OPM Accepted Medical Conditions

The problem with “lists” is that, the moment one realizes that one is not on the list, the tendency is to simply give up and go home.  But lists are rarely exhaustive; rather, most are merely to provide a “paradigm” or “type”, as opposed to exclusionary intent by failing to specify or name.


Federal Civilian employees with PTSD may qualify for OPM Disability Retirement depending upon the circumstances.  There is no need to prove that this condition is pre-existing or job-related

Thus, for Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the critical issue to recognize is threefold:  First, becoming qualified for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through OPM is not dependent upon having an officially identifiable diagnosis which matches a “list” compiled at OPM; Second, in some ways, the symptoms manifested are just as important as the underlying diagnosis, precisely because what the Federal or Postal employee “suffers from” is what impacts the capacity and ability of the Federal or Postal employee in performing the essential elements of one’s positional duties; and Third, because Federal Disability Retirement is based upon the nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional duties required in one’s job, there is a requirement of showing the “connection” between the Federal or Postal job and the manifestation of the diagnosed medical condition(s).

Sleep Apnea

Obstructive Sleep Apnea (or Apnoea) may also qualify for OPM Disability Retirement if this condition causes fatigue and sleepiness in such a way that it interferes with work productivity

Thus, while a 1-to-1 ratio between a medical condition and an “essential element” of one’s positional duties is not required (the recent Henderson case reiterated that issue), a showing of incompatibility between the medical condition and the positional requirements is enough to establish eligibility for OPM Disability Retirement Benefits.  In the end, providing a “list” is somewhat more of a disservice than not, because no list would ever be complete, and an incomplete list has a tendency to dishearten and dissuade.

Sciatica and Low-back pain

Sciatica is a type of pain affecting the sciatic nerve, often as a result of repetitive strain injury.  U.S. Postal employees are especially vulnerable to low back pain and repetitive strain injuries when pulling “cages” (Mail Handlers); standing, twisting, turning, and bending when working with Flat Sorting Machines (Distribution Clerks); standing for long hours (Windows Clerks); and when sitting in mail trucks and carrying heavy mailbags on their shoulders for several hours (Letter Carriers)

That being said, there are overarching “types” of medical conditions in either categories:  of Psychiatric (Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety, Anxiety, panic attacks, suicidal ideations, Paranoia, Schizophrenia, Bipolar Disorder, Psychosis, ADD, ADHD, OCD), but which also fall under the general aegis of “cognitive dysfunctions” as well; and of Physical (Chronic Pain, Degenerative Disc Disease, Cervical degeneration; disc bulges and herniations; disc impingements; RSD; chemical-sensitivity issues; Asthma; pulmonary issues; anatomically-targeted issues involving hands, wrists, knees, feet, etc.; as well as GERD, Sleep Apnea, Profound Fatigue; IBS; residual effects from treatment regimens; symptoms which impact, directly or indirectly, the ability and capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal positional duties); and many, many more.

Doctors' OPM narrative

Doctors are usually familiarized with SSDI rules, not with OPM Disability law; so, even if they are willing to help, they will be typically unable to do so

There:  the disservice has been accomplished; like being back in elementary school where the “list” for the most popular, the coolest and the best dressed did not recognize your name, for Federal and Postal employees, the focus needs to always be upon that “secondary” issue of the 2-part nexus: Whatever the “it” is, is it impacting your ability or capacity to perform one or more of the essential elements of your job?


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: A Reminder of Sorts

Pain is a reminder of sorts; but then, so are alarm clocks, speed bumps and the presence of law enforcement personnel.  All around us, through signs, advertisements, smart phone apps, and sticky notes which we write to ourselves, we are surrounded by reminders.

The plethora and abundance of such reminders have never been the issue; rather, it is the responsiveness, or lack thereof, which determines the future course and orientation of one’s life. And so it is with the signals which are transmitted through out biological system; of that nagging hip pain which won’t simply go away; of increasing panic and anxiety attacks which paralyze one with physical manifestations of chest pains, difficulty breathing, etc.

Doctors can treat the symptoms; sometimes, medicating the symptoms lessens the strength of signals; the weakened reminders try desperately to find an alternate route to raise the alerts in more poignant and insistent form; but we humans are adept at ignoring such signage and alarms.

For Federal and Postal employees who have come to a point where the reminders can no longer be ignored, Federal Disability Retirement is an option to pursue.  It is available for all Federal and Postal employees under FERS or CSRS, and where it can be established that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, there is the likelihood of a successful outcome.

Reminders?  The Federal and Postal Worker has already long been aware of them, through the personal experience of one’s medical condition.  It was never a question of whether there were reminders; it was always the “when” — when would we finally acknowledge and respond?  It is, and always was, just a matter of time.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Pain Problem

The problem with pain is that, quite simply put, there is only one person who “owns” it — the pain-feeler.  One can describe it, ascribe adjectives which somewhat make it come alive for the listener; and even attempt metaphors and analogies that expand upon the limited universe of words as opposed to the physical sensation which creates havoc and turmoil in a person’s life.

There are numerical designations (“she consistently feels pain on the scale of 7/10 daily”) and words like “chronic”, “intractable”, and “severe” capture a sense of what a person undergoes; but in the end, these are merely word-games in comparison to the agonizing physical trauma which the person experiencing the pain must endure.

In preparing a paper presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the form of a Federal Disability Retirement packet, whether under FERS or CSRS, chronic pain and the extent of how such pain prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, is often problematic for the Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating such a venture.

It presents a challenge for two primary reasons:  First, because of the difficulty in translating a physical sensation into a clear and effective conceptual modality; and Second, because the audience to whom such a descriptive analysis is conveyed is quite likely attuned to, and therefore somewhat indifferent to, thousands of such descriptions, and thus may have a somewhat calloused view of such statements.

Overcoming the roadblocks and gaining the attention of an OPM case worker requires more than the mere meeting of the law; it demands overcoming the problem of pain — both medically, and administratively.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Pain and the Fallacy of Objectivity

Pain by definition is “subjective”, if by it one means that the experiential verification of the condition is uniquely possessed by the “I”, or the subject of the experience.  By contrast, that which is deemed “objective” is presumably validated by more than the possessor of the experiential condition — i.e., by third parties; by testing for the validity and verification of an event through means other than the personal narrative of a singular subject.  Yet, if verification of an experience is accepted merely by sheer volume of a collective consensus, then most scientific revolutions in advanced discoveries would never have survived.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, it is often the argument of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that the Federal or Postal applicant has failed to provide “objective” medical evidence in presenting his or her case.  The narrative of having a condition of “chronic pain”, or “severe pain” — being “subjective” by definition — is not deemed “objective“, and therefore cannot be the valid basis alone for a Federal Disability Retirement case (or so the argument by OPM is often presented).  Even the results of an MRI will not necessarily satisfy the scrutiny of OPM; for, ultimately, an MRI can only reveal an observable abnormality — not that a person experiences “pain”.

Fortunately, there are a number of cases in law which rebut OPM in their attempt to bifurcate between “objective” and “subjective”, and such legal tools should always be cited and applied in any Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application.

While pain may indeed be subjective by definition, the objectivity of a Federal Disability Retirement application should never be based upon what OPM deems as sufficient; rather, it is the law and the long history of legal guidance by the courts which should mandate how OPM acts.  Indeed, if we let OPM’s subjective determinations rule the day, we would all be left in an existential state of pain — one which would then result in a collective consensus which may be deemed objective in nature.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Medical Disability Retirement: The Leisure of a Painless Life

For Federal and Postal employees suffering from a chronic medical condition which impacts one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, the times of “leisure” have little or no meaning.

Leisure implies the ability to enjoy a world apart from the everyday world of work and worry; it is a short respite from the treadmill of life, obligations and duties, which we all have.  The “Holidays” are also such a period; a time to set aside in order to attend to those meaningful compartments of personal relationships, family ties, and friendships once formed, lessened over time, and fractured through life’s daily struggles.

For the Federal or Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, whether physical, psychiatric, emotional — or a combination of a compendium of all three — “leisure” is a foreign concept precisely because the escape into a surreal world of pausing the anxieties of the universe cannot ever be achieved.  Such a point in life indicates the necessity of considering Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, precisely because the escape-hatch is a human need.

The deterioration and progressive pounding of a medical condition which impacts the Federal or Postal employee’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, is a red-light indicator.  Listen to it; as leisure is a world of solace, so the medical condition is a voice which shouts for a change.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Back Pain and Disability Retirement for Federal Workers

Back pain — diagnosed by many different designations and causes, including Degenerative Disc Disease, Spondylolisthesis, spinal arthritis, multi-level disc bulges, disc impingement upon the thecal sac, sciatica, failed back syndrome, etc. — presents a variety of interesting dilemmas and creative solutions when formulating, preparing and constructing a narrative to describe and delineate the impact upon one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

What is interesting is how back pain — chronic cervical, lumbar or thoracic pain, often with accompanying radiating features which include symptoms of numbness, tingling and pain to the extremities — can impact both one’s sedentary job, or one’s very physical job.  Both can be equally and severely impacted.

Then, of course, there is the conundrum of the “catch-22” — without pain medications, one has such a high distractability of pain that one cannot perform either the sedentary job or the very physical job; yet, with pain medications, the sedation which results prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s job.  Either way, back pain presents a serious medical issue in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

For Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, back pain is a serious medical condition which is a valid and viable basis for an effective application, if formulated and presented properly.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: OPM over OWCP

I still get many emails and phone calls about the onerous, “over-the-top” behavior, and the bullying tactics of OWCP/DOL temporary total disability payments & requirements — everything from constant, incessant and unending, harassing letters, to requiring further evaluations from second and third opinion doctors (or so-called doctors), to constantly requiring one’s treating doctor to justify the continuing disability status, thereby endangering the continuation of the doctor-patient relationship.  And who can criticize or blame the doctor for wanting to drop a patient for the amount of hours he/she has to put into, for “non-medical” issues, and for the time expended which the doctor will never be paid for? 

Yes, Worker’s Comp pays more.  Yes, it is non-taxable.  Yes, there are monetary reasons for staying on OWCP.  But the truth is, money doesn’t buy peace of mind or a life of lesser stress.  OWCP is meant to be a temporary means of providing income — it is not designed for the long term, and indeed, the Office of Worker’s Compensation makes that abundantly clear by their actions.  OPM Disability retirement under FERS or CSRS pays much less, but it allows for independence and a semblence of freedom, not even to mention a life of some dignity.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire