OPM Disability Application Forms: SF 3112A and the Pathway through the Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy and creativity are conceptual opposites, rarely spoken in the same sentence, and never compatible, representing always a contrast in self-contradictory terms. For, it is the former which implies the negation of the latter, or the stamping out of any hint of the former’s influence upon the latter.  Bureaucracy refers to the mundane, of repetitive standardization and compliance with mediocrity; whereas the latter embraces the unconventional and the need to push the boundaries of acceptable norms.

When the two meet, it generally means a clash of sorts, and the encounter can rarely accommodate one another.  Further, one assumes that factual implantations implicate negation of creative allowances; and so one responds accordingly when voluntarily engaging in a bureaucratic process.

Standard Forms tend to prove the point.  The limited space presented; the manner of the questions posed; the real-world questions requested to be answered; all tend towards negation of any creative inclination. But creativity can imply something beyond mere fictional attestation. Rather, it can be the compiling of a response, but with words and choice of adjectives which enhance and enliven. Coherency and cogency are in themselves creative repositories, and placed within the confines of strictures of a bureaucracy, can awaken the souls of clerks and administrative specialists who pride themselves on the efficiency of mechanical laborings.

The Applicant’s Statement of Disability OPM SF 3112A, where the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, asks specific questions concerning one’s disability or medical condition, and its impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position, as well as the impact upon one’s personal life and capacity for daily living. SF 3112A is, in many ways, the key and pathway through the passageway of the greater bureaucracy.

Whether the Federal employee or the Postal worker conforms to the Standard Form 3112 itself, is the question of how one approaches success or failure.  While the questions posed may seem straightforward, the creativity behind the questions reveal a silence muted by the complexity of the statutory history, the background of multiple case-law opinions and Merit Systems Protection Board findings, which have over the years expanded upon and creatively interpreted the limits of each query posed.

SF 3112A, for the Federal employee or Postal worker who is making a Federal Disability Retirement claim, is the pathway of creativity through the bureaucracy of the benefit known as Federal Disability Retirement. It is where the meeting, or the clash, between bureaucracy and creativity occurs.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal and Postal Employees: The Diatribe

There may well be an appropriate time for a lengthy diatribe.  The act itself often finds its impetus in bitterness; it also implies a lack of control, overwhelmed by anger and originating in attribution by an act of injustice.  But where emotion controls rationality, the loss of sequential propriety normally results in a corresponding lack of coherence and comprehension.

For Federal and Postal Workers who are considering filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal Worker is under FERS or CSRS, the urge to right past wrongs is a compelling force which often erupts in a diatribe of sorts, within the content of a Federal Employee Disability Retirement claim. This is, unfortunately, a self-defeating proposition.

Yes, agency actions often comprise a compendium of injustices; yes, treatment of coworkers can be the basis of collateral actions; yes, discriminatory behavior may be a justifiable basis for filing EEO actions; but, no, weaving one’s frustration into the substance of a Federal Disability Retirement application is not the right path to take, for the simple reason that it is not the appropriate venue in which to vent.

Federal and Postal Workers who intend on filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, need to bifurcate the issues, and recognize the practical dualism in existence:  OPM is a separate Federal agency from the one employing the chronically ill or injured Federal Worker who intends to submit a Federal disability Retirement application (in most cases, unless of course the Federal employee works for OPM — and even then, the section which reviews the Federal Disability Retirement application is separate and distinct within the agency).

Context and appropriateness are invisible lines which need to be followed.  Diatribes may have their place in literature; it rarely serves a useful purpose in filing for CSRS or FERS Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: Distinguishing between Diagnoses and Symptomatologies

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application with the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS (Federal Employee’s Retirement System) or CSRS (Civil Service Retirement System), in preparing and formulating the Applicant’s Statement of Disability on Standard Form 3112A, it is important to distinguish between the medical conditions which are diagnosed, from the symptoms which are experienced by the Federal or Postal employee.  The focus is often upon the latter (the symptoms) as opposed to the former (the officially diagnosed medical conditions), as it should be because of the nature of the requirements in proving a Federal Disability Retirement case with the Office of Personnel Management.

By that is meant the following: Because one must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that one is eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM, by exhibiting a nexus between one’s medical conditions and one’s medical inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, the descriptive analysis of such bridging between one’s medical condition and the impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s particular job, is quite naturally focused upon the symptomatologies which one experiences.

The blurring of the lines between the “official” medical condition as itemized in a list of diagnoses, as opposed to the descriptive delineation of the exhibited symptoms, or the symptoms which are subjectively experienced and (often) correlated by objective radiological reports, is a natural occurrence. Often, the two are (and should be) deliberately intermingled in the narrative description of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability. However, one should always write the narrative portion of the SF 3112A with the view towards the future potential issues which may arise: that of being “disabled” for a specifically-identified medical condition.

Sometimes the OPM Representative will specifically identify a medical condition; sometimes, no such identification will occur. Then, there are times when the lines between “diagnosis” and “symptoms” naturally crosses — as in, “Chronic Pain Syndrome” as distinguished from “chronic pain”. Blurring the lines in a discussion is expected and should be applied in formulating one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability; but such blurring should occur with deliberation and purpose, and not just because one does not recognize the distinction between the two.

As with everything in life, the consequences of doing something by accident are quite different from that which results from a purposive and deliberate action.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The Exaggerated Applicant’s Statement

The preparation, formulation and filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application to the Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is a paper presentation to OPM.  

Paper presentations are quite different from a personal appeal or an “in-person” presentation to a group of individuals, or to a singular audience, in the following ways:  With a paper presentation, the “audience” (in this case, the Office of Personnel Management Case Worker) has the opportunity to review the various aspects of a Federal Disability Retirement application, in order to evaluate, compare, contrast, and cite-check facts, legal authorities and internal documents.  

With that in mind, it is important in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application to strike a proper balance of tone, content, and narrative voice — and to make sure that the Applicant’s Statement on SF 3112A is accurate, without an appearance of exaggerated storytelling.

Think about it this way:  In describing an event, or a series of events, it is important to capture an audience’s attention by telling a “good story”.  But in telling a story, there is a natural difference of approach when telling it “live” to a person, and writing a narrative about it.  By “exaggeration” is not meant to necessarily imply stating an untruth; rather, credibility and believability is often based not upon the substance of a story (for truth is often of greater absurdity than fiction), but upon the conveyance and manner of the narrative voice.

Truth itself should always be the guide of one’s voice; one’s voice, however, must have the proper inflection and pitch, in making the delivery one of credibility and believability.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire