CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Deliberative Intent

Thomas Nagel is best known for continuing to remind us of the problem of consciousness in a world which attempts to reduce all acceptable explanations into a language game of reductive materialism.

In his famous essay, he went a step further — by arguing for the position that, yes, there are peculiar and unique characteristics of a conscious species, but more than that, the greater profundity is, How is it like to be X, as X?  Thus the insightful essay, What is it like to a bat, as a bat?  For, it is the last linguistic appendage which makes all the difference — as an X.  Without it, we would be left merely with our imaginations as to what it would be like to be X; with the dependent grammatical appendage, we are forced to consider that there is a unique “something”, whether it be consciousness, spirit, mind, or some other non-physical existence, which uniquely makes X to be something other than the composite of physical characteristics.

How does this relate to Federal Disability Retirement for Federal and Postal Workers under FERS or CSRS? Probably nothing, other than that, on a Saturday morning, after having started Nagel’s recent work, Mind & Cosmos, it becomes an interesting proposition as to how much deliberative intent — i.e., the use of that “other” part of humanity, such as consciousness, awareness, etc. — is utilized, as opposed to a mere mechanistic approach to things.

Human beings are inherently lazy.  Templates exist in order to ease one’s work.  OPM often violates the very essence of its duties by merely regurgitating language which is worn and used.  But for the Federal or Postal Worker who must contend with the cold, non-deliberative physical universe, each battle with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management must be fought by thinking, pondering, applying legal principles which are effective and persuasive.

Only with deliberative intent can one contest and contend against a universe which is uncaring, unfeeling, and impassive to the condition of human suffering.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Bureaucratized Process

One cannot expect any entity, organization, or group of individuals to reinvent the wheel for each product, service or response; streamlining and repetitive conformity of a product, issuance or completion of a case is the way of the world; it is how the Model T became a successful capitalistic venture; it is how China dominates the world of marketing.  But in the world of Due Process, one cannot formulate a mass production of effective advocacy without trampling upon the rights of an individual.

Thus, on both sides of the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, each case must be responded to in accordance with the specific, unique facts as constrained by the individual circumstances.

Conversely, one should expect — and demand of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — that something more than a mere template of a response should be issued, after a careful and thorough review of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

If a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application is approved by OPM, then of course one can expect merely a letter of approval which is identical to thousands of others.  If denied, however, the denial letter should reflect a careful, thorough and individualized letter, reflecting the scrutiny of one’s particular disability retirement packet.

Anything less would be to trample upon one’s due process rights as a Federal or Postal employee.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Responding to OPM Templates

One can readily discern a template-based letter; it attempts to appear as if the denial is tailored to the particular set of circumstances and unique medical submissions of the Federal or Postal employee to whom the letter is addressed, but upon closer inspection, most of the language could to interchangeably utilized for anyone or everyone.

There may be a paragraph or two which quickly identifies or otherwise lists certain specific medical reports, with names of doctors and the dates of their reports; aside from such references, however, the rest is merely a template of language which is cut and pasted for purposes of justifying a denial.

Such is the administrative, bureaucratic approach of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  And, indeed, templates in and of themselves are not necessarily indicative of anything negative; for, as reinvention of the wheel should not be performed for each task engaged, so every Federal Disability Retirement application must meet a certain set of legal criteria, and to that extent they are “all the same”.  The problem in responding to a template-based denial from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, however, is the disadvantage one is placed in for responding to such a Letter of Denial.  For, the template can contain multiple points which seemingly require a response, and which may appear overwhelming.

Don’t be fooled.  To address each and every point of contention is often to get mired into a level of minutiae which need not be engaged.  Take a wider view of things, and get some guidance and advice.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Beyond Rationality

In preparing, formulating, and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the goal is to compile and compose the “best possible” disability retirement packet.

Such a goal is a foundational one — that which is self-evident.  Indeed, to have a contrary goal is anathema to the entire administrative process.  Concluding that one has achieved that goal, however, leaves room for discretion.  Indeed, often the best that one can do is to accept those things which are outside of one’s control, and focus exclusively upon achieving excellence of that which is within the confined arena of what one can control.

Thus, for instance, to try and predict and preclude a denial at the First Stage of the process — while a goal which every attorney who practices Federal Disability Retirement law attempts to achieve — is almost an act of futility, because such an attempt inherently requires that the Office of Personnel Management systematically engages in a rational approach in deciding its cases.  On the contrary, much of what the Office of Personnel Management does is to “fill in the blanks” of a template.  Denial letters are mostly form letters which then have a concluding paragraph, which itself is often a formatted conclusion.  That is not to say that the evidence presented was not reviewed; rather, the evidence reviewed was determined to fit — or not fit — a template.

How does one counter that which is beyond rationality?  By focusing upon those things which are within one’s control — by compiling the best possible presentation, for the best will normally fit any template; unless, of course, the template itself is beyond rationality.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Responding to the Template Approach

While the Office of Personnel Management issues template approvals and denials, what must the individual applicant who receives such a template denial, do?  Obviously, it cannot be a “template” response, because any response by an individual applicant is going to be an individualized response.  Often, however, OPM’s response takes a shot-gun approach in denying a Federal Disability Retirement application — it uses every device in its template, touching upon every issue and sub-issue, without any apparent (or obvious) rhyme or reason.  Whether purposeful or not, the extent and quantity of reasons for denial become almost insurmountable, and unable to “sort out”. 

One thing that a Federal Disability Retirement applicant should not do, is to take the denial letter to his or her doctor to respond to.  It will only confuse the doctor.  Instead, the denial letter must be reduced to a comprehensible set of criteria which can be answered.  Sub-sets of issues need to be identified and consolidated; the minor (but often irritating) references to peripheral issues, often touched upon but of no real consequence, must be ignored; and the focus must be placed upon the central 2 or 3 issues which seem to be the overriding concerns in the denial letter.  In other words, the denial letter must be deciphered and extracted to be “made sense of”.  Only then can OPM’s template denial letter be answered — with reason, aggressive attack, and a rational grounding in the law.  In other words, irrationality must be met with clarity of mind.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Template Approach

The Office of Personnel Management essentially renders both approvals and denials of a Federal Disability Retirement application with a “template” approach.  This is not surprising, but it is little noticed, and this is why:  For disabled Federal and Postal workers who file for Federal Disability Retirements benefits under FERS or CSRS, and who are not represented by a federal disability attorney, it is their “one-and-only” exposure to the Office of Personnel Management.

Thus, if an approval is received, that approval is the first and only time of having any correspondence from the Office of Personnel Management.  Similarly, if a denial is received, then that is the first exposure and contact from the Office of Personnel Management.  There would be no way of knowing whether or not the approval letter, or the denial letter, was or was not a “standard template”.  Certainly, in a denial letter from the Office of Personnel Management, there are references to submitted medical documents, or supervisor’s statement, or some other document which was part of the Federal Disability Retirement application; but the remainder of the denial letter is in “template form”. 

However, when an attorney represents a Federal or Postal worker and receives an initial denial letter, or a denial at the Reconsideration Stage, it is an obvious issue, because any attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law has viewed hundreds, if not thousands, of such letters.  Why is it important to recognize that the format is in “template” form?  For many reasons.  The type of template; from whom the template is received; the extent of the template; the issues presented in the format; these are all helpful for any experienced Federal Attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law, to successfully answer such formatted denials.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: OPM & the Problem of Templates

The problem with the use of templates is that they are, over time and overusage, predictable; being predictable, they become ineffective.  Now, from the perspective of the Office of Personnel Management, applying a template to a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, whether predictable or not, is somewhat irrelevant, to the extent that a denial is still a denial, and an approval is simply an approval. 

It is only if and when a case is appealed (after an initial denial and a denial at the Second Stage, at the Request for Reconsideration Stage) to the Merit Systems Protection Board, that the template has to be “defended” if the Administrative Judge asks for clarification of the issues by referring to the template-based denial.  Moreover, what is predictable is the combination of medical condition/denial rationale.  For instance:  for Fibromyalgia:  “The condition waxes and wanes”; for Major Depression:  “Not enough time has been allowed for the efficacy of a medication regimen“; for anxiety & panic attacks:  “There is insufficient objective medical evidence”; for Chronic pain:  “Physical therapy has not been sufficiently given a chance to…”   These are some examples of templates used by the Office of Personnel Management, each of which can easily be refutted in any particular case.  The methodology of refutation, obviously, is where a federal disability attorney can be of greatest counsel and representation.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire