Inform an individual that you suffer from Hansen’s Disease, and one might get a benign reaction, perhaps a blank stare. Convey to the same individual that you have contracted leprosy, and it is likely to evoke an expression of revulsion, and perhaps a discomfort bordering on flight.
What we say; how we say it; the social stigmas attached; and the cultural sensibilities and conditionings constraining how we become predisposed to act and react, are often determined by the perspectives which are brought to the fore. Leprosy is the common term for Hansen’s Disease, but with it, an entire historical perspective replete with stigmas and tales and images of disfigured and contorted features and physical characteristics surround the former term, but rarely accompany the latter.
Whether and however termed, it remains one and the same. For an individual who suffers from a disability or handicap, society’s reaction similarly remains consistent and uncaring. And while laws and regulations may provide a semblance of minimally protective measures, it cannot prevent individual insensitivities from surfacing.
For Federal employees and Postal workers who need to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, the reaction of one’s agency or department is often tantamount to informing them of either contracting leprosy, or of Hansen’s Disease.
Normally, unless a compelling reason exists otherwise, such information should be limited, and restrictively revealed only when the necessity arises, precisely because of the type of reaction one can expect from the agency or the U.S. Postal Service.
Perspectives differ; differing perspectives may often surprise; but the one similarity abounding in human nature is not too different from the beastly perspective from whence we came; and that is of the herd instinct targeting the weakest and most vulnerable — in this case, the Federal and Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, and who must consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire