OPM Disability Retirement: The Trickiness Concerning Accommodations

The issue of “Accommodations” can be a rather tricky one.  Over the years, the term has expanded and been refined by various legal precedents, and the technical, term of art now carries some meanings which, if not understood properly, can entrap Federal and Postal employees into making wrong decisions while in the process of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  

In simplistic terms, to be properly accommodated by an Agency, the Federal or Postal worker must be provided with an accommodating “X”, such that he or she can continue to perform all of the essential elements of one’s job.  Further, temporarily modifying or suspending certain elements of a position description, for purposes of allowing for the Federal or Postal Worker to continue working, does not constitute an accommodation under the law.  

This makes sense, if one stops to think about it, and for the following reason:  such an arbitrary modification of work duties by a Supervisor or Manager, can just as arbitrarily be taken away.  As such, temporary “accommodating” actions — while commendable and allowable in order to let the Federal or Postal worker continue to work — does not preclude the Federal or Postal worker from proceeding with his or her Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Additionally, remember that an Agency’s effort for “Reassignment” is part of the Standard Form 3112D (Thus, the Form is entitled, “Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts”), and comprises part of the Agency’s attempt to “accommodate” the Federal or Postal employee.  The issue of “reassignment” is a separate, but related one, and that issue is often influenced by the dependent clause which should not be overlooked in a Federal Disability Retirement application:  that a person can no longer perform one or more of the essential elements of a particular job, or any similar job. 

By having a working knowledge of the issues surrounding Federal Disability Retirement laws, even in a rudimentary state of knowledge, one acquires a better chance of success.  Approval is a long and arduous process. Knowing the lawand its impact is part of that process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Working while Waiting

The question is often asked whether a Federal or Postal employee is able to, allowed to, or can work, while filing for and awaiting a decision upon, a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS from the Office of Personnel Management.  The subtle distinctions to be made between “able”, “allowed” and “can”, of course, are done purposefully.  

Within the medical restrictions, condition and extent of severity of the medical conditions, most Federal employees are able to continue to provide some level of productivity within his or her position with the Federal government.  

Whether a Federal or Postal employee is allowed to work while having filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is a separate question, but for the most part, agencies allow the employee to continue working — sometimes in a light duty capacity (especially where certain essential elements of the job may pose a danger because of the medical restrictions imposed), but often in a temporarily reduced capacity.  Thus, the “allowed” category is essentially up to each individual and independent agency, but for the most part agencies do allow Federal employees to continue to work.  

The latter distinction — whether a Federal or Postal employee “can” work — is a hybrid of the previous two categories.  Most Federal and Postal employees must work, out of economic necessity, and therefore will force themselves to continue to work as long as possible.  

The Federal or Postal employee who can continue to work, will work, and can do so to the extent that the Federal Agency or the Postal Service will allow the employee to perform some, if not most, of the essential elements of one’s job.  It should be a coordinated effort between the Agency and the employee who has shown his or her loyalty these past many years, but unfortunately such coordination breaks down somewhere during the process.  

During the trying times of preparing, formulating, filing, then waiting for a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the time for an Agency to show that the concept of “loyalty” is a bilateral proposition should surface — if only for the time to complete the process.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: SF 3112B

It is amazing how a Supervisor’s Statement is completed.  Normally, it is completed without much thought; sometimes, it is completed with too much thought (and self-protective, CYA language concerning how much effort the agency attempted in “accommodating” the employee, when in fact little or no effort was made); more often than not, there is a last, parting shot at the employee — some unnecessary “dig” which often contradicts other portions of the statement; and, finally, every now and then, the Supervisor’s Statement is completed in the proper manner, with forethought and truthfulness. 

Fortunately, the Office of Personnel Management rarely puts much weight on a Supervisor’s Statement in making a determination on a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS — unless there is some glaring statement of a deliberate attempt to undermine the Application.  This is rare, because it is a medical disability retirement, not a Supervisor’s disability retirement — meaning, that it is the medical opinion, not the opinion of a Supervisor, which is (and should be) most important.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire