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

 

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Beast of Burden

The burden is undertaken by those have little choice in the matter, but who willingly submit to the responsibility and obligation.  Traditionally, the “beast of burden” (other than being a Rolling Stone song) refers to a somewhat-domesticated animal, perhaps a donkey or an ox, who must bear the weight of man’s work.

In law, the “burden” is one of proof — of the affirmative obligation to present one’s facts, persuasive argumentation based upon such facts, and the application of the relevant law which supports both the facts and the arguments.  The “other side” in the litigation has no burden at all, and can simply sit and do nothing, if he or she so chooses, and see whether or not the plaintiff, the appellant or the Federal Disability Retirement applicant has submitted sufficient proof such that he or she has met his/her burden of proof.

As the weight placed upon a beast of burden is often heavy and demanding, so in a similar vein the litigant who has the burden of proof should always expect to exceed what is “necessary” in any given case.  For the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is indeed a heavy burden to bear in order to meet the legal criteria of a Federal bureaucracy who has the unmitigated power and authority to approve or deny.

The burden of proof — it is as heavy as that which we place upon a beast of burden, and the weight of such responsibility can overwhelm us, lest we have the reserve of strength to plod onward.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Agency & the Burden of Proof

In a Federal Disability Retirement case, submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the burden of proving one’s medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, always remains with the individual Federal or Postal applicant.

Certainly, there are actions by the agency which may add to such proof (e.g., declaring that the Federal or Postal worker is “not fit for duty” will further concretize an assessment made by a third party; or initiating a separation from Federal Service based upon one’s medical inability to perform the essential elements of the job will trigger the Bruner Presumption, which then invokes a rebuttable presumption and shifts the “burden of production” (note that it is not the shifting of the “burden of proof” — a conceptual distinction important to recognize) over to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Waiting for one’s agency to act upon anything is, however, a very dangerous venture to begin with; thinking that one’s own agency will provide the proof necessary to establish one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits would not only be dangerous, but foolhardy.  For, at its most fundamental level, the fact that the very entity which makes a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application (OPM) is one which is separate and independent from the agency for which one works, creates a chasm which only further magnifies the inherent problem.

OPM pays little to no attention to what the agency does — except, perhaps, when the agency attempts to directly confront and challenge a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Otherwise, don’t look for help from one’s agency (generally speaking) when one is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits; such unfounded reliance will only disappoint, at best.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Proof and Consequence

What if you possessed a piece of unique information, but no one else could see it? What if, by all appearances, you seemed perfectly healthy, but you weren’t?  What if you struggled every day to meet the stated professional objectives and goals, but were dying inside?

The silence of a medical condition is the consequence of a duality of contradictions:  many medical conditions, including psychiatric conditions, debilitate the “inner” person, and any such explanation to third parties is met with surprise, astonishment, disbelief and denial; but concomitantly, most people don’t want to hear about the troubles of others, anyway.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one must always distinguish between the medical condition, and proving the medical condition. That X suffers from medical condition Y, unless it is an amputated limb and is self-evident to the outside world, is known only to the sufferer, and to those whom the sufferer relates.

Proving one’s medical condition is done through the objectification of the medical condition — i.e., through a medical doctor who clinically assesses, evaluates, and concludes with a diagnosis.  From there, the proper nexus must be built between the medical condition and the ability/inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  Having X is one thing; proving X is another.

Knowing the distinction will make all the difference in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Medical Support, Belief, Documentation and the Diagnosis

Ultimately, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, one must always remind one’s self that this is a “paper presentation” (regardless of the prevailing and inevitable march towards a paperless society) to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  As such, there are certain inextricable components in the presentation itself, which must be reviewed, evaluated, and decided upon before proceeding.

As a “presentation” which is meant to be persuasive — i.e., proving by a preponderance of the evidence that one is entitled to the Federal Disability Retirement benefit, whether under FERS or CSRS — it must obviously have the essence of the proof itself:  Medical Support.  Without the medical support, one need not consider moving forward at all.

Once the Federal or Postal employee has ascertained that he or she has the medical support to proceed, then the question is one of obtaining the documentation which confirms such support.  For, a pat on the back and a wonderful smile from the doctor will not be persuasive to OPM; the doctor must be willing to document, in detailed format, the support which is expressed.

Next, in sequential order, the medical documentation must reveal, convey, and persuasively reflect, a level of belief which will be tested in the event that the Federal Disability Retirement application is denied at the First Stage of the Process, and further tested if it is denied at the Second, or Reconsideration Stage, of the process.  Thus, in short, the treating or supporting doctor must possess a level of belief in one’s case, and be willing to support that belief throughout the entire administrative process.

Finally, the doctor must be able to make a diagnosis, but more than that, to support the diagnosis, and be willing to make the “nexus” between the diagnosis, the patient’s physical, emotional and cognitive capabilities, and to relate them to one’s positional duties of one’s job.  It is through this process of connecting the dots, where the end-goal is achieved:  of obtaining one’s Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Quantifying Quality & Qualitative Quantity

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to make discretionary decisions concerning multiple aspects of a Federal Disability Retirement application — including the volume, extent, nature, and quality of the medical documentation to be submitted.

Because it is the Applicant (the Federal or Postal employee who is submitting the application) who has the “burden of proof” — that burden which states that by a preponderance of the evidence, one’s Federal Disability Retirement application is more likely to be so than not so — it is therefore up to the Applicant to make determinations as to the quality and quantity of the medical documentation and any other relevant attachments.

Qualitative sufficiency is often a difficult measure to determine; quantitative significance is equally difficult — as in, how much is enough? On the one hand, to submit a thousand pages of medical notes, reports, etc., would probably be “too much”.  But a case which only includes 5 pages of medical reports and notes, while seemingly “too little”, can be more than sufficient if the quality of the records and reports is indisputable and irrefutable in determining that a Federal or Postal employee is no longer able to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Ultimately, the discretionary decision will come down to a matter of experience — for it is based upon prior experience that one can make better decisions for the future.  To that extent, to be inrepresented in attempting to obtain Federal Disability Retirement benefits is obviously a disadvantage, because an unexperienced Applicant is merely entering into the arena of Federal Disability Retirement law based upon a “hit or miss” history of inexperience.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire