OPM Disability Retirement: Confirmation of Worth

Recognizing the value of Federal employees with medical conditions

Diamonds demand it and markets survive by it; investments grow or shrink according to assessed worth, and relationships are maintained by the relative perspective of individuals entangled.  Worth, or the value of a thing, is determined in a capitalist society as a result of increase in demand, and scarcity of supply.

But what of the worth of an individual, as opposed to an inanimate object?  Do we treat it in the same manner?  Should it be?

When first the concept of “human capital” was introduced to the lexicon of capitalist verbiage, it was meant to convey the value of workers in a society consumed by material wealth; but over time, one could argue that the very introduction of such a concept on an equal footing with valuation of goods and services, only resulted in demeaning and dehumanizing the uniqueness of each individual.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s ability and capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s job, that very concept of the equality of value between one’s humanness and the worth of services provided, is all too real.

Suddenly, it becomes apparent and self-evident that the two are inextricably entangled:  One’s worth as a human being cannot be separated from the value of the work provided.  The compound concept of “human” and “capital” are inseparably linked, like siamese twins sharing a vital organ, never to be surgically extricated, forever compartmentalized into a conceptual embrace of blissful togetherness.  But that is precisely the time when the value of the individual should be recognized, apart from the worth of the services provided.

A medical condition which prevents the Federal or Postal worker from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, should be valued independently, until the medical condition can be resolved.  But as agencies fail to do this, so the Federal or Postal worker has an option to maintain his or her dignity throughout the process:  to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal worker is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

As value is a relative concept, so the confirmation of worth is relative to the capital investment which a society is willing to put up with; and the confirmation of the worth of an individual should always be paramount in viewing the pinnacle of human essence, as above the primates of an evolutionary yesteryear, and just below the angels gently strumming the harps on a morning when the breeze whistles a tune of hope.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Existence and Being

There is a distinction between existence and being; for the former is something which merely “is”, and over which one has no control over, or the capacity of which to have any input; while the latter is the composite of the essence of who we are — the coalescence of one’s past, present, and future potentiality.

Heidegger’s life work encompassed the attempt to describe the search for being, the revelatory recognition of it, and the systematic approach to unravelling the hidden fullness of being.  It is the difference between going through the motions, and living an authentic life.

That is how Federal and Postal employees often feel just before contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS — for the state of merely existing in order to trudge to work, in order to “get through the day”, only to return home, to sleep, to struggle, to regain one’s strength, energy and stamina for a reserve to be depleted for another day of work; such a process describes an existence, not a state of being.

That is also why scams and “get-rich-quick” schemes continue to successfully con so many — because most people consider themselves merely in a state of existence, waiting to be saved for a life of being, but mistake the conversion from the former to the latter as dependent and reliant upon more money, greater acquisition of wealth, and accumulation of property.  But it is good health and the ability to be pain-free, which forms the foundation for a true state of being.

Disability Retirement for the Federal or Postal Worker is a means of attaining a state of being where rehabilitation and escape from the treadmill of progressive deterioration is possible.  That bifurcation which Heidegger attempted to describe — between a state of mere existence, and the lifting of the veil upon Being — should be seriously considered.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Heidegger, Being, Essence and Value

Heidegger represents a culmination of sorts — of a philosopher caught in the historicity of his own time and making (with allegations of collaborating with the Nazi party), while proposing a methodology of modern philosophy which embraces the issues important to modernity — essence, value, and the meaning of one’s existence.

In this society of technological adaptation, where the separation of humanity from machines, and the chasm of isolation which expands exponentially, resulting in greater incidents of psychiatric desolation; it is important to pause and reflect upon the value of the human being.

For the Federal or Postal employee who has worked tirelessly to “advance the mission of the agency”, but who now finds him/herself with a medical condition which prevents him/her from performing all of the essential elements of one’s job — how does the agency act/react?  Does it manifest compassion, empathy, and most importantly — loyalty?

In order for the conceptual paradigm of “loyalty” to have any meaning, it must be bilateral — meaning, inclusive in both directions.  But too often, loyalty is based merely on “what has he/she done for the agency today?”  The meaning of one’s existence is too closely tied to one’s work; the value of human worth is too easily discarded when one’s work is disrupted; and the truth of one’s being is too readily revealed when a medical condition intersects and interrupts one’s ability/inability to perform one’s job.

Heidegger, in the end, was probably right; the “things” we do are mere distractions to the ultimate fate of our being; but in the meantime, we must continue to strive, to live.

Federal Disability Retirement is a benefit which exists in order to continue to live.  It allows for a Federal or Postal worker to continue in another vocation, and to have that rehabilitative period to focus upon the important things in life:  of health, of value, and of family relationships.  Don’t tie yourself too closely to some faceless agency’s “mission”; the first and primary mission is the worth of the individual human being.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Obtaining the Doctor’s Support

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to garner the support of the treating doctor

Such needed support is obvious; it is, after all, a paper presentation to the Office of Personnel Management (despite the move to a “paperless” society, the conceptual application is still relevant; for, whether paperless or not, some mode of presentation must still be forwarded to the Office of Personnel Management).  As such, one should be prepared to discuss with one’s treating doctor the “medical” benefits of filing for Federal Disability Retirement — and not just focus upon the administrative and legal efforts which must be engaged. 

Thus, for example, one should inform the doctor that obtaining Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS does not prevent one from seeking other, alternate employment — one which will not medically exacerbate the conditions which one is suffering from.  As such, going out on Federal Disability Retirement has a therapeutic impact, inasmuch as it (1) allows one to recover by ceasing the type of current work and (2) as work is often considered good therapy, it allows for productivity in another, separate area.  

Remember that a treating doctor’s concern is focused upon the medical health of the patient; persuading a doctor to support one’s Federal Disability Retirement application should thus focus upon the concerns of the doctor.  Persuasion must always take into account the “other’s” concerns.  That is the key to effective persuasion.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Applicant’s Statement — from the Generic to the Specific

In preparing, formulating, finalizing and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one must (of course) describe and delineate the “bridge” between one’s medical condition(s) and how it impacts or prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  This is done on the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A, both for Federal and Postal employees under FERS or CSRS).  

In formulating and describing the impact upon the essential elements, or core job duties, of one’s position, it is often an intelligent approach to begin with the generic, then to provide some specific examples.  This is more of an issue of “form” over “substance”, of course, but is often effective, nonetheless.  By way of this approach in describing one’s medical conditions and their impact upon the essential elements of one’s job, it provides a clarity of understanding for the clerk at the Office of Personnel Management — of first being provided with an “overview” of what the job entails, then to be given specific examples within the context of the overview.  Ease of understanding and a compelling force in telling a narrative story of one’s personal experience in having a medical condition, and its impact upon one’s professional life, will enhance the chances of an approval at the First Stage of the process in fling a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, at the Office of Personnel Management.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The 80% Rule

When a Federal or Postal employee files for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, and obtains an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, under FERS he or she will receive 60% of the average of one’s highest three consecutive years of pay, then 40% every year thereafter until age 62, at which point the disability annuity is recalculated based upon the total number of years of Federal Service, including those years that the disability retirement annuitant has been on Federal Disability Retirement.  Thereafter, the now “former” Federal or Postal employee has the capability to work at another, private-sector job, and earn up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal job currently pays, on top of the disability annuity that one is receiving.

While some may wonder whether this is a “fair” benefit, especially in these trying economic times, it might be wiser to consider whether or not it is prudent to consider the economic incentives inherent in such a system.  For, by allowing for the Federal or Postal Disability Retirement annuitant to go out and attempt to earn income in another, different kind of job, it allows for continuing productivity, payment of taxes and FICA back into the “system”, as opposed to limiting the individual to merely receiving a government benefit. As all of “economics” is ultimately based upon incentives to the working population in order to encourage a system of the highest extent of productivity, this system creates an economic incentive to those who are merely disabled from performing a certain kind of job.  They can continue to remain productive — just in a different kind of job from the one in which he or she is disabled.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Case of Fibromyalgia

Fibromyalgia is one of those medical conditions that the Office of Personnel Management systematically “targets” as a condition which is prima facie “suspect”. This is despite the fact that there are cases which implicitly “admonish” OPM from engaging in the type of arbitrary reasoning of denying a disability retirement application because they “believe” that “no objective medical evidence” has been submitted, or that the “pain” experienced (diffuse as it might be) is merely “subjective”, or that the chronicity of the pain merely “waxes and wanes”, and a host of multiple other unfounded reasonings. Yet, cases have already placed a clear boundary around such arbitrary and capricious reasonings.

A case in point, of course, is Vanieken-Ryals v. OPM, a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit case, decided on November 26, 2007. In that case, it clearly circumscribes the fact that OPM can no longer make the argument that an Applicant’s disability retirement application contains “insufficient medical evidence” because of its lack of “objective medical evidence”. This is because there is no statute or regulation which “imposes such a requirement” that “objective” medical evidence is required to prove disability. As long as the treating doctor of the disability retirement applicant utilizes “established diagnostic criteria” and applies modalities of treatment which are “consistent with ‘generally accepted professional standards'”, then the application is eligible for consideration. Further, the Court went on to state that it is “legal error for either agency (OPM or the MSPB) to reject submitted medical evidence as entitled to no probative weight at all solely because it lacks so-called ‘objective’ measures such as laboratory tests.” Statues are passed for a reason: to be followed by agencies. Judges render decisions for a reason: for agencies to follow. Often, however, agencies lag behind statutes and judicial decisions. It is up the an applicant — and his or her attorney — to make sure that OPM follows the law.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire