CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Complexity in the Hidden Background

To prove one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, is seemingly an uncomplicated matter.

As one’s medical condition impacts the ability to perform one or more of the essential element of one’s job, it is up to the treating doctor to establish the nexus and provide an opinion as to the connecting bridge between the medical condition and the positional requirements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

How does one do that? Must it be comprised of a 1-to-1 ratio between job elements and medical conditions? How important and prominent are “symptoms” considered, as opposed to the mere clinical declaration of the diagnosis, in persuading the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that a particular medical condition should qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits? To what extent is one’s own statement of disability, as described on Standard Form 3112A, important in establishing the foothold towards gaining an approval from OPM?

Also, what algorithm or comparative analysis does OPM use in evaluating a case, and how does one enhance the chances of success at the First Stage of the process? If denied at the First Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process, does the basis of the denial (often characterized by a plethora of multiple reasons given) require a point-by-point refutation, and is the Reconsideration Division at OPM using the same standard of review, or a different application of laws in evaluating the additional evidence submitted at the next stage?

If one watches a gymnast, a ballerina, or even a mathematician at work in solving or unraveling a complex problem or exercise, one is immediately struck by the ease with which the feat is performed. But it is almost always the unseen preparation which has preceded the actual performance that sets the stage of an uncomplicated presentation.

It is that mystery of the uncomplicated, which tends to trip us all, and that is no different in the preparation, formulation and submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application, applied through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS or CSRS.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Necessary Connections

Necessity is determined by how one defines and confines the parameters required to reach the requisite conclusion; if the criteria governing the roadmap to a successful outcome is replete with heightened qualitative specifications, greater care and effort may be mandated; conversely, if a looser, more informal measure is imposed, the tendency is to respond accordingly.

But what determines the response — outside influences, or one’s own standard of excellence? In Hume’s argument concerning causality, of course, the prerequisites defined were instituted at the outset to defeat the argument for causality; by setting up the requirement of what constitutes a “necessary connection” in order to establish a causal connection, he allowed for no amount of evidence which would satisfy his rule; thus, it was already a self-contained tautology from the outset.

For preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS, the question becomes: Does the medical condition itself determine the extent of groundwork necessary for a successful approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, or should the identical set of stringent prerequisites be satisfied regardless of the seriousness of the medical condition?  The obvious answer, of course, should always ascribe to the latter, as acceptance of the former entails potential pitfalls which may result in lost time and unnecessary efforts expended for satisfaction of additional stages in the administrative process.

Necessary connections in a Federal Disability Retirement application must be proven and established at all levels; for, as the age-old adage reminds us, it is the weakest link in the chain of arguments which will ultimately defeat the entire structure of an otherwise solid case.

It is the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, through statutory impositions and regulatory requirements, which has “pre-set” the necessary connections to be made in proving eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; it is up to the applicant (you) to make sure that all such causal connections are established, proven, confirmed and supported, in order to ensure the best chances for success in an administrative process fraught with human frailties and foibles.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire