Identifying the Right Bridge to Reach Your Destination: Federal Employee Disability Retirement

When considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, the natural inclination is to ask the seemingly primary question of: Does medical condition-X qualify as a disability? But such a question is in actuality secondary; it is the reverse-order and counterintuitive process which is often confusing for the Federal and Postal Worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The primary question, making the previously-stated questions secondary, is to ask: Does medical condition-X prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job?  By inverting the primary-secondary sequence, one can then attain a better level of understanding as to the administrative process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Further, such a switch in sequence of questions-to-answers allows for an important paradigm shift.  For, in the very asking of the proper question, one can reach a level of understanding to such a stage of comprehension that the question almost answers itself.

Medical conditions in and of themselves do not necessarily qualify the Federal or Postal Worker who is otherwise age or service-eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; it is the nexus which must be established between one’s position and the medical conditions one suffers from.  It is the crossing of that bridge which will reveal the extent of success or failure in attempting to go down this path; but first, the Federal or Postal Worker must correctly identify which bridge to cross, before even starting the long and arduous trek of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Life as Episodic Declarations

One wonders whether harm is not being perpetrated upon the youth, in the manner in which reality is presented.  Many seem to believe that reality is that which occurs on Facebook, Twitter, or some form of electronic media; and the interconnected nature of relevance in life cannot be decoupled from the episodic declarations as posted on such mediums.

For the next generation, how much more of reality will be defined by virtual reality, where “reality” itself no longer needs the predicate of “virtual”, because the subject has replaced the predicate? Contrast such an upbringing to a generation of older workers who struggle daily with technology and its practical applications; and while we all recognize the future relevance regarding technological innovations, virtual reality was meant to be merely an escape from the daily toil of the harshness of life, and never a replacement.

For Federal and Postal Workers who face the trauma of a medical condition which can neither be avoided nor replaced, the decisions contemplated for securing one’s future become more than mere episodic declarations on the pages of social media; it is the threat to one’s existence, and the daily encounter with pain, cognitive dysfunctions, and potential surgical interventions which dominate; but for the next generation, will such harsh realities mean little until and unless they are posted on social media sites?

Federal and Postal Workers of today understand the causal connection between livelihood, work, production, career, and the difference between the compendium of the latter and that which constitutes “virtual reality”.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is an administrative process which goes to the heart of confidentiality, personal life, and answering of concerns about one’s future.  While some may in the end post something about it on a website, there are some things in life which should remain private and sacrosanct, and the guiding advice of an attorney and the confidentiality kept within the confines of an attorney-client relationship, should always remain.

Life, in the end, is more than an episodic declaration on a social media site; in fact, when the lights are turned off, it is the quietude of reality which continues on, and not the artificial glare of technology.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: The Inauthentic Life

The converse of a life of inauthenticity, of course, is one in which there exists not a chasm between one’s appearance and the substantive content of one’s character; duplicity and a secret life are contradictions; integrity is the consonance between one’s stated being and the reality of the inner self.

The modern age promotes a life of inauthenticity.   For, with all of the social media outlets — of Facebook, the Internet, Twitter, email, web pages, etc., one can create an image of one’s self which is far different than the reality of the person whom we meet.   But more than that, who determines the truth of the content of one’s public image?   Such an impression is no longer based upon the actual encounter with the person; rather, the person who creates the image is the same person who determines the validity of such presentation.  There is thus no public vetting or verification of the image presented to the public.

Throughout civilized annotation of time, there has always been the problem of substance and appearance; indeed, the history of Western Philosophy is replete with repeated attempts at resolving the “problem” of appearance versus reality — thus, the need in modern times to unveil the reality of Being.

On a microcosmic scale, this is the problem presented to the Federal and Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.

The “hiding” of one’s medical condition becomes a daily necessity in the world of employability, because there is always the fear that recognition, unveiling and discovery that the Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to perform the full positional elements of the job will result in dismissal.   So the Federal and Postal employee engages in daily duplicity — all the while killing him or herself and acting “as if” nothing were wrong.

There is, of course, a difference between such an act of hiding one’s true condition, from the person who utilizes social media to present a self other than one’s “true” self — the former is borne of economic survival and necessity; the latter is a result of an unfettered ego.

In the end, the attempt to keep undiscovered a medical condition such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, will result in a crisis point where appearance can no longer mask reality.  When that crisis point comes to fruition, then the Federal or Postal Worker, whether under FERS or CSRS, should consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.   Such a step will ultimately allow for the Federal or Postal employee who has been living an inauthentic life, to move forward without the need of duplicitous means.

For the rest of the world, however, the life of inauthenticity will continue to thrive, so long as the loss of public means (or desire) to distinguish between appearance and reality is left to the sole discretion of the person creating one’s own public image.

It appears that the Western Philosophical problem haunting from the time of Plato and Aristotle has finally been resolved:  there is no difference between appearance and reality; appearance is reality, and reality contains no substance other than the appearance of one’s own creation.   The Emperor not only has his clothes on; even if a child points it out otherwise, the fact that he says it, makes it so.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire



OPM FERS/CSRS Disability Retirement: Need versus Necessity

Needs can be variegated, and can be satisfied partially, delayed for further fulfillment at a later time and event, or controlled by sheer will and self-discipline.  They can also depend upon the particular individual, circumstance and personality and/or character of an individual.  They can vary based upon the subjective perspectives of an individual.

Necessity, by contrast, implies an objective determination of a mandated requirement.  It is not to be questioned; it is unequivocally “needed”.  As a prerequisite for completion of a linear production line, a necessary cause, while perhaps insufficient in and of itself to satisfy the entirety of the sequence of events, is nevertheless a required X in order to even consider the completion to Y.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from medical conditions such that the medical illness or injury impacts one’s performance, for a time — undetermined, perhaps, in the beginning of the process — Federal Disability Retirement benefits, applied through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, may merely be viewed as a need, and therefore one which may be delayed, considered, and perhaps looked upon merely as one option among others.

As the medical condition continues to progressively deteriorate, it is the seriousness of the nexus between the medical condition and one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, which ultimately begins to determine the need and transform it into a necessity.

Whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee must make that time of determination — that personal choice — of when the transformation occurs; but because Federal Disability Retirement takes on average 8 – 10 months to obtain, from the start of the process to its conclusion, it is well not to wait for the transformation from “need” to “necessity”, to be further characterized as the third step in the evolution — one of critical crisis.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Reality of Accommodations

Medical conditions test the value of a worker; for, while people may engage in theoretical discussions of “cost-benefits analysis“, where the cost of X is compared and contrasted to the benefit of Y, such that the hypothetical analysis results in a business decision based upon pure economic need — the reality of such an approach rarely gets a true test beyond such dinner table discussions.  But when a Federal or Postal Worker begins to suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition visibly impacts one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, then the economic paradigm of a cost-benefits analysis is applied, whether overtly or in a more subtle, inconspicuous manner.

The agency may recognize the need to allow for temporary suspension of certain positional duties — travel may be taken up by some other employee; heavy lifting may need an additional helper; telecommuting may be a viable option.  The cost of such temporary measures is felt in the work left undone; the benefit is accrued by the experience, wisdom, and knowledge of the disabled retained worker.  In rarer occasions, a formal request for an accommodation may be submitted by the Federal or Postal Worker, and an administrative process of attempting to provide a legally viable accommodation may ensue; but that is a rare process, indeed.

The reality of accommodations in the Federal sector is one of practical need versus the trouble such attempts bring; for the Federal or Postal Worker, whether under FERS or CSRS, the true option left is to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Such an option results from an agency being tested — and loyalties revealed.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Position Descriptions

The Agency Position Description ultimately determines the parameters of the crucial question in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, and therefore should not be underestimated or overlooked in its relevance, import and substantive weight.  What a person actually does in a Federal or Postal job can be distinguished from the official duties ascribed in a Position Description; similarly, what a person is not assigned to do can be easily differentiated from essential elements as described in a position description.

Some position descriptions are elaborated in more generic terms and conceptual generalizations; others provide a detailed insight into the physical requirements of the job, as well as the complexity of the cognitive qualifications necessary to satisfy the position.  What a person actually does in one’s Federal or Postal job may well be quite different from how the position description delineates the duties; but somewhere between what one does and what one is described to do contains a happy medium of extrapolating the essence of a Federal or Postal position.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the problem with focusing exclusively upon what one does, as opposed to the position description, is that OPM has no idea what you do, whether you do it, and how you do it, apart from what the position description states.

One is retiring from the position description, not from the real world.  It is the virtual reality which forms the basis of a Federal Disability Retirement application; the real world is beside the point.  Fiction, not reality; the narrative form, not the actual life experience; the excellently formulated disability retirement packet, and not the real-world pain of the medical condition; these comprise the basis of a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Legally Sufficient Accommodation

Whether the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service has offered a legally-viable accommodation is determined by the criteria of an offer made which is either at the same pay or grade as the position one currently occupies; but, moreover, as the Bracey case and subsequent cases which elaborate upon the issue have made clear, it cannot be a position which is merely “made up” or temporary by nature, or one in which the current Supervisor merely whispers in one’s ear and says, “Just don’t do X, Y and Z essential elements of the job.”

The reasoning behind the view that such a temporary, modified “position” does not constitute an “accommodation” under the law — and therefore would not prevent eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits — is easily justified by the age-old adage that, where one lives by the sword, one dies by the sword; meaning, thereby, that if Supervisor X can simply suspend certain essential elements of a job, a future Supervisor Y can just as easily reinstate the requirements of performing those previously-unattended elements, and require that they be performed.

That being said, there is nevertheless nothing wrong with an Agency allowing for a Federal or Postal worker to work at a position and lessen the requirements of the job.  For some, it may be that such a modified position is acceptable, especially in light of receiving a regular paycheck.

The issue of “accommodations” should not be confused with the eligibility requirements of being able to file for, and be approved with, Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  There is the issue of legally-sufficient accommodation for purposes of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefitsfrom the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; then, there is the commonplace parlance of being informally “accommodated” if one wants to continue to work; the two are not contradictory.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire