OPM Disability Retirement: History, Causal Connection, Exacerbation & Pre-existing Conditions

In OWCP/Department of Labor cases, there are important elements to prove in order to obtain FECA benefits — i.e., the history of the event (the “how” it happened); causality (the where and when it happened, in order to establish workplace connection); whether the injury involved an exacerbation of a prior injury; and whether any prior injury entailed a pre-existing condition.  

Any or all of the previously-listed elements can have an impact in a Department of Labor, Federal Worker’s Compensation Claim.  

In a Federal Disability Retirement claim through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, however, none of the elements identified heretofore have a direct relevance upon a Federal or Postal employee’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

There can be, however, some indirect issues.  Thus:  History of one’s medical condition is normally only collaterally relevant; causality is rarely of any significance, precisely because there is no requirement that the medical condition was caused by or in connection with one’s work — except to the extent that one must show that one became unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job while a Federal or Postal employee; exacerbation may have some relative importance, if only because if one has been able to perform the essential elements of one’s job while suffering from a medical condition, you might be required to show why you cannot do the job “now” as opposed to those years of having performed the job previously.  And, finally, the pre-existence of a medical condition — pre-existing one’s Federal employment — would only become an issue if one were to be able to perform the job, and there comes a point when the medical condition worsens; but that is merely a matter of showing the deteriorating impact of one’s medical condition.  

Ultimately, the point is that FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement is conceptually and practically different from OWCP cases, and the potential Disability Retirement applicant should not confuse the two.  To do so would be to defeat the capacity and ability to wisely choose.  

Alternatives exist if, and only if, one is aware of the choices to be made.  Wisdom comes about when one becomes aware of differences between two or more choices.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Unique Story

This is a world which requires conformity and uniformity; eccentricity is a leisure which few can afford, and as the world operates on a factory-like assembly line, where productivity is the measure of one’s worth, so the uniqueness of a story gets lost in the fading echoes of a scream one hears in a solitary cave, where the sound of one’s cry reverberates deep into the chasm of darkness and the silent quiescence of water dripping upon a moss-covered granite surface.  That is why the poignancy of Chekhov’s story about an old man’s grief and his need to tell his story of the death of his son, resonates with us.

For the Federal or Postal employee who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to strike the proper and delicate balance between recognizing the “uniqueness” of one’s case, and the pragmatic acknowledgement of the bureaucratic need of the Federal Agency (both one’s own as well as the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) to have a conformity of one’s story.

Yes, some history and background can be told in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (although one must be careful in avoiding the pitfalls of ‘situational disability‘ and other issues); yes, one can provide some additional details of one’s ‘story’; but, ultimately, the issue which must be addressed is the legal one:  the essence of the case remains the same throughout.  Throughout, always prepare the Federal Disability Retirement case to conform to the law.

One’s story is unique; the uniqueness must be conformed to a standard of legal proof in order to meet the requirements of Federal Disability Retirement law; once told and conformed, you can still go out and relate your story to those who have a willing ear.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire