FERS & CSRS Disability Standard Forms and the Proverbial Blank Slate

The paradigm of a tabula rasa is a frightening one.  It implies a complete negation of historical context, of evolutionary influence, and therefore denies instinct, nature, and pre-conditional implications.  But clearly there are confines and parameters of behaviors, and different species of animals will act in specific ways peculiar to the individuality of the entity, while taking on certain imprinting models if surrounded by members of other species.

To assume, however, that no context exists, either in prefix or suffix form, is to deny a fundamental truth at one’s hazard in doing so.  For Federal employees and Postal workers who begin to complete the required forms for a Federal Disability Retirement application — whether the informational requirements queried in SF 3107 (or SF 2801 for CSRS individuals); or the series of SF 3112 forms which inquire into the foundational questions of one’s medical conditions, their impact upon the essential elements of the job, etc. — it is important to approach any and all such standard forms with a view towards denying the existence of a tabula rasa, or the concept of a blank slate.

Such pristine states of being do not exist, neither in nature, nor in the complex world of administrative bureaucracies.  The history of the forms, of SF 3107, SF 2801, or SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, SF 3112D or SF 3112E, all have a history preceding and superseding the date of the formulation and printing of such forms.  Statutory underpinnings, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board rulings, Federal Circuit Court of Appeals opinions, and expansive legal opinions, all provide a context for each question queried, and each piece of information requested.

Thus, to approach any such OPM Disability Retirement standard form as if it is merely a blank slate, is to proceed down a dark and curving road with ignorance and fail to realize that it is not a quiet, rural road with nary a car, but the Autobahn busy with high-powered vehicles testing the limits of speed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

SF 3112

Standard Forms are a necessary part of life. Bureaucracies streamline for efficiency of services; the question of whether such efficiency is for the benefit of an applicant to a Federal agency, or to ease the workload of the agency and its employees, is ultimately a fatuous question: as common parlance would sigh with resignation, “it is what it is”.

For the Federal and Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts and ultimately prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, will be a requirement which will include completing OPM application forms. There will be the SF 3107 series of forms, as well as the SF 3112 forms. Such forms request a tremendous amount of information, both personal and of a very confidential nature.

The justification for requesting such information by the agency which will review such forms (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the later stages of a Federal Disability Retirement application, but initially through one’s own agency, including the Human Resource Office of the agency for which the Federal or Postal employee works, as well as the Supervisor of the applicant who is applying for Federal Disability benefits), is based upon a two-folded approach: The applicant who voluntarily applies for Federal Disability benefits is required to provide such information in order to prove eligibility, and such voluntariness justifies the request itself; and, secondly, there is a “need to know” such information in order to properly assess such information, based upon a preponderance of the evidence. Beyond the SF 3107 forms, the SF 3112 forms will ask for detailed information on the most personal of issues: One’s medical conditions and the impact upon employment capabilities and daily living issues; request of the Supervisor information concerning work performance; ask of the agency to assess and evaluate any capability for accommodating a medical condition; and a similar multitude of onerous, prying questions.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits will require much of the Federal and Postal employee seeking a medical retirement annuity, in the very forms which allegedly “streamline” the process, and these will necessarily include SF 3107 forms and SF 3112 forms. In the end, however, when weighed comparatively against one’s health and the need to move on to a less stressful environment, the price one must pay is relatively cheap when considering the high cost of continuing in the same vein.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Disability Retirement: Complexity in the Hidden Background

To prove one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS, is seemingly an uncomplicated matter.

As one’s medical condition impacts the ability to perform one or more of the essential element of one’s job, it is up to the treating doctor to establish the nexus and provide an opinion as to the connecting bridge between the medical condition and the positional requirements of one’s Federal or Postal job.

How does one do that? Must it be comprised of a 1-to-1 ratio between job elements and medical conditions? How important and prominent are “symptoms” considered, as opposed to the mere clinical declaration of the diagnosis, in persuading the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that a particular medical condition should qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits? To what extent is one’s own statement of disability, as described on Standard Form 3112A, important in establishing the foothold towards gaining an approval from OPM?

Also, what algorithm or comparative analysis does OPM use in evaluating a case, and how does one enhance the chances of success at the First Stage of the process? If denied at the First Stage of the Federal Disability Retirement process, does the basis of the denial (often characterized by a plethora of multiple reasons given) require a point-by-point refutation, and is the Reconsideration Division at OPM using the same standard of review, or a different application of laws in evaluating the additional evidence submitted at the next stage?

If one watches a gymnast, a ballerina, or even a mathematician at work in solving or unraveling a complex problem or exercise, one is immediately struck by the ease with which the feat is performed. But it is almost always the unseen preparation which has preceded the actual performance that sets the stage of an uncomplicated presentation.

It is that mystery of the uncomplicated, which tends to trip us all, and that is no different in the preparation, formulation and submission of a Federal Disability Retirement application, applied through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether you are under FERS or CSRS.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: The Theory of Correspondence

20th Century Philosophy has witnessed the steady progression of deconstruction; of centuries of attempting to answer age-old questions which challenged the mind, only to be declared that it was, all throughout, the question which was the problem, and the imprecise manner of communication through language difficulties and conceptual confusions that created the unfathomable difficulties, and that therefore there are no substantive problems in philosophy to solve.

Bertrand Russell, the entire tradition of English Empiricism, and long comes Wittgenstein; and any theory of correspondence between language and the “objective” world was cast aside as being impractical, unendurable, and in the end, untrue — though, as truth itself became an empty concept, it remained a puzzle as to how such a declarative end could be proposed.

But it was ultimately the devaluing of correspondence which became most troubling; for, now, as there was and is no connection between language and reality, so an individual can do and say one thing, and be and remain another. Perhaps that is why Facebook, Twitter and electronic media are so popular; we have become who we merely declare we are.

That is often the insidious nature of a medical condition; when once it becomes known, we want to ignore it, conceal it, and think it away; but somehow the physical reality of one’s life cannot be erased so easily as words on paper, or through the use of a ‘delete’ button.

Medical conditions really do impact us; and if the Federal or Postal employee finds him/herself beset with a medical condition such that it prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s job, then the reality of a career’s end and a change of vocation is one which is beyond mere words. But words and completing forms are what must be performed in formulating, preparing and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether one is under FERS or CSRS.

So, in the end, the integrity of correspondence occurs, despite what modern philosophy says — there is still, and will always be, a connection between language and reality, and that is clear and unavoidable for the Federal and Postal employee who must attempt to maneuver one’s way through the bureaucracy and administrative procedures of a Federal Disability Retirement case.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Platonic and Other Forms

Forms are interesting conceptual constructs:  They are created for ease of use; yet, concurrently, they contain, restrict, and by all appearances, limit the ability to go beyond the “form”.  Thus it is with Plato’s philosophical proposition of Forms — they represent the “essence” of what a thing is, as it is; and, like government forms, one is presumable unable to violate the essence in their particularized representative appearances.

The difference, however, between Platonic Forms and government-issued forms, is quite obvious:  Plato’s Forms represent the highest and best of any individual construct in the physical world; government forms rarely represent anything but a bureaucratic decision to force conformity upon anyone and everyone contemplating filing for a benefit.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the potential applicant must understand that he/she will be confronted with multiple and complex forms to complete.  How one completes each form; what one states on any given form; whether one answers the questions posed in an adequate or sufficient manner — each of these will have a direct and often irreparable impact upon the success or failure of a Federal Disability Retirement packet.

The forms themselves may appear simplistic in appearance and content (i.e., SF 3107 series for those under FERS; SF 2801 for those under CSRS; SF 3112 series for both FERS & CSRS); what they represent, however, constitute unstated complexities which can only be understood within the full context of the evolution of statues, regulations and case-law handed down throughout the years, which make up the entirety of the compendium of Federal Disability Retirement practice.

One would never have thought that government-issued forms would be as complicated to understand as Platonic Forms; but then, Plato never encountered the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — otherwise, he may never have proposed that there is indeed the existence of the Form of Beauty and Goodness.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire