Federal Worker Disability Retirement: The “Grab-bag” Approach

In preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, there is always the question of which medical conditions to include in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability (prepared on SF 3112A).  One approach which many Federal and Postal employees take (which, in my opinion is the wrong one to embrace), is to name every medical condition, symptom and suspected symptom one has suffered from, or is suffering from.  This might be characterized as the “shotgun” or “grab-bag” approach. 

One must be sympathetic to this approach, of course, if only because of the following reason:  OPM regulations and case-law supports the position that once an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits has been filed with the Office of Personnel Management, a Federal or Postal employee cannot amend or add any further medical conditions without withdrawing the application and re-filing. 

Thus, a Federal or Postal employee who prepares and files an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is “locked into” what is stated on one’s SF 3112A.  Because of this, many Federal and Postal employees who prepare the application without the assistance of competent legal representation will take the “grab-bag” approach of listing every possible medical condition known to man. 

While this may seem like a reasonable, “safe” approach to take, remember that such an approach can have unintended consequences:  Upon an approval of the Federal Disability Retirement application, the approval letter may approve the Disability Retirement application based upon a minor medical condition which you no longer suffer from.  This, of course, can have negative consequences down the road.

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

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: Listing the Medical Conditions (Continued…)

If an individual who has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS later finds, during the process of waiting for a decision or, between the time of an initial denial and during the Reconsideration Stage or an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board — that a previously unlisted medical condition has worsened, can he “add” that medical condition to his Federal Disability Retirement Application?  Can he file an “amended” SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability?  The general answer is, “No”. 

However, one can certainly submit a medical report concerning such “previously-unlisted” medical condition if one can reasonably argue that the previously-unlisted medical condition was in fact listed, right there for everyone (i.e., the Office of Personnel Management) to see.  This issue comes up often enough to be of concern, especially because of the valuable time lost in being forced to “withdraw” an application for OPM Disability Retirement and to start all over again in order to add a “new” medical condition.  To safeguard against such a potential event, it is wise to read through the multiple medical conditions when putting together an OPM Disability Retirement packet, and decide which primary diagnoses to include, and at the same time, to “weave” into the narrative of the description of medical conditions, symptoms and areas of pain which can be reasonably interpreted to encapsulate potentially underlying medical diagnoses which may later become prominent and require greater focal emphasis.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire