CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Substance and the Spaces in Between

The philosophical conundrum involving the ability to distinguish between dreams and reality, rests upon a fundamental confusion on the part of the thinker:  one would not be able to discuss the concept of dreams, unless there is first a presumption about reality.

The fact that we can discuss whether or not X is a dream, is precisely because there is already a pretext of a reality.  Similarly, in almost every other area of conceptual discussions:  appearance versus reality; essence versus the peripheral; and multiple other instances.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to stick to the “substance” of one’s claim, lest the verbiage and the spaces in between detract and confuse the Case Worker at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Issues which lead one away from the essence of a Federal Disability Retirement application, such as anger at a supervisor; a rant against the agency; undue focus upon the hostile environment created by the agency; all of these can seem as real as the reality of a dream; but however real a dream may appear, one awakens, and the reality of the real world suddenly forces itself upon us.

In a narrative telling of one’s disability and its impact upon one’s life, it is not the “spaces in between” which tell the story; it is the story itself.  Thus, all roads should lead back to the essence of one’s narrative:  the medical condition, and how that condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Dependent Contextual Information

The historical context of one’s medical condition is an issue which is mostly irrelevant for the First and Second Stages of a Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS. This is because OPM is not interested — or, more accurately, the law does not recognize as relevant in analyzing the eligibility criteria applied in a Federal Disability Retirement application — of “how” or “why”.

While such contextual information may be relevant for OWCP/FECA cases because of the issue of causality and its importance in such cases, the overriding and determining factor in a Federal Disability Retirement application is whether a Federal or Postal employee has a medical condition; how that medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; and whether the medical condition will last a minimum of 12 months.

Outside of that contextual information (actually, such information is more accurately identified as content-information), OPM in pragmatic terms has no patience for the historical background of such information.  Obviously, however, some contextual narrative should be included in any Applicant’s Statement of disability, in order to make the statement meaningful.

One last point:  While historical context may not be relevant for the Initial Stage and the Reconsideration Stage, it may be very important if one finds oneself before an Administrative Judge at the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Workplace (Part 2)

In filing for FERS or CSRS Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the Office of Personnel Management, it is important to stay away from issues which may explicitly or implicitly characterize the particular medical condition as being “situational” in nature.  However, this does not mean that the medical condition cannot have originated from, or been exacerbated by, the workplace environment.  Remember that OPM disability retirement is not like OWCP/Worker’s Comp — the issue of causality, or whether the medical condition occurred as a result of your occupation, is not important to prove. 

However, sometimes, it is simply an indisputable fact that the medical condition originated from the workplace, or was exacerbated by conditions in the workplace.  Such origination or exacerbations, once it takes on a “life of its own” and becomes chronic and pervasive such that the medical condition impacts a person both at the workplace as well as outside the workplace, then it has transformed into a medical condition beyond being merely “situational”.  Thus, that which originated as a “situational” medical condition may well no longer be a situational one.  In such cases — and that is normally the case in almost all medical conditions which begin as a situational disability — there would be no problem with filing for OPM disability retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire