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

FERS & CSRS Federal Disability Retirement: Reviewing the Position Description

There may be a wide chasm between what one’s position description states, and what one actually does in the position of the Federal or Postal job slot which one occupies.

Further, the fact that there may be a radical modification to one’s official duties in practical and real terms, does not obviate the fact that one may be required, at any time, to fulfill those duties and responsibilities as described in the official configuration of the position.

Finally, since the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, in making a determination on a Federal Disability Retirement application, will never personally assess or observe what a Federal or Postal employee is actually doing in one’s office, out in the field, at the work station, etc., you must therefore always envision the process as one of bureaucratic administration — i.e., of looking at the paper presentation of the position description, and being restricted and constrained by what is contained therein.

That being said, in a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is often a good idea to review the official position description when beginning to formulate one’s Applicant’s Statement of Disability (SF 3112A).  Some position descriptions are so generic in nature that it may required more “filling in the blanks” for purposes of describing the pragmatic essential elements which one must work; other descriptions may enlighten the Federal or Postal Worker and make the entire administrative process easier because of the onerous requirements as delineated in the official position description.

In either event, one must always remember that it is from the Federal or Postal position which one is medically retiring from and not what one may actually be doing.  Thus, recognition of the wide chasm which exists between what one ought to be doing, and what one actually does, may be one of the keys to a successful formulation of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Postal and Federal Disability Retirement: The Position Description

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, it is important to have a good idea of what the position description states — the one which the Federal or Postal applicant occupies, and the one which is reflected in the SF 50 or the PS Form 50, the personnel action form which designates and identifies the official position assigned to the Federal or Postal employee.  For, what the Federal or Postal employee does in a job, in real time and in the actual state of the job, may be significantly different from what is described in the position description itself.

One must understand that the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) — the agency which makes all determinations on Federal Disability Retirement applications — does not have an agent sitting in one’s office, taking notes on the duties which one performs.  Thus, the case worker at OPM who receives and reviews the Federal Disability Retirement application, will come to be informed of the essential duties of a Federal or Postal employee, based upon a “paper presentation” that is set before him or her.

The comparison to be made between the medical condition proven and the essential elements of one’s job, will arise from OPM’s review of what is presented — the position description itself; the statement of one’s job in the Applicant’s Statement of Disability; and other documentation.

In making the comparison, it is ultimately from the position description itself from which one is retired, and if the applicant’s statement includes superfluous assertions otherwise not contained in the position description itself, the discrepancy may well go against the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Fortunately, most position descriptions are fairly generic in nature, and one can imply a variety of duties which are not otherwise specified in an official position description.  That is where creative writing and effective presentation comes into play.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement Benefits for Federal & Postal Employees: The Job Description

Remember that the official Job Description may provide an antiseptic-like delineation of the major functions of a particular position.  From that, one may infer, imply and extract the daily physical and cognitive requirements in order to efficiently perform those major functions.

However, in filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one must remember that it is never a wise endeavor to think that the Office of Personnel Management will infer, imply or extract anything, leaving aside making the logical connection between a Job Description and the physical, emotional and cognitive requirements to implement the job requirements.

As such, in formulating the impact between one’s medical conditions and the essential elements of one’s job, it is encumbent upon the applicant who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits to make explicit that which is implicit; to reveal that which may be contained “between the lines”; and to make sure that, instead of infering, implying or extracting, that the daily physical, emotional and cognitive requirements are boldly revealed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire