CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Pain Ownership

Wittgenstein was a master of linguistic analysis, and questioned the traditional correspondence theory between the language which we speak and describe about the world, and the objective reality which we encounter on a daily basis.  He was the penultimate anti-philosopher who saw philosophy as merely a bundle of confused and confusing conundrums unnecessarily propounded by misuse and abuse of language.

Viewed by many as the successor to Bertrand Russell and English Empiricism, he questioned consistently the role of language, its origins, and confounding complexities which we have created by asking questions of a seemingly profound nature, but which he merely dismissed as containing self-induced mysteries wrapped in a cloak of conundrums.

For Wittgenstein, the problem of pain and “pain language” is of interest; of the person who speaks in terms of “having a pain”, as opposed to the doctor who ascribes the situs of such pain in areas vastly different from where the pain is felt; and the complexities of correlating diagnostic studies with the existence of pain.

For the Federal and Postal employee who is under FERS or CSRS and is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the relevance of Wittgenstein’s linguistic analysis should not be overlooked.  Pain is a personal matter, whose ownership is never in dispute by the person who feels such a phenomena; but how to express is; in what manner to effectively convey the validity of such sensation; how best to “put it into words” is always the problem of effective and persuasive writing.

There is a vast chasm of differences between the ownership of pain and the conveyance of the sensation such that the reader (in this case, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) will be persuaded of one’s medical condition.  The correlative fusion between the world of language and the objective reality of an indifferent universe must be traversed efficiently and effectively; that is the whole point of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Dependence of Meaning

Wittgenstein believe that it was not possible to have a private language held by an individual alone; for, as language by definition is a means to communicate, any language which is kept in private from everyone else would be a meaningless tool.

Private, insular worlds are dependent upon their functioning upon the receipt by third parties to impart meaning and interaction; otherwise, left within the void and chasm of pure privacy, they remain nothing more than the slow drip of a distant echo of spring water deep within the hollows of an undiscovered cave.  For those of the rest of us who live and interact within a world of words, writings, and regulatory compendium of laws and statutes, the ability to convey meaning in a meaningful way is paramount for the successful progression of our every day lives.

For the Civilian Federal or Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of his or her Federal or Postal duties, conveying what one means becomes a critical exercise:  putting together an effective Federal Disability Retirement application to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, in a manner which persuades and entitles, is the penultimate goal which must be accomplished.

How one gets from point A to point B; what material and evidence to compile and include; what legal arguments to bring up and point out; these are all elements which must be considered. Concurrently, the privacy of one’s medical conditions must be protected to the fullest; but that is where the compromise must be attained, between the private and insular world of necessity, and the public world of reality which must be encountered and engaged.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: The Problem of Coordination

The world of language is a peculiar universe of artifice; while comparisons to other primates may provide indicators for the origin and foundational beginnings for the evolution of language in order to better understand where we came from and how we came to be where we presently are — it is the complexity of the present which confounds and amazes.

The conceptual constructs of language lends itself to misunderstanding, misinterpretation, and misuse; as precision is no longer a standard of usage, so malleability of language now lends itself to clever tricks in order to avoid commitments, breach contracts, and take advantage of unsophisticated opponents.  Thus, the classic statement:  “It all depends upon what the meaning of ‘is’ is”.

In a Federal Disability Retirement application before the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the compilation and coalescence of differing language games (to borrow a Wittgensteinian phrase) must be presented:  Language of the lay person (the Federal or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits); language of the medical profession (doctors’ reports, technical diagnostic test results, office notes, etc. must be submitted); and legal jargon (legal citations and arguments should also be garnered for support).

Once gathered, the various components of the tripartite language games must somehow be made to complement each other.  This is indeed a difficult task, as each language game constitutes a self-contained artifice of complex meanings.  But coordination of the three spheres of linguistic artifice is key to a successful outcome.  To do this, one must take on the role of being a technician, a conjurer, and a pseudo-artist all at once — in other words, to juggle the three balls such that one may understand that what “is” is indeed that which is and is not.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Getting the Right Nomenclature

Throughout the history of philosophy, there was a pervasive presumption that substantive questions concerning Being, Truth and Falsity, reality versus appearances — and a wide spectrum of similar conundrums wrapped within the mystery of life within a coil of the unrevealed physical universe and further complicated by the bifurcation of consciousness and the physical realm and the problem of dualism which it represented —  required a systematic approach of questioning, evaluating, analyzing and (hopefully one day) resolving.  In such a process, it was always important to apply the technical nomenclature in a systematic approach.

Then came the English analytical philosophers — culminating in Wittgenstein (although he was Austrian) — and it is only natural that it would be the English (who have always believed that Americans don’t know how to speak the English language properly, anyway) who dismissed all such philosophical problems as mere language difficulties.

Again, the problem of nomenclature.  Whether one accepts the demise of philosophy as merely a problem of language and language games, it is always important to recognize that in any endeavor, subject, issue, etc., utilizing the proper words, phrases and terminology is vital to precision in thinking.

Thus, when an individual is preparing to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to understand that conceptual constructs belonging to one area of law are not interchangeable with other areas.  Usage of terms such as “Maximum Medical Improvement”, “Unemployability Rating”, “Inability to engage in daily living activities”, “On the job injury”, etc., and other related terms, may have little-to-no significance in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

On the other hand, usage and application of some evidence from one area of law may be successfully argued in another area; but that occurs only when, and if, the proper distinctions and truncated differentiations are applied.  In the end, perhaps the English analytical philosophers were right — analysis and correction of linguistic confusions constitute much of our problems.  But to admit to such folly would be to acknowledge that the sun continues to cast an ever-pervasive shadow from the colonialism of the old English Empire.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Technical Application of Terms

Wittgenstein’s contribution to Western Philosophy was twofold:  On the one hand, his insight into the role of language and how much (if not all, according to him) of philosophy’s substantive problems and complexities could be unraveled through the analytical dismantling of linguistic confusions, and secondly, the idea that philosophy as an academic discipline should not be given greater stature than any other — in other words, he believed that philosophy was a waning and anachronistic field which would eventually wither on the vines of history, and properly so.

While the undersigned disagrees with the latter assessment, it is the former contribution concerning “language games” and their import to society, daily living, and even to the technical world of legal jargon, which is of interest and relevance.  Lawyers necessarily have a “language game” of their own.  Within the peculiar universe of legal terms, the technical application of such “legalese” has direct and dire consequences if not understood properly and applied narrowly.

In the world of Federal Disability Retirement law, the term “accommodations” is often and profusely applied by agencies and Human Resources Personnel, but more often than not, in a loose and inappropriate manner.  Agencies bandy about the term, to wit:  “Mr. X. was accommodated by allowing for temporary light duty“; “We provided him with an accommodation by letting him take liberal sick leave and LWOP”; “Ms. Y was accommodated with instructions not to lift over her medical restrictions”; and other such implied applications of the term.

Which of the previously-cited statements constitute a technically correct use of the term “accommodation” within the context of Federal Disability Retirement?

Answer:  None of them.

Language games have inherently peculiar traits and rules of application; within the parameters of Federal Disability Retirement, too often the rules of usage are not complied with.  The consequences of non-compliance, unfortunately, is that Federal and Postal employees actually believe that they are being “accommodated”, when in fact they are not.

Further, believing that one is being accommodated by an agency may lead to the mistaken belief that one is ineligible for Federal Disability Retirement, when in fact one has always been eligible precisely because the agency cannot or has failed to provide a legally viable accommodation.  Look into the proper use of terms, and the technically correct application of terms.

In the end, Wittgenstein was right:  Language games reveal more about the competence of those who play them, than about the lack of precision exhibited by human behavior.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: From Language to Pragmatic, Substantive & Sequential Steps

The leap from words-to-actions constitutes a milestone of advancement; otherwise, if left in the world of Wittgensteinian language games, where all one does is talk incessantly without “doing” anything, then one merely remains in a universe of one’s own creation.

We all know people “like that” — of talking, talking big, and talking non-stop; and as the talk continues, the world leaves such people behind.  Dreams are paradigms for the wide-eyed youth to search, attempt to strive towards, and to have the incentive to “reach for the stars”; but the reality of the world must also become a stark admixture in order for dreams to be interpreted into actuality.

The young basketball player who dreams of stardom in the NBA cannot reach such a goal unless he practices daily, relentlessly, and at the expense of many leisure and other activities.  It is ultimately the pragmatic steps which must be taken, which represent progress of sorts from a logical, sequential standpoint:  From A to B.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the undersigned attorney is often confronted with:  “I requested the forms from my agency, but I have no idea how to fill them out.”  Forms simplify processes, but they, too, are a composite of a jumble of words — on paper, in written form [sic].

Beyond mere words, in order to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one must have a tactical and strategic plan — of how to meet the legal test of “preponderance of the evidence“; of how to gather and obtain the proper medical documentation; and how to create the “nexus” between one’s medical condition and the positional duties which one occupies and from which one will be filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

The world of language is one of beauty, but of an artifice of creation in man’s universe; it is the way of pragmatism which must be embraced, in order to be successful in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire