OPM Disability Retirement: Which Forms, How to Fill Them Out, and What to Put

Filling out forms is a part of life.  At some stage in our lives, we are required to complete forms.  For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties as a Federal employee (which encompasses the full spectrum of positions, from secretaries, administrative assistants, to scientists, Information Technology Specialists, 1811 Law Enforcement Officers, etc.) or a U.S. Postal worker (including Craft employees, Managers, Postmasters, Supervisors, etc.), preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application may become a necessity.

Thus, the act of “form filling” must be confronted.  On computers, of course, if you have been completing online queries, the “autofill” option may be presented.  But the limitation of such an option, and the unavailability of that choice, should become readily apparent when attempting to complete the various “Standard Forms” required of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

For any remaining CSRS employees intending to file for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, the series embodied under the designation of SF 2801 must be completed, along with the SF 3112 series.  For all of the rest of the Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who came into Federal or Postal Service after around 1985, and who are under FERS, the SF 3107 series must be completed, and as well, the SF 3112 series of standard forms.

Thus has the question, “Which Forms?” been answered.  As for the remaining two questions:  How to fill them out and What to put —  the “how” is, to put it mildly, with care and trepidation; the “what to put” is too complex to elucidate in this forum.  The series of “informational” forms — SF 2801 series for CSRS employees and SF 3107 for FERS employees — are fairly straightforward (e.g., full name, date of birth, Social Security number, agency name and location, military service, etc.).

It all comes back to the SF 3112 series which becomes problematic — for that is where the Federal and Postal employee must “prove” the nexus between one’s positional duties and the medical conditions by which one is prevented from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.  For that, the Federal and Postal employee must go “outside” of the boundaries of the forms themselves, and consult documentation obtained from the doctor, and make legal arguments based upon wise counsel and advice.

As with much of life, it is never as easy as a bureaucracy promises; indeed, the complexity of life is in the very bureaucratization of administrative forums.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

SF 3112A

OPM Standard Form 3112A: Applicant’s Statement of Disability:

The constraint of a standardized form, by its very appearance, is itself a self-evident anomaly of conformity; forms, by the very nature of their format, constrains and delimits the ability to respond.  Space is limited, and it is intended to be that way.

By mandating the completion of specific forms in an uniform, consistent, and universally standardized approach, the applicant who must complete the form must by necessity conform to the regulated approach. Further, the appearance itself often lulls the individual into a certain mindset, such that the response is constrained, limited, and by necessity of conservation of space and in attempting to answer the specific question queried, of brevity and devoid of critical details.

Bureaucracies create forms, and the regulations promulgated in the preparation and response to such forms. For the Federal and Postal employee who must by necessity file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal employee or the Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, the forms needed to be completed in order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, are numerous, complex, and cumbersome.

Of the multiple forms which must be completed, the Federal and Postal employee must at some point encounter and face the most critical one of all: SF 3112A. The content of the form itself appears simple enough; the complexities inherent in the form is constituted almost by an endless array of a history of court decisions, opinions issued by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, as well as by OPM issuances of denials in thousands of cases.

Just by way of example, after the very first question asked upon requesting the applicant’s name, date of birth and SSN, it makes a simple but profoundly limiting statement: “We consider only the diseases and/or injuries you discuss in this application.”  That statement seems fair enough, and perhaps even reasonable.  The single word which is operatively significant, one would assume, is in the word “consider”.

But beware; for, it is the next-to-last word in the statement which is the onerous thousand-pound boulder which can fall upon the head of a Federal or Post Office Disability Retirement applicant, unless one is very, very careful. It is the word, “this”, and the consequences of such a word must be given great weight, and consideration beyond what the legal ramifications will later reveal.

Just a word of caution to the wise, for those who intend on jumping into the proverbial waters of bureaucratic complexities without first dipping a cautious toe into the lake of fire.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire