OPM Form SF 3112C and the Sufficiency of the Physician’s Statement

Confusing necessity and sufficiency is always a precarious matter. That which is necessary may not be sufficient for a given purpose, and failure in understanding such a fundamental distinction can be fatal to a Federal Disability Retirement claim.

SF 3112C requires that a physician complete and provide essential medical information in the pursuance of a Federal Disability Retirement application. The form itself — SF 3112C — is the vehicle by which the medical documentation is obtained. It is “necessary” in the sense that SF 3112C delineates a guideline of the type of information which is needed in order to become eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The form itself — SF 3112C — however, is to a great extent irrelevant (although, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has recently required that a signed SF 3112C be included in the final Federal Disability Retirement packet, despite SF 3112E clearly stating that an “equivalency” of the form would satisfy the lack thereof, as in the attachment of the medical documentation itself), and it is instead the medical documentation through which SF 3112C is obtained, which is what is important.

Regardless, while the OPM SF 3112C constitutes the vehicle, is necessary, but is ultimately irrelevant in and of itself, it is a necessary form to the extent that it mandates the delineation of what information is required for eligibility and entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Will following the guidelines in accordance with what SF 3112C states, result in a successful OPM Disability claim? That is the question of “sufficiency”, as opposed to “necessity”.

Over the years, case-law and statutory interpretation and expansion of Federal Disability Retirement laws have greatly altered the landscape of a Federal Disability Retirement claim. SF 3112C is the vehicle of necessity, although the form itself is an unnecessary one. The greater question is whether it is sufficient to meet the legal weight of preponderance of the evidence, and that question must ultimately be answered by questioning the efficacy of the form itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Early Decisions, Later Consequences

Decisions engaged in early on, reap later consequences which often reflect the choices made in those initial steps.  This is true both in life generally, and in particularized ventures, endeavors and vocations.

That is precisely why we tell our kids to study hard; that the key to success is preparation and practice; that, on performance day, the ease with which the presentation appears reflects the extent of the behind-the-scenes effort which went into the show.

Such admonitions apply to every project we undertake, and it is no less different when one is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, for the Federal and Postal Worker.  The logical sequence of how a person puts together a Federal Disability Retirement application will be reflected both in the final submission, as well as in the results obtained.

Now, there may well be cases which are poorly compiled, yet approved without a glitch; just as there will be cases which are irrefutably argued, yet denied by the Federal Bureaucracy identified as OPM.

However, another adage which is also true, is that “the exception does not make the rule”.

What words are chosen; how the Statement of Disability on SF 3112A is formulated; what medical evidence is presented; which legal arguments are promulgated and highlighted; what collateral issues are preemptively brought up; collectively, they “matter”.

What we do today determines the course of tomorrow; what tomorrow brings, will reflect upon who we are today.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Persuading with Persuasive Arguments

The question is often asked concerning whether or not and to what extent other collateral agency decisions can impact a Federal Disability Retirement application filed with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), whether under FERS or CSRS.

The only answer which can be provided is the standard, “It depends…”  The reason why “it depends” is precisely because utilization of any persuasive information or evidence is primarily dependent upon the persuasive efficacy of the evidence itself.

There is certainly legal case-law support for collateral evidentiary submissions, including SSDI, Department of Veterans Affairs ratings, Military Board findings, and DOL/OWCP second opinion and “referee” findings, etc.  Thus, the issue is not whether or not there is a basis for using such third-hand sources to support the primary evidentiary foundation of a Federal Disability Retirement application; rather, the issue becomes one of how effectively should one use such evidence.  Such a question, of course, can only depend upon the particular and unique circumstances of each case, by analyzing and reviewing the strength, applicability, and relevance of the documented information.

Sometimes, use of such collateral evidence can somewhat backfire, in that OPM will actually point to such evidence and discuss it in a way which supports a denial.  Care and discretion must always be taken in using collateral information; it is always the primacy of the primary information which must be used, and used effectively.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Always the Basics Matter

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 always instructive to remind one’s self that the focus of any application should be placed upon the basic components of a Federal Disability Retirement application, and once that focal point is embraced, to reiterate and reinforce that aspect of the Disability Retirement application.

Often, when one requests and receives a blank packet of information, including all of the Standard Forms, instructions, financial forms and life insurance forms, etc., to fill out and complete, the sense of being overwhelmed can easily defeat a Federal Disability Retirement application at the outset.

There are multiple personal questions; information requested on military service, on receipt of OWCP benefits; then the complexity of the queries focuses upon those rather simple but “tricky” questions concerning Agency actions, about whether one has “requested” an accommodation; to describe one’s medical conditions, etc.  How a question should be answered is indeed crucial in the successful filing of a Federal Disability Retirement application; whether the answers given should be consistently coordinated with other answers provided is equally of importance.

Ultimately, the basic components of a Federal Disability Retirement application embrace the relationship between the medical condition suffered, and the impact upon one’s positional duties required to be performed.  But, inasmuch as it is not the Agency of the Federal or Postal employee who makes the decision concerning an OPM Disability Retirement application, but the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to understand that while the answers given involve the actions of the relationship between a Federal and Postal employee and one’s agency, it is ultimately people outside of the agency to whom such answers must be directed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Remembering What “Supportive” Means

Over time, one’s memory and historical perspective becomes clouded and obscured.  In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, there is obviously a long and complex history of changes, amendments and refinements to the aggregate compendium of that which constitutes the totality of “the law” governing Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Thus, since the initial inception of the enactment of statutory authority granting the U.S. Office of Personnel Management authority to approve Federal Disability Retirement benefits under CSRS (and later under FERS), there has been an evolution of statutory amendments, regulatory clarifications, case-law expansion, contraction and clarifications — the composite of which constitutes “the law” governing Federal Disability Retirement applications whether under FERS or CSRS.

Part of the evolutionary process includes what is termed “supportive” documentation or evidence, such as an Agency’s determination that the Federal or Postal employee cannot be accommodated; the Flight Surgeon’s decertification of an Air Traffic Controller’s medical clearance; a Law Enforcement agency’s conclusions that a Federal Law Enforcement Officer is unable to meet the physical requirements of his or her position; and many other agency determinations which “support” a Federal Disability Retirement application.  But “supportive” does not mean “primary”, and the Federal or Postal worker must always remember that such ancillary evidence must be in addition to the primary evidence submitted in a Federal Disability Retirement application.

Don’t mistake the support evidence as replacing the essential evidentiary component of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS. The primary evidence must always come first — both by definition, as well as by statutory requirement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: The Developing Medical Issue

There is a legitimate concern in preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application, that if an Applicant’s Statement (Standard Form 3112A both for FERS & CSRS employees) is not prepared properly, there may be some unforeseen repercussions down the road, including being barred from “adding” to the list of diagnosed medical conditions, to being found “disabled” based upon a minor, peripheral medical condition which may become “cured” within a short timeperiod.  This is true also of a “developing” medical condition — where symptoms abound, but the doctor is unsure of the specific diagnosis to ascribe to the patient.  That is why much of preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is more of an art form than a strict application of “the law” .  Yes, it is important to understand and apply the law.  Yes, it is important to extract prior experiences and weave the essential elements, both of the law, of facts, of medical descriptions, etc., into a meaningful narrative in bridging the two essential fields of evidentiary substance:  the medical evidence and the type of job which is impacted.  But more than that, one must know how to interconnect all of the necessary elements — the law, the facts, the medical basis, the essential elements of one’s job — into a coherent whole.  As for any developing medical issues, the same methodology can be applied — in an artful way, such that an unnamed diagnosis will have been “covered” by a description of the symptoms.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire