OPM Disability Retirement: Revealing Sensitive Medical Information

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, there is often the expressed concern about submission of sensitive medical information — of who will view it, what it will be used for, how widely it will be disseminated, and for what purpose, etc.

If a Federal or Postal employee has not been separated from the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, or has been separated but not for more than thirty one (31) days, then the entire Federal Disability Retirement application must be submitted to the Human Resources Department of the particular agency for which the employee works.  Once there, control and containment of the sensitive medical information which is included in the Federal Disability Retirement packet is based upon the good faith of the agency.

Obviously, there are purposes for which certain individuals may need to view the medical information — e.g., for purposes of completing Standard Form 3112D, Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts, in order for the Federal Agency to determine whether or not accommodation or reassignment is possible or feasible based upon the extent, type and severity of the medical conditions suffered by the Federal or Postal employee.  Beyond, that, however, the medical information should not be viewed by anyone, especially in light of the fact that it is the Office of Personnel Management, and not the individual Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service, which makes the determination of approval or denial of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

A “need to know” standard should be applied, of course, but such a standard is rather subjective and can be easily justified.  Whether the agency complies with any standard at all, of course, is questionable, and ultimately, no one will know but the eyes of those who see.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

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