We hear the word often — used in conjunction with “irreconcilable differences” (in a divorce proceeding), or perhaps in an electrical engineering context where voltages and circuitry are “incompatible” with this or that mainframe, or some similar language game involving technical issues which don’t work well together.
It is a peculiar word; stated in a certain way or tone of voice, it is a declaration of finality, as in, “Nope! These two [blanks] are incompatible!” And ascribed to human beings? How about: “Jane and Joe were married for 20 years. They have separated and are going to get a divorce because they are no longer compatible”. Does the phrase, “no longer compatible” mean the same thing as being “incompatible”? Can two people, like two components of some mechanical processes, become “incompatible” when previously they were not? Are people like widgets where parts can be irreplaceable in one instance, but are no longer so in the next?
It is, as well, a legal term. In the field of Federal Disability Retirement Law, incompatibility is the “fourth” criteria that can be met if the first three (deficiency in performance, conduct or attendance) cannot be satisfied in a Federal Disability Retirement case. Some medical conditions cannot so easily be described in terms of a 1-to-1 ratio between a medical condition and an essential element of one’s Federal or Postal job that cannot be met.
In their aggregate and totality, the compendium of medical conditions may have come to a critical juncture where they are no longer compatible (i.e., incompatible) with continuation or retention in the Federal Service, and that is when filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM becomes a necessary function of one’s future goals and plans.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire