OPM Disability Retirement Application: Eligibility & Entitlement

The two concepts are often confused; for the Federal employee and the U.S. Postal Service worker filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, the frustration is often voiced precisely because of the misapplication of the legal import between them.

Eligibility is determined by the contingencies which must be met, the thresholds of prerequisites which must be satisfied:  The Federal or Postal employee must be either under FERS, CSRS or CSRS Offset; the minimum number of years of Federal Service must have been accrued; the Statute of Limitations must not have already passed; further, then, some age limitations need to be considered as a practical matter, to allow for pragmatic justification to even apply.

Entitlement is based upon proof.  As the law is set by statutory authority, filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management requires that the Federal or Postal applicant meet certain preset standards of acceptable proof, based upon that which constitutes sufficiency of satisfaction.

The legal standard is based upon a “preponderance of the evidence“; the evidentiary requirement provides that a tripartite nexus be established between (A) the medical condition, (B) the Federal or Postal position which the Federal or Postal employee occupies, and (C) evidence showing that as a result of A, one or more of the essential elements of B cannot be satisfied.  Further, there is the “D” component, and that involves the issue of “reasonable accommodations” and whether the Federal agency or the U.S. Postal Service can reassign the Federal or Postal employee to a similar position at the same pay or grade.

It is only upon the initial satisfaction of eligibility requirements that the Federal or Postal employee can then further investigate whether entitlement is feasible or not.  Thus, “entitlement” in this sense is not based upon meeting eligibility requirements; rather, satisfaction of eligibility prerequisites allows for entrance into the gateway of establishing entitlement.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

SF 3112B

OPM Standard Form 3112B: Supervisor’s Statement:

Were it that managerial approaches were diverse, and that such differences in stylistic methodologies constituted a perfect tailoring of individual personality to a particular job at hand; then, in that event, efficiency would predominate, scandals of long waiting times would disappear, and Federal and Post Office Workers would never be tested in their penultimate entanglement with the requisite virtue of patience.  But this is the real world. This is not some parallel universe in which dreams are dictated by wants and desires, and satisfaction of personal goals are attained at a whim.

In the harsh reality of technological onslaughts and daily toils of repetitive boredom, supervisors are placed in positions of trust, often misfits in an universe of onerous regulatory requirements and mandates.  As in all sectors of society, both public and private, there are good ones and bad, competent and their opposite; caring and callous; cold, indifferent, or warm beyond a fault.  But because of the busy-ness of the world in which we live, being aware of, or having the time to care for, the problems of subordinates, is a rare trait.

For the Federal and Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition necessitates filing for Federal Medical Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether the Federal employee or the Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, the process will require the request for completion of SF 3112B, or more commonly known as the Supervisor’s Statement. For some, it will merely be a nuisance in the mere act of requesting; for others, a chaotic turmoil of sorts, filled with angst and thoughts of retribution and retaliation.

Ultimately, however, this is where standardized forms work for the benefit of Federal and Postal employees, because of the specificity of questions posed in SF 3112B.  Yes, there are blank spaces for some extemporaneous comments; yes, attachments to SF 3112B are allowed; but the most relevant queries are merely requests for box-checking, and that is where brevity is to the benefit of the Federal employee or Postal worker.

In the end, the process of filing for Federal Disability benefits through OPM is based upon the sufficiency of medical documentation, and not what a Supervisor says or leaves out in SF 3112B.  That is why an executed methodology of a coherent strategy to obtain evidentiary support is so crucial to a successful outcome in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Employee Disability Insurance benefits, whether the Federal employee or Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS.

 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

OPM Disability Retirement: The Reality of Accommodations

Medical conditions test the value of a worker; for, while people may engage in theoretical discussions of “cost-benefits analysis“, where the cost of X is compared and contrasted to the benefit of Y, such that the hypothetical analysis results in a business decision based upon pure economic need — the reality of such an approach rarely gets a true test beyond such dinner table discussions.  But when a Federal or Postal Worker begins to suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition visibly impacts one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, then the economic paradigm of a cost-benefits analysis is applied, whether overtly or in a more subtle, inconspicuous manner.

The agency may recognize the need to allow for temporary suspension of certain positional duties — travel may be taken up by some other employee; heavy lifting may need an additional helper; telecommuting may be a viable option.  The cost of such temporary measures is felt in the work left undone; the benefit is accrued by the experience, wisdom, and knowledge of the disabled retained worker.  In rarer occasions, a formal request for an accommodation may be submitted by the Federal or Postal Worker, and an administrative process of attempting to provide a legally viable accommodation may ensue; but that is a rare process, indeed.

The reality of accommodations in the Federal sector is one of practical need versus the trouble such attempts bring; for the Federal or Postal Worker, whether under FERS or CSRS, the true option left is to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  Such an option results from an agency being tested — and loyalties revealed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: The Complication of Accommodations

The problem with most people is that they come at a conversation with a selective focus — and listen for that which they want to hear, and filter all other information which fails to fit the paradigm of their predetermined perspective.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the question of accommodations via Standard Form 3112D comes to the fore — often because of the selective focus of issues on the part of OPM.

The fact that an agency may have engaged in work-place modifications, or allowed for temporary alleviation of certain elements of one’s job description; or even provided a state-of-the-art ergonomic chair with 3-speed controls with horizontal landing mechanisms — does not mean that the agency was able to, or did, accommodate the Federal or Postal employee under the legal meaning of that which constitutes a viable “accommodation” .

For, that which the agency does must allow for the Federal employee to perform the essential elements of his or her job, and any such attempted “accommodation” which does not meet that standard, is technically not an accommodation at all.  It is merely an artifice and a cosmetic make-over in an effort by the agency which allows for the agency to declare that they have “accommodated” the individual Federal or Postal employee.

Rarely does the question on SF 3112D get accurately responded to; for, the concept of “attempted” accommodations is precisely the point — if it was attempted, and did not work, then the agency has an obligation to concede and describe that point; but from the Agency’s myopic perspective, any “attempt” constitutes an accommodation, and the U.S. Office of Personnel Management will embrace such an assertion with open arms.

What to do about it?  Always focus upon the central point of a Federal Disability Retirement application — it is a medical retirement.  Thus, the doctor’s opinion is sacrosanct, and should be repetitively emphasized.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: The Legally Sufficient Accommodation

Whether the Federal Agency or the U.S. Postal Service has offered a legally-viable accommodation is determined by the criteria of an offer made which is either at the same pay or grade as the position one currently occupies; but, moreover, as the Bracey case and subsequent cases which elaborate upon the issue have made clear, it cannot be a position which is merely “made up” or temporary by nature, or one in which the current Supervisor merely whispers in one’s ear and says, “Just don’t do X, Y and Z essential elements of the job.”

The reasoning behind the view that such a temporary, modified “position” does not constitute an “accommodation” under the law — and therefore would not prevent eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits — is easily justified by the age-old adage that, where one lives by the sword, one dies by the sword; meaning, thereby, that if Supervisor X can simply suspend certain essential elements of a job, a future Supervisor Y can just as easily reinstate the requirements of performing those previously-unattended elements, and require that they be performed.

That being said, there is nevertheless nothing wrong with an Agency allowing for a Federal or Postal worker to work at a position and lessen the requirements of the job.  For some, it may be that such a modified position is acceptable, especially in light of receiving a regular paycheck.

The issue of “accommodations” should not be confused with the eligibility requirements of being able to file for, and be approved with, Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.  There is the issue of legally-sufficient accommodation for purposes of preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefitsfrom the U.S. Office of Personnel Management; then, there is the commonplace parlance of being informally “accommodated” if one wants to continue to work; the two are not contradictory.

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

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: The Supervisor’s Statement

The Supervisor’s Statement (Standard Form 3112B) should be a form with negligible impact, unless it is to inform the Office of Personnel Management that (A) the individual Disability Retirement applicant was placed in a light duty, temporary position, (B) that the Agency could not accommodate him/her, and (C) to describe how the Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits was by all appearances limited in his/her ability to perform many of the essential elements of the job.  Such statements are often helpful to the Office of Personnel Management in a Federal Disability Retirement case.  

Most Supervisor’s Statements, however, are noncommittal. The lack of information provided by a supervisor reflects poorly upon the supervisor, insofar as it evidences non-engagement and lack of awareness of someone whose job it is to be aware of such things.  Every now and then, there will be a Supervisor who goes out of his or her way to make statements which clearly attempt to undermine a Federal Disability claim.  The way to approach such a Supervisor’s Statement, however, is not to focus a great amount of attention upon it; rather, to remind the Office of Personnel Management that this is a “medical” disability retirement application, and not a Supervisor’s disability retirement application.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire