Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Respective Positions

The position of the applicant is a uniquely vulnerable one; for, as one who is requesting a benefit from a governmental entity, he or she is essentially powerless to act except in response to the agency’s determination on approving or denying a Federal Disability Retirement application.

There are certain “pressure points” which can be attempted, the efficacy of which is questionable but nevertheless engaged in:  repeated calls (although one may suspect that excessive inquiries may ultimately reflect in a detrimental way); attempted influences via backdoor channels; or perhaps a request for a Congressional inquiry through one’s representative; and other similar methods — some more effective than others.  But it is ultimately the respective positions of the applicant-versus-agency which defines the underlying sense of powerlessness-versus-power; for, in the end, the agency can make any determination it wants, with a basis of rationality or one which issues a complex and garbled statement of reasonings which may not possess any meaningful import as reflected in the law.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a powerful agency which is granted a special position and status — one which is responsible for the administration of retirement issues impacting upon all Federal and Postal employees.  Such a position is indeed one of heightened sensitivity and responsibility; and while the respective positions of the “little guy” (the Federal or Postal employee) as opposed to the “big guy” (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) comes down to nothing more than individual human beings, it is the status granted to the latter which makes all the difference, and those within the agency should take such a position with the utmost of seriousness and gravity.

Ultimately, most case workers at OPM are doing the best they can with the tools and manpower provided; from the viewpoint of the applicant waiting for his or her Federal Disability Retirement application to be determined, however, that sense of vulnerability — where one’s future is “on hold” until an action is initiated by OPM — is what makes the entire process a frustrating one.

In the end, there is nothing which can change the respective positions of the applicant-versus-agency, until an approval from OPM is granted, and the status of “applicant” is then transformed into one of “annuitant” — at which point, a new set of respective positions are imposed.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Sports Metaphors

The abundance of metaphors comparing life with sports has pervaded throughout in literature, opinion pieces, articles, etc.  We can relate to sports, because many have been active participants in their youth; continue to engage in it via playing in various adult leagues, or coaching their kids, or perhaps just passively enjoying watching various sports on television, etc.

As a metaphor, it is seen as a “life-lesson”.  It is supposed to teach all aspects of “building character” — of the value of hard work, proper preparation, ethical conduct and behavior, etc.  In pragmatic terms, when one actually plays a sport, it merely becomes a one-to-one adversarial encounter with an opponent, and sometimes teaches merely that the “playing field” is not always level, and the opponent does not always follow the same rules of the game as one is taught to do.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, a comparative metaphor to any sports would be to characterize the entire administrative process as one of the battle between David and Goliath.  The Office of Personnel Management has its own set of rules — of a criteria which is allegedly applied, but which often has limited rational basis; of a time frame within which they say they attempt to meet, but which is systematically ignored; of following rules and regulations as they interpret them, etc.

What would one say about a sport in which one side makes up the rules and then ignores them?  Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is like a professional football team (representing OPM) going against a high school chemistry class deciding to put together a team (the Federal or Postal employee).  The teams are unequal; the playing field is never level; and the outcome of the encounter must therefore be decided by careful preparation, a cohesively formulated plan, and a filing deliberation which results in a compelling total package.

Such is the metaphor with sports:  to prepare, formulate and file — in an effective manner.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire