Federal Disability Retirement: The Price of Good Intentions to Deceive

Can one possess good intentions to deceive?  Such a paradoxical claim would normally constitute what is commonly referred to as an oxymoron, as the concept of “good” would countermand the opposing construct of deception.  Thus, it is not the intention itself which makes for the conundrum, but rather the originating focus of the will to act.

For the Federal and Postal employee who masks one’s medical conditions, whether of a physical nature, a psychiatric condition, or concerning the medications which are prescribed and taken at the direction of one’s medical provider in order to alleviate the symptoms of the condition and perhaps as a palliative measure, the price which one pays for not immediately informing one’s agency may range from nothing, to unforeseen consequences far into the future.

Is it technically “deception” to engage in a negative — i.e., to not immediately inform?  Is there an affirmative duty to convey or otherwise divulge such private information, if the medical condition has not yet become so apparent as to openly manifest an impact upon one’s ability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job?

Conversely, does the supervisor and the agency perform a service of “good” if performance ratings continue to reflect superior or outstanding, when more recent work has clearly diminished in volume and/or quality, but because of past performance and an ongoing sense of loyalty, the supervisor wants to just “sign off” by regurgitating past evaluations and assigning a current date?

Ultimately, in a Federal Disability Retirement case, one must at some point divulge the medical condition, if not merely at the time of filing one’s Federal Disability Retirement application through the agency’s Human Resources Department.  The timing of such divulgence, however, can sometimes impact the reactionary impulses of an agency.  In the end, the Agency must complete SF 3112D in response to the applicant’s filing; and whether the agency was previously informed or not, an effort to see whether an appropriate accommodation can be made will become an integral part of the process.

From the perspective of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the issue of timing — of the good or neutral intentions of the applicant — rarely comes into play.

As for any “deception” involved, the only one who would be harmed by any such intention would be the one who bravely attempts to continue working through the pain of the condition itself, and the harm which continues to progressively deteriorate the Federal or Postal employee who attempts to perform all of the essential elements of one’s position.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Agency Supervisors & Their Responsibility

Agency Supervisors possess powers which can be easily misused. As such, the Supervisor who must fill out a Supervisor’s Statement — Standard Form 3112B — for the disability retirement applicant, must do so with care, integrity, and a sense of reasoned perspective and fairness. “But I’m only telling the truth of what I believe,” is often the justification of a Supervisor who deliberately inserts damaging, self-serving and derogatory remarks on the Supervisor’s Statement. But such “truth” goes beyond the proper role of a Supervisor. Indeed, it is often helpful to discuss the content of intended remarks and statements with the Federal or Postal employee first. Such consultation provides a true and balanced opportunity — a field of fairness and a reasoned perspective — to ensure that a Supervisor is indeed being fair, balanced, and neutral, and not allowing for any personal “feelings” of acrimony or animosity to dilute and pollute a fair appraisal of an employee’s performance, conduct, and impact upon the Agency’s purpose, mission, and goals intended and accomplished. For, ultimately, a Supervisor’s Statement is not about what a Supervisor’s “belief” is; it is not about whether the Supervisor likes or dislikes a Federal or Postal employee; rather, it is supposed to be a balanced, objective perspective delineating the impact of a Federal or Postal employee’s performance or conduct, relative to his or her medical condition and the ability of that employee to perform the essential elements of a job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Filing II

People often come to me at the 2nd (Reconsideration) Stage, or the 3rd (Merit Systems Protection Board) Stage, and ask that I correct the mistakes made in the initial filing. Most mistakes can be corrected. Of course, it would have been better if the Applicant had done it properly the first time, for once the Office of Personnel Management views something which should not have been submitted, it cannot be easily retracted — only further explained.

There are, moreover, certain mistakes which cannot be “explained away” — such as deliberate omissions or deceptions. Thus, if the Office of Personnel Management gets the idea that there is an element of deceptiveness in a disability retirement application — either through omission or deliberate avoidance of an issue — then it becomes a difficult case to win. Honesty is always the best policy, and no Disability Retirement applicant should ever engage in any act of covering up any information. This is conceptually different from emphasizing the elements in a disability retirement application which favor an approval, as opposed to de-emphasizing those elements which tend to obscure the primary elements of an application. Such artful emphasis/de-emphasis should always be a part of every disability retirement application, coordinating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability with supporting medical documentation, to convey a consistent “whole” to the Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability: The Filing

Never be deceptive in your filing. Always be truthful. To be deceptive or untruthful will harm your credibility, your case, and ultimately, may defeat your ability to obtain disability retirement benefits. Now, there is a conceptual distinction between being “truthful” and emphasizing certain issues of your case, while leaving certain other issues as secondary and less prominent in the documents & supportive papers filed. Thus, to take a rather crude example, while everyone in the world spends a great deal of his or her life in the restroom, we rarely — if ever — talk about such events. Is it because we are not being “truthful”? No — instead, while it is an issue which is not emphasized, it is not something which we are also being deceptive about.

Thus, with respect to disability retirement issues, one should never deliberately attempt to mislead, hide, or otherwise “expunge” certain aspects of the disability retirement application. At the same time, however, those aspects which are not very helpful, or which may harm your case, should not be placed in bold-type or underlined in red. Wherever possible, those aspects which will weaken your case, should simply be de-emphasized — but never deliberately hidden.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire