OPM Disability Retirement: History, Causal Connection, Exacerbation & Pre-existing Conditions

In OWCP/Department of Labor cases, there are important elements to prove in order to obtain FECA benefits — i.e., the history of the event (the “how” it happened); causality (the where and when it happened, in order to establish workplace connection); whether the injury involved an exacerbation of a prior injury; and whether any prior injury entailed a pre-existing condition.  

Any or all of the previously-listed elements can have an impact in a Department of Labor, Federal Worker’s Compensation Claim.  

In a Federal Disability Retirement claim through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, however, none of the elements identified heretofore have a direct relevance upon a Federal or Postal employee’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  

There can be, however, some indirect issues.  Thus:  History of one’s medical condition is normally only collaterally relevant; causality is rarely of any significance, precisely because there is no requirement that the medical condition was caused by or in connection with one’s work — except to the extent that one must show that one became unable to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job while a Federal or Postal employee; exacerbation may have some relative importance, if only because if one has been able to perform the essential elements of one’s job while suffering from a medical condition, you might be required to show why you cannot do the job “now” as opposed to those years of having performed the job previously.  And, finally, the pre-existence of a medical condition — pre-existing one’s Federal employment — would only become an issue if one were to be able to perform the job, and there comes a point when the medical condition worsens; but that is merely a matter of showing the deteriorating impact of one’s medical condition.  

Ultimately, the point is that FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement is conceptually and practically different from OWCP cases, and the potential Disability Retirement applicant should not confuse the two.  To do so would be to defeat the capacity and ability to wisely choose.  

Alternatives exist if, and only if, one is aware of the choices to be made.  Wisdom comes about when one becomes aware of differences between two or more choices.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: VA Benefits

As each collateral source of disability benefits must be carefully assessed before utilizing it as a tool in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS, so it is with those benefits which rely primarily upon percentage ratings. First, one should note that, if a Federal Disability Retirement application is approved under FERS or CSRS, that there is no offsetting of benefits between Federal Disability Retirement and Veterans benefits.  The two are treated as independent of one another.  

At the same time, however, that does not mean that you cannot utilize a VA disability rating decision in pursuance of an approval from the Office of Personnel Management, when filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS.  Indeed, there is case-law which states that the Office of Personnel Management, or the Merit Systems Protection Board (if it has been previously denied twice and is appealed to the MSPB) must consider such evidence in the totality of all of the evidence, in making a determination on the approval or disapproval/denial of a FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement application.  

If a VA Rating decision is used, however, in such an application, it must be done with some thought and care.  How to go about using it; what to use; whether to use; those are all discretionary questions which must be carefully considered.  In such cases, it is prudent to seek the advice and counsel of an attorney who specializes in Federal Disability Retirement law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire