Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Legal Responses

There is of course the old adage that “good fences make good neighbors“.  It is meant to magnify the importance of demarcations, and how societal mores, rules, and accepted dictates of common etiquette provide for social boundaries without which the breakdown of common decency occurs.

Fences and boundaries not only contain; they provide markings which restrain others.  The white powder placed on a football field; the painted lines on a basketball court; the pitcher’s mound from which the pitcher must throw the ball; these are all accepted boundaries — symbols of containment as well as of restraining devices to the “others”.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, imagine what the outcome would be for the Federal or Postal Worker if all that existed were the originating statutes governing the criteria for a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Imagine a world in which OPM was the sole arbiter of its own statutes — of having the right to interpret the dictates of its own mandates.

Look at the recent case of Stephenson v. OPM, in which OPM interpreted the statutes of another agency (the Social Security Administration) and decided that an offset of SSDI benefits against a FERS Disability annuity could still be perpetrated even though no actual receipt of funds was received.

Laws are like fences and boundaries; they are to be used both as a shield, as well as a sword.  Use of legal arguments not only restrains a Federal Agency from acting and stepping out “too far”; they can also be used to attack and force a retreat.  But remember that, just as the fence-building should be left to the carpenter, so the sword should be used by a warrior.  In today’s parlance, don’t think that anyone and everyone can be a courtroom lawyer.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Quantification v. Symptom Delineation

Different systems and processes require different standards of proof, criteria, and elements of qualifying evidence in order to be eligible and entitled.  Applying for, and getting approved, a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, requires that certain legal criteria be met. 

Quantification of a medical condition, although sometimes helpful in further expanding a descriptive narrative of a specific medical condition, is normally rather irrelevant in a Federal Disability Retirement case.  By “quantification” is meant the assigning of a number — of rating a person’s specific medical condition or relative to the “whole body”. 

Thus, in OWCP and VA Claims, there will often be a number assigned — 10% for X medical condition; a “combined” rating of 80%, etc.  One would expect that a high quantification of a medical condition would translate into a more serious appraisal of that medical condition, but various factors need to be considered when attempting to utilize such numbers in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  Thus, for instance, a 10% rating upon a person’s foot may seem relatively insignificant when applied to a sedentary job, but for a person who must be on his or her feet all day, with requirements of constant standing, walking, etc., it becomes not only “significant”, but potentially a singularly viable basis for filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS. 

One must be careful in playing the “numbers game” in formulating, preparing and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.  Numbers never tell the full story, but they can be used to help describe and delineate the necessary requirements to be approved for a Federal Disability Retirement application by the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire