Back Pain and Disability Retirement for Federal Workers

Back pain — diagnosed by many different designations and causes, including Degenerative Disc Disease, Spondylolisthesis, spinal arthritis, multi-level disc bulges, disc impingement upon the thecal sac, sciatica, failed back syndrome, etc. — presents a variety of interesting dilemmas and creative solutions when formulating, preparing and constructing a narrative to describe and delineate the impact upon one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

What is interesting is how back pain — chronic cervical, lumbar or thoracic pain, often with accompanying radiating features which include symptoms of numbness, tingling and pain to the extremities — can impact both one’s sedentary job, or one’s very physical job.  Both can be equally and severely impacted.

Then, of course, there is the conundrum of the “catch-22” — without pain medications, one has such a high distractability of pain that one cannot perform either the sedentary job or the very physical job; yet, with pain medications, the sedation which results prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s job.  Either way, back pain presents a serious medical issue in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

For Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, back pain is a serious medical condition which is a valid and viable basis for an effective application, if formulated and presented properly.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Time to Make the Decision (Part 2)

The medical condition known as “Fibromyalgia” is analogous to the manner in which Federal and Postal employees approach the decision-making process in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.  Let me explain:  Fibromyalgia, as the Office of Personnel Management often likes to characterize, often manifests itself with chronic and diffuse pain which “waxes and wanes” — meaning, in simple terms, that there are good days and bad days; days when the pain is unbearable, excruciating and debilitating; and days when one can “manage” the extent of the pain and mental dysfunction and confusion. With that context, the Office of Personnel Management often tries to argue that it is not “so bad” as to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS. 

By analogy, people with all sorts of medical conditions — from physically debilitating neck and back pain; from Orthopaedic injuries, arthritis, chronic pain, visual impairment, etc.; to psychiatric disabilities of Major Depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD — some days, one can seem to manage the disability; on other days, one cannot get through the day, let alone perform the essential elements of one’s job.  But deep down, one knows that one cannot continue forever on the same course.  To continue is to slowly wither away by a thousand cuts, one cut at a time, one cut per day.  And so, just as the Office of Personnel Management is plainly wrong (for Fibromyalgia is a chronic and debilitating medical condition which clearly qualifies for disability retirement), so the person who procrastinates in making the decision to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS is simply waiting for the inevitable.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire