OPM Disability Retirement Lawyer: Preemptive Actions

Knowledge can be a dangerous commodity; partial, or little knowledge, can be all the more damaging, precisely because actions can result based upon incomplete information and slices of factually curtailed composites.

The Court of the Appeals for the Federal Circuit has previously pointed out one of the methodological deficiencies engaged in by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in its review and determination of Federal Disability Retirement cases:  of focusing upon that which is not included in a Federal Disability Retirement application, as opposed to reviewing the information of what has been received.

Such a distinction may be a subtle one, and a difference which can be easily overlooked, but it reveals much more than mere word-play.  For, what it manifests is an application of a criteria based upon an erroneous assumption, and one which continues to be applied to this day, despite case-law which admonishes OPM to the contrary.

Vanieken-Ryals v. OPM, a 2007 Federal Court of Appeals case, points out the error of OPM’s ways in Federal Disability Retirement cases, where insistence upon “objective” medical evidence continues to dominate, despite the lack of such requirement to the contrary.  Such an issue is especially relevant, of course, in cases where psychiatric medical conditions prevail, and when OPM insists upon the lack of such “objective” medical evidence where none can be obtained, it leads to Federal and Postal employees to react desperately in a preemptively unreasonable frenzy of actions.

Not knowing the law is one thing; knowing, but deliberately ignoring it, is quite another.  But the price Federal and Postal employees pay for when a bureaucracy engages in practices which clearly defy the clear mandate of legal requirement, results in preemptive actions which ultimately lead to another day in Court, to argue that which one thought was previously already established.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: It’s a Dog’s Life

Animals are entities we encounter as subjects in a world of objects, but with whom we can have relationships and interactions beyond mere utility; the affection of a dog or similar pet, their importance in one’s life — these are beyond measurable quantification of significance.  But there is a difference in the “other” species; of the immediacy of need, the lack of concern for tomorrow, and happiness determined by thoughts of future occurrences or predicted circumstances.

Trouble makers

Looking for trouble (don’t try this at home … these puppies are trained professionals).

That difference is often what determines the linear intractability of human anxiety, as opposed to the fullness of joy seen in a dog or a cat.  Dogs are happy because they are; the present immediacy of their satisfied lives is contained within the existential presence of the here and now.  Worries about tomorrow, or next year; how will we get on with life? What is the meaning of…   These are not tangible concerns which dogs and cats, or other similar species, concern themselves with.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, those anxiety-filled question impacting future security come to the fore, and begin to haunt.  But that life could be like that of a dog; yet, on the other hand, one need only visit the many animal rescue facilities to conclude that a dog’s life is not always a metaphor for endless joy.

For the Federal or Postal worker, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, should have some weight of relief as an option for the future.  It is, after all, a benefit which is part of one’s employment and compensation package, but one which is often not emphasized at the initial stages of one’s career.  It provides for an annuity while allowing for employment outside of the Federal Sector, within certain guidelines and limitations.

Sleeping puppy

After a long day terrifying JWs, girl scouts and mail carriers, this puppy needs to take a much needed nap. (This model is the nephew of a former client and Postal employee).

During a time of medical need, the priority of concerns should always be:  attend to one’s medical conditions; get through each day to the best extent possible; secure one’s future, including filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits if one is a Federal employee or a U.S. Postal worker, as soon as the need becomes known.

For the Federal and Postal worker, such priority of circumstances is what determines the present and future happiness of one’s existence; for the dog, it is the second of the three which matters, but then, as long as the meal is served, and the after-dinner treat is offered, the wagging tail tells the tale of contentment at the end of a long day’s journey.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement: OWCP Independence & Instersection

When Federal and Postal employees call to inquiry about Federal Disability Retirement issues from the Office of Personnel Management, the initial part of the conversation often involves separating the distinction and differences between OPM Disability Retirement and temporary total disability benefits obtained through the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs, Department of Labor (OWCP/DOL).  

The two are distinct, independent, and do not intersect except when it comes to having both benefits approved — in which case the “intersection” between the two is comprised of choosing one benefit over the other, and allowing the other to remain in an inactive status.  The fact that each is separate, independent and non-intersecting (for the most part), however, does not mean that documentation from one entity cannot be used to prove or otherwise enhance the provability of the other (yes, the double-negative makes it more difficult to understand — but what it means is that you can use documentation from OWCP sources to help prove your OPM Disability Retirement).  

Thus, while there are two separate “language games” (to use a term coined by the 20th Century Philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein) involving usage of terms which are somewhat foreign to each other — such as “MMI”, “percentage disability ratings”, whether it is an “on-the-job” injury or not, etc., the fact that OWCP issues embrace a medical condition which impacts one’s ability or inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, can certainly be a valuable tool in the arsenal of weapons to be used in proving a Federal Disability Retirement case.  On the other hand, discretion is a tactical tool which also needs to be applied…


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: OWCP & Federal Disability Retirement

Whether or not one remains on Department of Labor, Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs (DOL/OWCP) benefits, of receiving Temporary Total Disability compensation, and for how long, should not be the determining factor as to whether to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.  

Ultimately, the two systems of benefits and compensation are meant to address two different issues. OWCP is meant to address the issue of a Federal or Postal worker who has been injured on the job, or from an occupational disease, and thus causation is an issue with OWCP compensation and benefits.  Further, OWCP is not meant to be a retirement system — although, in more recent years, the U.S. Postal Service and some other Federal Agencies have started to use it “as if” it is a retirement system for its employees, encouraging the filing for such benefits in order to shed the agency of workers who are not “fully” productive.  

What often happens, however, when a Federal or Postal worker continues to remain on OWCP is that it become a default retirement system.  One can easily become comfortable in receiving the Temporary Total Disability payments, and indeed, because of the high rate of pay and the appearance of greater benefits because no taxes are taken out of the amount paid, one can continue to survive on such payments.  But because it is not a retirement system, the day can suddenly dawn when OWCP finds that the Federal or Postal worker is no longer entitled to such compensation.  For that reason, and sometimes for that reason alone, it is important to secure the benefit of a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The OWCP Intersection

Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is oblivious and unconcerned with whether or not a particular medical condition occurred “on-the-job” or not.  Rather, the focus is upon (A) the existence of a medical condition along with the symptomatologies and their manifestations, and (B) the impact of the medical condition(s) upon one’s ability/inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job.  

Thus, “causality” in all of its forms is an irrelevant issue — whether “how it happened”, “where it happened”, “what happened”, etc.  Causation is a legal/medical issue which may be interesting, and is certainly one which the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs inquires about, but it is a “non-starter” for purposes of Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

As such, when a Federal or Postal employee who has been injured on the job, or who has incurred a medical condition from a worksite because of inherently hazardous medical triggers reasonably related to the particular occupation of an individual, an inordinate amount of focus is often paid as to the “causality” of a medical condition.  While this may be of historical interest — both to a doctor as well as to FECA/OWCP — it is an issue which should play a lesser role of importance in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

For eligibility in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, where something happened, what happened, or when it happened, is far less important than how much of an impact a medical condition has, and for how long, upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for U.S. Federal Government Employees: Context, Sequence & Connections

Often, a potential applicant for Federal Disability Retirement will insist that the origin of the medical condition or injury is important to annotate, for one reason or another.  Unlike OWCP issues, origin and causation is usually of little or no significance in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS.  Thus, for OWCP Disability, it may be of importance to show that X injury was caused by occupational hazard Y; or that, while on the job on a certain date, the applicant slipped and fell, etc.  In proving OWCP Disability, such “incident-specific” facts are important in establishing causation, in order to determine eligibility and entitlement to OWCP Disability benefits.

For purposes of OPM Disability, however, the Federal or Postal worker who is seeking Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management, does not have to establish such incident-specific facts.  Rather, the focus shifts upon the medical condition, the symptoms, and the impact upon those medical medical conditions and symptoms upon one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, within the last year.  While it may be that some factual context is significant by way of showing a sequence of events from the past, in order to show how the medical condition worsened over time, OPM normally does not care about such historical facts.  While the history of X is interesting, what occurs in the recent-to-present timeframe is what interests OPM.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: OPM Disability & OWCP Disability (Continuing…)

A person who is on OWCP Disability payments — 3/4 of one’s gross pay if married or with dependents, or 2/3 of one’s gross pay if single without dependents – may well find the comfort of such payments and the security of such income to be relatively “safe”.  The old adage that one does not read the fine print during times of smooth sailing, and only begins to worry about issues when things go awry, is something to be kept in mind.  If a Federal or Postal employee is receiving OWCP Disability payments, and as such, one’s financial stability is somewhat assured because of it, that is precisely the time to be considering one’s future.  

OWCP Disability payments have a formal designation — it is called “Temporary Total Disability“.  The focus should be upon the first of the three terms — temporary.  It is not meant to be a permanent feature; OWCP is not a retirement system.  If placed on OWCP for over a year, the Federal Agency or the Postal Service will often separate and remove a Federal or Postal employee from the employment rolls of the Agency.  Once removed, the Federal or Postal employee has only up to one (1) year to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Once that year passes, you cannot file.  Years later, when OWCP & the Department of Labor stop those “Disability payments” for whatever reason, you cannot then start thinking about filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS. You will be reminded that TTD stands for just that — Temporary Total Disability. It will then be too late.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire