OPM Retirement for Medical Incapacity: The boxes in Standard Forms

For some forms, it is a convenience to have a restrictive, limited “box” in which to put the “x” into, or maybe the needed “Not Applicable”; others, however, try and contain a limited narrative and force succinctness into the standardization of answers.  That is all well and good, and perhaps from a bureaucratic standpoint and perspective, the conformity of forms and the mandatory “answers within a box” makes for streamlining of paperwork.

The reality, however, is that some questions cannot be answered — and more importantly, should not — within the proposed space allocated, and so you have two (2) choices: decrease the font size in order to fit a greater substance of the narrative within the provided box, or attach a continuation sheet despite no indication in the standard forms for allowance of such cheekiness of presumptuous creativity.

How does one identify which Standard Form should be prepared and completed within the confines of standardization, and which ones should not?   First, a conceptual identification should be applied: Which ones are merely “informational” that request only singular answers, and which forms make queries that compel for narrative answers?  Once that initial, identifying bifurcation is made, then the next step is to determine whether an adequate and sufficient response can be stated within the “box” provided within the font-size allowing for regular eyesight that does not require extraordinary magnification, or if a continuation sheet is necessary.

Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, certain Standard Forms are merely informational — for example, the SF 3107 series which asks for basic, factual information.  Then, of course, there is the SF 3112 series, and especially SF 31112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

For the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker under FERS, who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the greater mistake has often been to quickly annotate within the boxes provided a swift “jotting down” of the medical conditions one “feels” — as if the body parts providing temporary sensations for a given day, or even the lack thereof, will sufficiently satisfy the eligibility requirements that must be met in order to become approved for a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.

Make no mistake about it: there can be dire legal consequences if SF 3112A is not completed properly and sufficiently.  And always remember the philosophical dictum: That which is necessary may not be necessarily sufficient, and that which is sufficient may not be sufficiently necessary.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Medical Retirement under FERS & CSRS: The option of nothing

The path of least resistance is often to simply do nothing.  To make an affirmative choice is sometimes a painful one involving sacrifice and steps taken which will determine an outcome, later to be judged by retrospective insight, as to whether it was the “right” one or a “wrong” one.

To negate, refute or otherwise do the opposite, and to say “no” in the choice-making process, is also an “affirmative” one, if only in the negative sense.  It is still a call made, a judgment asserted, and while the “no” may not be able to arrive at a retrospective viewpoint as to whether it was the “right” one or the “wrong” one (precisely because, in the very negation of making a choice, one may never see any further consequences, but merely a nothingness that prevails from the option to not do that something, which is essentially a double-negative that results in nothing).

The worst option to assume is to allow lapse to occur – to do nothing, neither affirmatively nor negatively, and allow outside circumstances to determine the course of fate.  In taking such a path of least resistance, two things occur: First, you have left it in the hands of circumstances, and failed to take any affirmative steps in the allowance of lapse; and Second, the fact that you will never know it was a good or bad idea to allow for the lapse means that you have forsaken the entire decision-making process, and thus you disengaged yourself from the importance of life’s major participation.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the Statute of Limitations that imposes a restriction upon post-separation filing is One (1) Year.

Thus, the law is as follows: Upon separation, whether by termination or resignation, of a Federal employee, that Federal employee has up until 1 year to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  If the Federal employee files for Federal Disability Retirement within 364 days of the separation from Federal Service (give yourself at least 1 day, just to be on the safe side), then no harm is done.

If the Federal or Postal employee determines not to file (i.e., a negative – affirmative decision), then so be it, and after the 365th day, that Federal or Postal employee is forever prevented from asserting his or her rights under the Federal Disability Retirement laws, acts, statutes and regulations.

If the Federal or Postal employee simply does nothing – neither making an affirmative or a negative decision, and simply allows for the time to lapse and the opportunity to pass – then the path of least resistance has been taken, with the opportunity to engage in the decision-making process forever lost.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Legal Representation on Federal Disability Retirement Claims: Trust

Is it by actions followed by words, or by mere words spoken that it develops, solidifies and concretizes? Can we really go by appearances alone, or must there be a history of words followed by actions, followed further by assurances, then again by more actions, until a sense of comfort and solidarity of feeling comes together to form an aggregate whole where we declare within our inner consciences, “Yes, I trust him (her)”?

Trust is a peculiar human emotion –for, it is an emotion, in the end, is it not?

Not quite like smiling or crying; not nearly a cousin to a shriek or a wail; but more akin to a calm, a peace of mind or a self-satisfying sigh.  Once earned, it can last a lifetime and beyond into off-springs and surviving relatives; once betrayed, it may be that it can never be restored, no matter how many apologies, the innumerable “make-up” actions and the irrelevancy of gifts galore.  For, how can you restore that which was meant to be inviolable?

If a spouse cheats once, will the suspicion of another time ever disappear?  If a person abandons his or her post and absconds in the middle of the night, does that not hint to a character flaw that he or she can and likely will do the same thing again?  Would an embezzler be invited to be employed as the head treasurer once accused, convicted and imprisoned?  Can trust shaken once ever be regained?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, the issue of trust will need to be met head-on at some point.

When should the Agency be told of one’s intentions to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?  Who should be told and who will be the one to tell?  How will confidential issues – gleaned from medical records and the Applicant’s Statement of Disability – be handled, and by whom and by which prying eyes?  Should the issue of confidentiality be magnified, be concerned over, and which employees actually have a “right to know” concerning all such issues?

These and many other legal entanglements constitute the encompassing purview of a Federal Disability Retirement application, and for answers to these complex questions, queries should be made in consultation with an expert in the field of Federal Disability Retirement Law.  For, in the end, it is the lawyer who is the advisor and counselor who gains the trust of the client through his experience, specialty and knowledge of the law.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Medical Retirement for Federal Employees: Working to preclude

Aren’t most of us perennially, incessantly, constantly and by chronic despair in that “emergency mode” of operating through life?

We are working to preclude: Some imagined disaster; some trouble just around the corner; some depth of a hole we cannot dig ourselves out of; and some problem that we are thinking about that is developing that we are not yet aware of.  Few of us actually work with a positive attitude to build; fewer still with a confidence that tomorrow will bring some answers; and rarely, of that person who does not work to preclude.  Caution is the mainstay of a troubled past that left a child anxious, uncertain, self-conscious and entirely lacking of self-confidence.

That is why that wide arc of “self-esteem” training that began to spread about in the classrooms and throughout communities took hold – in the false belief if we just kept saying to a child, “You are worthy” or poured accolades and trophies just for showing up, that somehow we would counteract the deep imprints left upon the cuts and scars that were perpetrated by homes of divorce, emotional devastation and incompetent parents.

Working to preclude is often a form of sickness; it is the constant scrambling to try and play prevent defense, and how often have we seen an NFL game where the team that scores first and many times ends up losing because they spent the rest of the game working to preclude?

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are suffering from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the constant effort in working to preclude the Federal Agency from putting you on a Performance Improvement Plan (acronym “PIP”), issuing a letter of warning, or proposing a removal based upon excessive absenteeism, being on LWOP for too long, or for poor performance, leaves a hollow feeling of an uphill battle that can never ultimately be won.

Filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted ultimately to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is a step away from working to preclude – it is, instead, a positive first step towards securing a future that is otherwise as uncertain as one’s efforts in working to preclude.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Medical Retirement for Federal Employees: False Promises

Is it an oxymoron?  If it is made, how can it be negated by untruth; for, if it is a nothingness at the outset which compels null and void the substantive content of the thing itself, how can it purport to be what it is while at the same time creating an abyss of meaninglessness?  A promise cannot be false if it is to have the very meaning of a promise; and yet, we know that there exists such falsity of posited assurances, if not proposed by dishonest individuals and con-men, then at least by unintentional or otherwise mistaken pillars of vain malfeasance.

False promises are not promises at all; they are likened to nonsensical statements, which are similarly non-statements precisely because of the meaningless nature of the declarations.  Just as Bertrand Russell’s playful cunning in the statement, “The present King of France is bald” – that is both nonsensical and allegedly violates the laws of logic (specifically the Law of the Excluded Middle) – so, false promises cannot exist as either falsehoods or as promises precisely because they negate each other in their very existence side by side.

But in the world of pragmatic affairs, we know that they are made each and every day.  We are promised daily, and falsely, by individuals, entities, agencies and organizations, whether with or without a handshake, sometimes in writing, other moments by verbal implication, and even every now and again sprinkled with a smile, a nod, a wink and a prayer.  Promises made have an expectation of being kept; and broken promises, like false ones, cut deep into the wounds of betrayal, and haunt us with a profound sense of anger and reeking with the vengeful fury of a violation well beyond mere resentment.  There are few things in life that compensate for false promises.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers, Federal Disability Retirement is just one of the few compensatory alternatives to the expectation of a false promise made, implied or otherwise denoted.  Perhaps it was the long hours of dedicated and uncompensated time devoted; or the expectation that loyalty would be a bilateral avenue, as opposed to a unilateral desecration of implied trust.

In any event, one would have thought that “accommodations” would be made upon the interruption of a medical condition, when the medical conditions resulted in one’s inability to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal position or Postal job.  But, alas, such accommodations cannot be made; the dedication of those many years, and sometimes decades, cannot be recalled but for yesterday’s contribution; and the promises seemingly made cannot be false when, all of a sudden, a question is fired back:  Is it in writing anywhere?  What or who ever gave you that idea?

For the Federal employee or U.S. Postal worker, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is often not just the best alternative, but the most prudent option remaining and still available – in rebuttal to false promises made, and truth declarations long forgotten and left behind in the corridors of remembrances no longer written in stone, but disappeared into the office shredder worth the value of the paper it was never written upon.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: Answering Questions

How do we come to learn how to do it?  Certainly, we come across certain eccentric individuals who defy every conventional norm, and somehow manage to appear as if they have done what otherwise we recognize as not having been completed.

Have you ever come across someone who just isn’t “quite right” – such that, when you ask a question, the tangents that flood forth and the meandering thought processes make it an arbitrary conclusion as to whether it was the specific question asked that prompted the incommensurate response, or just the mere fact of a tonal posit of a question-like query that compelled a verbal reaction, even if it has nothing to do with the substance of the question itself?

How do children learn how to answer questions?  Is it natural; is there a systematized process of acceptability; is it taught in any course with a heading like, “Elementary Basics 101: How to answer a question”; and do we presume that acceptable and normative constraints are just learned effortlessly?  Certainly, the classical educational approach of dialectical methodologies – of a question posited; raised hands, chosen orders and an answer provided; then the reinforced positive feedback by the teacher in either affirming or rejecting the response – is an approach that somewhat answers the mystery.

But what of that “weird” kid?  The one where the teacher asks:  “Is the earth round or flat?”  The kid answers:  “That is an oversimplification, as the geometrical constructs require a perspective that betrays ignorance of quantum physics, where flatness is a relative concept to roundness, and vice versa.”  Now, one may smile and wonder whether, perhaps such a child prodigy reveals an intelligence quotient beyond his age or class assignment, but all the rest of the kids would just roll their eyes about as the class bullies await for recess hour in order to beat that kid to a pulp.

But was the question answered, and to that end, satisfactorily?  Or, what if another kid, perhaps half-daydreaming, suddenly blurts, “It’s blue!  It’s blue!”  Did that kid answer it any less adequately than the first?  How do we learn to answer questions?

What if the questions are essentially legalese and incomprehensible, or of a “tricky” nature and makes one pause before moving forward?  Do questions posed, for instance, by law enforcement officials evoke greater caution (as in, “To the best of my recollection…”), and if so, why?  Is it because the stakes may be higher and the suspicion of the double entendre is always there?  Which brings us to the problem of Federal Disability Retirement applications, and specifically SF 3112A – Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

The questions posed on the Standard Form 3112A seem simple enough; but simplicity does not necessarily mean straightforward, and indeed, when a Federal or Postal employee is completing SF 3112A, it is best to go back to fundamentals and ask yourself, How did I learn to answer questions, and are these questions the type that may need additional help, because – though they may seem simple enough and not quite in legalese – there is some trickiness in the very simplicity of the query.

And it is the rule to remember, that the simplest questions require the greatest pause, where suspicion will warrant a more extensive pondering of reflective repose.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire