Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Basics & Complexity

Appearance versus reality; ease of effort as opposed to great physical exertional requirements; basic components which make up for a complex composite — the inverse/converse of oppositional forces may seemingly contradict each other, but in most cases, they are entirely compatible.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the initial encounter with the multiple forms which must be completed, the complexity of the questions requested to be responded to — with the underlying sense that each question contains an implicit “trickiness” where the government is attempting to either cage you into a corner you do not necessarily want to be pushed to, or otherwise to state things which cannot be answered in such simplistic format — all betray a conundrum:  Is it as simple as the questions appear?  Or is the complexity hidden in the appearance of such simplicity?

Then, of course, a partial answer will surface when a Federal Disability Retirement application is denied by OPM at the First Stage of the process:  all of a sudden, various legal criteria are cited; standards of proof heretofore unmentioned are recited like a litany from a food recipe; and by the way, if it gets denied again, you get to read through a thick legal packet concerning your “appeal rights” from the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board.

Yes, it appears simple; it’s only that the complexity remains hidden in the compendium of laws, statutes and regulations which undergird the entirety of the complex administrative procedure encapsulating Federal Disability Retirement law.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal OPM Disability Retirement: Answering the Question Is Merely the Beginning

The question itself is obviously the starting point; however, whether answering the question is enough, presents a greater problem.

In any arena of law, the wider context of legal requirements will include the statutory authority upon which regulations and standard governmental forms are based upon; then, there are case-law opinions of judges — in the area of Federal Disability Retirement, this would include the administrative opinions of the Merit Systems Protection Board, both at the Hearing level, as well as from a Petition for Full Review; and further, Court opinions from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must obviously complete multiple Standard Forms. Chief among the forms is the “Applicant’s Statement of Disability“, or otherwise identified as SF 3112A.  There are multiple questions requesting information about one’s medical condition and the impact upon one’s ability/inability to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  The questions may seem straightforward enough; the answers can be; but the greater conundrum is whether completion of answers to such questions will be adequate in proving, by a preponderance of the evidence (which is the legal standard in meeting the adequacy of proof in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS) one’s eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

It is precisely because there is a greater context of legal expansion in the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement, that merely answering the questions represents a beginning point.  In other words, we meet head-on the age-old distinction between that which is necessary, as opposed to what constitutes sufficiency in order to satisfy the criteria.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: A Form and Its Impact

The completion of the multiple forms in a Federal Disability Retirement application can seemingly be a simple matter, upon first encounter.  The questions are fairly innocuous and straightforward.  A distinction must be immediately made, however, between the Standard Forms which merely ask for factual/personal information (SF 3107 series for FERS employees; SF 2801 series for CSRS employees), requesting name, address, agency information, date of birth, etc.

Then, there is the SF 3112 series (both for FERS as well as for CSRS employees), and specifically SF 3112A, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, which goes to the very heart of a Federal Disability Retirement application.  For, how the questions are stated; the content which is provided; the listing of the diagnosed medical conditions; the description provided of the impact of one’s medical conditions upon the positional description of the Federal or Postal employee — these will determine the future course of the Federal Disability Retirement application, its success or failure, and the potentiality for any future inquiry requested from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the form of a Medical Questionnaire, requesting an update on the medical status and disability of the Federal or Postal annuitant.

Ultimately, the preparation of a standard government form may, at first appearance, look like a simple matter.  Those things in life which “look” simple, often present the greatest of complexities.  But of course, that is the very question which Plato and Aristotle, and the entire history of Western Philosophy wrestled with:  the distinction between appearance and reality.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Government Employees: Respites

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management — if one is a current employee of one’s agency or the U.S. Postal Service or, if separated but it has been less than thirty one (31) days since the separation, then the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits must be processed through one’s agency; if, on the other hand, you have been separated for more than 31 days, then you must file the application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits directly to the OPM intake office in Boyers, Pennsylvania, which will then be processed and forwarded to the main U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C. — is a process which one should expect will require considerable energy, involving one’s emotional physical, and mental fortitude.  

Filing for the benefit and involving one’s self in the process of the administrative procedure, is rarely — if ever — merely a matter of “filling out forms“.  Yes, there are Standard Forms to be completed (the SF 3107 series for FERS employees; for CSRS employees, SF 2801 series; and the SF 3112 series for both FERS and CSRS employees) — but it is the “connecting of dots” between preparing one’s narrative in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, the gathering of the medical documentation sufficient to meet the burden of proof of “preponderance of the evidence”, and all of the attendant actions which accompany the creation of the nexus between one’s medical condition and the positional requirements of one’s duties — all of the cumulative aggregation taken as a whole, constitute an imposing, formidable process.  

Fortunately, the Holidays, the weekends, etc., provide a brief respite from such challenges.  But the problem with such periodic and temporary respites, are that they merely serve to remind us that the hurdle still exists, and the process is still to be encountered, and the procrastination of the inevitable must be confronted at some point; and that, in and of itself, is an exhausting thought.  Medical Disability Retirement from OPM is precisely there is provide a long-lasting respite. Delaying by periodic respites only prolongs the time when the true respite, of meaningful duration, may be embraced.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Too Much Information

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, brevity and succinctness should be the guiding rule.  Often, over-explaining and overstating a particular issue, while intending to be helpful and fully descriptive, can result in greater confusion and muddling of the issues.  

This is found not only in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability, but also in an Agency’s responsive completion of forms — both the Supervisor’s Statement as well as the Agency’s efforts for Reassignment and Accommodation.  Previously, much has been written concerning (for example) the Agency’s attempt to explain how the Federal or Postal employee was “accommodated” in various ways.  

Such explanations, while legally untenable precisely because the efforts engaged in did not in fact constitute an accommodation as the term is defined in Federal Disability Retirement laws, nevertheless confuse the issue with the Office of Personnel Management because (A) they often provide an appearance of having accommodated the Federal or Postal employee and (B) the Claims Representative at the Office of Personnel Management himself/herself neither understands the laws governing accommodation, nor applies it properly.  

The same is often true in a long narrative of the Applicant’s Statement of Disability — where causation, harassment, the history of the medical condition, the problems at the agency, the history of how one’s work could not be performed, collateral legal forums filed with, etc. are all extensively discussed.

Remember that an answer to a question should always be guided by the question itself.  Don’t create your own question and answer the question you composed. Rather, re-read the question, and answer only the question asked.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Form & Content

Ultimately, “forms” are just that — the skeletal underpinning which holds the “body” in a certainly recognizable structure; the “skin” of something which holds the substance underlying everything, into a workable whole.  In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, it is imperative that certain forms be completed (SF 3112 series for both FERS & CSRS; additionally, SF 2801 forms for CSRS & SF 3107 forms for FERS), but one must concurrently always recognize that it is the content which is placed into the forms which is of paramount importance.  The coordination of all of the content and information; the substantive basis for justifying and persuading that one is eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS & CSRS — these are the mainstay of the entire process, and while one can get “caught up” in the “proper” manner of filling out the forms, it is always the content and the coordination with all aspects of a Federal Disability Retirement application which must be the focus of the potential applicant.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits: Forms & the Total Picture

Ultimately, it is the difficulty of encompassing and coordinating all of the administrative details which boggles the mind when one is confronted with filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  To have a medical disability is hard enough; to then have to wade through the Federal Disability Retirement multiple forms and to coordinate the necessary evidence, documentation, paperwork, and delineation of facts, circumstances and bridging the connection to the essential elements of one’s job — the totality of the picture, coordinated in a rational, understandable and coherent picture, such that the application as presented to a stranger at the Office of Personnel Management:  that is the art of putting together a Federal Disability Retirement packet

As I often tell clients and potential clients:  If you believe that filing for OPM Disability Retirement is merely a matter of filling out the forms, don’t hire a Federal Disability Attorney.  Anyone can fill out forms.  It goes well beyond that; it is the coordination of the details, facts, circumstances, the coalescing of medical opinions with descriptive interpretation, and conveying a word-picture which, in its totality, is true and fits the person’s actual human condition.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire