Federal & Postal Medical Retirement: Life’s Scarring

It builds through repetition of wounding, or because it is deep, jagged, or otherwise unable to repair through normal processes of cellular regeneration.  It remains a mark of a person; over time, fading through exposure to sunlight, disappearance of discoloration, and the slow erasure of the damage done through the healing process of the linear course of a lifetime, may allow for one to forget.

Traumas, medical conditions and chronic maladies takes time to heal, and time is the commodity which society relishes, values, and measures by the worth of productivity.  It is that segment of immeasurable continuity which determines the markings of a lifetime’s work; like prehistoric epochs which we name in order to neatly fit in the existence of dinosaurs and their disappearance through volcanic and meteoric catastrophes, we bifurcate the unconquerable continuum with significations of memorable moments in time.

Medical conditions and their disruptions to lives require time for healing; and whether it is the impact of psychiatric conditions upon one’s psyche and soul, or the physical manifestation of a chronic illness or injury, that commodity of value in the world of economics remains unsympathetically beyond the reach of most.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of the Federal or Postal job, the acquisition of time becomes ever more important and critical as one awaits the winding morass of a Federal Disability Retirement application through the bureaucratic maze of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Bureaucracies grind forward as if time is nonexistent; but all the while, life must continue to flow, as rivers unfettered by dams and natural obstacles, the course of life cannot be interrupted by mere tragedies of fate.  The problem is, of course, that the rest of the Federal bureaucracy — agencies, coworkers, supervisors, managers, etc. — does not have the patience to wait upon Federal and Postal employees during a daunting administrative process in which it is already known that, if successful, the Federal or Postal employee will be leaving the agency or the U.S. Postal Service.

So, what is the reaction during this administrative process?  Sometimes, it results in an administrative separation; more often than not, to simply allow the Federal or Postal employee to remain on LWOP and remain forgotten, lost in the maze of time immemorial.

In the end, it is life’s scarring which remains; how one has been treated; whether the burns of fate scorched upon flesh or memory were deliberate or through an uncaring indifference. No matter; as life’s scarring is like an organic monument of one’s test of endurance, so the manner in which one approaches the wound will determine the character of an individual.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Attorney: Qualia & First Person Attribution of Mental States

Private, subjective mental states are unique by self-definition; they become public knowledge only when shared with deliberate intent, revealing the inner thoughts, private conceptual pondering, and narrative voices of the subjective “I”. Pain is similar in form, in that one can mask and keep private the experiential factor of pain, just as one can remain hidden in the private thoughts one engages.

Qualia, in philosophy, has to do with the subjective experience of one’s encounter with the greater world; and the first person attribution of a mental state encompasses the “I” in the midst of that universe of contained subjectivity. The problem always is how one can and should relate the private experience when a public narrative of that subjectivity is required.

For Federal and Postal employees who must file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the problem of conveying in persuasive form and argumentation, of transversing the chasm between the “qualia” of one’s subjective mental state into the foray of medicine, diagnostic testing, clinical encounters with medical professionals, and the entire compendium of what constitutes the “objective” world, is a necessary prerequisite where the incommensurable wall must be overcome.

An effective OPM Disability Retirement application under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is like watching a gymnast on a balance beam; overstating the subjective may result in loss of that balance.  Federal employees and Postal workers who suffer from those specific medical conditions which are considered “unverifiable” through normal channels of diagnostic methodologies — Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, chronic and intractable pain, etc. — must find ways where the public description goes beyond the qualia of private mental attributes.

In many ways, we have progressed culturally; and such progressivism is found in the diminishment and near-extinguishment of that dualism between the cognitive and the physical, and this is established by the general acceptance of psychiatric conditions as being just as “valid” as physical maladies. But old haunts and biased perspectives still abound, and during such times of transition, one must still take care in how one approaches subjectivity in the wake of the yearning for objectively verifiable evidentiary components.

Like the public who watches the graceful movements of a gymnast on a balance beam, it is the roar of the crowd in appreciation one seeks, and not the gasp of disappointment when lack of balance results in a sudden and unexpected fall.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: A Reminder of Sorts

Pain is a reminder of sorts; but then, so are alarm clocks, speed bumps and the presence of law enforcement personnel.  All around us, through signs, advertisements, smart phone apps, and sticky notes which we write to ourselves, we are surrounded by reminders.

The plethora and abundance of such reminders have never been the issue; rather, it is the responsiveness, or lack thereof, which determines the future course and orientation of one’s life. And so it is with the signals which are transmitted through out biological system; of that nagging hip pain which won’t simply go away; of increasing panic and anxiety attacks which paralyze one with physical manifestations of chest pains, difficulty breathing, etc.

Doctors can treat the symptoms; sometimes, medicating the symptoms lessens the strength of signals; the weakened reminders try desperately to find an alternate route to raise the alerts in more poignant and insistent form; but we humans are adept at ignoring such signage and alarms.

For Federal and Postal employees who have come to a point where the reminders can no longer be ignored, Federal Disability Retirement is an option to pursue.  It is available for all Federal and Postal employees under FERS or CSRS, and where it can be established that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, there is the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Reminders?  The Federal and Postal Worker has already long been aware of them, through the personal experience of one’s medical condition.  It was never a question of whether there were reminders; it was always the “when” — when would we finally acknowledge and respond?  It is, and always was, just a matter of time.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Pleasure & Pain

Other than the obvious alliteration of the two concepts, they are antonyms defined by the reality of sensations.  On a spectrum, each can reach differing measures of identification and tolerance:  pain can vary in degree of severity and tolerance, based upon an individual’s capacity; pleasure can reach a wide range of obscure identifiers, because of the subjectivity involved in what constitutes pleasure for one individual as opposed to another.

The two principles combined, of course, can complement and detract on a spectrum; as pain increases, one’s pleasure diminishes; but the corollary effect may not be of parallel consequence in that an increase in pleasure will not necessarily subtract or minimize the pain one experiences.  As a general principle of life, however, the proportional existence of each brings about the valuation and quality of one’s being and existence, and the worthiness of a sustained life.

For those who suffer from a medical condition such that one’s medical condition directly impacts the daily quality of one’s life, measurable pain and the quantitative existence of pleasure is important in planning for the future.  For the Federal and Postal employee who suffers from a progressively deteriorating medical condition, whether physical, psychiatric, or a combination of both, pain often becomes a constant companion which negates the sustenance of life’s pleasures.

Federal Disability Retirement for Federal and Postal Workers, whether under FERS or CSRS, filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, is an employment benefit meant to allow for the Federal and Postal employee to alter the course of one’s life and career, by providing for a basic annuity with the added encouragement of going out into the private sector and pursuing a second vocation and career.  It is thus a recognition of the paired principles of pain and pleasure; of allowing for a respite from the pain in one’s career, while identifying that work and productivity often results in the increase of pleasure in one’s life.

It is an anomaly that two such opposing conceptual constructs are perceived inseparably; but as life often presents us with conundrums which cannot be explained by mere linguistic gymnastics, the reality of pain and pleasure provides markers by which we are guided to act.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Pain Problem

The problem with pain is that, quite simply put, there is only one person who “owns” it — the pain-feeler.  One can describe it, ascribe adjectives which somewhat make it come alive for the listener; and even attempt metaphors and analogies that expand upon the limited universe of words as opposed to the physical sensation which creates havoc and turmoil in a person’s life.

There are numerical designations (“she consistently feels pain on the scale of 7/10 daily”) and words like “chronic”, “intractable”, and “severe” capture a sense of what a person undergoes; but in the end, these are merely word-games in comparison to the agonizing physical trauma which the person experiencing the pain must endure.

In preparing a paper presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the form of a Federal Disability Retirement packet, whether under FERS or CSRS, chronic pain and the extent of how such pain prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, is often problematic for the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating such a venture.

It presents a challenge for two primary reasons:  First, because of the difficulty in translating a physical sensation into a clear and effective conceptual modality; and Second, because the audience to whom such a descriptive analysis is conveyed is quite likely attuned to, and therefore somewhat indifferent to, thousands of such descriptions, and thus may have a somewhat calloused view of such statements.

Overcoming the roadblocks and gaining the attention of an OPM case worker requires more than the mere meeting of the law; it demands overcoming the problem of pain — both medically, and administratively.

Sincerely, 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 Employee Medical Retirement: A Real-life Hypothetical

Assume the following hypothetical:  A Federal or Postal employee who is 48 years old, with 25 years of Federal Service, engages in a type of work which is repetitive, day in and day out (yes, even this sentence is repetitive and redundant), full time, over the course of those 25 years.  

One day, while moving a piece of furniture at the direction of his spouse, he feels a sudden and sharp pain in his back.  He has to sit down and rest for a while.  The “for a while” turns into a visit to the emergency room, then to his family doctor.  The MRI shows a disc bulge at L5-S1, with multi-level disc degeneration, spinal stenosis, and other degenerative changes.  Despite multiple modalities of treatments, including epidural steroidal shots, physical therapy, variances of medication regimens, etc. (and you can even add a surgical intervention), the pain continues to worsen and deteriorate his medical condition.  The chronic pain prevents him from performing his job.  Whether sedentary or physical, the high distractability of the pain results in his poor performance.  

Can he/she file an OWCP claim?  Such a claim is submitted and rejected, because the issue of causality cannot be established.  An appeal is filed, and it is again denied.  The treating Neurologist and Orthopaedic Specialist are unwilling to establish a direct causal link.  But one argues:  Do those 25 years of repetitive work account for nothing?  Can it all have occurred because of the singular occurrence?  Does my medical condition reflect that of a person twice my age merely because of a single incident?  

It is precisely because causality is the crux of OWCP, that Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS is an important benefit for all Federal and Postal employees. OWCP/FECA is a benefit which is great for the limited role it plays; Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit with wider applicability, and the chance for the Federal or Postal employee to enter into another phase of life.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire