CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Aggregate of Conditions

In debate, there are two primary methodologies of attacking:  the micro-approach, where each individual strand of an opponent’s argument is dismantled, leaving the opposition with no singular weapon to use; or the macro-approach, where — because some of the individual arguments may withstand scrutiny — the universal umbrella of the argument as a whole is attacked, thereby dismantling the entirety of the whole.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, OPM will utilize one of the two approaches.  At times, OPM will selectively choose one or two of the medical conditions, barely mentioning the rest, then attack the lack of documentary support on those particularized medical conditions.  Or, at other times, OPM will make sweeping generalizations and fail to specifically identify, and selectively ignore, the details of individual medical conditions.  Regardless of the methodology of approach, the ultimate result of either approach is a denial.

The question is how one responds to either approach.

The answer is often based upon the construction of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability.  This is where it is important to weave the particular with the aggregate, where the construction of each individual medical condition is argued to depend upon the greater whole, and where the cumulative impact of the various medical conditions constitute an inseparable whole.  The flexibility of language allows for this; the medical narrative report should reflect this.

This is why spending valuable time at the front end of a Federal Disability Retirement case is important; for the later stages of the administrative process may well depend upon it.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Uniqueness of Medical Conditions

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS, there are always unique aspects of particular medical conditions which impact upon specific elements of the positional duties of a Federal or Postal employee.

Thus, for example, shoulder problems (rotator cuff tears; shoulder impingement syndrome, etc.) limits the ability to engage in rotational movements, and specifically restricts overhead lifting, or lifting above shoulder-level, and therefore constrains the ability to perform multiple craft-required duties for the U.S. Postal Service.

Similarly, for psychiatric medical conditions, Major Depression, Generalized Anxiety Disorder, Panic Attacks, and similarly oriented psychiatric medical conditions related or on a coordinated spectrum, impact the ability to maintain a sustained analytical perspective and performance of duties.  Thus, for information-based positions (Information Technology Specialist; Budget Analyst; auditors; personnel management duties, etc.), the very cognitive-intensive duties are directly impacted by such uniquely psychiatric conditions.

These examples, however, are merely referential samples, and in no way reflect an exhaustive discussion of how a medical condition impacts a particular kind of job, or the various elements which make up a Federal or Postal job.  

Thus, by way of cross-over example, a person who suffers from shoulder pain can be prevented from performing the essential elements of an information-based administrative job, because of the high distractability of the pain, the inability to take pain medications during work hours because of the sedation it creates, and because of the radiating pain and numbness to one’s extremities, preventing the repetitive type of work on a computer keyboard, etc.

Ultimately, one should never think in terms of a one-to-one ratio or correspondence between a specific medical condition and a particular element of a job.  Crossovers of medical conditions and their impact upon a job are ultimately unique to the individual, and it is the job of the OPM Disability Attorney to properly represent that uniqueness.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Three-Day Weekend

For Federal and Postal employees contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the 3-day weekend is a time of respite, recuperation and intermediate period of temporary time-out, in order to regain the energy and sustained endurance to go back to work.  

Pain is a chronic state of being which results in profound exhaustion and fatigue just to fight against it and to attempt to minimize it on a daily basis.  For psychiatric medical conditions, Major Depression, Anxiety, panic attacks, and a host of other conditions and symptoms, are not something which one can simply “will” to overcome.  

Often, the question still is posed whether or not psychiatric conditions are denied by the Office of Personnel Management at a greater rate of consistency than physical medical conditions.  Fortunately, the stigma of psychiatric conditions has diminished.  Whether for physical medical conditions or psychiatric medical conditions, the standard to be met in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is the same applicable standards of proof.  

For the 3-day weekender, however, the standard of proof is an irrelevancy, because the time of recuperation is merely temporary, and the cyclical requirement to return to work in a state of exhaustion, pain, or cognitive turmoil must begin anew with another work day.  It might be time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS if you find yourself in that state.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Friday Syndrome

Fridays constitute the day of victory for the Federal or Postal worker (unless, of course, the Postal Worker is scheduled for Saturday, or the Federal Worker is taking his or her work home) who is struggling to survive another week.  

It is the end of the work cycle, and the beginning of the recuperative cycle in order to muster, gather and preserve enough energy over the coming weekend, in order to begin anew another week of the work cycle.  It is the “Friday Syndrome” — suffered by thousands of Federal and Postal employees who have a medical condition which prevents them from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, but because of family obligations, financial considerations and a sheer sense of self-worth, the enduring struggle of the human narrative to continue to work perseveres.  

Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS — sometimes identified as “OPM Medical Retirement”, “Federal Disability Retirement”, or “Federal Medical Retirement” — is a benefit which constitutes one leg of the entirety of the compensation package for every Federal or Postal worker who is suffering from a medical condition which has, or will, last for at least 12 months, and impacts one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  

It is there precisely to attend to the growing problem of the Friday Syndrome — of the enduring pain and debilitating nature of the medical condition; the sick leave restrictions which have been placed on the Federal or Postal employee; the potential for being placed on a PIP; the threat of termination; the suspicion that the Supervisor and co-workers are whispering conspiratorially behind your back; the constant nit-picking of everything that the Federal or Postal worker is doing; the stresses of work and workplace harassment with little or no empathy for the struggle to maintain a life and to endure through the exacerbating medical conditions — these are the characteristics of the Friday Syndrome.  

It may be time to consider tapping into the benefit of Federal Disability Retirement, in order to put a stop to the Friday Syndrome.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: OPM & History of Medical Conditions

There is a distinction to be made between one’s medical history and an extensive discussion of workplace issues which may have contributed to a causal impetus for a medical condition.  

The Office of Personnel Management is rarely interested in receiving information concerning the history or causation of a medical condition — especially from the Applicant in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  While the treating doctor may briefly refer to the historical genesis of a medical condition in a narrative report, it is the focus of the present-to-recent-past impact of one’s medical conditions upon the essential elements of one’s job which the Office of Personnel Management is interested in reviewing.

Again, remember that a Federal Disability Retirement application is a “paper presentation” to an onerous, overbearing and overworked Federal bureaucracy, where one’s private affairs (the most private of all — one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s personal and professional conduct of affairs) are to be presented, received, and ultimately reviewed.  

History of the inception, origin and impact of a medical condition may be peripherally relevant to the treating doctor, and it would be appropriate to include such historical background in a medical report; but for the Applicant, to delve too deeply and extensively upon such historical context may place the peripheral into a central focus where it should not be.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The OWCP Intersection

Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS is oblivious and unconcerned with whether or not a particular medical condition occurred “on-the-job” or not.  Rather, the focus is upon (A) the existence of a medical condition along with the symptomatologies and their manifestations, and (B) the impact of the medical condition(s) upon one’s ability/inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job.  

Thus, “causality” in all of its forms is an irrelevant issue — whether “how it happened”, “where it happened”, “what happened”, etc.  Causation is a legal/medical issue which may be interesting, and is certainly one which the Office of Worker’s Compensation Programs inquires about, but it is a “non-starter” for purposes of Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

As such, when a Federal or Postal employee who has been injured on the job, or who has incurred a medical condition from a worksite because of inherently hazardous medical triggers reasonably related to the particular occupation of an individual, an inordinate amount of focus is often paid as to the “causality” of a medical condition.  While this may be of historical interest — both to a doctor as well as to FECA/OWCP — it is an issue which should play a lesser role of importance in a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

For eligibility in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, where something happened, what happened, or when it happened, is far less important than how much of an impact a medical condition has, and for how long, upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Thanksgiving

In representing Federal and Postal employees for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one encounters multiple medical conditions, from the very severe and debilitating, to manageable but chronic conditions which impact one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  

Such review of medical conditions and recognition of what many Federal and Postal employees must undergo, is often a humbling experience; for, while a lawyer’s job is to focus upon the legal aspects of a case, and to bifurcate one’s personal “feelings” as distinct from the legal issues, the antiseptic medical facts, and the ability to provide an objective, analytical view of all of the facts and circumstances — such conceptual bifurcation has its limits.  

Daily, Federal and Postal employees who suffer from various medical conditions must make difficult choices about their future, their career, and their work & personal obligations.  It is well to pause during this Thanksgiving to reflect upon the blessings that we have, as opposed to conditions which have resulted in the loss or reduction of that which we do not have.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire