Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: What the Agency May Say

Individuals can and do tell untruths (an euphemism for a “lie”); organizations, as a collective congregation of multiple individuals, can therefore also convey negations of truthful statements (a further euphemism, stated diplomatically to avoid the unpleasantry of a direct statement).  Of course, the justification for such factually incorrect statements is that there is a “difference of perspective” or of an opinion which is not in agreement with another’s.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the portion of a Federal Disability Retirement application which the Agency must complete — most notably the Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) and the Agency’s Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts (SF 3112D) can and most often do contain misstatements, differing perspectives and negations of untruthful statements.

They are not like the other forms which must be completed by the Agency — i.e., the checklist, the Certified Summary of Federal Service, etc., where the information provided can be compared to factually verifiable documents, statements, etc., and therefore will be constrained by objective and ascertainable facts.

Unfortunately, there is “wiggle room” on both the SF 3112B and the SF 3112D, and agencies tend to utilize the wide expansiveness of such roominess to move about.  That is why, what the agency says or might say, must be preempted as much as possible by the medical report and other documentation.  By providing as much of an airtight case prior to submission of the disability retirement packet to the agency, one increases the odds that the impact of what the agency says, will be minimal, and minimized.

Of course, there is then the further problem of the inaccuracies engaged in by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management itself — but that is another story to tell, and one which must be categorized in a department beyond “fiction”, but more akin to the genre of “fantasy” or “science fiction”.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Focusing upon the Bridge

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the multitude of aspects in preparing the application will often lend itself to detracting and distracting from the primary elements of an effective application and presentation.  

Thus, worries about what the Supervisor will or will not say; whether the Agency will mis-characterize a supposed “good deed” they performed by declaring it to be an “accommodation”, with the danger that such declaration and characterization will be accepted by the Clerk at the Office of Personnel Management as true, etc. — all of these take away from the essence of creating that important bridge between one’s medical conditions and the essential elements of one’s positional duties.  

Because the vast majority of denials issued by the Office of Personnel Management are based upon “insufficient medical documentation”, an undue focus upon other elements of a Federal Disability Retirement application would not be an intelligent utilization of one’s time and effort.  

While OPM will certainly argue that the Agency has “accommodated” the Federal or Postal employee (and use that term improperly 9 times out of 10); and while OPM will point to elements in a Supervisor’s Statement as a further basis for a denial; each such supplemental argument by the Office of Personnel Management is nevertheless based upon the centrality of a primary argument, in most cases:  Insufficient Medical Documentation.  

As such, it is prudent to focus one’s efforts upon the primary basis which provides the foundation for an effective Federal Disability Retirement application:  The bridge between one’s medical conditions, and the essential elements of one’s job.

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

OPM Disability Retirement: What Ifs

“What Ifs” are hypotheticals which can paralyze a process.  Often, such imaginary road blocks are pragmatic irrelevancies, and are better left alone.  Others, one should affirmatively confront.  

Thus:  “What if my Supervisor says…”  There are things in one’s control, and those which are not.  A Federal Disability Retirement application contains an implicit concept which must not be forgotten:  It is actually a Federal Medical Disability Retirement application. What the Supervisor says or doesn’t say is not ultimately relevant. Can the Supervisor’s Statement have an influence or impact?  Obviously.  But it is not one of those things which should be worried about, because it is beyond anyone’s control — for the most part.  

“What if my doctor won’t support my case?”  This is a hypothetical which one has control over, in filing for Federal Medical Disability Retirement benefits.  As such, one should make an appointment with the doctor before starting the process, or even contemplating starting the process, and have a frank discussion with the doctor.  Bifurcate those issues which one has control over, from those which one does not.  In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one needs to confront the reality of today, in preparation for tomorrow’s future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Potential Drawback

One of the potential drawbacks in pursuing collateral employment issues concomitantly with a Federal Disability Retirement application is that, as such employment issues are active and clearly in the collective consciousness of the Agency, the Supervisor, and all involved, the issue itself often gets sneaked into a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS via the back door.  

This is not necessarily a negative thing, but can be a potential drawback if the Supervisor insists upon inserting the details of the collateral action in the Supervisor’s Statement.  Whether such insertion and accompaniment with a Federal Disability Retirement application is “proper” or not, is a separate matter.  From the perspective of the applicant who is awaiting a decision from the Office of Personnel Management, it matters not as to the proper actions of the Agency.  What such actions by the rogue supervisor does, is to deflect the focus away from the medical issue, and redirects the reviewing official/representative at OPM that the “reason” for one’s early retirement is not one based upon a medical issue, but rather, is because of stresses or other factors caused by a hostile work environment, harassment issues, etc.  This is normally a proposition which can be easily sidestepped, by arguing to OPM that whether or not such workplace issues have any basis or not, the treating doctor has nevertheless stated X, Y & Z.  However, it can still be problematic, and that is why collateral workplace issues should be avoided, if at all possible.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: SF 3112B

It is amazing how a Supervisor’s Statement is completed.  Normally, it is completed without much thought; sometimes, it is completed with too much thought (and self-protective, CYA language concerning how much effort the agency attempted in “accommodating” the employee, when in fact little or no effort was made); more often than not, there is a last, parting shot at the employee — some unnecessary “dig” which often contradicts other portions of the statement; and, finally, every now and then, the Supervisor’s Statement is completed in the proper manner, with forethought and truthfulness. 

Fortunately, the Office of Personnel Management rarely puts much weight on a Supervisor’s Statement in making a determination on a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS — unless there is some glaring statement of a deliberate attempt to undermine the Application.  This is rare, because it is a medical disability retirement, not a Supervisor’s disability retirement — meaning, that it is the medical opinion, not the opinion of a Supervisor, which is (and should be) most important.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Filing

If you believe that preparing, filing, and winning a Federal Disability Retirement case under FERS or CSRS is merely a matter of filling out forms, then don’t hire an attorney. Do it yourself.

On the other hand, if you believe that preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application involves:  gathering, reviewing, and compiling the proper and compelling medical evidence; of drafting and clearlly delineating & describing one’s medical conditions and their impact upon one’s job; of citing the proper legal authorities to provide the legal backing and forceful persuasion necessary; of being counseled in negotiating removal actions; of rebutting spurious arguments made by the Office of Personnel Management; of preparing the groundwork for subsequent appeals; of ultimately winning a case, as opposed to trying to squeak by with a hope and a prayer, then you might consider hiring an attorney.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire