OPM Disability Retirement: The Crumbling Walls of Professional Conduct

The aged bemoan of modernity; youth view the present as merely fodder for change and future potential; and caught in between, somewhere in the netherworld of inertia, those inconsequential individuals relegated to the irrelevant category of “middle age”, who must stand by and witness the slow and progressive destruction of the past, the deterioration of cohesiveness of the future, and the present infirmity of impotence.

Medical conditions are funny animals; because they are personal in nature, the revelation of such private matters tends to scare people, because the emergence of such confidential conveyance violates the unspoken walls of professional distance; but for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact the performance of one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties in the Federal sector or the U.S. Postal Service, it is often necessary to provide some component of one’s medical condition in order to ascertain and establish the extent of needed accommodations — for purposes of filing for FMLA, to take needed SL or LWOP, or to counter allegations of misconduct or violation of “leave policy”, etc.

Within the greater context of life, there is a sense there the walls of professional conduct which once protected privacy concerns and acceptable behaviors, are crumbling in modernity.  Anything and everything goes; there is no normative constraint, anymore, because the demarcation between private and professional have disappeared.

The same is true when applied to the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.

The entire bureaucratic process engenders privacy concerns because of the sensitive nature of the information which must be submitted.  But those are merely “side issues” which should be placed in their proper perspective; for, in the end, when the final wave of goodbye is motioned, and one has obtained an approval from OPM in order to exit with a Federal Disability Retirement annuity, the crumbling walls of professional conduct as revealed by one’s agency or the U.S. Postal Service will be but a far echo of past misdeeds, as one walks out into the future of a brighter tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Preexisting Conditions

The Office of Personnel Management will sometimes make the following fallacious argument:  “Because your medical condition appears to have preexisted the time of your Federal Service, and you have been able to perform your job, you are not entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.”  

This argument may take on various forms, with embellishments on the language used, but the argument as quoted represents the essence of what OPM will often state.  While the argument itself makes one scratch one’s head, there are implicit sub-arguments which, if extracted, extrapolated and projected/assumed, may bring one to a better understanding of what OPM is trying to say, and thereby be able to rebut and address such an argument.  The expanded version of the argument goes as follows:  “You had a diagnosed medical condition X prior to beginning your career with the Federal Service (often evidenced by a VA disability rating, or an MRI showing such).  You were placed in job Y, which you were able to do all of these many years.  From the time of your Federal Service to the present, there has been no defining moment or event which reveals that your condition worsened; only that you now state that you cannot perform your job.”  

This expanded version is what OPM is often attempting to argue.  Inasmuch as “pre-existing conditions” are not supposed to be a factor in Federal Disability Retirement cases (as opposed to being one in FECA cases), how does one address it?  By pointing out to the progressively deteriorating nature of the medical condition; by having a discussion with the treating doctor that, over time, a chronic condition can progressively deteriorate the human body, through fatigue, longevity, and chronicity of pain (or a chronic nature of Major Depression, Anxiety, stress, etc.), and such progressive deterioration often arrives at a critical point where, once passed, there is a sudden decline in the ability of a Federal or Postal worker to continue to perform a certain type of work.  

The key to an argument is to reframe the argument, so that one may understand and address it.  Only upon understanding the argument, can one begin to address it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Psychiatric Disabilities — Origin versus Situational (Continued…)

The “origin” of a medical disability, from the perspective of a Claims Representative at the Office of Personnel Management, may be relevant for purposes of adjudicating a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  Note that physical disabilities rarely become an issue in the context of the origination of the medical disability, precisely because it is irrelevant whether or not a medical disability occurred on the job or not.

The origin of a psychiatric disability, however, is potentially relevant from OPM’s perspective, because it may give rise to the argument that it is a “situational” disability — one that is contained, limited, and ultimately circumscribed within the situation of the particular office of the specific agency in which the Federal or Postal Worker works.  

Thus, from this argument, the logical extrapolation is that while the Federal or Postal worker is unable to work in the specific office or location, he or she is nevertheless able to perform all of the essential elements of the particular job — but in another agency, another office, another location, etc.  Thus, the concept of “situational disability” arises, with the consequential argument that one is in fact NOT prevented from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job — but rather, it is the “situation” which is at fault. This is why the citation of correlative EEOC complaints, hostile work environment accusations, etc., are dangerous to make in the context of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire