By Federal Disability Attorney Robert R. McGill
Is man today evolving still? Or, has evolution reached its pinnacle? Consider the Angel and the Beast; and wonder how far we seek to have our wings, but wallow in the stench of fear and trembling. Sabishi ningen, by Hotamori
Postal employees are beset with a unique set of problems: asked to work more with less, within the context of an economy which sees decreased flexibility for growth; and working before the public eye which remains unsympathetic to a quasi-governmental operation which perennially hears about an annual deficit of 10 billions dollars, give or take a few on either side of the equation. Then, when a news story tells about the conviction of a Postal Worker who allegedly faked a disability, or was caught on video fixing a roof or taking out the garbage, the reinforced cynicism of the general public only takes on a sterner look of excoriation. It’s not that the Postal Worker of today can’t win some of the time; he remains in the perpetual limbo of an unfettered losing streak going back decades, now. From being released through Federal legislation into being forever banished to the never-never land of a quasi-Federal agency without the full privileges accorded to other agencies – sort of like that stepsister locked in the attic, and allowed out only for times of cleaning and washing the dishes – to stories abounding of “going postal”, and being relegated to a not-for-profit organization but admonished for being perennially in the red and needing emergency Federal bailouts until the end of time; ultimately, it comes down to the worker at the local Post Office, and whether we actually know them as human beings.
Since when did we lose sight of personal relationships, and begin to view everything in terms of losses and gains, profit margins and human beings as mere capital to be traded on the commercial exchange of human flesh? Perhaps it all began when the “efficiency experts” were called in, to determine whether or not the full extent of productivity was being extracted from each and every worker, and we began to require specified break-times and determinable lunch hours in the fine print of collective bargaining agreements. Laws can govern human behavior; they cannot dictate human relationships, except in negative relegations of prohibitive practices.
Smiles can mask a lifetime of repetitive-impact injuries, and when we see the former postal worker bound in a wheelchair, or his hands so gnarled with arthritic inflammation from overuse; or the addictive reliance upon pain killers whose efficacy wore off but for dosages defying ulcerated stomach linings where osmosis is the only method left for permeating the membranes of nerve endings for relief of pain; and the public may cry out with empathy and sympathetic murmurings of, “How can this happen in America?” While, in the same breath, the public outcries and grumblings in a challenged economy provoke a consensus of eviscerating comments castigating those who take “early outs”, or offers of VERAs which front-load an incentive but backload a pittance after 25 years of arduous, back-breaking sacrifices for an organization which is recognized in the U.S. Constitution as a necessary entity, but relegated to the role of a step-half-sister with dubious blood lines of hereditary illegitimacy.
We love our local postal worker, but treat the greater macrocosm of the U.S. Postal System with disdain and dumbfounded desecration of shameless effrontery. But for all of the faults inherent in a system of Constitutional legitimacy, there are laws which continue to protect, and to provide a semblance of partiality in looking out for the best interests of the hurting U.S. Postal Worker. Whether under FERS or CSRS, or even CSRS Offset, the U.S. Postal Worker – whether the Postal Service itself has been placed under the aegis of a “quasi-governmental agency” or not – the full benefits as a Postal employee still includes the ability to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, when the need arises, and where the Postal Worker has developed a medical condition such that he or she is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.
While there have been some grumblings about discriminatory treatment in reviewing and deciding upon a Federal Disability Retirement application for U.S. Postal employees, in contrast to Federal, non-Postal employees, the fact of the matter is probably one of statistical irrelevance. Because of the descriptively arduous physical requirements governing the U.S. Postal Worker – from the ability to lift up to 70lbs of packages and parcels of awkward dimensional configurations; to prolonged standing and walking, and being able to reach, lift and pull above shoulder level, etc. – the contrast between physical medical conditions and the positional requirements of the craft employees and Postal supervisors and Postmasters of smaller facilities who must fill in where absenteeism necessitates working “as if” one is a craft employee, all make for bridging the needed legal criteria of showing that one’s positional duties are inconsistent with the medical conditions suffered.
The future fails to bode positive for the U.S. Postal Worker. Closings abound, and as the Postal Service becomes increasingly centralized, the walls of separation which crumble the formation of relationships between the public and the local workers continue to divide. Where once the Letter Carrier was the primary contact with the greater macroeconomic world to the lonely widow in the somewhat dilapidated box-like home at the end of the block, the dominance of the multiplex community mailboxes prevail today. Centralized and bureaucratized, human relationships no longer matter; rather, it is what we can eke out of a system doomed to failure because of mismanagement from on high. While the sterilized, antisepticised image for public consumption embraces the high technology freshness fit for the 21st century, in the back rooms of Postal facilities, the same level of physically arduous, repetitive manual labor still churns out the massive volume of letters, flats, parcels and packages. Distribution Clerks, Mail Handlers, Flat Sorters, Mail Processing Clerks; the names and titles may change, and mechanized technologies can ease some of the repetitive manual labor; but in the end, it is the men and women who comprise the large distribution facilities in incognito and unheralded corners of city hubs, where the work resulting in overuse syndromes occur, and of defiance of human anatomies intended for repetitive work far less strenuous than man’s manifest destiny for the Postal Worker.
In the end, Federal Disability Retirement benefits remain and are available precisely because work is difficult, and Postal Work represents the difficult circumstances inherent in the labor force of today. We can all imagine a world of technological sophistication representative of the modern age, but it is the local Post Office, with the friendliness of an age bygone, which mandates a level of repetitive strain that the common person rarely encounters, anymore, except in Third World countries. Federal Disability Retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a benefit accorded to all Postal employees, whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset. Regardless of being relegated to a second-class status of being a “quasi-Federal” agency, and thus a quasi-Federal worker, the Postal Service employee is still nevertheless under the systems of FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, and therefore entitled, if found eligible, for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Proving one’s case in a Federal Disability Retirement application is no different in being a Postal Worker, as contrasted to a Federal, non-Postal employee. The three main components are comprised by: (A) A medical condition, (B) which prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, and (C) where the U.S. Postal Service is unable to accommodate the medical condition such that the Postal employee can perform all of the essential elements of one’s job.
Proving one’s case is a necessity, as is true of all administrative processes in attempting to access a benefit. For, in the end, Federal Disability Retirement is not merely a vestige of a needed benefit in a world which has changed, is changing, and will continue to change; rather, it is one of the last bastions remaining of providing a semblance of protection for a world which has turned its back upon maintaining the most important commodity available in every community, in every sector, in every successful business: the human factor, and that which remains a whisper of a time gone by – human capital, not in a money-sense, but in the human-ness of our local Postal employee.
About the Author
Attorney Robert R. McGill specializes in securing Federal Disability Retirement benefits for Federal and Postal workers under both FERS and CSRS. He represents Federal and Postal employees from all across the United States, from the West Coast to the East, and every state in between, as well as Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Europe, Japan, etc. For more information about his legal services, please visit his Federal Disability Retirement and Postal Service Disability Retirement