SF 3112D

OPM Standard Form 3112D: Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts:

What does it mean to accommodate, and what, pray tell, constitutes an “effort” to do so?   Is the agency’s obligation to pursue avenues of reassignment or accommodation satisfied by the mere completion of SF 3112D and, if not, does the agency merely pay lip-service in its obligation, or are continuing efforts required to be actively undertaken?

If the Federal employee or Postal worker advances throughout the bureaucratic morass and finally gets an approval for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, what happens if, in the meantime, such agency efforts to continue to search for a suitable reassignment position, or a capacity to actually accommodate the medical condition, is attained?

Does a successful positional reassignment negate the Federal Disability Retirement application if such an offer of reassignment is refused by the Federal employee or Postal worker prior to an approval of a Federal Disability Retirement application?

If a Federal or Postal employee is given a temporary duty assignment, and the length of such an assignment or occupation of such a position is for an unlimited amount of time, does that impact a Federal Disability Retirement application as it sits pending a review by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management? What constitutes a legally viable accommodation? What is considered a valid reassignment?

Has the case-law, whether through the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board or through the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals changed, altered, amended or expanded upon the concept of an accommodation or one’s right to a reassignment at the same pay or grade?

Is the issue of reassignment or accommodation as simple as SF 3112D makes it appear, or are there hidden regulatory, statutory and legal ramifications which must be carefully considered and side-stepped in having SF 3112D completed? Does the Federal employee or Postal worker who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits have any input when the agency completes the OPM SF 3112D PDF Form?

These, and many more questions, need to be considered when a Federal or Postal employee, whether under FERS or CSRS, begins to prepare, formulate and file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: A Choice of One

A choice of one is not a choice at all, except in comparative contrast to the state of affairs one is left with. In life, however, that is often the only viable option offered: Either to remain in an unchanged state of being, or to adopt another set of circumstances which may offer only a limited attraction of availability.

But in choosing the alternative option in comparison to one’s present state of affairs, the evaluative process should not be frozen in present-time analysis; rather, if the given option allows for greater future promise and flexibility, as opposed to the current situation which may retain little to no hope for the future, then the qualitative attractiveness of the “other” may be of exponentially greater value.

One must always take care that one is comparing the valuation of items within a set of choices in terms of qualitative comparability; thus, the old adage and admonition of “comparing apples to apples, and not to oranges”, applies both in terms of substance, as well as future potentialities.

For Federal and Postal employees who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to prevent one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, the “choice of one” is often what one must confront. For, not filing for Federal Disability Retirement will ultimately lead to separation and administrative termination. Or, one may simply resign from one’s Federal or Postal job, and walk away with nothing. Neither of the two previously-stated “options” are viable or rationally sound ones.

Thus, for the Federal and Postal employee who is suffering from a medical condition which impacts one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management becomes the “choice of one”. But it can still be considered a viable and fruitful choice, precisely because it accords a relative state of stability for one’s financial future, and further, it allows for the Federal and Postal employee to seek other employment in the private sector, and make up to 80% of what one’s former Federal or Postal position currently pays, and still retain the Federal Disability Retirement annuity.

Not all options offered are equal. An ice-cream stand which offers only one flavor makes a limited presentation of attraction; but if the inner core of the singular flavor contains a mystery of hidden bursts of multiple sensory explosions which enhance the salivary delights of the customer, then you suddenly have a greater choice than merely a choice of one.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: Choices Left

Options presented imply the availability of alternative picks; but such choices are real ones only if they don’t magically disappear when asserting one over another.

By analogy, Agencies in a Federal Disability Retirement case may claim that all sorts of accommodations have been attempted and provided; but if an ergonomic chair has been given to an administrative worker who suffers from psychiatric conditions which impact one’s focus, concentration, and cognitive capacities, the irreconcilable lack of correspondence between the attempted aid and the medical condition suffered, amounts to an ineffective attempt at accommodations at best, and at worst, a cruel joke.

But as Agencies enjoy patting themselves on the proverbial back, so statistically they can claim that 99.9% of their employees have been accommodated; it just so happens that either the Federal or Postal employees failed to take advantage of such empathetic attempts by the agency, or were not able to appreciate the full extent of such angelic endeavors.

Many medical conditions, of course, are unresponsive to any such attempts of accommodations, precisely because of the very nature, extent and severity of the conditions themselves.  This leaves one with the only choice left:  to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS.

That is why the benefit was enacted; as such, there should be no reason why agencies should attempt to subvert or otherwise place obstacles in the quest for a goal which was intended to accommodate such non-accommodatable circumstances.  But then, the test of sincerity is not mere words, which can come cheaply, but through actions, which can result in a stark reality-check.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for US Government Employees: The Agency’s Attempt

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the issue of “accommodations” will necessarily surface, if only because the Agency must complete SF 3112D — the Form which is entitled, “Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts” (which bureaucrat came up with that title?).

Agencies will often choose the wrong box to check because they will either misread the choices or misunderstand what the statements mean.  For instance, in the third choice of Question 4, it states, “Yes, describe below the accommodation efforts made, attach supporting documentation and provide narrative analysis of any unsuccessful accommodation efforts.”  The problem with the choice itself is that the entire concept of “accommodations” has been clarified, modified, and thoroughly discussed in cases which have been brought before the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board and the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, and such court opinions have been issued subsequent to the original meaning of the term when the Standard Form was first issued.

But when the Agency completes the form, they will often answer the question in terms of “allowing for liberal use of sick leave” or “letting the employee refrain from doing X, Y or Z”,  etc.  But allowing for temporary, light duty work does not constitute a “legal accommodation“, and thus does not go to the requested information.  In fact, the loosely-used term of “accommodation” is actually no accommodation at all.

What to do about it when it happens?  One must be discreet in how to approach it.  For most cases, the agency’s lack of understanding will have no impact at all, and it should not be responded to.  In other instances…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Continuing Confusions

In Federal Disability Retirement law under FERS & CSRS, the issue concerning accommodations can continue to remain a rather confusing area of law.  This is especially true when an Agency allows for an individual, either in the Postal Service (which is becoming rarer because of the prevailing winds of the National Reassessment Program) or in the non-Postal, Federal sector, to remain in a position and perform much of the lighter duties of the job, and to allow for one or more of the essential duties of the job to be delegated to others, or not be performed at all.  Now, such a situation can continue on for years, and there is nothing inherently wrong with such an arrangement (aside from the fact that the other Federal workers to whom such work is “delegated” may grumble and complain about fairness or, more likely, that some of the work is never completed), especially if the work which the injured individual performs is valuable to the Agency — even in such a “light duty” status.  

What must be kept in mind, however, regarding the relevance and significance to filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, is that throughout the entire time-period of being on such light duty, the Federal or Postal worker could have, at any time, filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits and should have been approved.  This is because such temporary “light duty” arrangements never constituted an “accommodation” under the law, and the Federal or Postal worker was eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits regardless of remaining in the “light duty” job.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Those Workplace Issues

In preparing a Federal or Postal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there are often multiple collateral issues which arise:  Harassment issues; Unequal Treatment; EEOC issues; Hostile Workplace issues; Discrimination issues; and multiple other issues which may or may not be viable complaints.  Such complaints have their proper place, in the proper forum, within the proper context.  As I have written multiple times previously on this issue — these employment issues should be avoided in the context of preparing for and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application.  

Many of these employment complaints may be viable ones to pursue; some may be pursued concurrently while seeking Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, and will not ultimately defeat or impact such an application (remember that in law, not only can an attorney speak out of three or four sides of his mouth; one is also allowed to make contradictory legal arguments at the same time).  

The point is that such collateral arguments and issues should not be a part of the application itself.  It may be fine to pursue such workplace issues in a separate and different forum — just not in the process of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  If the issue is brought up, the Office of Personnel Management may well use it against you, stating, “Your medical conditions seem to occur as a result of your allegation of the actions of your Supervisor. As such, you suffer merely from situational disability.”  Case denied.  

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire