OPM Disability Retirement: The Complication of Accommodations

The problem with most people is that they come at a conversation with a selective focus — and listen for that which they want to hear, and filter all other information which fails to fit the paradigm of their predetermined perspective.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question of accommodations via Standard Form 3112D comes to the fore — often because of the selective focus of issues on the part of OPM.

The fact that an agency may have engaged in work-place modifications, or allowed for temporary alleviation of certain elements of one’s job description; or even provided a state-of-the-art ergonomic chair with 3-speed controls with horizontal landing mechanisms — does not mean that the agency was able to, or did, accommodate the Federal or Postal employee under the legal meaning of that which constitutes a viable “accommodation” .

For, that which the agency does must allow for the Federal employee to perform the essential elements of his or her job, and any such attempted “accommodation” which does not meet that standard, is technically not an accommodation at all.  It is merely an artifice and a cosmetic make-over in an effort by the agency which allows for the agency to declare that they have “accommodated” the individual Federal or Postal employee.

Rarely does the question on SF 3112D get accurately responded to; for, the concept of “attempted” accommodations is precisely the point — if it was attempted, and did not work, then the agency has an obligation to concede and describe that point; but from the Agency’s myopic perspective, any “attempt” constitutes an accommodation, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will embrace such an assertion with open arms.

What to do about it?  Always focus upon the central point of a Federal Disability Retirement application — it is a medical retirement.  Thus, the doctor’s opinion is sacrosanct, and should be repetitively emphasized.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Compartmental Clarity

Compartmentalizing issues, concepts, various technical terms, etc., leads to greater clarity, and therefore cuts down upon misunderstandings.  Ultimately, the ability to utilize and comprehend the proper technical terms in any area of law, or in a general sense of becoming “competent” with an issue, requires the proper adoption of a language game (as Wittgenstein would apply the term).

Becoming proficient in a language game is important because, to fail to do so can lead to real-life consequences.

Thus, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to distinguish between Social Security Disability (which a FERS employee must also file for as part of the administrative, bureaucratic process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits) and FERS & CSRS disability retirement benefits.  The latter must be filed through one’s agency, and ultimately must be decided by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Then, of course, one must distinguish between Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement from OPM (the acronym for U.S. Office of Personnel Management), and OWCP (standing for “Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs), administered through the Department of Labor (DOL), under the Federal Employee’s Compensation Act (FECA).

These are just some of the language-game terms of the three main areas of compensatory benefit programs — there are others, of course, including benefits from the Veteran’s Administration (VA).

It is best to begin by getting the terms right; to get the terms right, one needs to compartmentalize the terms into their proper usage and associated agencies, thereby leading to greater clarity.  By attaining a level of compartmentalized clarity, one can ensure that a discussion with an OPM Disability Retirement Legal Expert will lead to a fruitful consultation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire