FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Medical v. Legal

Issues concerning Federal Disability Retirement applications under FERS or CSRS, both for Federal and Postal employees, rarely “conflict” with the goal of obtaining the proper medical care for a medical condition which one suffers from.  First and foremost, one should seek to obtain the proper medical care, and undergo all of the appropriate treatment modalities necessary to take care of the medical condition. 

If that medical condition — despite treatment, intervention, medication regimens, etc. — fails to allow for recovery sufficient to return to a level of functionality such that the Federal or Postal Worker can continue to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, then one should certainly consider preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS. 

Throughout the process, however, the primary focus should always be upon obtaining the proper medical care.  Logically, the Merit Systems Protection Board has held in various Federal Disability Retirement cases that where such treatment modalities as a medication regimen has been refused, then such refusal may be a basis for denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Why would this be?  The reasoning is that there is an intervening cause for the continuation of the medical condition which prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job — not the medical condition, but rather the refusal to follow a prescribed course of medical treatment. 

Sometimes, however, failing to follow a prescribed medication regimen may not be an outright “refusal”, but rather a recognition on the part of the Federal or Postal employee that taking such medications while working will further impede one’s ability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  This is where an intersection between the Medical and the Legal can “conflict”.  The best thing to do in such a circumstance, of course, is to consult with the treating doctor and explain the potential conflict.  There may be no resolution, but it is always best to have such attempts annotated so that it can be “proven” later on, if needed.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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