OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: The Law & Life’s Pragmatic Reality

In a Federal Disability Retirement case, one of the ways to establish the nexus between one’s medical condition and the inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, is to show a “service deficiency”. But as most Federal and Postal employees systematically receive satisfactory or higher ratings of workplace appraisals, and are passed through without thought in order for managers and supervisors to avoid contentiousness and adversarial encounters with their employees, it is rare that anyone can show poor performance and tie such a service deficiency to one’s medical condition.

Does one need to go to the supervisor and point out the service deficiencies and ask that the supervisor rate him or her as sub-par?  No.

Does one have to grieve or contest a superior appraisal?  Again, the answer is, No.

The intersecting contradiction between law and life often manifests itself in such circular absurdities.  But how the law is read; the knowledge of a myopic understanding of the law without the greater context of the entirety of the evolution of case-law opinions and further expansive interpretation of the originating statute, can leave one to believe that the law makes no sense, and fails to reflect the pragmatic issues of reality.

Hint:  Most Federal and Postal employees do not have a service deficiency; but since Federal Disability Retirement rules, regulations and statutes require that one’s medical condition must last for a minimum of 12 months, does that mean that one must show a devastation of one’s work ethic for a full year before you can even file?  No.

The conflict between law and the pragmatic reality of life is merely an apparent one; once the truth is unraveled, there really is no conflict at all, internal, apparent, or otherwise, and Medical Retirement applications submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, in fact reflects the reality of life quite well.  One needs to merely figure out and think away any such apparent self-contradiction.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Only Real Standard

In legal parlance, there are various and multitudinous “standards” — of proof; of evidence; of law, etc.  Some have higher, more stringent requirements; others are considered fairly de minimis, and can be satisfied with sufficiently targeted evidence.  All, however, share a common thread — that of persuading the trier of facts.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the standard of proof to be applied is one of “preponderance of the evidence”, which is considered a fairly low standard.  However, the only real standard of proof in any case — whether in administrative law, such as Federal Disability Retirement, or in civil litigation, criminal court, etc. — is one of pragmatic reality:  whoever hears the case, it is necessary to persuade the decision-maker.

Obviously, there is a distinction between an onerous standard, such as “beyond a reasonable doubt”, in comparison with a lower standard of proof such as “preponderance of the evidence”.  Whether, if and when, one has met a standard of proof, is not based upon a scientific calculus, and indeed, that is precisely why in closing arguments, an attorney will repeatedly argue that one has met the X-standard of proof, and these Y-reasons are why.

Theoretically, persuasive argumentation is not necessary if the facts themselves prove the argument.  In reality, however, it is the argument which brings the facts together into a coherent whole, and presents them to the viewer within a context and a specific perspective, such that the viewer or recipient of such information and facts can make a logical connection between a disparate conglomeration of facts, and reaches a conclusion that yes, the purpose for providing such facts has met its goal, etc. The key is to argue without seeming to argue.

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 this point of pragmatism:  One can get lost in the morass of legal parlance, and worry excessively about meeting the legal requirements; in the end, it all comes down to presenting an effective, persuasive Federal Disability Retirement packet, such that one receives a letter of approval from the Office of Personnel Management.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Proving the Standard

In approaching how to prove a Federal Disability Retirement case, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is best to try and meet a higher standard of proof, and not be lulled into thinking that because the applicable standard of proof is the lower “preponderance of the evidence” standard, that the mere necessity of proving one’s case is reflective of that standard.

Standards of proof on a theoretical level are for academics; in the practical world of law, one must actually persuade and convince the individuals who are authorized to approve a Federal Disability Retirement application, that the Federal Disability Retirement application merits an approval.  This would include the personnel at the Office of Personnel Management, as well as an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board.

One can shout all one wants that the standard of proof needed in a Federal Disability Retirement case is the “preponderance of the evidence,” and that all that is necessary to meet that standard is that X is more likely to be true than not.  However, in the “real” world of law, people, and persuasive authority, one’s case should always strive to meet the highest standard — that it is so persuasive that the deciding authority has no choice but to approve the case.  For, as the higher standard logically subsumes all lower standards, the inverse is not true, and the interpretation of what constitutes meeting the “preponderance of the evidence” test can have a wide margin of error.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire