OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: The Law & Life’s Pragmatic Reality

In a Federal Disability Retirement case, one of the ways to establish the nexus between one’s medical condition and the inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, is to show a “service deficiency”. But as most Federal and Postal employees systematically receive satisfactory or higher ratings of workplace appraisals, and are passed through without thought in order for managers and supervisors to avoid contentiousness and adversarial encounters with their employees, it is rare that anyone can show poor performance and tie such a service deficiency to one’s medical condition.

Does one need to go to the supervisor and point out the service deficiencies and ask that the supervisor rate him or her as sub-par?  No.

Does one have to grieve or contest a superior appraisal?  Again, the answer is, No.

The intersecting contradiction between law and life often manifests itself in such circular absurdities.  But how the law is read; the knowledge of a myopic understanding of the law without the greater context of the entirety of the evolution of case-law opinions and further expansive interpretation of the originating statute, can leave one to believe that the law makes no sense, and fails to reflect the pragmatic issues of reality.

Hint:  Most Federal and Postal employees do not have a service deficiency; but since Federal Disability Retirement rules, regulations and statutes require that one’s medical condition must last for a minimum of 12 months, does that mean that one must show a devastation of one’s work ethic for a full year before you can even file?  No.

The conflict between law and the pragmatic reality of life is merely an apparent one; once the truth is unraveled, there really is no conflict at all, internal, apparent, or otherwise, and Medical Retirement applications submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, in fact reflects the reality of life quite well.  One needs to merely figure out and think away any such apparent self-contradiction.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: In Life, the Pragmatic Trumps the Theoretical

In administrative and other processes, as in life generally, there are issues which on a theoretical level would seem to work; but when tested in the “real world”, somehow the perfect paradigm suddenly disintegrates.  Thus, one may ascribe a series of seemingly logical propositions, each in their independent and isolated delineations apparently stand strong and without a flaw; but somehow, in their linear progression of dependence, one upon the previous one, the linkage itself may be the determining factor.

Thus the old adage:  An X is only as strong as the weakest link.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee may lay out a plan of attack which, on its face, may appear sound and credible; but as experience in anything constitutes the crux of everything, so the first-time experience of thinking that one’s own case is a “slam-dunk” case because the “pain I feel” is so excruciating that there is no way that OPM could do otherwise than to approve my case, may be that weakest link.

Think again.  OPM deals with thousands of such cases; your particular case, as the unique case singularly known by you, is essentially a mere theoretical example of countless other such cases.  The pragmatic reality of the Federal bureaucracy is what one must ultimately face; again, as in life in general, the practical aspects of an engagement rules the day.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Correlation, Correspondence & Causation

How we assert and connect disparate facts reveals the extent of one’s understanding of the conceptual distinctions to be made between correlation, correspondence and causation.

Correlation, in its normative usage, refers to the relationship between two or more things, and will often involve statistical dependence between entities.

Correspondence, on the other hand, will entail the agreement of one or more things with one another, or encapsulate similarities and reflective agreement.  Thus, one may discuss Russell’s and Moore’s “correspondence theory of truth“, for instance, where the proposed argument would involve the “agreement” between what one says, and its reflection upon the objective world which it is attempting to describe.

Causality, as a distinctive concept from the other two Cs, involves the sequential occurrence of one event followed by another, where the second event is accepted as a consequence of the first.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand the conceptual distinctions between these words, precisely because the Federal and Postal employee formulating the nexus between one’s medical condition and one’s position description must show the relationship between the two.

Thus, one may argue that a correlation exists between poor performance and one’s medical condition; or one may establish that the corresponding actions on the part of the agency involved references to medical reports and records; or that the position itself caused the exacerbation of the medical condition — although, the latter may be more relevant in a Federal Worker’s Comp case.

In arguing for eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, use of all of the linguistic tools available will provide a decided advantage; but usage must be preceded by understanding, and understanding must involve the careful analysis of the specialized application of conceptual constructs.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Art of Argumentation

The Art of Argumentation is a dying form.  Watching any “debate” forum on television or the radio; viewing the Presidential debates; it has become, instead, a time of pontification, where the loudest, most vociferous voices, and those who can filibuster the time, seemingly “wins” the debate.  

For the art itself to be effective, it must be accomplished in a manner where the opponent is unaware of the subtle impact of the argument itself; it needs to be conveyed in a manner of a conversation, where persuasion is mixed within the content of a narrative.  Of course, there are numerous forms of argumentation —  a strict, logical proposition; a legal citation where one argues that the opponent has little to no choice but to abdicate a position because of what a case-law states; but in most instances, the subtleties must be observed because of the obfuscation of the circumstances and the lack of clarity of the law.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to compose one’s argument as a conductor would an orchestra:  the facts, the evidence, and the law must be gathered and coordinated; streamlining should be an inherent part of the process; and the tone and tenor of the various instruments will need to be brought together into a coherent whole.  

No one likes to sit and listen to a screechy violin, no more than to listen to the drone of a tuba.  The art of an argument must bring together all of the instruments into a melodious whole, where the listener — in this case, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — is lulled into a state of rapture, to the extent that an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application is granted with a smile.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Only Real Standard

In legal parlance, there are various and multitudinous “standards” — of proof; of evidence; of law, etc.  Some have higher, more stringent requirements; others are considered fairly de minimis, and can be satisfied with sufficiently targeted evidence.  All, however, share a common thread — that of persuading the trier of facts.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the standard of proof to be applied is one of “preponderance of the evidence”, which is considered a fairly low standard.  However, the only real standard of proof in any case — whether in administrative law, such as Federal Disability Retirement, or in civil litigation, criminal court, etc. — is one of pragmatic reality:  whoever hears the case, it is necessary to persuade the decision-maker.

Obviously, there is a distinction between an onerous standard, such as “beyond a reasonable doubt”, in comparison with a lower standard of proof such as “preponderance of the evidence”.  Whether, if and when, one has met a standard of proof, is not based upon a scientific calculus, and indeed, that is precisely why in closing arguments, an attorney will repeatedly argue that one has met the X-standard of proof, and these Y-reasons are why.

Theoretically, persuasive argumentation is not necessary if the facts themselves prove the argument.  In reality, however, it is the argument which brings the facts together into a coherent whole, and presents them to the viewer within a context and a specific perspective, such that the viewer or recipient of such information and facts can make a logical connection between a disparate conglomeration of facts, and reaches a conclusion that yes, the purpose for providing such facts has met its goal, etc. The key is to argue without seeming to argue.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand this point of pragmatism:  One can get lost in the morass of legal parlance, and worry excessively about meeting the legal requirements; in the end, it all comes down to presenting an effective, persuasive Federal Disability Retirement packet, such that one receives a letter of approval from the Office of Personnel Management.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Pragmatism

The practice of the philosophical school of “Pragmatism” is what many Americans associate themselves with — precisely because America was, and continues to be (as of late, anyway), a country which invents, manufactures, creates, etc., and prides itself on its technological “forward-thinking” ways.

Pragmatism is a uniquely American philosophical approach — one in which William James (an American) had an influence upon, where the methodology of determining truth consisted in the combination of the correspondence theory of truth and what he considered a “coherence” theory of truth, where not only did a given statement need to have a correspondence with the physical world, but moreover, the entirety of the statement had to “cohere” with other statements asserted.  Pragmatism is an “applied” approach.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is always important to remember the “nuts and bolts” of putting together a Federal Disability Retirement application.  In other words, one must take a very “pragmatic” approach to the entire administrative process.

From dealing with doctors who may be skeptical about his or her ability to relate a medical condition to one’s positional duties in the Federal government or in the Postal Service; to making sure that the Human Resources department assists in processing the Federal disability retirement application; to writing an effective and compelling Applicant’s Statement of Disability — these are all considerations where the subject of the application — the very person who is suffering from the medical condition — must set aside the anxieties, frustrations and fears, and set about to pragmatically put together an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

As “pragmatism” finds its roots in the Greek word pragma, from which we get the words “practical” and “practice”, so it is important to consult with those who have the experience in the very practice of Federal Disability Retirement law.  Indeed, coherence and correspondence are two traits which the Office of Personnel Management looks for in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  William James would have been a good lawyer for Federal Disability Retirement law.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Clash of Theory & Application

It is important in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, to understand, at least on a rudimentary level, the “theoretical construct” of the applicable law, before jumping into the morass of answering questions and gathering the medical documentation for submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management.  

The problem with many applications which have been prepared without the assistance of someone “in the know”, is that no effort was expended at the “front end” of the process. Such lack of expenditure at the front end of the process often leads to wasted effort and time at the “back end” of the process.  Or, in old adage verbiage, one has been “penny wise but pound foolish”.  

Theory before application is often discarded because a medical condition has progressively deteriorated one’s ability to wait any longer.  Rarely does a medical condition, whether by slow progression or by catastrophic acuity, allow for the leisure of being an armchair philosopher.  The very nature of a medical condition dictates the necessity of a person’s actions.  Federal and Postal employees don’t desire to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; the very nature of their medical conditions mandate that they do so, and to end their productive and upwardly mobile careers in a manner unwanted, undesired, and often unexpectedly.  

But theory is always of importance; understanding the law is essential to later success; reading and attempting to understand the “burden of proof”, the legal criteria and requirements, and perhaps even perusing the cases decided by the Merit Systems Protection Board — they are all “front end” helpers.

Just make sure that the “back end” of the application for one’s Federal Disability Retirement is not without support (yes, another double negative, meaning, “with support”), lest the entire process flip over.


Robert R. McGill, Attorney