FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement from the Office of Personnel Management: SF 3112C

As a “government form” it purports to provide guidance in general terms, and it is doubtful that the lack of clarity as to its purpose or utility will assist the medical professional into writing an effective report.

The plain fact is that SF 3112C is a confusing form — confusing both to the doctor or Nurse Practitioner who is presented with it, as well as to the FERS Applicant who is attempting to prepare an effective OPM Disability Retirement application.  It refers to a “position description” being attached, but fails to provide the necessary explanatory nexus between the PD and the medical opinion sought.

What part of the position description should be focused upon?  Is it the entirety of the PD, portions of it, or just the “essential elements”?  Is it relevant whether a person can work part-time, full time, or an erratic combination of both depending upon the severity of symptoms that may arise periodically?  Is SF 3112C meant to confuse, or like so many “government forms”, is the language inevitably misleading because it is (A) meant to be that way, (B) unintentionally written in an unclear manner or (C) is meant to be wholly unhelpful because OPM doesn’t want to go out of its way to help the Federal Disability Retirement applicant?  Must the SF 3112C, the “Physician’s Statement”, be used at all?

If you are still working with the Federal Agency or on the rolls of the Postal Service, or at least not separated for more than thirty one (31) days, must the prepared physician’s statement be sent directly to your H.R. Office without first being reviewed and validated by the applicant?  The form itself certainly makes it appear so, but is that really the case?

In the end, the applicant who is preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application, to be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, must make some initial and important determinations concerning the substance and content of the application itself.

Forms are tricky; the laws that oversee them, often vague; but if you are relying upon instructions written and formulated by the very government agency that will be making a determination on your application, you may want to first consult with an attorney who specializes in the very law that governs Federal Disability Retirement, before you begin “filling” out forms or having your doctor fill one out.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Physicians

Physicians are peculiar animals.  They are here to help; and from their perspective, success is measured in terms of how rarely a patient returns for further care.  The ultimate sentence of failure is to conclude that nothing further can be done for an individual, and one must therefore declare that the patient is permanently disabled.

For the Federal or Postal employee contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, such a perspective on the part of the physician is important before approaching the treating doctor with a request for a medical report.  That is why the SF 3112C is such an ineffective vehicle of communication.

Consider this:  SF 3112C is a government-prepared form; it is formulated by Federal bureaucrats; the language merely proposes generic guidelines concerning what is required — without any amendments or consideration of case-law refinements which have been promulgated over the evolution of Federal Disability Retirement laws over these many years.

Perhaps more importantly, however, is the lack of bedside manners in handing to a physician a standard form.  While many physicians themselves lack adequate bedside manners, it is the epitome of bad form to thrust a pre-printed form (no pun intended) under the nose of a physician who is supposed to be treating and taking care of you, and to declaratively order, “Fill this out”.  Even an addendum of “please” will not adequately modify such an affront.

The physician-patient relationship is one based upon communication, knowledge, personal sharing, and a good bit of explaining.  Taking the time to prepare a physician is the least one should do in preparing for an effective Federal Disability Retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits: Forms & the Total Picture

Ultimately, it is the difficulty of encompassing and coordinating all of the administrative details which boggles the mind when one is confronted with filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  To have a medical disability is hard enough; to then have to wade through the Federal Disability Retirement multiple forms and to coordinate the necessary evidence, documentation, paperwork, and delineation of facts, circumstances and bridging the connection to the essential elements of one’s job — the totality of the picture, coordinated in a rational, understandable and coherent picture, such that the application as presented to a stranger at the Office of Personnel Management:  that is the art of putting together a Federal Disability Retirement packet

As I often tell clients and potential clients:  If you believe that filing for OPM Disability Retirement is merely a matter of filling out the forms, don’t hire a Federal Disability Attorney.  Anyone can fill out forms.  It goes well beyond that; it is the coordination of the details, facts, circumstances, the coalescing of medical opinions with descriptive interpretation, and conveying a word-picture which, in its totality, is true and fits the person’s actual human condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: The Family Doctor and the Surgeon

I am often asked whether or not a medical report from the “specialist” will have a greater impact than a family doctor.  Implied in such a question, of course, is a perspective which tends to see the family doctor as somehow “less qualified”, sort of like comparing the technical deficiencies of a “country doctor” as opposed to a “real doctor” — one who works in an emergency room in a large metropolitan hospital.  Perspectives and prejudices have a way of defining judgments, and assumptions, presumptions and long-held beliefs, whether valid or not, often rule our lives. 

How can I answer such questions?  In the course of a Hearing before an Administrative Judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board, I have had family doctors testify who were unbeatable, and certainly overwhelming in his or her expertise and medical knowledge.  The years of experience in having to deal with thousands of patients, and confronting and treating medical conditions of every imaginable sort — and making decisions (including referring patients to “specialists” for concurring or confirming diagnoses and opinions) involving the “whole” patient’s medical condition and treatment — came through with such persuasive force and overwhelming confidence, that it was indeed the “family doctor” or the “country doctor” who ruled the day. 

Similarly, I have had the “specialist” testify in cases, who barely were able to coherently describe the connection between the medical condition and the essential elements of the job.  And, of course, sometimes the opposite is true — good surgeon, mediocre family doctor; mediocre specialist, great country doctor.  As in all things, in Federal Disability Retirement applications under FERS or CSRS, it is not so much that the credentials matter, as the character, experience, and “heart” of the doctor who treats the patient.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire