacity to work; and yet, it seems that the unavoidable adage of old can never be averted: When it rains, it must by necessity pour.
In a distant, hypothetical manner of thinking, one expects that as one grows older, medical conditions will begin to impact one’s capacity and capabilities, both physically and in cognitively dysfunctional ways. But there are many Federal and Postal employees who find that a medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, when one is merely in their 30s or 40s. Stressful careers have a tendency to take their pound of flesh. From Law Enforcement positions, to cognitive-intensive duties required of Budget Analysts, Revenue Agents, IT Specialists; to FAA Air Traffic Control Specialists; to the constant and repetitive physical work required of Letter Carriers, Distribution Clerks and Supervisors and Postmasters; the level of stress, both physically and mentally, placed upon Federal and Postal workers who have been asked to do more with less in this continuum of a slowed economy beset with a pubic which mistakenly believes that Federal and Postal workers are overpaid and underworked; the resultant consequential impact is the exponential rise in progressively deteriorating disabilities which call for the necessity of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the disabled Federal employee or the injured Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.
Percentage of Federal Disability Retirement approval: Do you even have a case?
Like the praying mantis whose bright green sheen in early spring metamorphosing into the brown of mortal prefacing, the writing is on the wall for the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal Service worker as to what forebodes for the future. One is often asked in the initial telephone consultation as to whether a case is “viable” or of ascribing with reasonable accuracy the percentage chances in winning a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement case with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. But in the very question is presupposed the implicit answer, and the unavoidable starkness of truth — again, no more and no less obvious, than the changing colors of the praying mantis: What choice does one have? You can either: stay the course; resign and walk away with nothing; or file for Federal or Postal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
There are stories aplenty about abusing the misusing “the system”; and in the crass world of media outlets which fail to make the differentiating distinctions which make for the bifurcation between truth and falsity, the “disability” claims which are most prevalently and prominently featured have to do with Social Security Disability claims, and not with Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through FERS.
What does it take to get your application approved?
FERS Disability Retirement is merely one component of an employment package which every Federal and Postal employee, signed on to when he or she became a Federal employee or U.S. Postal Worker. It requires, by a preponderance of the evidence, a showing that (A) The Federal or Postal Worker who is under FERS has a minimum eligibility-satisfied requirement of 18 months of Federal/Postal Service (or if under CSRS, 5 years, which is presumably met); (B) that he or she has a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job while in Federal or USPS Service; and (C) that no reassignment at the same pay or grade can be found, or alternatively, that the medical condition cannot be reasonably accommodated such that the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker can continue to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job. As to the medical condition itself, a “built-in” safety hatch exists which generally precludes abusive filings in FERS & CSRS Federal Disability Retirement cases, as opposed to SSDI: the necessary medical reports and records must, in most cases, come from a treating doctor of reasonable duration, and single-purpose disability determinations are taken into consideration with skepticism (excepted examples: a Functional Capacity Evaluation, a Neuropsychological test, and similar specialty-based studies).
Remember: OPM Disability Retirement is a benefit you’ve already paid for
Filing for a benefit which is merely a part of one’s employment package can hardly constitute or be considered an “abuse of the system”; rather, it is the accessing of a promise made, a word kept, and an administrative process proven when the coalescence of facts, circumstances, and life’s changes require the bureaucratic mandates of filing. Never has the undersigned author encountered a Federal or Postal worker who “wanted” to file for Federal/Postal Disability Retirement benefits; rather, with great reluctance, it is life’s unexpected and unexplainable changes which have resulted in the necessity of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.
In recent times, there has been a major cultural shift in how people, circumstances and the fate of individuals have been described, excoriated and represented in media outlets and public venues; of life’s cyclical karmic characteristic of a lottery and the unfairness of wealth distribution; and the magnum opus of societal disparity: those who access “the system”, as opposed to those who must pay for it.
But in the end, a society must be judged by how it treats its most vulnerable citizenry, and in keeping the word of its social contract. Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit accorded to all Federal and Postal employees through the law and a promise upon legislative cogency: Recognizing that the important work of a Federal employee or a U.S. Postal worker can only tolerate a certain level of saturation of stress, repetitive physical repercussions, or the combination of cognitive and physical pain, the Federal Government has conceded that a disability annuity is appropriate where the manifestation of a medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, and where no reasonable accommodations are possible, or where reassignment to another position at the same pay or grade cannot be offered; this is thus a response to an expectation that one of life’s changes should be addressed, if and when needed.
The time to make a life decision
And like the praying mantis whose colors may metamorphose as the season brings on a foreboding of mortality; so the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker 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, must make choices and reflect the unexpected vicissitudes of life’s changes, whether wanted, desired, or never intended. For, as fate is merely the autumn of a lifetime of summer’s end, so the disabled Federal or injured Postal employee who sees the writing on the wall by reflecting upon the impact of one’s medical condition upon the capacity to continue in the Federal or Postal position, Federal and Postal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management must be a consideration of reflecting upon life’s inevitable changes, as the praying mantis neither prays for the fate of change, but merely appears to do so, in our anthropomorphic way of thinking and believing.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Retirement Attorney
Robert R. McGill is an attorney who specializes in Federal Medical Retirement, a practice area he dedicates 100% of his time helping Federal and Postal workers secure their disability retirement benefits under both FERS and CSRS. For more information about his legal services, publications and forum, please visit his Federal Disability Lawyer website.