Federal Employee Medical Retirement: A Bridge Too Far

It is an indelible comment in history, marking a failure of calculations resulting in catastrophic consequences in the unwise attempt to quickly end the war.  As a tactical consideration, the attempt to outflank German defenses by securing key bridges in order to isolate the enemy, constituted a brilliant idea; in practical application, the unconfirmed attribution of the comment that the Allied Forces may be going “a bridge too far” proved to be the very downfall of such a bold military strategy.

M-2 Treadway Pontoon Bridge under construction across the Po River near Ostiglia (National Archives)

M-2 Treadway Pontoon Bridge under construction across the Po River near Ostiglia (National Archives)

Bridges represent vital and necessary supply lines between two entities, organizations, populations, and even ideas.  They allow for the free flow of supplies and communication; they constitute the “lifeline” between two otherwise disparate groups.  It is such a bridge, or “nexus”, which is similarly of great importance in all formulations of Federal Disability Retirement applications. For the Federal or Postal Worker who is preparing to submit a Federal Disability Retirement application through one’s agency (if still employed by the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, or otherwise separated but not more than 31 days since the effective date of separation), and ultimately to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, making sure that the “bridge” between one’s medical condition and the impact upon the positional duties of one’s job is a vital and necessary part of the process.

Like physical bridges which connect various populations, the nexus which brings together the Federal Disability Retirement application in a FERS or CSRS submission, will determine the very persuasiveness of one’s presentation to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  A bridge which is inadequate will fail to establish that the medical condition impacts one’s capacity to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal position; and one which overextends itself may raise red flags of overreaching and exaggeration, undermined by a Supervisor’s Statement or the Agency’s contention that they have attempted to accommodate an individual to a legally viable degree.

While a 1-to-1 ratio of a medical condition-to-an-essential element is unnecessary in establishing eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits (see my multiple articles on the Henderson case), nevertheless, a linguistic construction of an adequate bridge between the two must be firmly established.

In the end, as with the Allied attempt to swiftly conclude the war resulted in the unnecessary cost of human lives, so one must take care in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, such that one does not go “a bridge too far” in making one’s case in a Federal Disability Retirement claim.

Sincerely,

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.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire