Tag Archives: postal service owcp: sorry but that injury happened prior service

Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Things That Just Happen

Rarely do things “just happen“; that is why most of us believe in a purposive, teleological universe, and seek reasons and rational foundations in origins, contexts and logical consistency.  Whether that is how the human mind is structured, and for evolutionary advantage gained for survivability, conferring dominance and favorability weighted towards those who seek explanation and intelligibility, thereby preventing the making of mistakes multiple times; or, perhaps, it is merely a sense of humor bestowed by the gods.  Look at Aristotle’s Metaphysics; the very definition of knowledge is inextricably intertwined with seeking and grasping first principles, causality, and the origin of effects.

Thus do writers become a member of a profession by writing; airplanes fall out of the sky because of mechanical failure or an intervening cause; and economies crumble because market forces respond to human foibles.  But medical conditions which intervene and disrupt a person’s career, future and health, are often viewed as unfair anomalies precisely because there is often no adequate explanation as to their manifestation upon a particular person, at a given time, for a known reason.  They merely disrupt.  There may be “medical” reasons — of why an injury occurred, what the probable origins of genetic proclivity, etc.  But the reasons sought out by the one who suffers — why me? — can never be answered.  It is one of those rare occurrences that “just happens”.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition interrupts and disrupts the linear career path because the medical condition itself prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job — the option of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is something which must be seriously considered.

Life is often unfair, and the difficulties which are encountered in the tenuous path of those who seek to live by reason and rationality, are fraught with bumps and cavities if disruptive interludes. Medical conditions and the reasons for their onset — not the medical reason of origin and sterile voices of genetic predilection — but the “why me?” question, is often unanswerable.  It is usually just a circumstance which must be dealt with, and filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits is a way of “buying time” in order to maintain a causeway of teleological illusions in order to further avoid those things that just seem to happen.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Preexisting Conditions

The concept of a “preexisting condition” necessarily entails a date before which something was in existence; thus, that condition X preexisted date-certain Y, such that X preexisted Y.  Such a condition — whatever the nature of “it” — is normally ascertainable by doctor’s notes, treatment records, etc.

The relevance of whether a certain medical condition “preexisted” a certain date, however, depends upon the issue and the forum.  For Federal OWCP cases administered under the Department of Labor, such an issue is often relevant in determining coverage, precisely because an on-the-job injury will entail causation not only regarding “how” and “where” the injury occurred, but further, encompassing whether a Federal or Postal Worker is making a claim based upon a new and heretofore unknown injury or medical condition, or is merely suffering from a condition which “preexisted” a particular date — either the date of employment, the date of claimed injury, etc.

In a Federal Disability Retirement case, whether under FERS or CSRS, filed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the issue of a “preexisting medical condition” is rarely of any relevance, either on the issue of “when” or certainly not on the “how” or “where”.  OPM will often attempt to make an argument on the basis that one’s medical condition “preexisted” one’s inception date of Federal employment, but presumably the Federal or Postal employee who may have suffered from the condition was able to adequately perform the essential elements of one’s job anyway, but at some point the preexisting medical condition came to a point of progressive deterioration such that it began to impact one’s ability to perform one’s job — in which case it matters not anyway.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application, one should never be fearful of divulging the history of one’s medical condition; rather, it is the here and now which is of relevance: How the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform the essential elements here in one’s present job, and how it now impacts such job performance.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Is the Concept of “Preexisting Condition” Ever an Issue?

Sometimes, the Office of Personnel Management will refer to a medical condition which “preexisted” — and it is often confusing as to what they are referring to.  The term “preexisting medical condition” must necessarily imply the question, “Preexisting to what”?  

For health insurance coverage, the issue is obviously one of a medical condition which existed prior to the start of medical coverage, and thus the question becomes whether or not the insurance company has an obligation to pay for medical bills incurred for treatment which existed and began prior to the terms of the policy.  

For purposes of Federal Disability Retirement, however, the question of a preexisting medical condition often encapsulates an admixture of multiple issues, based upon confusing a variety of concepts.  In a denial issued by the Office of Personnel Management, some cases will be denied based upon the assertion that a particular medical condition upon which a Federal Disability Retirement application is based, preexisted the time of Federal Service, and the Federal or Postal employee — despite the existence of the medical condition — was able to perform the essential elements of the duties of the Federal or Postal position.

Thus, a person with a confirmed Veteran’s Administration rating enters into the Federal government and is able to perform the job duties as required (for example).  Such an argument (or lack thereof) by the Office of Personnel Management is thus mixing a couple of issues, and conceptually identifying it as “preexisting condition”:  that the Federal or Postal employee has a medical condition which was identified prior to entering the Federal Service; that he or she was able to successfully perform the essential elements of the job; that the same medical condition is now the basis (or at least one of them) for a Federal Disability Retirement application.  But the issue is not really one of “preexisting condition” — for, whether the medical condition existed prior to or during one’s Federal Service is really an irrelevant issue — but rather, whether or not the medical condition as such became worse such that it now prevents a Federal or Postal employee to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  

Sometimes, people get the notion that by utilizing certain language, shouting certain sophisticated-sounding catch-phrases, or referring to concepts which seem intelligible, that it actually “means” something.  The concept of “preexisting conditions” is without meaning in a Federal Disability Retirement application, precisely because the law is neutral concerning that issue.  It may sound serious, but this is not OWCP or some other legal forum which applies a criteria regarding “preexisting conditions”.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire