Physical and Mental Conditions in Federal OPM Disability Retirement Claims: Ahead of the Proverbial Curve

Trends are often characterized by the actions of a few.  Whether in cultural expectancies via movie moguls, fashion designers, technology innovators and convention-busters, the known so-called leaders who stay ahead of the proverbial “curve” which maintains the continuum of linear stability in a given society, often dictate the direction of an otherwise directionless future.

The ivory tower of academia is another such bastion of proclivities where, if observed carefully, can infer a discernment for future waves to come. The views of sociologists, psychologists, philosophers and economists (to name just a few “ists” within the self-vaunted world of esoteric penumbras; note, however, how the “philosopher” is not termed the “philosophist” — why is that? Perhaps because there was a desired disassociation with sophistry?) preview a trend of forthcoming conundrums impacting a society.

In the pragmatic world in which most of the rest of society inhabits, however, the dualism pronounced (and in many sectors of philosophy, denounced) concerning the bifurcated universe of the cognitive as opposed to the physical, continues to be debated. Dennett, consciousness, Nagel, Scruton, and the continuing debate over whether human consciousness can be reduced through the scientific language-game of mere biological processes, rages on in the ivory towers of conceptual constructs.

In the real world, this debate is reducible to the pragmatic question of whether psychiatric conditions are “as acceptable” as physical manifestations of traumatic conditions. For the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question of whether it is “more difficult” to win a Federal Medical Retirement claim from OPM is one which overwhelmingly can be answered in a positive, pro-worker manner: today, fortunately, there is little distinction to be made between psychiatric health problems and physical health problems.

Major Depression, Anxiety, panic attacks, Bipolar Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorders, suicidal ideations, nervous breakdowns, etc. — all are viable bases upon which to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, on a par with physical conditions of chronic pain, cervical and lumbar dysfunctions, shoulder impingement syndrome, Crohn’s Disease, etc.  Descartes’ dualism cannot be found in the world of OPM and in the filing for a Federal Medical claim of disability.

The proverbial curve of societal trends is often determined by those at “the top”; but in the case of acceptance of psychiatric conditions in comparative analysis to physical conditions in the filing for Federal Disability benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the trend of acceptance on a par for both was established long ago, probably as a result of the reality of either and both conditions, and the realization by the bureaucracy that however you term the condition, the importance of a Medical Disability Retirement claim finds its essence on the impact of one’s ability or inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Attorney Representation in Federal Disability Claims: Directions

The crude form of the proverbial image formulated is:  Up the creek without a paddle, but normally with an epithet inserted.  It portrays a vivid scene of being in a symbolic state, directionless and without a means of guiding or maneuvering.  One is thus subject to the winds of time, the vicissitudes of circumstances beyond one’s control, immediate or otherwise, and where a growing storm of unforeseen proportions and magnitude is coming at a rate of ferocity uncontrollable and unable to be prepared for.

People with medical conditions have that sense of progressive disintegration, where the things that one has worked and strived so hard to achieve, are now in danger of loss and ruination. For the disabled Federal employee or the injured Postal worker who suffers from an accident or other health condition, such that the medical condition is impacting the capacity and ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job, the growing fear of being swept aside by slow, insidious and deliberative steps by the agency — of a poor performance review; of initiating a “Performance Improvement Plan“, or a PIP; of threats of separation and termination because of one’s absenteeism and exhaustive use of LWOP; all point towards an inevitable direction which is far from the destination that the Federal or Postal employee wants to arrive at.

Lifeboats are funny things; they may save the life, but without a paddle, one may drift and yet fail to survive for lack of food or water.  Sustenance is the key to a life worthy of living.

For the Federal or Postal employee under FERS or CSRS, when a medical condition begins to threaten one’s employment with the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service, it may be time to consider filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Filed through one’s agency if one is still employed or separated from Federal Service but not for more than thirty one (31) days, the application is ultimately processed through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management for a determination of eligibility and entitlement.  It is a benefit which, in and of itself, provides for a basic annuity such that the sustenance of a livelihood is provided for, in order for the Federal employee or the Postal worker to attend to one’s health, and continue to look to a brighter future in the years ahead.

Thus, in that sense, Federal Disability Retirement is the needed oar for the man or woman in the proverbial boat, stranded up the mythological creek, waiting for the means to direct the drifting dictation of life’s daring demands.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Form SF 3112C and the Sufficiency of the Physician’s Statement

Confusing necessity and sufficiency is always a precarious matter. That which is necessary may not be sufficient for a given purpose, and failure in understanding such a fundamental distinction can be fatal to a Federal Disability Retirement claim.

SF 3112C requires that a physician complete and provide essential medical information in the pursuance of a Federal Disability Retirement application. The form itself — SF 3112C — is the vehicle by which the medical documentation is obtained. It is “necessary” in the sense that SF 3112C delineates a guideline of the type of information which is needed in order to become eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The form itself — SF 3112C — however, is to a great extent irrelevant (although, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has recently required that a signed SF 3112C be included in the final Federal Disability Retirement packet, despite SF 3112E clearly stating that an “equivalency” of the form would satisfy the lack thereof, as in the attachment of the medical documentation itself), and it is instead the medical documentation through which SF 3112C is obtained, which is what is important.

Regardless, while the OPM SF 3112C constitutes the vehicle, is necessary, but is ultimately irrelevant in and of itself, it is a necessary form to the extent that it mandates the delineation of what information is required for eligibility and entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Will following the guidelines in accordance with what SF 3112C states, result in a successful OPM Disability claim? That is the question of “sufficiency”, as opposed to “necessity”.

Over the years, case-law and statutory interpretation and expansion of Federal Disability Retirement laws have greatly altered the landscape of a Federal Disability Retirement claim. SF 3112C is the vehicle of necessity, although the form itself is an unnecessary one. The greater question is whether it is sufficient to meet the legal weight of preponderance of the evidence, and that question must ultimately be answered by questioning the efficacy of the form itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Informational OPM Forms (SF 3107) versus Specific Content OPM Forms (SF 3112)

Categories are important in order to properly bifurcate, distinguish, identify and comprehend for effective satisfaction and completion. If such differentiated distinctions are not clearly understood, one can easily be lulled into responding to a specific-content question as if it is merely “informational” in nature.

Thus, for the Postal and Federal employee who is formulating responses to Standard Forms for purposes of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal employee or Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, the sequence of preparing for completion in providing satisfactory answers is important.

OPM form SF 3107 (the “SF” stands for “standard form”) requests basic, factual information data, such as the applicant’s name, address, agency information, marital status, whether and to what extent one wants to elect survivor’s benefits, etc. The accompanying form, Schedules A, B & C, requests further information regarding military service, whether time in the military was bought back, as well as any OWCP claims previously or currently submitted or received, etc.

Then, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, again whether one is under FERS or CSRS, the accompanying SF 3112 series must be completed and filed. One’s mental status and intellectual antenna, however, should immediately be placed on high alert when encountering and engaging the SF 3112 series of OPM forms. For, in this series of Standard Forms (SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, SF 3112D & SF 3112E), the distinguishing features should become immediately self-evident by the very nature of the questions queried. No longer are the forms merely requesting basic information; rather, interpretive considerations must be thoughtfully engaged.

Questions concerning one’s medical conditions; what medical conditions will be considered; whether one can later supplement the listing of medical conditions if further medical developments arise; whether there is room on the form itself for a full description and, if not, can a continuation of the form be attached; the impact upon the essential elements of one’s positional duties; what those essential elements are; and multiple other similar conundrums suddenly become presented, necessitating the switch from mere “information” to one of “specific content” directed by the change in the series of OPM forms from SF 3107 to SF 3112.

Paradigm shifts were made famous by Thomas Kuhn in his historically important work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It is no less important to recognize that a paradigm shift is equally important in completing OPM Disability Retirement forms. While there is no book which guides the Federal or Postal employee, such as, “The Structure of Form-Filling Revolutions”, the identification and recognition that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits requires an acuity of mind in filling out OPM forms, is an important step in reaching a successful outcome.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

SF 3112

Standard Forms are a necessary part of life. Bureaucracies streamline for efficiency of services; the question of whether such efficiency is for the benefit of an applicant to a Federal agency, or to ease the workload of the agency and its employees, is ultimately a fatuous question: as common parlance would sigh with resignation, “it is what it is”.

For the Federal and Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts and ultimately prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, will be a requirement which will include completing OPM application forms. There will be the SF 3107 series of forms, as well as the SF 3112 forms. Such forms request a tremendous amount of information, both personal and of a very confidential nature.

The justification for requesting such information by the agency which will review such forms (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the later stages of a Federal Disability Retirement application, but initially through one’s own agency, including the Human Resource Office of the agency for which the Federal or Postal employee works, as well as the Supervisor of the applicant who is applying for Federal Disability benefits), is based upon a two-folded approach: The applicant who voluntarily applies for Federal Disability benefits is required to provide such information in order to prove eligibility, and such voluntariness justifies the request itself; and, secondly, there is a “need to know” such information in order to properly assess such information, based upon a preponderance of the evidence. Beyond the SF 3107 forms, the SF 3112 forms will ask for detailed information on the most personal of issues: One’s medical conditions and the impact upon employment capabilities and daily living issues; request of the Supervisor information concerning work performance; ask of the agency to assess and evaluate any capability for accommodating a medical condition; and a similar multitude of onerous, prying questions.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits will require much of the Federal and Postal employee seeking a medical retirement annuity, in the very forms which allegedly “streamline” the process, and these will necessarily include SF 3107 forms and SF 3112 forms. In the end, however, when weighed comparatively against one’s health and the need to move on to a less stressful environment, the price one must pay is relatively cheap when considering the high cost of continuing in the same vein.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

USPS & OPM Federal Employee Disability Retirement: One of Those Days

There are “those days”, so characterized because of the micro-calamities which, in their cumulative impact, disproportionately reveal a compendium of aggregated irritants amounting in totality to a forgetful epoch of one’s life.

By contrast, a medical condition of an insidious nature, progressively deteriorating, chronic in persistence and debilitating in severity, magnifies tenfold — nay, a hundred, a thousand, a ten-thousand-fold impact of exponential consequences — the remembrances of pain, psychiatric turmoil, and the bitter acknowledgment that life’s meaningful embrace has lost its luster.

The vibrancy of youth, of formidable tolerance for reckless antics and disregard of forbearance and calm rectitude of reasoned behavior, now replaced with caution and trepidation, lest the excruciating pain explodes unmanageably and coworkers can see that you are one of the ones who are now an “outsider”, like those of old, isolated, quarantined and banished to the leper colony, no longer extolled of the talents and virtues once possessed.

While microcosmic calamities can be shrugged off with an excuse of blaming some external circumstances, the problem with medical conditions is that it is tied singularly, inextricably, and undeniably, to the person “possessing” the medical condition; and like siamese twins who share a vital organ, one cannot extricate from the consequences of a medical condition as one can from a spilled cup of coffee.

For the Federal worker or Postal employee who suffers from a health condition, such that the medical condition constitutes a daily cup of spilled coffee, the choices are quite clear: remain in the same capacity and bear the brunt of the daily calamities; resign and walk away with little to nothing to show for one’s lifetime efforts; or the more viable option, to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS or CSRS.

One can sit and sigh, and resign one’s self to accepting fate as characterized as “one of those days”; or fate can be controlled, maneuvered and manipulated, to where those days of calamitous casuistry can be relegated to forgettable events of days bygone, and where the Federal or Postal employee can begin to rebuild a future based upon an OPM Disability Retirement annuity which allows for a base annuity, along with the potential to earn up to 80% of what one’s former position currently pays.

Thus, just as a cup of coffee spilled can be cleaned up; so the hallmark of “one of those days” can be merely an isolated event in an otherwise greater spectrum of life’s potentialities.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Orchestration

The quality of a piece of music is defined by sound and silence.  It is the former which is focused upon by most individuals; it is the importance of the latter which is ignored, precisely because the negation of X is never recognized as X until and unless its existence is suddenly lacking.  Silence — that momentary pause which allows for sound to pass by in waves of sonorous beauty — is the untouched beach combed by the lapping waves of quietude.

The orchestration of combining each entrance of every instrument, at the precise moment, preceded by pauses of silence, and tapped by the conductor with precision and sensitivity, is the core of a brilliant musical performance. But orchestration embraces such beauty of composition in all walks of life — from the predator silently creeping to pounce upon its prey in the footprints upon grounds which give way with a flicker of silence or sound, allowing for alerting the victim or not; to the composition of a breathtaking novel in coordinating characters, scenes and descriptive metaphors; the ability to coordinate the complexity of singularities into a cohesive whole is the art of orchestration.

And so it is in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal Worker is under FERS or CSRS. Federal Disability Retirement may seem to be a purely administrative endeavor which has no connection to the beauty of musical orchestration; but it is in the cohesive adherence of law, statement of facts, and procedural preparedness, that the invisible thread of creativity must come to the fore.

One’s Statement of Disability, standing without the law, is insufficient; the argument of the law, without the medical foundation prepared, is merely a hollow voice of reason; and the lack of creating a bridge between one’s medical condition and the positional requirements and essential elements of one’s job, leaves an abandoned castle surrounded by a dangerous moat.

Metaphor is a key to understanding complexities of life; for the Federal and Postal Worker who needs to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS through OPM, the orchestration of life’s complexities may require a conductor who guides the instruments toward a successful outcome in the preparation, formulating and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether one is under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

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