OPM Accepted Medical Conditions

The problem with “lists” is that, the moment one realizes that one is not on the list, the tendency is to simply give up and go home.  But lists are rarely exhaustive; rather, most are merely to provide a “paradigm” or “type”, as opposed to exclusionary intent by failing to specify or name.

PTSD

Federal Civilian employees with PTSD may qualify for OPM Disability Retirement depending upon the circumstances.  There is no need to prove that this condition is pre-existing or job-related

Thus, for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the critical issue to recognize is threefold:  First, becoming qualified for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM is not dependent upon having an officially identifiable diagnosis which matches a “list” compiled at OPM; Second, in some ways, the symptoms manifested are just as important as the underlying diagnosis, precisely because what the Federal or Postal employee “suffers from” is what impacts the capacity and ability of the Federal or Postal employee in performing the essential elements of one’s positional duties; and Third, because Federal Disability Retirement is based upon the nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional duties required in one’s job, there is a requirement of showing the “connection” between the Federal or Postal job and the manifestation of the diagnosed medical condition(s).

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (or Apnoea) may also qualify for OPM Disability Retirement if this condition causes fatigue and sleepiness in such a way that it interferes with work productivity

Thus, while a 1-to-1 ratio between a medical condition and an “essential element” of one’s positional duties is not required (the recent Henderson case reiterated that issue), a showing of incompatibility between the medical condition and the positional requirements is enough to establish eligibility for OPM Disability Retirement Benefits.  In the end, providing a “list” is somewhat more of a disservice than not, because no list would ever be complete, and an incomplete list has a tendency to dishearten and dissuade.

Sciatica and Low-back pain

Sciatica is a type of pain affecting the sciatic nerve, often as a result of repetitive strain injury.  U.S. Postal employees are especially vulnerable to low back pain and repetitive strain injuries when pulling “cages” (Mail Handlers); standing, twisting, turning, and bending when working with Flat Sorting Machines (Distribution Clerks); standing for long hours (Windows Clerks); and when sitting in mail trucks and carrying heavy mailbags on their shoulders for several hours (Letter Carriers)

That being said, there are overarching “types” of medical conditions in either categories:  of Psychiatric (Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety, Anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal ideations, Paranoia, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Psychosis, ADD, ADHD, OCD), but which also fall under the general aegis of “cognitive dysfunctions” as well; and of Physical (Chronic Pain, Degenerative Disc Disease, Cervical degeneration; disc bulges and herniations; disc impingements; RSD; chemical-sensitivity issues; Asthma; pulmonary issues; anatomically-targeted issues involving hands, wrists, knees, feet, etc.; as well as GERD, Sleep Apnea, Profound Fatigue; IBS; residual effects from treatment regimens; symptoms which impact, directly or indirectly, the ability and capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties); and many, many more.

Doctors' OPM narrative

Doctors are usually familiarized with SSDI rules, not with OPM Disability law; so, even if they are willing to help, they will be typically unable to do so

There:  the disservice has been accomplished; like being back in elementary school where the “list” for the most popular, the coolest and the best dressed did not recognize your name, for Federal and Postal employees, the focus needs to always be upon that “secondary” issue of the 2-part nexus: Whatever the “it” is, is it impacting your ability or capacity to perform one or more of the essential elements of your job?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Attorney

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Causation Irrelevancy

Causation and the issue of causality involves the occurrence of X as a result of an action Y.  There are direct causes, intermediate causes, interceding causes, etc., which concern whether or not an immediate linkage can be established between the action Y and the effect X.

Thus, if the white billiard ball strikes the Number 7 ball, and the latter moves forward, we say that X (the white ball) caused Y (the Number 7 ball) to move.  On the other hand, if the rooster makes its traditional cry at 7 a.m. as the sun is rising, and does so only when the sun rises, we may informally say, in an imperfect sense of causation, that “because” the sun rose, the rooster crowed.  We rarely ascribe a direct cause between X and Y, however.

For OWCP/Department of Labor cases, causation is a relevant and significant aspect of proving a case — for, in a FECA case, one must prove, as one of the elements of eligibility, the fact that the injury was “caused” by the job, while on the job, while related to the job, etc.  A significant amount of time is thus expended in proving the issue of causality in a Department of Labor, Office of Workers’ Compensation claim.

For FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement cases, however, under the auspices of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, causation is not an issue.  A Federal or Postal Worker can be injured while on vacation; he or she can have the injury while at work, and concurrently (or sequentially) file for OWCP benefits and OPM Disability Retirement benefits; or the injury or medical condition can simply “occur” during his or her tenure with the Federal government.

In any and all events, it is essentially an irrelevancy.  The issue is not “how” it occurred; rather, the point is to show that, once occurred, in what manner does it impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.

While causation in a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application may be of some historical interest, it should not be a central focus of any applicant’s statement of disability.  To do so would be to make a peripheral issue a central one, and conversely, to allow for the central issue to become less focused.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

USPS and Federal Disability Claims: Medical Conditions which Predate Federal or Postal Employment

Often, there is a concern about medical conditions which one suffers from, which “predate” employment in the Federal Sector, or with the U.S. Postal Service.  Such conditions are often identified as “preexisting medical conditions” — meaning, thereby, that they exist prior to an event.

In the context of OWCP (Federal Worker’s Compensation), under the aegis of the Department of Labor, such an issue normally involves the assertion and allegation (by the Department of Labor, Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs) that a Medical Condition-X already existed prior to Event-Y — the latter normally constituting the “on-the-job” accident or occurrence, or an occupational disease, etc.  Because causation — the “what caused the injury” issue — is important in OWCP/DOL cases, the concern of preexisting conditions is normally a point of contention between the Federal worker and the Federal Government/Department of Labor.

However, in OPM Disability Retirement cases, because causation is not an “issue” of concern (the “how” or “where” it happened is not a relevant legal criteria of proof), it rarely becomes a point of conflict between the Office of Personnel Management and the Federal or Postal employee.

It can become of interest, however, for the Office of Personnel Management, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, if a Federal or Postal worker has been hired and working in a particular job, with a specific medical condition for many years, successfully, but then files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  The reason it may become of some interest, however, is not as to the “causation” issue (of the “how” or “where” it happened), but rather, to the question:  Why is it that the Federal or Postal employee who has had a Medical Condition-X all of these years can now claim not to be able to perform Essential Elements Y & Z now?

That is the point where a medical condition existing prior to one’s Federal or Postal employment may be of some interest to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  It is, however, easily addressed; it just needs to be discussed in the right way.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Work as the Causal Inception

In a claim filed with the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP), causality and whether it is work-related, occupationally related, etc., are issues which will inevitably arise, precisely because the statutory mandates which govern OWCP rules and regulations require proof of a causal connection.

Under Federal Disability Retirement for FERS & CSRS employees, however, such work-related causality is not an issue, because it is not a requirement that a medical condition was “caused” while performing one’s Federal or Postal job, or that there be some connection to an occupational hazard or inherent workplace relationship.  That does not mean, however, that there cannot be a workplace connection; merely that, whether or not there is any such relationship between the medical condition and the work environment, it is not an issue which possesses any significant relevance to the filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

These “fine distinctions” can be confusing for non-lawyers (and, indeed, even for lawyers who are supposedly trained in being able to analytically dissect multiple compounding concepts within statutory language).  

“Causality” to the workplace can, however, be discussed and even referred to in a medical report, or in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A), as a provision for historical and background context, but it is not an essential element to prove in a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  Too much emphasis on the historical context, however, can lead to the unforeseen and dangerous consequence of having one’s case characterized as a “situational disability“, and one must always be cognizant of such a danger.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire