CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Pain Ownership

Wittgenstein was a master of linguistic analysis, and questioned the traditional correspondence theory between the language which we speak and describe about the world, and the objective reality which we encounter on a daily basis.  He was the penultimate anti-philosopher who saw philosophy as merely a bundle of confused and confusing conundrums unnecessarily propounded by misuse and abuse of language.

Viewed by many as the successor to Bertrand Russell and English Empiricism, he questioned consistently the role of language, its origins, and confounding complexities which we have created by asking questions of a seemingly profound nature, but which he merely dismissed as containing self-induced mysteries wrapped in a cloak of conundrums.

For Wittgenstein, the problem of pain and “pain language” is of interest; of the person who speaks in terms of “having a pain”, as opposed to the doctor who ascribes the situs of such pain in areas vastly different from where the pain is felt; and the complexities of correlating diagnostic studies with the existence of pain.

For the Federal and Postal employee who is under FERS or CSRS and is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the relevance of Wittgenstein’s linguistic analysis should not be overlooked.  Pain is a personal matter, whose ownership is never in dispute by the person who feels such a phenomena; but how to express is; in what manner to effectively convey the validity of such sensation; how best to “put it into words” is always the problem of effective and persuasive writing.

There is a vast chasm of differences between the ownership of pain and the conveyance of the sensation such that the reader (in this case, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) will be persuaded of one’s medical condition.  The correlative fusion between the world of language and the objective reality of an indifferent universe must be traversed efficiently and effectively; that is the whole point of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Pain and the Fallacy of Objectivity

Pain by definition is “subjective”, if by it one means that the experiential verification of the condition is uniquely possessed by the “I”, or the subject of the experience.  By contrast, that which is deemed “objective” is presumably validated by more than the possessor of the experiential condition — i.e., by third parties; by testing for the validity and verification of an event through means other than the personal narrative of a singular subject.  Yet, if verification of an experience is accepted merely by sheer volume of a collective consensus, then most scientific revolutions in advanced discoveries would never have survived.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, it is often the argument of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that the Federal or Postal applicant has failed to provide “objective” medical evidence in presenting his or her case.  The narrative of having a condition of “chronic pain”, or “severe pain” — being “subjective” by definition — is not deemed “objective“, and therefore cannot be the valid basis alone for a Federal Disability Retirement case (or so the argument by OPM is often presented).  Even the results of an MRI will not necessarily satisfy the scrutiny of OPM; for, ultimately, an MRI can only reveal an observable abnormality — not that a person experiences “pain”.

Fortunately, there are a number of cases in law which rebut OPM in their attempt to bifurcate between “objective” and “subjective”, and such legal tools should always be cited and applied in any Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application.

While pain may indeed be subjective by definition, the objectivity of a Federal Disability Retirement application should never be based upon what OPM deems as sufficient; rather, it is the law and the long history of legal guidance by the courts which should mandate how OPM acts.  Indeed, if we let OPM’s subjective determinations rule the day, we would all be left in an existential state of pain — one which would then result in a collective consensus which may be deemed objective in nature.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Pain, Anxiety & Exacerbation

Medical conditions tend to “feed upon” one another.  Maintaining a balanced perspective on anything is difficult when one is in pain, and the nagging, incessant presence of pain, diffuse and radiating, extending to areas and points of the body where one can no longer specify a particular area because of the widespread extension, makes it impossible to have the requisite focus and concentration necessary to perform one’s job.  Further, the profound fatigue which results from the daily fight against the pain, where one’s energy and reserve of patience for daily social and professional encounters is expended and exhausted such that one must choose between being civil or countering the pain, is something which many cannot understand.

At some point, consideration must be given to preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Whether now, or a few weeks from a stated point, becomes an irrelevancy when one suffers from chronic pain, for the Federal or Postal employee who has endured such medical conditions already knows — whether the doctor concedes it or not — that one cannot continue in this manner.

The physical pain, of course, only serves to exacerbate and feed upon the anxiety — anxiety which projects future events, financial security (or insecurity), and whether and for how long one’s agency or the U.S. Postal Service will look the other way as performance deteriorates and the pervasive whispering campaign by coworkers and supervisors begins.  Pain of a chronic nature only invites anxiety; and when the two combine, they serve to exacerbate to an extent where an exponential result is attained, neither explained by the pain alone nor the presence of anxiety, but where the sum of the total exceeds any ability to maintain the balanced perspective needed to continue to perform the essential elements of one’s job.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire