Federal Disability Retirement: “If Only They Understood”

Preparation of a paper presentation to the Office of Personnel Management must result in a product which is concise, effective and persuasive.  

The last term of the tripartite phrase, “persuasive”, is often the most difficult for the Federal or Postal employee, whether under FERS or CSRS, to objectively assess in a neutral, non-involved manner.  This is because the unrepresented Federal or Postal employee who attempts to prepare, formulate and file a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is identical to the subject of the prepared application, and thus often has the approach and attitude of, “If only the case worker at the Office of Personnel Management knew what I am going through.”

Persuasion, the art of persuasion, and effective persuasion are comprised of a delicate balance between saying too little and overstating a case.  It is the ability to convey a state of facts which are confirmed by the medical records; involving a narrative which touches upon empathy, sympathy and a sense of pain or condition which the reader and recipient can somehow relate to; constrains ancillary issues which tend to detract from the central point of the narrative; and concludes with the idea that all of the “legal criteria” have been met.  

Obviously, it is through the power of words which such a persuasive Federal Disability Retirement application, submitted to the Office of Personnel Management, must be presented.  When the subject of the words is identical to the author of the words, the emotional turmoil is often mis-directed in the preparation of the Federal Disability Retirement packet.  

In the end, “if only OPM understood” — can become a reality if and only if the applicant understands first the objective legal criteria which must be met; then proceeds to meet those criteria in a systematic, detached manner; yet at the same time understanding the power of persuasion.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Preparing the Case

As in everything in life, preparation is the key to a successful endeavor.  In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS has the affirmative burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management.  

By “affirmative” is simply meant that it is not the responsibility of the Agency, the Office of Personnel Management, or any other bureaucracy to obtain and submit the necessary evidence, documentation or forms to meet the burden.  While it is true that the Agency must complete certain forms, it is still the responsibility of the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement to request their completion.  

Further, by “burden of proof” is meant that there is a certain set of legal criteria that the Federal or Postal applicant must meet in order to become qualified for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Unlike Social Security, where the Agency itself will contact the doctors, set up medical reviews and consultative examinations with appointed doctors in order to establish the extent of one’s medical conditions, etc., under the legal criteria set up by the Office of Personnel Management, it is entirely up to the Federal or Postal employee to gather, obtain and submit the evidence to meet the burden of proof.  

That places a significant responsibility upon the potential applicant, and in order to meet that burden, it is well to take the time to prepare each and every aspect of a Federal Disability Retirement application, and not just blindly leave a form with a doctor, or anyone else, hoping for the best.  To prepare means time; expending the time at the forefront will often save time in the end.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire