Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Danger of Malleable Concepts

Concepts which retain the ability to alter in chameleon-like fashion, switching from subject to object, from noun to adjective, is one which must be used with care and loathing.  For, as the old adage goes, that which can be used as a shield, may also be applied as a sword, and such malleability and changeability can both protect, as well as be used against one.  So it is with stress.

The word itself can be applied in various language games and conceptual constructs, as in:  “I am under a lot of stress”; “The stress is killing me”; “The place where I work is very stressful“; “I suffer from stress”; “The stress I am under is literally killing me”; and many other linguistically transformational usages.  But when it comes to applying the term and concept in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must take care in usage, applicability, and appropriate insertion both as a medical term as well as in everyday common verbiage.  For, stress itself is rarely a valid basis, standing alone, for a Federal Disability Retirement application; and if used wrongly, can be deemed as implying a situational medical condition unique to the individual’s workplace — something which OPM will pounce upon in order to deny such a claim.

Malleability can be a positive force; but that which stands with you, it can also switch sides and suddenly turn against you.  Better to have a steadfast friend than one who seeks greener pastures in a wink of the eye.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: A Different Language Game

Wittgenstein was a philosopher who is well-known for his discussion about different “language games”.  In preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is well to understand that, indeed, there is a different type of language game when formulating and submitting a Federal Disability Retirement application, distinct from preparing a Social Security Disability application, or an OWCP case, or a VA disability case.  

Often, when people first contact me for an initial consultation for filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, he or she will still be “stuck” in the language game of some other process, and will continue to use inapplicable terms such as, “I have a rating of..”; “it was caused on the job”; “I haven’t yet reached MMI”; and other such similar terms, phrases and concepts which, in a different process, a different context — a different language game — may be perfectly meaningful, but in the preparation and formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application, are either partially or wholly inapplicable, and sometime distracting from the essence of what is needed in approaching a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Remember, not all processes are the same, and a switch in conceptual paradigms, and the use of a proper language game, is necessary in order to be successful in preparing and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire