SF 3112B

OPM Standard Form 3112B: Supervisor’s Statement:

Were it that managerial approaches were diverse, and that such differences in stylistic methodologies constituted a perfect tailoring of individual personality to a particular job at hand; then, in that event, efficiency would predominate, scandals of long waiting times would disappear, and Federal and Post Office Workers would never be tested in their penultimate entanglement with the requisite virtue of patience.  But this is the real world. This is not some parallel universe in which dreams are dictated by wants and desires, and satisfaction of personal goals are attained at a whim.

In the harsh reality of technological onslaughts and daily toils of repetitive boredom, supervisors are placed in positions of trust, often misfits in an universe of onerous regulatory requirements and mandates.  As in all sectors of society, both public and private, there are good ones and bad, competent and their opposite; caring and callous; cold, indifferent, or warm beyond a fault.  But because of the busy-ness of the world in which we live, being aware of, or having the time to care for, the problems of subordinates, is a rare trait.

For the Federal and Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition necessitates filing for Federal Medical Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee or the Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, the process will require the request for completion of SF 3112B, or more commonly known as the Supervisor’s Statement. For some, it will merely be a nuisance in the mere act of requesting; for others, a chaotic turmoil of sorts, filled with angst and thoughts of retribution and retaliation.

Ultimately, however, this is where standardized forms work for the benefit of Federal and Postal employees, because of the specificity of questions posed in SF 3112B.  Yes, there are blank spaces for some extemporaneous comments; yes, attachments to SF 3112B are allowed; but the most relevant queries are merely requests for box-checking, and that is where brevity is to the benefit of the Federal employee or Postal worker.

In the end, the process of filing for Federal Disability benefits through OPM is based upon the sufficiency of medical documentation, and not what a Supervisor says or leaves out in SF 3112B.  That is why an executed methodology of a coherent strategy to obtain evidentiary support is so crucial to a successful outcome in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Employee Disability Insurance benefits, whether the Federal employee or Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS.

 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Clarification of Options

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 often necessary to perform a methodological analysis similar to a “risk-benefits” evaluation before proceeding down the path in attempting to prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The risks versus benefits analysis should already have been performed:  the necessity of filing because of one’s medical conditions should have answered any such issues arising from such a concern.  The “other” analytical approach, however, often revolves around the ever-prevalent and uniquely human ability to endlessly ruminate:  the “What if” syndrome.  What if I don’t get the disability retirement?  What if my agency terminates me before I get approved?  What if…

Such questions, while important to consider, should be first preceded by the overarching “what-if” question of all, which generally answers all subsequent similar questions:  “What if I don’t file?”  Presumably, one comes to a point in deciding to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits because of a medical condition which has progressively or suddenly come to a point where it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

Given that, the options to be clarified are quite simple:  If one does not file, then one will either have to continue working in the same or similar capacity; or one can resign and walk away, perhaps with a deferred retirement at age 65.  Are any of those options truly viable?  Ergo, many — if not all — of the other “what if” questions resolve themselves by first clarifying the penultimate what-if question.

Sequential clarification of one’s options is an important step in the reflective process of decision-making; take the time to consider the options; clarify the options; then, when the decision to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefitsbecomes a matter of necessity, move forward with the view that one will be approved precisely because the facts prove the case, without engaging in the self-defeating, very-human endeavor of self-doubt and questioning.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Technical Difficulties & the Problems of Life

Sometimes, regularity of activity is interrupted by what is generally deemed as “technical difficulties” and the common problems of life; and, indeed, for those who have noticed that the undersigned writer did not post a blog in the past couple of days, that is precisely what occurred — “technical glitches” which prevented the posting.

But that problems of life, including medical conditions which impact one’s ability or inability to perform all of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, should be as minor as everyday difficulties of life made interesting by mere technical glitches — that would be acceptable and tolerable.  But for the Federal or Postal employee who is suffering from medical conditions which are so serious that they begin to impede and interfere with the very ability to perform the essential elements of one’s career, job, and positional duties — that is when Federal Disability Retirement benefits should be considered.

Ultimately, preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is not a matter of choice, but one of necessity.  Unlike a technological glitch which presents a problem within a short, specified period of time; or a “life problem” which presents a difficulty where an individual must make some choices and decisions which, hopefully, would resolve such problems or at least lessen the reverberating impact of the difficulties — in contrast, a medical condition which prevents a Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, is a life-changing event, with immediate impact, future consequences, and an all-encompassing tidal wave of meaningful impingement upon one’s very being.

It is a life-changing decision; not just a technical glitch, but a road which must be taken.  In doing so, it is important to do it “right”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Legal Standards

Recent decisions issued by the Full Board of the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board — specifically, Henderson v. OPM, decided on January 31, 2012, reestablishes the two general standards of applicable evidentiary approaches in proving a Federal Disability Retirement case, whether under FERS or CSRS.  Whether or not the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will “comply” with the applicable standards as set forth by the MSPB is another question.

Often, the “trickle-down” effect of a legal opinion can take years to accomplish — and by that time, further refinements by the courts and by the MSPB may have made such legal opinions moot, irrelevant or otherwise restrictive in its practical application, anyway.  For the time being, however, the two legal approaches can be generally stated thus:  One must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence in all Federal Disability Retirement cases, either (A)  That certain specific medical conditions prevent one from performing certain specific essential elements of one’s job (somewhat like a 1 – 1 correspondence, or more generally, a medical opinion showing that medical condition X prevents job duties Y because of Z) or (B) as stated previously in Bruner and multiple other cases, there is an “inconsistency” between one’s medical condition (or multiplicity of medical conditions) and the type of positional duties one must engage in to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

The former criteria to satisfy may be deemed “particularized”; the latter may be seen as a more “generalized” approach.  While there is certainly a conceptual distinction between the two, in pragmatic terms, such a distinction may be without too much difference, if only because doctors will often go back and forth between the two approaches, anyway, in writing a medical narrative report.

The conceptual distinction is not as apparent as one between “explicit” and “implicit”, but certainly the former approach encapsulates a greater specificity of detailing a connection between X and Y, whereas the latter requires the reader or reviewer (i.e., OPM or the Administrative Judge) to think through and analyze the entirety of the issue.  But that life would not be so complicated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Often, the Option Was Always Open

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question on Standard Form 3112A which asks for the “approximate date” of when a Federal or Postal employee became disabled from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job can sometimes be rather tricky.

For, quite often, it is not the medical condition itself which drives a Federal or Postal employee to file for a Federal Disability Retirement annuity; rather, it may be external circumstances entirely foreign to the medical condition itself (i.e., actions of the Supervisor, the Agency; changes in work schedules; reinstating other assignments and positional requirements, etc.).

In many cases, the fact is that the Federal or Postal worker may have been eligible to apply for, and successfully obtain, a Federal Disability Retirement annuity for several years — it is just that he or she never exercised the option or right to do so, because the Agency or the U.S. Postal Service allowed for light duty, temporary duty assignments, modified duties, etc. — in other words, a loose network of ad hoc duties aggregately termed as an “accommodation”, but clearly not what would constitute a legally-sufficient accommodation under the law and under the Bracey definition.  But the option to exercise the eligibility in a Federal Disability Retirement application may have been there for many years, and so the question on SF 3112A may actually require a response indicating many years and months prior to the completion and dating of the form itself.

The fact that a medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job is the qualifying factor in a Federal Disability Retirement application; when to exercise the option to obtain a Federal Disability Retirement annuity is a separate issue; and as to the latter, the compelling force may well be issues external to a medical condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Illness v. Disability

Everyone has experienced an illness which results in a temporary period of disability; there is, however, a vast difference between such an illness, and a medical condition which is of such severity, chronicity, and intractability, such that it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

In this day and age of cynicism and suspicion, where economic forces have pitted the private sector against Federal and Postal employees, it is important to approach a Federal Disability Retirement case in a methodological, systematic way, such that there is no question as to the viability of one’s case.  The U.S. Office of Personnel Management scrutinizes each Federal Disability Retirement application with a set of legal criteria, and if any one point of the Federal or Postal Worker’s application fails to meet the legal criteria, the Office of Personnel Management will deny the case.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is important to ensure that one’s narrative description, the compilation of medical reports and evidence, and the entirety of the Federal Disability Retirement application, is not characterized merely as a “temporary illness”, but is unequivocally shown to be a medical condition such that it prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.

There is a difference between an illness of a temporary nature and a chronic and progressively debilitating medical condition; but more than that, there is a vast chasm between a fact and the effective description of the fact.  It is the latter which must be conveyed to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Danger of Assuming Terms

Assuming knowledge is generally a dangerous endeavor to begin with; in a legal forum, assuming the meaning of a term can have dire consequences.  “Accommodation”, of course, is a particular term in the field of Federal Disability Retirement law which has a specific, narrow definition.  

Thus, for instance, on SF 3112A, there is a “loaded” question where the applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is asked to choose the various options of one’s current status, and one of the choices provided is, “In pay status, and working with accommodation“.  Such a status is rarely the case, and in all likelihood, does not properly, technically or otherwise apply to anyone who is preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Indeed, if that box is checked, the Office of Personnel Management would have every right to deny a Federal Disability Retirement application on that basis alone, precisely because (A) A Federal or Postal employee who has been accommodated, according to that term of art, is therefore assumed to be able to perform all of the essential elements of his or her job in accordance with the terms of the accommodated position, and (B) Since the Federal or Postal employee who has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits has been accommodated and can perform all of the essential elements of the positional duties, therefore it implicitly acknowledges that the medical condition complained of no longer prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  

Terms can have various conceptual meanings depending upon context and circumstances; particular terms may have very narrow definitions; in the field of law, terms of art must be interpreted in the greater context of statutes, regulations, and case-law expansion of meanings and import.  As the commercials often admonish:  don’t try this on your own; leave it to the professionals.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire