Physical and Mental Conditions in Federal OPM Disability Retirement Claims: Ahead of the Proverbial Curve

Trends are often characterized by the actions of a few.  Whether in cultural expectancies via movie moguls, fashion designers, technology innovators and convention-busters, the known so-called leaders who stay ahead of the proverbial “curve” which maintains the continuum of linear stability in a given society, often dictate the direction of an otherwise directionless future.

The ivory tower of academia is another such bastion of proclivities where, if observed carefully, can infer a discernment for future waves to come. The views of sociologists, psychologists, philosophers and economists (to name just a few “ists” within the self-vaunted world of esoteric penumbras; note, however, how the “philosopher” is not termed the “philosophist” — why is that? Perhaps because there was a desired disassociation with sophistry?) preview a trend of forthcoming conundrums impacting a society.

In the pragmatic world in which most of the rest of society inhabits, however, the dualism pronounced (and in many sectors of philosophy, denounced) concerning the bifurcated universe of the cognitive as opposed to the physical, continues to be debated. Dennett, consciousness, Nagel, Scruton, and the continuing debate over whether human consciousness can be reduced through the scientific language-game of mere biological processes, rages on in the ivory towers of conceptual constructs.

In the real world, this debate is reducible to the pragmatic question of whether psychiatric conditions are “as acceptable” as physical manifestations of traumatic conditions. For the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question of whether it is “more difficult” to win a Federal Medical Retirement claim from OPM is one which overwhelmingly can be answered in a positive, pro-worker manner: today, fortunately, there is little distinction to be made between psychiatric health problems and physical health problems.

Major Depression, Anxiety, panic attacks, Bipolar Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, suicidal ideations, nervous breakdowns, etc. — all are viable bases upon which to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, on a par with physical conditions of chronic pain, cervical and lumbar dysfunctions, shoulder impingement syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, etc.  Descartes’ dualism cannot be found in the world of OPM and in the filing for a Federal Medical claim of disability.

The proverbial curve of societal trends is often determined by those at “the top”; but in the case of acceptance of psychiatric conditions in comparative analysis to physical conditions in the filing for Federal Disability benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the trend of acceptance on a par for both was established long ago, probably as a result of the reality of either and both conditions, and the realization by the bureaucracy that however you term the condition, the importance of a Medical Disability Retirement claim finds its essence on the impact of one’s ability or inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Stress & the Workplace

Taking off from work for a few days because of “stress” may be entirely appropriate; basing a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, upon a “stress claim” may not be the most effective way of formulating one’s case.

Stress is a pervasive factor in all employment atmospheres; whether resulting from overly demanding supervisors, or the self-imposition of time and due-dates, stress is a daily occurrence and reality of the modern technological world.  If we ever thought or believed that technology would reduce the burden of stress, we have been sorely mistaken; for, in this world where instantaneous responses are expected, where emails are sent and received within the blink of a button being pushed; where smartphones hound you with texts and emails; where phone calls and faxes are merely afterthoughts in the business world; stress is an inherent aspect and element in all workplaces.

How one deals with stress; the varying tolerance levels particularized to individual personalities; the level of trigger-points which result in tertiary and consequential medical conditions — it is the latter which must be focused upon when preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. For, while stress itself may not be an acceptable basis for a Federal Disability Retirement application, the resulting medical conditions which manifest themselves as a result of stress likely are.

In the end, attempting to create a stress-free environment is in itself a stressful venture; and one which is not likely to succeed.  Similarly, while stress itself may not be a valid basis for a Federal Disability Retirement case, the medical consequences of stress are likely the foundational basis of an effective application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Gatekeeper of Stress

The gatekeeper’s duties encompass the power to determine who enters and exits, and to monitor guests, invitees and generally to control the inflow and outflow of traffic to and from the designated property.

Stress originates from one’s external environment.  It can be physical — as in manual labor which, often because of repetitive use and impact, can result in injuries or occupational hazards; as well as mental and emotional, resulting in secondary or tertiary medical conditions as a natural and direct result thereof.  One often thinks of the gatekeeper as merely he who guards the physical security of a piece of property.  But stress also requires a gatekeeper — especially for the psychological impact which it portends.

In contemplating the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal and Postal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to understand the inherently problematic nature of attempting to feature “stress” as a medical condition itself.  While it may spawn other conditions, because stress is a part of almost every workplace environment, it rarely serves to be a successful “condition” standing alone.  In conjunction with medical conditions often associated with it, however, it can be effectively and persuasively be identified and delineated.

All of us are ultimately gatekeepers for the things which impact our lives.  Each of us have innate spectrums for tolerating varying levels of environmental factors, including workplace stress.  When the gatekeeper allows too many security violations to occur, it may well be a basis for “removal” from the environment.  And while stress itself may not be the single best basis for exiting the environment, there will surely be other medical conditions which result from the stresses, which will justify preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Claims of Stress

“Stress”is a phrase which is used to describe a myriad of conditions, circumstances and origins of countless medical conditions.  The word itself is malleable and elastic, and can be used in multiple forms — as an adjective, noun, verb, etc.  As a term of common usage to describe the workplace, it is accepted as an inherent part of any job encapsulating a set of responsibilities, because of the accompaniment of positional duties, time management, goal-orientation, and working cooperatively with others in unison and common coordination of efforts.

In the context of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the term itself will appear repeatedly throughout — in medical reports, in an Applicant’s Statement of Disability, and even in a Supervisor’s Statement.

In most circumstances, the term “stress” is used in a grammatically loose sense, and as a secondary identifier of a medical condition, as opposed to a primary diagnosis of a medical condition.  To assert that one “suffers from stress” is a generalization which normally requires greater particulars, and rather describes one in a series of multiple symptoms rather than a conceptually clear diagnosis which is accepted in the medical community.

Moreover, such a statement implies that the “sufferer” of the “stress” receives such a condition and is responding to a particular source of such suffering — i.e., a specific workplace.  This is where “situational disability” is then alleged, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will deny a Federal Disability Retirement application based upon such an assumption and implication.

There are ways to counter such assertions, implications and inferences, but such inoculation against such a charge must be addressed at the outset, not in the middle (although, in most cases, such mistakes can indeed be corrected), of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Service Disability Retirement: Experience & the Medical Condition

Often, when a client receives the finalized disability retirement packet, I receive a response that goes something like:  “I didn’t realize I was so bad off, until I read through the prepared packet.”  While I have not personally experienced the medical conditions of my many clients over the years, I have the experience of having spoken to them, and have learned about the symptoms, the words which best describe the pain, the impact, and the symptoms which are experienced on a daily basis. 

That is why it is an absurdity for the Office of Personnel Management, for example, to continually and redundantly refer to Fibromyalgia cases as ones with symptoms which “wax and wane”.  Or, with severe Major Depression, Anxiety and panic attacks, the Office of Personnel Management will systematically deny many such claims by stating that there is no “objective medical evidence” to show that the individual is unable to continue to provide efficient service in a cognitive-intensive job.  It is the job of the attorney, in a Federal Disability Retirement case, to be the one who projects the experience of the disabled Federal or Postal employee.  The attorney does not have to personally experience the medical condition in order to properly and descriptively convey the impact of the symptoms and debilitating conditions; however, it is helpful if the attorney has had a wide range of experience — by having spoken to multiple individuals over the years who have personally experienced such conditions.  In this way, the attorney can obtain the experience to express the medical experience of the applicant.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: OPM's Words

It is a frightening thought that there may be a percentage of Federal or Postal Federal Disability Retirement applicants who read an initial denial from the Office of Personnel Management, and take their words at face value.  From statements such as, “Your doctor has failed to show that your condition is amenable to further treatments” (by the way, when did the Office of Personnel Management obtain a medical degree or complete a residency requirement?) to “you have not shown that you are totally disabled from performing efficient work” (hint:  this is not Social Security, and the standard is not “total disability”), to a full spectrum of error-filled statements in between, one may suspect that there may be a knowing strategy in rendering a denial, knowing that a small percentage of the corpus of disability retirement applicants will simply walk away and not file a Request for Reconsideration. 

Further, I suspect that this occurs more often with certain more “vulnerable” medical conditions — Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Major Depression, PTSD, anxiety, panic attacks; Chemical Sensitivity cases, etc.  Why do I suspect these?  Mostly because such cases are attacked for “lacking objective medical evidence” (see my articles on Vanieken-Ryals v. OPM, and similar writings) and failing to provide “diagnostic test results”, etc.  There was a time, long ago, when it used to mean something when someone said, “The Government says…”  In this day and age, I would advise that you take it to an attorney to review whether or not the words of the Office of Personnel Management are true or not.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire