Federal Disability Retirement: In Life, the Pragmatic Trumps the Theoretical

In administrative and other processes, as in life generally, there are issues which on a theoretical level would seem to work; but when tested in the “real world”, somehow the perfect paradigm suddenly disintegrates.  Thus, one may ascribe a series of seemingly logical propositions, each in their independent and isolated delineations apparently stand strong and without a flaw; but somehow, in their linear progression of dependence, one upon the previous one, the linkage itself may be the determining factor.

Thus the old adage:  An X is only as strong as the weakest link.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee may lay out a plan of attack which, on its face, may appear sound and credible; but as experience in anything constitutes the crux of everything, so the first-time experience of thinking that one’s own case is a “slam-dunk” case because the “pain I feel” is so excruciating that there is no way that OPM could do otherwise than to approve my case, may be that weakest link.

Think again.  OPM deals with thousands of such cases; your particular case, as the unique case singularly known by you, is essentially a mere theoretical example of countless other such cases.  The pragmatic reality of the Federal bureaucracy is what one must ultimately face; again, as in life in general, the practical aspects of an engagement rules the day.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Theoretical, Practical and Mechanical Realms

Just as Aristotle identified the conceptual distinction between two kinds of wisdom — theoretical and practical — so such a distinction, along with a third (mechanical), resulting and consequential end to the administrative process, exists in the procedures identified as “Federal Disability Retirement“.  

The theoretical parallels the “preparation” portion of the process — of coming to terms mentally and emotionally with the necessity of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, as a result of accepting that a medical condition is impacting one’s ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Next, the Federal or Postal worker who is either under FERS or CSRS must apply that theoretical knowledge in a practical sense, by formulating the proper approach, by compiling the aggregate of medical evidence, describing a sufficient nexus between one’s medical conditions and the positional requirements of one’s job, etc.; and, finally, there is the “mechanical” portion of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits with the Office of Personnel Management — the actual filing of the application, as well as the completion of the necessary forms.  

Such conceptual distinctions and identification of different realms of necessary requirements which must be met, are helpful in taking a logical, sequential approach in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, if only to bifurcate in one’s own mind the realms which must be contemplated, applied and completed, before proceeding to the next step.  Above and beyond the three conceptual realms of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS, of course, is the overarching need for good counsel and effective advice.

Ultimately, practical application of a theoretical construct must begin with the wisdom to know that which is sufficient, applicable and effective; and while information is helpful, knowledge is the key to meeting the burden of proof, of showing that one’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS meets the “preponderance of the evidence” standard of review.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Clash of Theory & Application

It is important in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, to understand, at least on a rudimentary level, the “theoretical construct” of the applicable law, before jumping into the morass of answering questions and gathering the medical documentation for submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management.  

The problem with many applications which have been prepared without the assistance of someone “in the know”, is that no effort was expended at the “front end” of the process. Such lack of expenditure at the front end of the process often leads to wasted effort and time at the “back end” of the process.  Or, in old adage verbiage, one has been “penny wise but pound foolish”.  

Theory before application is often discarded because a medical condition has progressively deteriorated one’s ability to wait any longer.  Rarely does a medical condition, whether by slow progression or by catastrophic acuity, allow for the leisure of being an armchair philosopher.  The very nature of a medical condition dictates the necessity of a person’s actions.  Federal and Postal employees don’t desire to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; the very nature of their medical conditions mandate that they do so, and to end their productive and upwardly mobile careers in a manner unwanted, undesired, and often unexpectedly.  

But theory is always of importance; understanding the law is essential to later success; reading and attempting to understand the “burden of proof”, the legal criteria and requirements, and perhaps even perusing the cases decided by the Merit Systems Protection Board — they are all “front end” helpers.

Just make sure that the “back end” of the application for one’s Federal Disability Retirement is not without support (yes, another double negative, meaning, “with support”), lest the entire process flip over.


Robert R. McGill, Attorney