Attorney for OPM Disability Retirement Claims: The gist of it all

When do we want the “gist” of something?  The essence or the “main idea”; or to filter it into the short version, somewhat like the “spark notes” of the thing of which we seek.  Is it appropriate if a student is sitting through a boring lecture and raises his or her hand and asks politely, “I have an activity to attend this afternoon. Can you just give us the gist of what you’re trying to say?”

Or of the greater meaning of life itself — you know, that grand design that everyone is seeking, which is why so many people believe in such things as the “Da Vinci Code” or, more recently, “The Chamberlain Key” — codes to codices that reveal the heart of ancient secrets lost in the trash heaps of history or otherwise forgotten because of wars, famines and changes of the proverbial guards.

Why is it that such “keys” must always be “ancient”, and shrouded in the mystery of “secret societies” who will murder in the dead of night to protect the gist of it all?  How does that reflect upon modernity — that we are too superficial to invent or discover such codes?  Or, is it merely that the cynicism of scientism and the reliance upon the physical universe, the influence of British Logical Positivism and the Age of Science have all subsumed such romanticizing of mysteries beyond the age of reason?

In this fast-paced society where technology surpasses by lightening speed the insular world of secret societies and the unraveling of veiled codices, what we want in the end is the gist of it all — to bypass the tangential details and get to the heart of the matter.  We have little or no time for anything else.

So, for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, what is the gist of it all?  In other words, what is the essence of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity?

Well, to begin with, under FERS (which most people are, as the dinosaur of CSRS or even CSRS Offset have now been relegated to the Pleistocene Era of Federal employment) the Federal or Postal employee must have at least 18 month of Federal Service.  Second, we must be able to prove that a medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing at least one, if not more, of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job.  And third, the medical condition must last a minimum of 12 months.

Now, this latter bit of a requirement is often confused with thinking that a Federal or Postal worker must therefore wait for at least 12 months after the onset of a medical condition before the Federal or Postal employee can file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  No, that is not the case — for, most doctors and treating medical professionals can render a prognosis as to the chronicity of the medical condition, and that is all that is needed.

Of course, that is precisely the problem of getting merely the “gist of it all” — because, in the end, the annotated version of an important text, issue or pool of information can rarely be filtered down into a cup that can be gulped with one swallow, but is often an ocean full of undercurrents and dangers consumed with sharks, whales and stingrays — sort of like the metaphor of life itself, only more complex because preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application is a complicated administrative process full of bureaucratic pitfalls that cannot ultimately be confined by the gist of it all.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire