Often, in the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the client will ask the question, “Well, doesn’t that prove that I can’t do the job?” Such a question invariably points to some action by the Agency — a letter or a memorandum; a statement which the Supervisor made, etc. While it may be true that the Agency believes that a Federal or Postal employee is unable to perform, or is not performing, all of the essential elements of the job, remember that actions of the Agency can never replace the affirmative burden of proof that one is unable, medically, to perform the essential elements of one’s job.
One must keep in mind that the Office of Personnel Management is a separate Agency which is not necessarily in communication with the Agency which employs the Federal or Postal employee. The “mindset” of the Agency is not being considered by the Office of Personnel Management. Whatever the motivations of the Agency in doing what it is or will do, is to a great extent irrelevant to OPM. What the Agency is doing may well indicate “proof” as to other issues — i.e., inability to accommodate; acknowledgment that certain essential elements of one’s job is not being performed, etc. — but it does not prove that an individual is unable, as a result of a medical condition, to perform all of the essential elements of the job. Only a doctor can do that.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire