OPM Retirement for Medical Incapacity: The boxes in Standard Forms

For some forms, it is a convenience to have a restrictive, limited “box” in which to put the “x” into, or maybe the needed “Not Applicable”; others, however, try and contain a limited narrative and force succinctness into the standardization of answers.  That is all well and good, and perhaps from a bureaucratic standpoint and perspective, the conformity of forms and the mandatory “answers within a box” makes for streamlining of paperwork.

The reality, however, is that some questions cannot be answered — and more importantly, should not — within the proposed space allocated, and so you have two (2) choices: decrease the font size in order to fit a greater substance of the narrative within the provided box, or attach a continuation sheet despite no indication in the standard forms for allowance of such cheekiness of presumptuous creativity.

How does one identify which Standard Form should be prepared and completed within the confines of standardization, and which ones should not?   First, a conceptual identification should be applied: Which ones are merely “informational” that request only singular answers, and which forms make queries that compel for narrative answers?  Once that initial, identifying bifurcation is made, then the next step is to determine whether an adequate and sufficient response can be stated within the “box” provided within the font-size allowing for regular eyesight that does not require extraordinary magnification, or if a continuation sheet is necessary.

Thus, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, certain Standard Forms are merely informational — for example, the SF 3107 series which asks for basic, factual information.  Then, of course, there is the SF 3112 series, and especially SF 31112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

For the Federal employee or the U.S. Postal worker under FERS, who is considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the greater mistake has often been to quickly annotate within the boxes provided a swift “jotting down” of the medical conditions one “feels” — as if the body parts providing temporary sensations for a given day, or even the lack thereof, will sufficiently satisfy the eligibility requirements that must be met in order to become approved for a Federal Disability Retirement annuity.

Make no mistake about it: there can be dire legal consequences if SF 3112A is not completed properly and sufficiently.  And always remember the philosophical dictum: That which is necessary may not be necessarily sufficient, and that which is sufficient may not be sufficiently necessary.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Disability Retirement for Federal Employees: Content

What do we mean when we distinguish between “content” as opposed to “context”?  Are the two always distinguishable, and if so, are there any features or characteristics that make inseparability a potential difficulty?

We have all heard the famous phrase from King’s speech about being judged by the “content” of one’s character, as opposed to the “color” of one’s skin – a deviation of sorts from the more customary reference to the distinction made between appearance and reality, form versus substance, or even of spiritual versus material (although, as to the latter, one will often hear the metaphysical argument that it is the spiritual which is the “real” reality, and that the material is merely that fleeting, temporal existence that lasts for only a limited time).

Can the two truly be separated so cleanly as to allow for harmless independence – or, like the Siamese twins that share a vital organ, would any attempt necessarily devastate both?  For, isn’t it the very appearance of a thing that attracts and allows for an investigation further into the inner depths of the thing attracted towards?  Doesn’t context always matter when looking into the content of a thing, whether it is an incident, a conversation or a person of whom one is interested in committing to for a lifetime of relational considerations?

We often like to make such grandiose claims of bifurcating distinctions, when in fact the reality of the matter is that both are needed in order to complete the picture of the whole.

One may argue, of course, that content nevertheless is “more important” than context, or that substance by definition is of greater consequence than appearance, and by fiat of ascribed significance, one often argues that the former is necessary but perhaps not sufficient without the latter, whereas the latter is not unnecessary, but nevertheless cannot be made without unless one wants to walk about through life with a missing leg or a part of one’s soul left behind.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, always remember that – in preparing the SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability – the U.S. Office of Personnel Management is looking for both content and context, and thus must one always be wary and cautious about the implementation of both.

SF 3112A is a trick form.  The questions seem simple enough, but what is put in there; the legal consequences of what medical conditions are included; the result of failing to include certain other conditions that may later be of greater consequence; these, and many more pitfalls, obstacles and unknown legal impact that may or may not be made aware of – well, OPM is not going to tell you beforehand, or help you out, and will indeed judge the Federal Disability Retirement application based upon the content of what is included, and not by the “color” of contextually missing information.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal & Postal Disability Retirement: Life’s Fathomless Diatribe

We tend to personify and project upon lifeless, inorganic and inert entities, not to mention the extrapolation of generalized and universal conceptual forms, and inject them with personalities, characteristics and living imprints.  Did Plato make this fatal mistake, or was he beyond our intellectual capacity, and perhaps like the mischievous character he provided in his dialogues, was he merely the siamese twin of Socrates and inextricably conjoined in body, mind and philosophical spirit, with that glint of the knowing jokester?

“Life”, as we like to make of the stuff which confounds us, is like the half-crazed homeless person who stands on the street corner and yells at us as we pass by.  Sometimes, we even get hit by a bombardment of spittle, and an unexpected whack on the head, leaving us stunned and helpless, faint with outrage and anxious that Mr. Life may follow us home.  And, indeed, he sometimes does.

Life is like that fathomless diatribe; and we are merely an audience of one, isolated, watchful, spectators who can only observe, sometimes shout back, and in a feeble attempt at altering destiny, weep in a heap of self-pity and trembling repose.  That is how the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal worker feels, in confronting the mammoth of the Federal Bureaucracy and the U.S. Postal Service, especially when the Federal employee and U.S. Postal worker are enmeshed in the weakened state of fighting a 3-front battle:  One’s own Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service; a medical condition that has begun to impact the ability and capacity to perform all of the essential elements of one’s positional requirements; and the battle against “life” and all of its multitudinous facets of complexities.

Is “life” just another metaphorical voice in the darkness of time?  For the Federal or Postal worker, the time to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal or Postal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, must often be determined by the harkening voice of life’s trials and travails.  As OPM is just another behemoth to confront, in addition to one’s own agency or the U.S. Postal Service, so the preparation to “do battle” must include the tools of engagement:  the facts, the law, and the will to proceed.  And like life’s fathomless diatribe, the will to win must first and foremost be the amour of protection in preparing, formulating and filing for OPM Disability Retirement.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire


Federal Disability Retirement: Social Contract Theory

In modernity, what is the “Social Contract”, and does it still hold any meaning?  Or, is the bundle of bureaucracy, the conflict between the competitive predatoriness of capitalism left to its own devices resulting in a cronyism of wealthy interconnections, as opposed to the growing girth of Federalism with a pittance and breadcrumbs left to State governments to fill in some minor gaps — does the aggregate of such entities, comprised of regulations, statutes, laws and a compendium of languages isolated in fine print, all together reflect the vestiges of the Social Contract we once revered as the awe-inspiring product of the Age of Enlightenment?

Would Rousseau, and to a lesser extent Hobbes, and further explained in Locke’s Treatise, represent anything of value, anymore?  Or are we left to our own devices, as Darwin proposed those many decades ago on the lapping shores of the Galapagos, where survivability is determined by genetic origin, environmental refinement, and ultimately the devices used in subterfuge when societal niceties require at least a surface semblance of genteel behavior?  In the end, the concept of a “Social Contract” means little if the basic legal constructs are not adhered to.

For Federal employees and U.S. Postal Workers, such legal constructs are represented by the cumulative promises made by the bureaucracy which employs them, comprised of statutes, regulations, executive orders and corollary mandates.  For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, the idea of honoring the Social Contract becomes important, because part of that agreement is to fairly treat the Federal or Postal employee when the Federal or Postal employee is no longer able, because of a medical condition, to continue working in the same job.

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee is under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset, is each day a test as to the continuing resolution of the viability of the Social Contract.  While not every Federal or Postal employee may be automatically eligible for the benefits to be received through Federal Disability Retirement, it is the fairness of the process which is important, and whether a proper course of administrative protocols are followed and met throughout the entirety of the bureaucratic process.

In the end, those vestiges of that grand idea originating in the minds of philosophers — the highfalutin concept of a Social Contract — are only as good as the promises made and declarations kept in the things that impact the everyday lives of ordinary people, like those dedicated public servants who toil daily in the Federal Sector and the U.S. Postal Service.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire