Federal and Postal workers who are inquiring about filing for FERS Disability Retirement benefits often lack any context as to his or her own particular situation, in relation to the greater Federal and Postal workforce. Let me elaborate: a Federal or Postal employee who suffers from chronic and intractable Major Depression, despite being placed on various psychotropic medications, and having undergone psychotherapeutic intervention, and (in more serious cases) hospitalization for intensive treatment — often believe that his or her “situation” is unique, isolated, and rare. It is not.
When an individual suffers from Major Depression, it is common to feel isolated, as if the particular psychiatric disorder is unlike other medical conditions (e.g., physical medical conditions which can be ascertained by an MRI or other diagnostic tools). This is part of the very medical condition itself — of feeling isolated and trapped, and unable to escape from one’s own plight.
Indeed, Federal and Postal employees who suffer from Major Depression often ask me the “how many” question — how many people do you represent who suffer from Major Depression, as if numbers correlate to security. While I am very protective of client confidentiality and information related to my clients, it can safely be said that a “great many” Federal and Postal employees suffer from Major Depression, that it is not uncommon, that your co-worker sitting beside you may suffer from it, and that such sufferers work hard to hide it.
Further, the success in filing for, and obtaining, Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS is no less than any other medical condition. Thus, for those who suffer from Major Depression and are contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits: you are definitely not alone.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal & Postal Disability Lawyer
||All the articles that appear in this publication are copyrighted. Also, they may or may not have been previously published in other Federal Disability Retirement websites owned by the author or in other third-party publications.
Pain by definition is “subjective”, if by it one means that the experiential verification of the condition is uniquely possessed by the “I”, or the subject of the experience. By contrast, that which is deemed “objective” is presumably validated by more than the possessor of the experiential condition — i.e., by third parties; by testing for the validity and verification of an event through means other than the personal narrative of a singular subject. Yet, if verification of an experience is accepted merely by sheer volume of a collective consensus, then most scientific revolutions in advanced discoveries would never have survived.
In Federal Disability Retirement law, it is often the argument of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that the Federal or Postal applicant has failed to provide “objective” medical evidence in presenting his or her case. The narrative of having a condition of “chronic pain”, or “severe pain” — being “subjective” by definition — is not deemed “objective“, and therefore cannot be the valid basis alone for a FERS Disability Retirement case (or so the argument by OPM is often presented). Even the results of an MRI will not necessarily satisfy the scrutiny of OPM; for, ultimately, an MRI can only reveal an observable abnormality — not that a person experiences “pain”.
Fortunately, there are a number of cases in law which rebut OPM in their attempt to bifurcate between “objective” and “subjective”, and such legal tools should always be cited and applied in any Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application.
While pain may indeed be subjective by definition, the objectivity of a Federal Disability Retirement application should never be based upon what OPM deems as sufficient; rather, it is the law and the long history of legal guidance by the courts which should mandate how OPM acts. Indeed, if we let OPM’s subjective determinations rule the day, we would all be left in an existential state of pain — one which would then result in a collective consensus which may be deemed objective in nature.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Disability Attorney
This article and others in this blog may or may not have been previously published in the author’s other websites such as the Federal Disability Attorney blog, the FERS Disability Retirement website, or the Postal Service Disability Retirement blog.
Often, the generic designation of “stress” is the underlying medical condition; other medical conditions can exist, and perhaps are exacerbated by the underlying condition of “stress” — or, at least that is the suspicion, both by the Federal or Postal worker who is suffering from such conditions, and (hopefully) understood by the treating medical doctor.
While failing to have direct causal linkage, the situation often arises where the chronic medical condition may have periods of remission, followed by severe episodes of unrelenting exacerbations. The problem with such medical conditions in preparing, formulating and filing a FERS Disability Retirement application, is that the medical condition must prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, and such a condition must last for a period of 12 months or more.
Medical conditions which “wax and wane” (OPM’s favorite description of Fibromyalgia) and are “not severe enough to preclude an individual from the workplace altogether” (another of OPM’s favorite descriptive rationalizations for denying a Federal Disability Retirement application — which is legally inconsequential and a mis-statement of the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement) — present a special challenge in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application. However, even a challenge such as “stress” and a secondary medical condition which is exacerbated for episodic periods, is one which can be overcome, and successfully overcome.
The fact is that the focus is often misplaced. Instead of asking the doctor to focus upon each individual medical condition, it is the wiser route to have the doctor discuss all medical conditions in their totality, and show that the complex interaction of the primary and secondary medical conditions together prevent the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire
FERS Disability Retirement Lawyer
Please notice that this and other articles may or may not have been previously published in the author’s other websites such as the Federal Disability Attorney blog, the FERS Disability Retirement website, or the Postal Service Disability Retirement blog.
There is a distinction to be made between one’s medical history and an extensive discussion of workplace issues which may have contributed to a causal impetus for a medical condition.
The Office of Personnel Management is rarely interested in receiving information concerning the history or causation of a medical condition — especially from the Applicant in a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application. While the treating doctor may briefly refer to the historical genesis of a medical condition in a narrative report, it is the focus of the present-to-recent-past impact of one’s medical conditions upon the essential elements of one’s job which the Office of Personnel Management is interested in reviewing.
Again, remember that a Federal Disability Retirement application is a “paper presentation” to an onerous, overbearing and overworked Federal bureaucracy, where one’s private affairs (the most private of all — one’s disabling medical conditions and their impact upon one’s personal and professional conduct of affairs) are to be presented, received, and ultimately reviewed.
History of the inception, origin and impact of a medical condition may be peripherally relevant to the treating doctor, and it would be appropriate to include such historical background in a medical report; but for the Applicant, to delve too deeply and extensively upon such historical context may place the peripheral into a central focus where it should not be.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire
Federal Medical Retirement Attorney
Information here do not constitute legal advice or legal opinions. Material presented in this blog may or may have not been previously published in the author’s other websites including but not limiting to the Federal Disability Lawyer website, the OPM Disability Retirement blog, Federal Disability Attorney and other resources in the Internet.
There is still some questions with respect to the relevance of preexisting medical conditions, or medical conditions which were incurred while working, or outside of the workplace, or even before being employed by the Federal Government; and the impact of such medical disabilities upon one’s right to file for disability retirement under FERS. This confusion is evident from some of the questions I have been recently asked.
Remember that preexisting medical conditions are irrelevant to filing for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, in most cases; the fact that an individual has been able to perform the essential elements of one’s job for many years, but comes to a point in his or her career where the medical condition has been exacerbated, or deteriorated, to the point where it begins to prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, is all that is needed to be shown.
It matters not that the medical condition “preexisted” one’s Federal service; and, indeed, many of my client’s began working with a VA disability rating, but worked successfully for a number of years, until the medical condition(s) underlying the VA disability rating worsened, or came to a point where it began to impact his or her ability to perform the job functions.
Similarly, whether or not the injury or medical disability was incurred while working or while on a skiing trip, is irrelevant. The primary point and focus in FERS & CSRS Disability Retirements cases, is that a person has the minimum years of Federal Service (5 years for CSRS; 18 months for FERS), and during the person’s Federal Service, he or she incurred a medical condition such that it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire
OPM Disability Retirement Attorney
The content provided here has been updated and previously published in other websites such as the Federal Disability Lawyer, OPM Disability Retirement and Federal Disability Attorney blogs.