Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: Effective Negations

Why is it that some words are known primarily by their negation?  For example, we use the word “unfettered” to convey the meaning of freedom and release, but rarely see the usage of its non-negative form, as in, “He is fettered”.  Perhaps it is because we no longer approve of placing chains or manacles upon prisoners, and instead have become more civilized, with a concurrent alteration in the usage of the term for more genteel societies.

Often, it is the very negation of X — whether through minimization or leaving out completely that which we originally thought to be so indispensable — which makes for the effective case.  Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the problem is normally not one of what to write about or how much to submit; rather, it is the editing process and the paring down and streamlining of a case which is the hard part.

Most people who suffer from a medical condition which has come to a crisis point where it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, are not at a loss for words or volumes of documents ready to submit.  But not everything which is material to a case is relevant, and in order to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is always best to streamline on the basis of relevance per statutory criteria.

Thus, we come full circle:  negation of a concept is often the most effective avenue of discourse; the un-negated bundle, left alone, may include too much baggage for the untrained eye.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Disability Retirement & Standard Forms

Standard Forms are intended to restrain, contain and standardize; it is meant to make you believe that if you violate the “fence” around the physical form itself, or fail to answer specifically the questions “as asked”, that there will be a penalty to pay — i.e., in the case of a Federal Disability Retirement application before the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a denial of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  

For the Federal or Postal Worker who is intending on filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the question of what to say, how much to say, and in what tone or tenor (does one presume that OPM is an “adversary”, and therefore should any submission be crafted in such a manner?  Or, should the tone be more “neutral”?  Hint:  Whatever the proper balance of tone to embrace, OPM is not one’s close relative, and should not be approached as such); and, ultimately, whether and to what extent “continuation pages” should be attached to the forms themselves.  

For FERS employees, or course, one must complete SF 3107, along with Schedules A, B & C, as well as have the Certified Summary of Federal Service completed, and if applicable, SF 3107-2, the Spousal Waiver.  For CSRS, one must complete SF 2801, and again, the Schedules A, B & C and the Certified Summary of Federal Service.  For both FERS and CSRS employees, the second set of forms — SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, SF 3112D & SF 3112E — must also be completed.  

For the Federal or Postal employee, it is the SF 3112A which is the most daunting, the most important, and the one which must be thoughtfully completed.  It is the first form which OPM will search for, review, analyze, compare, attack, and scrutinize, in making a decision upon one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  It is indeed a form which is “standard” in every sense of the word — in appearance; in requirement; in formatted appearance; and in the end, the level of effort and input one makes of it.  

What should one’s own “standard” be in preparing, formulating and filing the Standard Form 3112A?  Care, caution and a concern for coordinated completion.  Yes, and by the way, the undersigned writer enjoys engaging in alliteration, assonance and consonance.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Standard Forms Do Not Mean “Standard Responses”

The problem with “Standard Forms” is that they often appear to solicit “standard responses”, and in a Federal Disability Retirement case under the Federal Employees Retirement Systems (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), nothing could be further from the truth.  Indeed, it is often because a Federal or Postal employee/applicant who confronts and begins to fill out SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, the very “blocked” appearance of the form, and the constricting questions themselves, makes it appear as if a “standard response” is required.  Don’t be fooled.

By way of example, take a “special animal” — that of a Federal Aviation Administration Air Traffic Controller who must take a disqualifying medication, loses his or her medical certification from the Flight Surgeon, and thinks that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a “slam dunk”.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  Or, a Customs & Border Patrol Agent who goes out on stress leave, or suffers from chronic back pain.  Are there “standard responses” in filling out an Applicant’s Statement of Disability?  There are certain standard “elements” which should be considered in responding to the questions, but don’t be constricted by an appearance of “standard responses” to a “standard form”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement: When & How to Act

When people call me to ask if they need legal representation in filing for disability retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, I try and provide as “objective” an opinion on the matter as possible. I represent hundreds of people in filing for, and obtaining, disability retirement benefits; it is my specialty, and it is how I make a living. At the same time, however, I believe that I can be completely honest in providing guidance as to whether an individual should obtain legal representation, or needs to obtain representation.

For instance, for individuals who have already sent in their disability retirement packets to OPM (via the Agency for those still on the rolls; directly to Boyers, PA for those who have been separated from service for 31 days or more), I normally advise the applicant to wait — wait until a decision has been rendered, and hopefully the individual will not have to expend the funds for attorneys fees, and an approval will be in the mail. On the other hand, every now and then, an applicant who is waiting for a decision from the Office of Personnel Management, will describe the content and substantive materials comprising the disability retirement packet, and certain statements — during a telephone consultation with me — concerning what is stated in the applicant’s Statement of Disability, will give rise to concern, and in those instances, it may be wise to either withdraw the application, or immediately take steps to supplement the disability retirement packet.

Each FERS or CSRS disability retirement packet is unique, because each individual & individual’s medical condition is unique. That’s what makes the practice of law in the field of representing Federal and Postal disability retirement applicants so interesting, and so professionally satisfying.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire