CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Platonic and Other Forms

Forms are interesting conceptual constructs:  They are created for ease of use; yet, concurrently, they contain, restrict, and by all appearances, limit the ability to go beyond the “form”.  Thus it is with Plato’s philosophical proposition of Forms — they represent the “essence” of what a thing is, as it is; and, like government forms, one is presumable unable to violate the essence in their particularized representative appearances.

The difference, however, between Platonic Forms and government-issued forms, is quite obvious:  Plato’s Forms represent the highest and best of any individual construct in the physical world; government forms rarely represent anything but a bureaucratic decision to force conformity upon anyone and everyone contemplating filing for a benefit.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the potential applicant must understand that he/she will be confronted with multiple and complex forms to complete.  How one completes each form; what one states on any given form; whether one answers the questions posed in an adequate or sufficient manner — each of these will have a direct and often irreparable impact upon the success or failure of a Federal Disability Retirement packet.

The forms themselves may appear simplistic in appearance and content (i.e., SF 3107 series for those under FERS; SF 2801 for those under CSRS; SF 3112 series for both FERS & CSRS); what they represent, however, constitute unstated complexities which can only be understood within the full context of the evolution of statues, regulations and case-law handed down throughout the years, which make up the entirety of the compendium of Federal Disability Retirement practice.

One would never have thought that government-issued forms would be as complicated to understand as Platonic Forms; but then, Plato never encountered the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — otherwise, he may never have proposed that there is indeed the existence of the Form of Beauty and Goodness.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Disability Retirement & Standard Forms

Standard Forms are intended to restrain, contain and standardize; it is meant to make you believe that if you violate the “fence” around the physical form itself, or fail to answer specifically the questions “as asked”, that there will be a penalty to pay — i.e., in the case of a Federal Disability Retirement application before the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a denial of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  

For the Federal or Postal Worker who is intending on filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the question of what to say, how much to say, and in what tone or tenor (does one presume that OPM is an “adversary”, and therefore should any submission be crafted in such a manner?  Or, should the tone be more “neutral”?  Hint:  Whatever the proper balance of tone to embrace, OPM is not one’s close relative, and should not be approached as such); and, ultimately, whether and to what extent “continuation pages” should be attached to the forms themselves.  

For FERS employees, or course, one must complete SF 3107, along with Schedules A, B & C, as well as have the Certified Summary of Federal Service completed, and if applicable, SF 3107-2, the Spousal Waiver.  For CSRS, one must complete SF 2801, and again, the Schedules A, B & C and the Certified Summary of Federal Service.  For both FERS and CSRS employees, the second set of forms — SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, SF 3112D & SF 3112E — must also be completed.  

For the Federal or Postal employee, it is the SF 3112A which is the most daunting, the most important, and the one which must be thoughtfully completed.  It is the first form which OPM will search for, review, analyze, compare, attack, and scrutinize, in making a decision upon one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  It is indeed a form which is “standard” in every sense of the word — in appearance; in requirement; in formatted appearance; and in the end, the level of effort and input one makes of it.  

What should one’s own “standard” be in preparing, formulating and filing the Standard Form 3112A?  Care, caution and a concern for coordinated completion.  Yes, and by the way, the undersigned writer enjoys engaging in alliteration, assonance and consonance.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee’s Disability Retirement: The Non-standard Approach to Standard Forms

Standard Forms are created, produced and promulgated precisely for their stated and intended purpose:  to streamline and conventionalize (yes, that is really a proper word, and spellcheck did not put a red line beneath it) the formatted receipt of information by an agency of the Federal Government.  Without Standard Forms, there would be no confining methodology of what to say, how to say it, and how much to say it.  

The theory behind standard government forms is simple:  By providing the space, the questions and the apparent limitations, ease of processing will be expedited.  

Of course, in pragmatic terms, the reality behind the theory is that Standard Forms create an intended limitation on space, as well as the content of what a person states or desires to state.  Yet, by self-confining the answers and information provided, the applicant for Federal Disability Retirement is essentially depending upon government lawyers to properly interpret what the statute for eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement requires.  

While staying somewhat within the confines of what the Standard Forms request is a “good” thing (for Federal Disability Retirement purposes, SF 3107 series for FERS applicants; SF 2801 series for CSRS applicants; SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, SF 3112D, and SF 3112E for both FERS and CSRS applicants), it should not limit or otherwise prevent the submission of relevant information.  “Relevancy”, of course, is a relative term, and should be noted and applied by those who understand the statutory underpinnings of the legal requirements for a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Ultimately, one should approach the standardization of the administrative process called “Federal Disability Retirement” as merely a piece of the larger puzzle, and not be precluded from submitting non-standardized information in an effort to prevail in the preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Importance of Logical Sequence

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to recognize the logical “sequencing” of the Standard government forms to be submitted.

While the SF 3107 series (including Schedules A, B & C) and SF 2801 series (for CSRS employees, and also including Schedules A, B & C) may generally request personal and professional information of a rather innocuous nature (of course, one may argue that no amount or substantive form of information provided to the Federal government should be considered as such, but that is another issue altogether), the Federal/Postal Standard Forms which both FERS and CSRS must complete — the SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, and SF 3112D (yes, I know, there is a SF 3112E, but that is merely a checklist for the Agency to fill out; although, on SF 3112E is the very justification that proves that SF 3112C is not a necessary form, but rather to be used as an intermediate vehicle in order to obtain the necessary medical documentation for a Federal Disability Retirement application) — should be done so in a proper, logical sequence.  

Obviously, if one is going to utilize the “Physician’s Statement” (SF 3112C) in order to have the doctor provide the justifying foundation for a Federal Disability Retirement application (which, incidentally, the undersigned attorney would advise against), then that should probably be the first and primary Standard government Form to begin with.  It will likely intimidate the treating doctor, and perhaps even confuse the issue; but from a logical standpoint, that would be the one to begin with.  But then, logic and sequence is not of paramount importance in the Federal government; just take a look at the fiscal mess we are in to understand such a sentiment.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C & SF 3112D

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee will be asked to complete a mountain of standard government forms.  The forms themselves appear to merely request “information”.  Don’t be fooled.  It is not mere information; it is the basis upon which OPM approves or denies a case.  

For the CSRS employee (which is becoming rarer by the hour because of the replacement of CSRS with FERS back in the mid-80s), in addition to SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C & SF 3112D (which both CSRS and FERS employees must complete), Standard Form series numbered 2801 (SF 2801), along with Schedules A, B & C must be completed.  For FERS employees, in addition to the SF 3112 series (again, SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C & SF 3112D), the Federal or Postal employee must complete SF 3107, along with Schedules A, B & C.  

These forms constitute the “nuts and bolts” of the Federal Disability Retirement application process.  Not only must “information” be provided in filling out these forms; there are “tricky” issues which must be addressed at the outset.

For example, SF 3112C is the “Physician’s Statement”, and is meant to be used in order to guide the physician into providing a detailed physician’s statement.  It is a confusing, convoluted form which often makes the doctor feel intimidated.  It is preferable to have the doctor address the elements requested on SF 3112C without actually using the 3112C.  However, if a Federal or Postal employee is unrepresented and unaware of this, then the potential disability retirement applicant may unknowingly sign the form, when it may not be in the best interest of the Federal or Postal employee to do so.  

Be aware; “information” is not a mere compilation of facts and figures; rather, information is always used — whether for, or against, something or someone.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Weaving of Words

From working with raw materials to the final production of a work of utility with an aesthetically pleasing look, the weaver must be skilled in handling the process of creating from scratch.  It is in the very art of weaving, where the end-product notices not the imperfections of that which nature produced, that the “art form” is created.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to take the materials provided — the medical condition of the Applicant; the doctors who are treating the Federal or Postal applicant; the Supervisor who will be writing up the Supervisor’s Statement; the Human Resources office of the Agency who will be completing SF 3112D — and to “weave” together from the fabric of such diverse sources, and complete a persuasive Federal Disability Retirement packet, such that the compendium of information can be presented in an “aesthetically” pleasing manner (i.e., understandable, comprehensible, and effectively streamlined in order to be convincing and compelling).

OPM is the “purchaser” of the Federal Disability Retirement application, and must be the one who accepts the “product” of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  The “weaver” must be skilled enough to put the packet together, from the raw materials provided, to the finished product.  Upon a successful “purchase”, it is then that the Federal or Postal employee will have obtained the desired result — an approval from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: Systematic versus Haphazard

The latter term (“haphazard”) is marked by a lack of planning, and connotes a loss of direction and depicting disorderliness.  The first term in the bifurcated title represents a purposeful and planned event; one which possesses a goal from the beginning of an initiated process, and in an ordered manner, goes about to execute that goal by taking and completing pre-planned steps in order to reach that endpoint.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to approach the completion and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application in a systematic manner, as opposed to a haphazard one.  By “systematic” does not necessarily mean “sequential”, however — as in the sequence of the standard forms which one receives in a packet of governmental forms.

Thus, for instance, if one simply picks up the 3112 series of forms, it would not make sense to fill out and complete 3112A first, then to send out the Physician’s Statement (3112C) to the doctor (side note:  this author has widely, systematically, and for some great amount of time, counseled against using the 3112C because of the potential wider consequences of allowing for unfettered access by the agency to a Federal or Postal Worker’s medical records, so be forewarned) for completion.

Indeed, to do so would not make any sense:  why would one complete questions about one’s own medical condition prior to having, in hand, medical reports from one’s own treating doctors?  By “systematic” does not mean getting the forms and filling them out in as quick a time frame as possible.

While completion of a Federal Disability Retirement packet is certainly a goal, a far greater goal is to prepare, formulate (systematically), and then file — but not in a haphazard manner.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Citing Case-Law

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is important to provide a guiding cover letter to the Office of Personnel Management — whether termed as a “Legal Memorandum”, a “Cover Page”, or some other designation — in order to introduce a “road map” to the OPM Representative who will be reviewing the case.  

While the OPM Representative will ultimately be able to “figure out” the documents to be reviewed (i.e., the Standard Forms are obviously familiar; the medical documentation should be self-evident, etc.), there is a distinction to be made between the documentation submitted, and the persuasive effect of the documentation.  There are times, of course, when the strength of a case is so irrefutable and unrebuttable that no guidance is needed; most cases, however, require some persuasive authority.  

The best road map will cite some relevant statutory authority or judicial cases of known precedence.  If one is to cite relevant legal authority, however, it is important to do so properly.  To mis-cite a case, its relevance, or its correct interpretive impact, can do more harm than good, especially if the case proceeds to the later stages of being argued before a Merit Systems Protection Board Administrative Judge.  

Knowing what one is speaking about is the basis for credibility; credibility in making a persuasive presentation of one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job is crucial to the effectiveness of one’s case.  Citing cases properly, forcefully, and with technical appropriateness is important in presenting a road map for OPM to follow — from the point of initial introduction, to the final conclusion of agreeing that the Federal or Postal employee is indeed eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government employees: Consistency

Consistency, in addition to coherence, is an important element which must always be recognized and reviewed in filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement under FERS or CSRS.  Coherence of an application has to do with the element of “fitting all the pieces” together so that everything coheres in a rational, logical, and often sequential manner.  Coherence often has more to do with form, than with substance.  Consistency has to do with the substantive issues — the actually claims and statements made by a doctor; the opinions rendered in relation to the knowledge obtained; and whether everything “agrees” with everything else, in the very substance of the statements and claims made.  

Inconsistencies are precisely what the Office of Personnel Management aggressively searches for, in determining the validity of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Coherence can often be ignored; indeed, in many Federal Disability Retirement applications filed without an OPM Disability Attorney at the First Stage of the process, I have often found that, when it has been denied and people come to me at the Second, Reconsideration Stage, that the application prepared by the applicant is almost entirely incoherent.  The narrative prepared is often illogical; the doctor’s report often takes a “shotgun” approach, without the coherence of a methodology of addressing the essential issues which OPM is looking for.  Either by form or by substance, it is always better to have problems with form, rather than substance.  But if you ask me, it would be “best” (good, better, best) if both form and substance are carefully prepared — meaning, that a Federal Disability Retirement application is both coherent and consistent.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Coherence

A Federal Disability Retirement packet must be coherent.  This may appear to be “self-evident”, but there have been many disability retirement packets which, upon a denial and a review at the Second, Reconsideration Phase of the process, lack the coherent coordination which results in a credible disability retirement packet.  Coherence results from the simple review of the entirety of the information submitted to the Office of Personnel Management:  The applicant’s personal statement; the medical records and reports; the position description; any additional statements or attachments.  Now, there are certain elements of a Federal Disability Retirement application which cannot be controlled — such as the Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) and the Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts (SF 3112D).  However, while one may not be able to “control” the coherence of those elements which are the purview of the Agency, there are certain steps which can be taken to preempt such uncontrollable injections from the Agency.  Regardless, it is normally not the SF 3112B or 3112D which makes for the incoherence of a Federal Disability Retirement submission; more often than not, the culprit is the Applicant him/herself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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