Medical Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The content

It is ultimately the content that matters, especially in a technical, administrative procedure where tone and context become secondary.  After all, we are addressing a “medical” issue – a cold, clinical subject when it comes to filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

What should be included?  How far back?  What is meant by the “essential” or “core” elements of a job?  Does the capacity and ability to arrive at work for the duration of completing assignments in and of itself constitute an “essential” element of the job?  What if the job can be performed, but one simply cannot drive to the job?  Must I address failed efforts by the agency to “accommodate” me, and does the term “accommodation” have a narrower legal meaning than the way it is loosely used by my agency?

These and multiple other questions go to the heart – the content – of the issues presented when preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Content is all important, and the audience to whom the Federal Disability Retirement application is intended is relevant to keep in mind.  If you are standing in line at a grocery store, or at a Post Office, and someone remarks to you, “You are obviously in pain.  Go ahead in front of me” – such kindness and consideration may prompt you to explain, in somewhat abbreviated form, the content of what your medical condition is.  However, if that same person who showed such consideration turned out to be a close family member, who either already knows about your condition or is otherwise intimately familiar with the circumstances and the history of your medical condition, your response may be somewhat different.

How much history of the medical condition needs to be related to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; what medical records need to be attached and accompany the narrative report that creates the “bridge” and “nexus” between the medical condition and the essential elements of the job duties – these all fall under the general aegis of “content”, and must be carefully considered in preparing, formulating and filing an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Medical Retirement for Federal Employees: Under the clump of olive trees

There are certain phrases that turn one’s attention, and daydreams of exotic lands and foreign places become projected onto one’s imagination, like camels, Arabian nights and sand dunes in faraway corners.  But, then, reality imposes itself; such places probably exist a few miles hence; those distant lands are now war-torn and deemed by the State Department to be forbidden avenues for sightseers and tourists in cut-off shorts and Hawaiian Shirts (did you know that the latter are apparently “back in style” – as if they ever were?), with warnings and cautionary predictions where officialdom has already evacuated the premises.

The soft snore from a picturesque scene:  the shepherd with a crooked walking stick, the flock grazing in the near distance; a straw hat edged slightly over the forehead, an arm lazily twisted behind as a pillow against the rocky surface; under the cluster of the olive trees, where a partial shadow allows for the coolness in the heat of midday slumber.  Or, what of a child’s delight in fairytales and picture-books, of Arabian nights with camels chewing silently while tents alight with shadows from within reveal the soft mutterings of foreign tongues, yearning for the delectable offerings sizzling atop the burning fires glowing in the star-filled twilight of the vast ocean of sand dunes and shadows.

Of course, those days of yonder years are now gone forever.  There are no scenes of picturesque quietude; in modernity, every corner of the earth has already been visited; the Himalayan monk sits with earphones and scans the images of Facebook and the world he abandoned for prayer, meditation and enlightenment; and that herd of camels has now been replaced by hooded terrorists lurking to kidnap and maim.  Yet, we all retain and preserve those images of quietude and peaceful reserve; in an insane world, a virtual universe of sanity is necessary, even if non-existence must be acknowledged and admitted to.

For each of us, perhaps it constitutes a minor variation:  becoming lost in a sports league; watching movies in regularity of escaping; a hobby in the cavern of one’s garage; physical labor or forlorn love with strangers; this is a society which requires distraction.  Or, as Heidegger puts it, varying projects in order to avoid the ultimate encounter with Nothingness.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition creates a working hell at work, what comprises the image of resting under a clump of olive trees?  Certainly, not the daily grind and antagonism experienced by supervisors, managers and coworkers who disallow any meaningful contribution because of the limitations imposed by the medical condition itself; and, certainly not the enduring of pain and anguish implemented by the constant fight against the illness.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a pathway, for many Federal and Postal employees, to a state where one can attend to, and focus upon, caring for one’s self.  OPM Disability Retirement is a benefit which is part of the employment package for all Federal and Postal employees, and utilization of it requires a proper formulating, preparation and filing through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in order to prove one’s entitlement to it.  It is a “means” to an “end”; and the means provide for a pathway outside of the daily pain and suffering which defines one’s life; the “end” is that virtual image we all strive for – to lay one’s head upon a comforting pasture under the clump of olive trees.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Early Medical Retirement for Federal Employees: The Gatekeeper

Garbage in, garbage out; leave the door wide open, and the flies come in; “we don’t live in a barn”; and other similar quips, quotes and quotidian truths abound to guide us throughout the day.  In Medieval times, the Gatekeeper held a prominent position of authority and safekeeping; trust was of paramount importance, and the potential for bribery to undermine loyalty and fealty to the inhabitants of the Court or Castle meant that treatment of the assigned individual demanded respect as well as adequate renumeration.

With the advent of privacy and the insular family unit, where community was replaced with walls of silence and solitude, the position of the gatekeeper was abandoned and relegated to the relics of antiquity.  Yet, while the public position has become extinct, the conceptual construct remains a necessity of choice.  Few consider the relevance, significance and importance the Gatekeeper, and so we allow for technology, any and all forms of television shows, images, opinions unfettered and logical (and illogical) consignments to enter and exit, leaving aside the mere tincture of bad taste to flow freely through our doors.

Who is the Gatekeeper in this age of unconfined information, where Orwell’s fears have been confirmed, and even more so; and where judgement, good taste and sheer hypocrisy of life matters not because “anything goes” and the only prohibition is to express one’s self honestly, lest the psyche and ego of one’s neighbor be offended and the thought police from the campus next door comes knocking on the proverbial wall in the middle of the night?  For, when the Gatekeeper was fired those many eons ago, we forgot that a locked door relied merely upon the person entering or exiting, and responsibility shared is no more than perils disbursed amongst the many, including those who fear not or carelessly sputter through life’s travails.

Now, for the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker who must consider preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, what relevance does the concept of a Medieval Gatekeeper have in this day of modernity?  Much.  And beyond, of greater relevance than you might think.  Garbage in, garbage out.

Leave the door wide open, and a denial might be guaranteed by OPM.  “We don’t live in a vacuum.”  And another:  Since the applicant in a Federal Disability Retirement claim has the burden of proof, such that a “preponderance of the evidence” standard must be met, who will be the determinant of what facts, relevant information and significant documentation is to be forwarded to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management?

In the end, the applicant, or his/her attorney of choice, is/are the Gatekeepers of an effective Federal Disability Retirement application, to be filed with OPM, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset; and like the Medieval Gatekeeper of yore, it is well to treat that position with respect, lest any undermined fealty results in the doors left wide and open for the haunting ghosts of yesteryear to enter and defile.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire