Identifying the Right Bridge to Reach Your Destination: Federal Employee Disability Retirement

When considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, the natural inclination is to ask the seemingly primary question of: Does medical condition-X qualify as a disability? But such a question is in actuality secondary; it is the reverse-order and counterintuitive process which is often confusing for the Federal and Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The primary question, making the previously-stated questions secondary, is to ask: Does medical condition-X prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job?  By inverting the primary-secondary sequence, one can then attain a better level of understanding as to the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Further, such a switch in sequence of questions-to-answers allows for an important paradigm shift.  For, in the very asking of the proper question, one can reach a level of understanding to such a stage of comprehension that the question almost answers itself.

Medical conditions in and of themselves do not necessarily qualify the Federal or Postal Worker who is otherwise age or service-eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; it is the nexus which must be established between one’s position and the medical conditions one suffers from.  It is the crossing of that bridge which will reveal the extent of success or failure in attempting to go down this path; but first, the Federal or Postal Worker must correctly identify which bridge to cross, before even starting the long and arduous trek of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Restorative Sleep & a New Day

For whatever evolutionary reasons, the necessity of sleep is apparent to anyone who lacks it.  On just a basic level of understanding, one assumes that the extent and level of daily activities results in the corresponding necessity of one’s sleep pattern; but one sees certain individuals do next to nothing, who seem to need a vast amount of sleep, and conversely, those who expend a tremendous level of energy who seem to thrive on minimal periods of somnolence.

The necessity of sleeping is a given; when interrupted patterns occur, and identifiable sleep disorders intervene, including insomnia and sleep apnea, then we begin to recognize the differentiation between mere ‘sleep’ and the concept of ‘restorative sleep’.  The former is simply the state that one finds one in; it is the latter which is the more meaningful state.

Whether because of chronic pain which, throughout the period of attempted sleep, interrupts the pattern of relief sought through sleep; or severe psychiatric conditions which require lengthy periods of quietude; mere sleeping does not necessarily result in the state sought — of restorative sleep, in order to wake up to a “new day”.  Without that level of restorative sleep, the human mind and body is unable to perform at the peak level which must be attained, in order to thrive in the technologically challenging work environment of modern day.

For the Federal and Postal Worker who must face such a challenge daily, where one’s medical condition begins to impact the ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, consideration must be given to filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Whether under FERS or CSRS, Federal Disability Retirement allows for the Federal or Postal Worker to enter into a period of interlude in order to attain that sought-after restorative sleep.

The respite from the turmoil of work and responsibilities is often the recipe needed, and until the Federal or Postal Worker acknowledges the need, that proverbial “new day” may never arrive, and one may find that sleep is not a friend of the night, but an adversary to be battled within the darkness of one’s mind.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Relevant Medical Condition

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, make sure that the medical condition which the Federal or Postal employee is listing, describing and delineating, including the symptoms and impact, etc., is “relevant” to one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.  

Let me clarify with the following (outlandish) hypothetical:  A Federal employee has the job and positional duty of pushing a button with his right index finger once every 2 hours.  He suffers a horrendous injury to his left shoulder, left arm, left leg and left side of his body. Use of the left side of his body is nowhere described or required in his position description, and the Agency has never requested that he use the left arm, shoulder or leg, or any part of the left side of his body, in performing the essential elements of his job.  He prepares and formulates his Federal Disability Retirement application, describing the extent of his medical limitation of the left side of his body.  Result:  he is denied by the Office of Personnel Management because the relevance of his medical condition has not been established with respect to the essential elements of his job.  

“Relevance” of a medical condition is essential to establish in a Federal Disability Retirement application. Now, had the Federal or Postal worker gone on to describe how the chronic and radiating pain from the left-sided injuries (taking the hypothetical one step further) impacted his ability to use his right index finger, and this was established through the medical opinion of his treating doctor, the case would have had merit and a basis for an appeal, argumentation, etc., would have been established.  

But in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand and apply the basic principle in the Federal Disability Retirement case:  It is not just the medical condition which is at issue; it must encompass the relevance of the medical condition to the essential elements of one’s job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Treating Doctor versus “Others”

Obtaining the support of one’s treating doctor is an essential element in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS. The “treating doctor” is a unique animal, and one who possesses peculiar and particularized knowledge specifically relevant to a Federal Disability Retirement case.  

The treating doctor usually has a longstanding relationship with the potential Federal Disability Retirement applicant; through extensive and multiple clinical encounters, has formed a professional opinion about the overall health issues of his/her patient; has often spoken about other matters, including personal issues, and therefore has formed that puzzling emotional bond identified as a “relationship” with the potential Federal or Postal Disability Retirement applicant; has knowledge of the history of the Federal or Postal employee, including personal tidbits of information; and other important information.  

Aside from the fact that the Merit Systems Protection Board’s specific acknowledgement of the importance of the treating doctor (while not denigrating the ability of a referral doctor or disability specialist in also playing an important part in the determination of an OPM Disability Retirement application), it is precisely because of this knowledge that he/she possesses — based upon a thorough understanding grounded upon historical information gathered over a span of time; based upon intimate clinical encounters; based upon a professional observation of the chronicity, impact and progressive nature of a medical condition upon the abilities and capabilities of the Federal or Postal employee — that a special “place” of status and stature is granted to the Treating Doctor.  

This is important to know in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire