Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Relevance & the Intended Audience

Relevance within the context of a particular subject can branch out into parallel areas of substantive issues; thus, it may be “relevant” that in Set-X, subset a,b,c…w be included in the discussion of the  primary issue.  But relevance may not be the proper criteria to apply; rather, it may be important to consider the “intended audience” in an effort to tailor, streamline, and make succinct that which can become potentially unwieldy.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the compilation of the evidence needed in order to prove by a preponderance of the evidence that the Federal or Postal employee is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement, will necessarily involve the selective customization of the evidence to be presented.

One can argue, in compiling a case, that everything is “relevant” — from one’s history of a personal nature (which then resulted in one’s education, one’s background, how one came to become a Federal employee, etc.), to the historical genesis of one’s agency (to the extent that the Federal Disability Retirement applicant’s involvement and intersection with the agency came into being); and many other “relevant” facts.

By such logical connections, one can argue that every event which occurs around the world has some logically relevant connection to every Federal Disability Retirement application.  Obviously, such an approach would be absurd, and ultimately untenable.

How to temper the inclusion of all that is “relevant”?

Always keep in mind the intended audience of one’s submission.  Then, ask yourself the questions:  What is the intended audience seeking?  Will this information help or obfuscate the main point of my application?  Will the intended audience have the time to read through this corollary issue?  And many other similar questions.

Questions are asked not only to seek unknown answers; they are also pointedly applied in order to self-correct the potential pitfalls which the questioner may be advocating.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Correlation, Correspondence & Causation

How we assert and connect disparate facts reveals the extent of one’s understanding of the conceptual distinctions to be made between correlation, correspondence and causation.

Correlation, in its normative usage, refers to the relationship between two or more things, and will often involve statistical dependence between entities.

Correspondence, on the other hand, will entail the agreement of one or more things with one another, or encapsulate similarities and reflective agreement.  Thus, one may discuss Russell’s and Moore’s “correspondence theory of truth“, for instance, where the proposed argument would involve the “agreement” between what one says, and its reflection upon the objective world which it is attempting to describe.

Causality, as a distinctive concept from the other two Cs, involves the sequential occurrence of one event followed by another, where the second event is accepted as a consequence of the first.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand the conceptual distinctions between these words, precisely because the Federal and Postal employee formulating the nexus between one’s medical condition and one’s position description must show the relationship between the two.

Thus, one may argue that a correlation exists between poor performance and one’s medical condition; or one may establish that the corresponding actions on the part of the agency involved references to medical reports and records; or that the position itself caused the exacerbation of the medical condition — although, the latter may be more relevant in a Federal Worker’s Comp case.

In arguing for eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, use of all of the linguistic tools available will provide a decided advantage; but usage must be preceded by understanding, and understanding must involve the careful analysis of the specialized application of conceptual constructs.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: History, Causal Connection, Exacerbation & Pre-existing Conditions

In OWCP/Department of Labor cases, there are important elements to prove in order to obtain FECA benefits — i.e., the history of the event (the “how” it happened); causality (the where and when it happened, in order to establish workplace connection); whether the injury involved an exacerbation of a prior injury; and whether any prior injury entailed a pre-existing condition.  

Any or all of the previously-listed elements can have an impact in a Department of Labor, Federal Worker’s Compensation Claim.  

In a Federal Disability Retirement claim through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, however, none of the elements identified heretofore have a direct relevance upon a Federal or Postal employee’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

There can be, however, some indirect issues.  Thus:  History of one’s medical condition is normally only collaterally relevant; causality is rarely of any significance, precisely because there is no requirement that the medical condition was caused by or in connection with one’s work — except to the extent that one must show that one became unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job while a Federal or Postal employee; exacerbation may have some relative importance, if only because if one has been able to perform the essential elements of one’s job while suffering from a medical condition, you might be required to show why you cannot do the job “now” as opposed to those years of having performed the job previously.  And, finally, the pre-existence of a medical condition — pre-existing one’s Federal employment — would only become an issue if one were to be able to perform the job, and there comes a point when the medical condition worsens; but that is merely a matter of showing the deteriorating impact of one’s medical condition.  

Ultimately, the point is that FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement is conceptually and practically different from OWCP cases, and the potential Disability Retirement applicant should not confuse the two.  To do so would be to defeat the capacity and ability to wisely choose.  

Alternatives exist if, and only if, one is aware of the choices to be made.  Wisdom comes about when one becomes aware of differences between two or more choices.


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.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Historical Relevance

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must thoughtfully complete Standard Form 3112A — the “Applicant’s Statement of Disability“.

The questions asked on the form do not request, nor do they require, historical context — i.e., of “how” a medical condition or injury occurred, “when” it occurred (although it does ask the approximate date of the onset of disability, which is somewhat distinct from asking the question in the context of historical background; rather, it merely asks for a month and a year), or “what” happened.

History is a contextual aura, a conceptual construct which we carry with us wherever we are; of having an identity based upon one’s background, a sense of who we are, where we came from, and thereby providing a foundation of an understanding of why we are who we are in the present day.  The historicity of an individual, a culture, a society and a civilization is important in understanding the context as to the behavior, motivation, and teleological actions engaged in by an individual, a group, or a nation.

Thus, the old adage that those who fail to study history, are condemned to repeat the mistakes of the past.  But in the context of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one must always keep in mind that brevity, streamlining and respect for the limited time, attention-span and workload of the OPM Representative in reviewing a particular case, is important.  To that end, historical background should be guided by the standard of direct relevance to the essence of one’s case.

Reading about history is important; understanding history can be informative; listening to one’s personal history should be left mostly to the quietude of a family gathering, when grandpa has the time to retell ancient stories of those past glory days.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire