Federal Employee Disability Retirement: Explanation & Intelligibility

The goal of an explanation is to achieve greater intelligibility; otherwise, if the latter is not achieved, the former loses its purpose.  If the explanation fails to provide a basis for the goal, it would then undermine its own rational foundation.

Law often loses sight of this simple principle, and feeds upon itself to justify the complexity of its own existence. But if the purpose of the legal field is to maintain a civilized society and to simplify the conundrum of life’s entanglements, then much of law fails to achieve its justifying existence.

For Federal and Postal employees who must wade into the complex and often mystifying realm of Federal Disability Retirement law, the problematic and confusing aspects of standard forms, procedural hurdles and legal ramifications compounded by the debilitating effects of the medical conditions themselves, can be daunting and prohibitive.  Furthermore, while some explanations can be forthcoming, the problem with most is that they fail to correctly inform.

In this age of technological plenitude, where information is in abundance, but where verification of the sufficiency of information is often inadequate, it is important to seek intelligibility from sources which correctly explain.

Federal Disability Retirement is an important step for the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker who finds that one’s medical condition prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s positional duties in the Federal sector.

Whether under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, taking the affirmative step to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits begins first with an acceptance of the administrative process; next, one must seek an explanation in order to reach an understanding of the bureaucratic procedures; and, finally, one must achieve a sense of confidence in the process, which can only come about through reaching the goal of intelligibility, through explanation, and thereby reaching that plateau of understanding.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

SF 3112A

OPM Standard Form 3112A: Applicant’s Statement of Disability:

The constraint of a standardized form, by its very appearance, is itself a self-evident anomaly of conformity; forms, by the very nature of their format, constrains and delimits the ability to respond.  Space is limited, and it is intended to be that way.

By mandating the completion of specific forms in an uniform, consistent, and universally standardized approach, the applicant who must complete the form must by necessity conform to the regulated approach. Further, the appearance itself often lulls the individual into a certain mindset, such that the response is constrained, limited, and by necessity of conservation of space and in attempting to answer the specific question queried, of brevity and devoid of critical details.

Bureaucracies create forms, and the regulations promulgated in the preparation and response to such forms. For the Federal and Postal employee who must by necessity file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal employee or the Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, the forms needed to be completed in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, are numerous, complex, and cumbersome.

Of the multiple forms which must be completed, the Federal and Postal employee must at some point encounter and face the most critical one of all: SF 3112A. The content of the form itself appears simple enough; the complexities inherent in the form is constituted almost by an endless array of a history of court decisions, opinions issued by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, as well as by OPM issuances of denials in thousands of cases.

Just by way of example, after the very first question asked upon requesting the applicant’s name, date of birth and SSN, it makes a simple but profoundly limiting statement: “We consider only the diseases and/or injuries you discuss in this application.”  That statement seems fair enough, and perhaps even reasonable.  The single word which is operatively significant, one would assume, is in the word “consider”.

But beware; for, it is the next-to-last word in the statement which is the onerous thousand-pound boulder which can fall upon the head of a Federal or Post Office Disability Retirement applicant, unless one is very, very careful. It is the word, “this”, and the consequences of such a word must be given great weight, and consideration beyond what the legal ramifications will later reveal.

Just a word of caution to the wise, for those who intend on jumping into the proverbial waters of bureaucratic complexities without first dipping a cautious toe into the lake of fire.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire