Disability Retirement from U.S. Federal Agencies: Creatures of Leviathan Proportions

Leviathan is both a mythological sea creature, as well as the title of a famous book authored by Thomas Hobbes. It represents that uncontrollable entity of gargantuan proportions, unstoppable and thoughtlessly destructive. It takes on many forms, many faces; or none at all. It is an entity of nondescript characteristic, and engulfs countless lives marked by unidentified graves.

For the Federal employee and the Postal worker who is lost in the bureaucratic shuffle of loss of identity, the concept of a Leviathan is both familiar, daunting and dismaying. There are countless tentacles of agencies and departments within the Federal Government, the largest of them including the Department of Veterans Affairs, the U.S. Department of Justice, The U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Department of Homeland Security, and the umbrella Department of Defense, to name just some of the larger ones.

Becoming a part of the mission of those, or any of the multiple lesser ones, can be an exciting venture. But when a medical condition begins to reduce the stature of one’s potential accomplishments and contribution to the mission of an agency, it becomes easy to get lost in the very size of the agency. Most such agencies have a centralized Human Resources Department, such as a “Civilian Personnel Advisory Center”, which is another faceless and gargantuan bureaucracy.  Personalized Human Resource offices are being gobbled up by the Leviathan of so-called efficiency of centralization; the “personal touch” is left on the side of the road to bigger is better.

For the Federal employee and the Postal worker who needs to file a Federal Disability claim, it is precisely that “personal touch” which is often needed, but is lacking because of the Leviathan of modernity.  Then, of course, the very agency which makes the decision of an approval or a denial — the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — is itself a sea creature of sorts.  Difficult to access and even more of a problem of finding information concerning one’s case, the Leviathans of the modern-day world must be constantly battled and confronted with effective swords and shields.

When a Federal employee or Postal worker suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition necessitates filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, it is important to understand the nature of the beast, and the fact that one’s own agency is merely one of many, and the modern-day David in a world of Goliaths may need more assistance than a mere handful of stones.

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

OPM Disability Application Forms: SF 3112A and the Pathway through the Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy and creativity are conceptual opposites, rarely spoken in the same sentence, and never compatible, representing always a contrast in self-contradictory terms. For, it is the former which implies the negation of the latter, or the stamping out of any hint of the former’s influence upon the latter.  Bureaucracy refers to the mundane, of repetitive standardization and compliance with mediocrity; whereas the latter embraces the unconventional and the need to push the boundaries of acceptable norms.

When the two meet, it generally means a clash of sorts, and the encounter can rarely accommodate one another.  Further, one assumes that factual implantations implicate negation of creative allowances; and so one responds accordingly when voluntarily engaging in a bureaucratic process.

Standard Forms tend to prove the point.  The limited space presented; the manner of the questions posed; the real-world questions requested to be answered; all tend towards negation of any creative inclination. But creativity can imply something beyond mere fictional attestation. Rather, it can be the compiling of a response, but with words and choice of adjectives which enhance and enliven. Coherency and cogency are in themselves creative repositories, and placed within the confines of strictures of a bureaucracy, can awaken the souls of clerks and administrative specialists who pride themselves on the efficiency of mechanical laborings.

The Applicant’s Statement of Disability OPM SF 3112A, where the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, asks specific questions concerning one’s disability or medical condition, and its impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position, as well as the impact upon one’s personal life and capacity for daily living. SF 3112A is, in many ways, the key and pathway through the passageway of the greater bureaucracy.

Whether the Federal employee or the Postal worker conforms to the Standard Form 3112 itself, is the question of how one approaches success or failure.  While the questions posed may seem straightforward, the creativity behind the questions reveal a silence muted by the complexity of the statutory history, the background of multiple case-law opinions and Merit Systems Protection Board findings, which have over the years expanded upon and creatively interpreted the limits of each query posed.

SF 3112A, for the Federal employee or Postal worker who is making a Federal Disability Retirement claim, is the pathway of creativity through the bureaucracy of the benefit known as Federal Disability Retirement. It is where the meeting, or the clash, between bureaucracy and creativity occurs.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

End Things & Federal Government Disability Retirement

The end of summer comes too quickly; the final period of a sentence; the last paragraph of a novel enjoyed with pleasurable ease; the end of an activity once started without regard to the fruition of completion. Then, there is the “other” end of things, as in a positive goal to achieve, or the end result of hard work.  In either sense of the word, there is a moment of finality, when a recognition of cessation occurs, and one cannot go on any further, as in a road which has a dead end.

For Federal employees and Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition requires the Federal or Postal worker to file for a CSRS or FERS Disability Retirement claim because the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job and, further, where the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service is unable, or unwilling, to provide an accommodation for the medical condition, the sense that an inevitable end is forthcoming leaves one with a foreboding feeling of disquietude.

Whether to preserve one’s mental health, or to get control of the angst and anxiety one is overwhelmed with, the recognition that one must do something in order to get beyond an end-state of being, is often accomplished by the “doing” of pragmatic steps. Preparing and formulating to file for Federal OPM Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under the CSRS or FERS Retirement System, is a positive step in that direction.

For the Federal employee and the Postal worker who must file a Federal disability claim, the use of the word “end” comes to the fore in both senses of the term: It likely means the end of one’s career with the Federal government or the U.S. Postal Service, but concurrently, the filing for Federal Government Disability Retirement benefits is a positive goal to attain for a specific end.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement Claims: Mental Health, Stress and First Steps

Disquietude is a negation of a former state of being.  Perhaps it is merely a retrospective re-characterization or romanticization of a time or status that never was; or, maybe even a partial remembrance of a slice of one’s life measured as a fullness in comparison to what is occurring in the present.

Regardless (as opposed to the nonsensical, double-negative modern vernacular of “irregardless”), to have a sense of disquietude implies of a former time, event, or state which had a greater positive light than the present one.

And it is in this context that the Federal or Postal Worker who begins to contemplate filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal worker is living in California, Florida, Hawaii, Kansas, Minnesota or Texas (have we effectively zig-zagged a sufficiency of states in order to make the point, yet, or perhaps we need to include Arizona, Georgia, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina and Wisconsin in order to make the point), that one must understand the greater bureaucratic involvement which one needs to undertake before engaging the complexity of the process of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

First, it is a Federal issue, and therefore, it will be unlikely that one will find, for example, a Florida Federal Disability attorney, or an Oregon, Kentucky or Louisiana Federal Disability lawyer; for, it matters not whether or not the lawyer lives in, or is licensed in a particular state, precisely because this is a Federal issue, and not a state issue.

Second, Mental Health issues — aside from being a valid and viable basis for a Federal Disability Retirement application — can either stand alone, or be in combination with a physical disability (isn’t it interesting how we bifurcate “mental” as opposed to “physical”, whereas both are part of the same physiological state of a person?).  Sometimes, mental health issues stand alone; other times, they can be concurrent medical conditions, or secondary ones.

Third, stress is a basis for a Mental Disability Retirement claim, although it must be properly and carefully approached because of issues concerning situational disabilities.

And Fourth, how one approaches the first steps in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application, will often determine the success or failure of the disability case.

Overall, it is the plan itself, the cogency of the approach, and the gathering of the proper documentation, which will determine the efficacy of those first steps, and whether the stress, mental and physical health of one’s being, will be relieved as a result of filing for a Federal Disability claim.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

SF 3112D

OPM Standard Form 3112D: Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts:

What does it mean to accommodate, and what, pray tell, constitutes an “effort” to do so?   Is the agency’s obligation to pursue avenues of reassignment or accommodation satisfied by the mere completion of SF 3112D and, if not, does the agency merely pay lip-service in its obligation, or are continuing efforts required to be actively undertaken?

If the Federal employee or Postal worker advances throughout the bureaucratic morass and finally gets an approval for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, what happens if, in the meantime, such agency efforts to continue to search for a suitable reassignment position, or a capacity to actually accommodate the medical condition, is attained?

Does a successful positional reassignment negate the Federal Disability Retirement application if such an offer of reassignment is refused by the Federal employee or Postal worker prior to an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application?

If a Federal or Postal employee is given a temporary duty assignment, and the length of such an assignment or occupation of such a position is for an unlimited amount of time, does that impact a Federal Disability Retirement application as it sits pending a review by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management? What constitutes a legally viable accommodation? What is considered a valid reassignment?

Has the case-law, whether through the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board or through the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals changed, altered, amended or expanded upon the concept of an accommodation or one’s right to a reassignment at the same pay or grade?

Is the issue of reassignment or accommodation as simple as SF 3112D makes it appear, or are there hidden regulatory, statutory and legal ramifications which must be carefully considered and side-stepped in having SF 3112D completed? Does the Federal employee or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits have any input when the agency completes the OPM SF 3112D PDF Form?

These, and many more questions, need to be considered when a Federal or Postal employee, whether under FERS or CSRS, begins to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

SF 3112C

OPM Standard Form 3112C: Physician’s Statement:

Forms tend to intimidate; the more official the appearance, the greater heightening of anxiety in close encounters of this kind.  Beyond the alien look of some forms (for those who have already identified the two references to Steven Spielberg’s 1977 Science Fiction film, you have revealed what generation you are from), the size of the font, the extent of warnings issued (i.e., “Privacy Act and Public Burden Statements”, etc.), and most importantly, the cogency and clarity of understanding for a third-party being requested to provide valuable and necessary information on behalf of a patient — these are all important considerations to entertain.

In this busy world, where doctors must wear multiple hats — of administrative overloads, compliance with billing requirements in Medicare, Medicaid, and numerous other government portals, etc.; of earning sufficient income in order to pay staff, salaries and practice expenses; of ensuring privacy protections; and, finally, beyond all of the headaches associated with running a medical practice — of actually engaging in patient care becomes almost a secondary issue. Time is limited; time is a commodity of invaluable substance; time is a restrictive resource when the exhaustion of the modern world impinges upon the daily necessity of making a living.

And so the Federal or Postal Worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits hands, sends, or faxes a government form, demanding that a doctor complete another issuance of what can only be kindly termed as a nuisance or a headache.  The normal response of the treating doctor is to procrastinate, ignore, or, worse yet, to put together a bundle of treatment records and send them off.

OPM Form 3112C, the so-called Physician’s Statement, is the crucial linchpin of a Federal Disability Retirement application; yet, the form itself is an intimidating venue which can predispose a Federal Disability Retirement application to a preview of failure. Are there alternatives? SF 3112C itself is put forth as if it is a necessary prerequisite in the entire process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement. The answer can be found in another form — SF 3112E — where it clearly states: Attach SF 3112C, Physician’s Statement (or its equivalent).

It is the equivalency which is the key to a successful Federal Disability Retirement application, for the Federal Employee on long-term sick leave (SL) or the injured Postal worker who is preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Equivalencies matter, and what constitutes such “equal-ness” in acceptable form, is the key to a successful Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire