Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Assumptions and Presumptions

At what point does a house of cards collapse, when based upon assumptions and presumptions?  The words are used interchangeably; the slight conceptual distinctions may be of irrelevant import to justify differentiation.  One can perhaps quibble that assumptions point more toward the conclusory stage of an argument, whereas presumptions often involve the prefatory issues in a logical sequence of argumentation.

Both engage suppositions not based upon “facts”; and, of course, there is the problematic issue of what constitutes facts, as opposed to mere assertions of events and opinions derived from such facts and events; with the further compounding and confounding task of sifting through what was witnessed, what was thought to have been observed, when, who, the intersection between memory, event, and sequence of occurrences, etc.

Presumably (here we go using the very word which we are writing about, which is rather presumptuous to begin with), Bishop Berkeley would have allowed for either and both to be used in order to maneuver through the world without bumping into chairs and tables which, for him, were mere perceptual constructs in the subjective universe of “ideas” in the heads of individuals.  And Hume, for all of his logical deconstructionism concerning the lack of a “necessary connection” between cause and effect, would assume that, in the commonplace physical world we occupy, presumptions are necessary in order to begin the chain of sequential events. Waking up and walking down the stairs to get a cup of coffee, one need not wait for the necessary connection between thought and act in order to begin the day.

For Federal and Postal employees who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, proceeding through the administrative morass of one’s agency and ultimately into the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, based upon the dual deterrents of assumptions and presumptions, can be a harrowing experience.  It is not the factual basis which defeats a Federal Disability Retirement application filed with OPM; rather, it is always the baseless presumptions and assumptions which kill the successful outcome.

Medical facts must be established; narrative facts about the impact upon one’s inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job can be asserted; but it is always the connective presumptions and unintended assumptions which complicate and confuse. Always remember that a narrative based purely upon presumptions and assumptions cannot possibly exist without the concrete adhesives of some foundational facts; like a house of cards, it waits merely for the gods of chance to blow a puff of unforeseen breath to topple the structure that was built without an adequate foundation.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Compartmental Clarity

Compartmentalizing issues, concepts, various technical terms, etc., leads to greater clarity, and therefore cuts down upon misunderstandings.  Ultimately, the ability to utilize and comprehend the proper technical terms in any area of law, or in a general sense of becoming “competent” with an issue, requires the proper adoption of a language game (as Wittgenstein would apply the term).

Becoming proficient in a language game is important because, to fail to do so can lead to real-life consequences.

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to distinguish between Social Security Disability (which a FERS employee must also file for as part of the administrative, bureaucratic process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits) and FERS & CSRS disability retirement benefits.  The latter must be filed through one’s agency, and ultimately must be decided by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Then, of course, one must distinguish between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement from OPM (the acronym for U.S. Office of Personnel Management), and OWCP (standing for “Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs), administered through the Department of Labor (DOL), under the Federal Employee’s Compensation Act (FECA).

These are just some of the language-game terms of the three main areas of compensatory benefit programs — there are others, of course, including benefits from the Veteran’s Administration (VA).

It is best to begin by getting the terms right; to get the terms right, one needs to compartmentalize the terms into their proper usage and associated agencies, thereby leading to greater clarity.  By attaining a level of compartmentalized clarity, one can ensure that a discussion with an OPM Disability Retirement Legal Expert will lead to a fruitful consultation.


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.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire