OPM Disability Retirement Help: The Applicant’s Statement

The SF 3112A is the focal point of it all; without it, the entirety of the Federal Disability Retirement application would be incomplete, inconsequential and insidiously irrelevant.  The U.S. Office of Personnel Management can make a decision on a Federal Disability Retirement application — theoretically — without full answers or incomplete answers of the “other” forms, such as the Checklist, or even the Supervisor’s Statement; but as for the SF 3112A, The Applicant’s Statement of Disability — well, there is no getting around the fact of its prominence, importance and position of significance and relevance.

The Applicant’s Statement of Disability puts everything in its proper perspective; it tells the narrative of one’s medical conditions; it provides (or, at least should) the nexus between one’s medical condition and the essential elements of one’s job, tasks, duties, positional requirements, etc., and gives a key and insight into the very foundation of the legal criteria for OPM to either grant or deny a Federal Disability Retirement application.  That being the case, why would a Federal or Postal employee leave such an important component as the content and substance of an SF 3112A up to one’s own self?

The person who suffers from the medical condition can hardly be the one to properly, adequately or completely describe the key components of one’s medical condition and its impact upon one’s positional duties; for, the one who suffers by definition is the very.same person who is divorced from having an objective perspective.

Remember, always, that Federal Disability Retirement is a medically-based administrative procedure — one which must encompass and encapsulate the objectivity of medical documentation, the meeting of a legal criteria that has evolved over many decades, and an aggregation of the two combined in order to persuade the U.S. Office of Personnel Management that the compendium of one’s documented evidentiary findings rises to the level of a preponderance of the evidence presented in a coherent manner to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Does such an endeavor appear consistent with the Federal or Postal employee who is too sick to work the essential elements of one’s job?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Respective Positions

The position of the applicant is a uniquely vulnerable one; for, as one who is requesting a benefit from a governmental entity, he or she is essentially powerless to act except in response to the agency’s determination on approving or denying a Federal Disability Retirement application.

There are certain “pressure points” which can be attempted, the efficacy of which is questionable but nevertheless engaged in:  repeated calls (although one may suspect that excessive inquiries may ultimately reflect in a detrimental way); attempted influences via backdoor channels; or perhaps a request for a Congressional inquiry through one’s representative; and other similar methods — some more effective than others.  But it is ultimately the respective positions of the applicant-versus-agency which defines the underlying sense of powerlessness-versus-power; for, in the end, the agency can make any determination it wants, with a basis of rationality or one which issues a complex and garbled statement of reasonings which may not possess any meaningful import as reflected in the law.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management is a powerful agency which is granted a special position and status — one which is responsible for the administration of retirement issues impacting upon all Federal and Postal employees.  Such a position is indeed one of heightened sensitivity and responsibility; and while the respective positions of the “little guy” (the Federal or Postal employee) as opposed to the “big guy” (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) comes down to nothing more than individual human beings, it is the status granted to the latter which makes all the difference, and those within the agency should take such a position with the utmost of seriousness and gravity.

Ultimately, most case workers at OPM are doing the best they can with the tools and manpower provided; from the viewpoint of the applicant waiting for his or her Federal Disability Retirement application to be determined, however, that sense of vulnerability — where one’s future is “on hold” until an action is initiated by OPM — is what makes the entire process a frustrating one.

In the end, there is nothing which can change the respective positions of the applicant-versus-agency, until an approval from OPM is granted, and the status of “applicant” is then transformed into one of “annuitant” — at which point, a new set of respective positions are imposed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Surprise in the Universe of Reconsiderations

Until the science of Physics can implement the ability of molecular and particle transference technology (i.e., “Beam me up, Scotty”), there is little potential of resolving the Cartesian mind/body dualism (i.e., that French Philosopher Rene Descartes, who bifurcated the world between the material and the spiritual). But such dualism in philosophical terms does not mean that we can be at two places at one time; or even attempt to be “objective” when the subjective “I” is the very same person who is attempting to appear objective.

In Federal Disability Retirement law, when the U.S. Office of Personnel Management issues a denial letter, the customary response by the denied OPM applicant, whether a Postal Worker or a non-Postal Federal Worker, is that he or she is “surprised” by the initial denial because of the strength, completeness, and thoroughness of one’s Disability Retirement packet.  But that should be a given.

No one who files with OPM should do so without meeting the requisite foundations of thoroughness or completeness.  But this is where the problem is:  the very person who determines that a Federal Disability Retirement application is sufficient, is the same person who suffers from the very medical conditions of which the application speaks about.

The subjective/objective coalescence makes for a difficult mind/body dualism, in that the one who suffers from the medical condition can hardly assess and evaluate, in an objective manner, the strength of the Federal Disability Retirement application.

Thus, the Cartesian mind/body dualism lives on, and until Captain Kirk can guide us otherwise, such bifurcated dualism will continue to pervade all Federal Disability Retirement applications, whether under FERS or CSRS, and the denials which follow will still have the familiar response of, “Surprise!

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: SF 3112A, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability

Each genre retains its own internal customs, traditions and acceptable characteristics which, in their idiosyncratic ways, defines for itself why the specific genre is distinctively different from another.  Content, length, volume, and literary mechanisms may be acceptable within certain defined parameters; a recent biography by Edmund Morris attempted to utilize a literary artifice which, by most accounts, was not well-received within the genre.  

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, one must first and foremost understand the “audience” to which the Federal or Postal employee is “writing” to, and thereby custom-fit the “genre” of the writing.  

The reviewing clerks at the Office of Personnel Management have dozens, if not hundreds, of files from Federal and Postal employees.  At the First and Reconsideration stages of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM, the reviewing clerks must sift through the case-file by analyzing the medical documentation submitted, and most importantly, the Applicant’s Statement of Disability as reflected in SF 3112A.  A Dickens-like autobiographical background is not needed, and will likely be ignored.  A mere listing of the medical conditions, while short and to the point, will likely be insufficient.  Thus, the old adage:  neither too hot, nor too cold.  Somewhere in the middle is the proper “genre” to apply.  

As for the specific characteristics of an effective submission, a general comment:  Stay on point; connect the dots between one’s medical conditions and the positional requirements; and don’t bore the reader.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Formulating an Effective SF 3112A

The “heart of it all” is…   The medical report will provide the substantive basis; a supervisor’s statement may or may not be helpful or useful at all; legal arguments will certainly place the viability of the application for Federal Disability Retirement into its proper context and arguments which touch upon the legal basis will inevitably have their weight, impact and effect upon whether one has met by a preponderance of the evidence the legal criteria required to be eligible and entitled.  All of that aside, the SF 3112A — the Applicant’s Statement of Disability — is where the heart of the matter resides in preparing, formulating, and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS. 

If a Federal or Postal employee is unsure of what to state, how to state it, or how much to reveal and state, that becomes a problem.  For, ultimately, the proper balance must be stricken — between that which is relevant as opposed to superfluous; between that which is substantive as opposed to self-defeating; and between that which is informational, as opposed to compelling.  Formulation takes thought and reflection.  Yes, the SF 3112A — the Applicant’s Statement of Disability — is the heart of it all.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Opinions, OPM and Power

In filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, one must always be aware of the distinction between the two — opinions and power — and apply it with that awareness in filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  

There will be multiple opinions involved in any Federal Disability Retirement packet — the opinion of the medical doctor who is treating the applicant; the opinion of the applicant as to one’s ability or inability to perform some, which or all of the essential elements of one’s job; the opinion of the Supervisor or someone at the Agency on multiple issues, rendered in the Supervisor’s Statement and the Agency’s Certification for Reassignment and Accommodation; and the “opinion” handed out by the Office of Personnel Management as to whether all of the compendium of opinions, collectively gathered to present the evidence for approval in a Federal Disability Retirement application, constitute sufficient evidence such that it meets the preponderance of the evidence in proving one’s case.  It is thus helpful to understand that all of these identifiable propositions are all “opinions”.  

The one distinction, however, is that the opinion of the Office of Personnel Management carries with it the power of approval or disapproval, and so one may designate it as carrying more “weight” because it contains an inherent authority which all other opinions lack — that of the power to say yea or nay.  But remember that such power, fortunately, is not absolute, nor necessarily arbitrary and capricious, and there is ultimately an appeal process to have such raw power reviewed for viability and sufficiency.  That is why the validity and force of the “other” opinions is important to maintain — the medical opinion and the opinion of the Applicant — so that when it is reviewed by an Administrative Judge, the integrity of a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS may be properly adjudicated.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Tailored Approach

By a “tailored” approach, it does not mean that it must be narrow and without flexibility.  Flexibility is important in a Federal Disability Retirement Applicant’s Statement of Disability (Standard Form 3112A).  For, if you tailor an Applicant’s Statement of Disability too narrowly, there are multiple unintended consequences which can occur — from being pigeonholed into a narrow disability (which can become problematic later on if you get a Medical Questionnaire for updated medical information); to being unable to provide supplemental medical documentation to prove your case because the additional medical documentation does not apply directly to an identified medical condition on the SF 3112A; to multiple other potentially problematic areas.  Thus, always make the distinction between a formally diagnosed medical condition from the symptoms which may be delineated.  Further, there does not have to be a 1-to-1 correspondence between diagnosis and symptom; rather, the symptomatology can interweave between the formal diagnosis and the experiential pain, discomfort or cognitive dysfunctions (especially for psychiatric disabilities).  By allowing for some flexibility, one leaves enough “wiggle room” without sacrificing a clear and concise tailoring of descriptive delineation.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire