OPM Disability Retirement: Disability Retirement & Standard Forms

Standard Forms are intended to restrain, contain and standardize; it is meant to make you believe that if you violate the “fence” around the physical form itself, or fail to answer specifically the questions “as asked”, that there will be a penalty to pay — i.e., in the case of a Federal Disability Retirement application before the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, a denial of one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  

For the Federal or Postal Worker who is intending on filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, the question of what to say, how much to say, and in what tone or tenor (does one presume that OPM is an “adversary”, and therefore should any submission be crafted in such a manner?  Or, should the tone be more “neutral”?  Hint:  Whatever the proper balance of tone to embrace, OPM is not one’s close relative, and should not be approached as such); and, ultimately, whether and to what extent “continuation pages” should be attached to the forms themselves.  

For FERS employees, or course, one must complete SF 3107, along with Schedules A, B & C, as well as have the Certified Summary of Federal Service completed, and if applicable, SF 3107-2, the Spousal Waiver.  For CSRS, one must complete SF 2801, and again, the Schedules A, B & C and the Certified Summary of Federal Service.  For both FERS and CSRS employees, the second set of forms — SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, SF 3112D & SF 3112E — must also be completed.  

For the Federal or Postal employee, it is the SF 3112A which is the most daunting, the most important, and the one which must be thoughtfully completed.  It is the first form which OPM will search for, review, analyze, compare, attack, and scrutinize, in making a decision upon one’s Federal Disability Retirement application.  It is indeed a form which is “standard” in every sense of the word — in appearance; in requirement; in formatted appearance; and in the end, the level of effort and input one makes of it.  

What should one’s own “standard” be in preparing, formulating and filing the Standard Form 3112A?  Care, caution and a concern for coordinated completion.  Yes, and by the way, the undersigned writer enjoys engaging in alliteration, assonance and consonance.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: An Inherently Adversarial Process

One often hears about administrative procedures — that they are somehow distinguishable from court cases, EEOC proceedings, grievances, etc., in that they are “non-adversarial” procedures.  Really?  In designating it as such, one becomes lulled into thinking that, somehow, preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, is merely a matter of completing and submitting paperwork.

In a society which enjoys the safety of linguistic euphemisms, however, such an approach to an important application for benefits can result in devastating consequences.

Does a bureaucracy which is set up exclusively to review and potentially deny a Federal Disability Retirement application have the appearance of a non-adversarial process? Does the fact that one has a right to appeal it to the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, then to a panel of Administrative Judges for a “Full Review”, then to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, possess the scent of non-adversity?

A system which is set up with a specified statute of limitations, which employs procedural and substantive legal criteria set up to deal with appeals and submission of evidence; of a body of law which applies to determine the sufficiency of evidence; such a system is inherently adversarial in nature, and whatever words or string of words one might use to describe such a system, it is first and foremost, an adversarial process.

Treat it as such, or enter into its arena with caution and forewarning.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement for Federal and Postal Employees: Administrative v. Adversarial

That is often the line of argument:  Since it is an “administrative process”, it is not adversarial.  This presumes quite a bit — such as, the term “adversarial” is constrained to applying only in such cases where a trial, a courtroom, and witnesses exist.  But if that is the case, then doesn’t that occur in a Hearing before the Merit Systems Protection Board? But that, too, is an “Administrative Process.” 

Such an argument, of course, is often used by Human Resources personnel to attempt to dissuade Federal and Postal workers of the necessity of retaining an attorney to file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Yet, further presumptions & assumptions would have to be made if one were to accept the argument that an “administrative process” is “non-adversarial”, such as:  the personnel who review and evaluate Federal Disability Retirement applications are “objective” and have no interest in approving or disapproving a case (this assumes that having or not having an interest in X makes the process “non-adversarial); or, that the Office of Personnel Management is merely applying the law in reviewing a Federal Disability Retirement application (this presumes that such application of the law is performed and accomplished correctly).  The concept of determining that a process is “administrative” does not exclude the reality that the same process is also “adversarial“; the two concepts are not mutually exclusive, and is not defined only within a universe where there are two or more contrary or opposing interests involved. 

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: On the Other Hand

On the other hand, there is no such thing as a “lost cause” case.  To assert such a conclusion would be to presumptively admit defeat.  In Federal Disability Retirement cases, there is always a good chance of prevailing, whether or not a mistake was made; whether or not a doctor annotated, on a particular day in a moment of hope, that the patient showed “hopeful improvement”.  Yes, it is the job of the Office of Personnel Management to cling onto such peripheral statements, and to magnify such statements such that they appear to encompass the essence of the medical condition.

It is always with some amusement that I hear an agency Human Resources person state something to the effect of:  “Well, you know, Mr. McGill, this is not an adversarial process.  We and the Office of Personnel Management are merely here to determine the eligibility of the Federal worker, and to make sure that he or she fits the criteria.”

Not an adversarial process?  Is the Office of Personnel Management “there” to help you?  Is that why, in their template denial letters, they latch onto the most peripheral of issues and emphasize those points which allegedly present a problem, and ignore the rest of the medical evidence?  Any Federal or Postal employee who is contemplating filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS would be wise to see the entire Federal Disability Retirement process as one of an “adversarial process”.  If you don’t, you proceed at your own peril.  On the other hand…

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire