FERS & CSRS Disability Standard Forms and the Proverbial Blank Slate

The paradigm of a tabula rasa is a frightening one.  It implies a complete negation of historical context, of evolutionary influence, and therefore denies instinct, nature, and pre-conditional implications.  But clearly there are confines and parameters of behaviors, and different species of animals will act in specific ways peculiar to the individuality of the entity, while taking on certain imprinting models if surrounded by members of other species.

To assume, however, that no context exists, either in prefix or suffix form, is to deny a fundamental truth at one’s hazard in doing so.  For Federal employees and Postal workers who begin to complete the required forms for a Federal Disability Retirement application — whether the informational requirements queried in SF 3107 (or SF 2801 for CSRS individuals); or the series of SF 3112 forms which inquire into the foundational questions of one’s medical conditions, their impact upon the essential elements of the job, etc. — it is important to approach any and all such standard forms with a view towards denying the existence of a tabula rasa, or the concept of a blank slate.

Such pristine states of being do not exist, neither in nature, nor in the complex world of administrative bureaucracies.  The history of the forms, of SF 3107, SF 2801, or SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, SF 3112D or SF 3112E, all have a history preceding and superseding the date of the formulation and printing of such forms.  Statutory underpinnings, U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board rulings, Federal Circuit Court of Appeals opinions, and expansive legal opinions, all provide a context for each question queried, and each piece of information requested.

Thus, to approach any such OPM Disability Retirement standard form as if it is merely a blank slate, is to proceed down a dark and curving road with ignorance and fail to realize that it is not a quiet, rural road with nary a car, but the Autobahn busy with high-powered vehicles testing the limits of speed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

SF 3112

Standard Forms are a necessary part of life. Bureaucracies streamline for efficiency of services; the question of whether such efficiency is for the benefit of an applicant to a Federal agency, or to ease the workload of the agency and its employees, is ultimately a fatuous question: as common parlance would sigh with resignation, “it is what it is”.

For the Federal and Postal employee who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition impacts and ultimately prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties, filing an application for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal or Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, will be a requirement which will include completing OPM application forms. There will be the SF 3107 series of forms, as well as the SF 3112 forms. Such forms request a tremendous amount of information, both personal and of a very confidential nature.

The justification for requesting such information by the agency which will review such forms (the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in the later stages of a Federal Disability Retirement application, but initially through one’s own agency, including the Human Resource Office of the agency for which the Federal or Postal employee works, as well as the Supervisor of the applicant who is applying for Federal Disability benefits), is based upon a two-folded approach: The applicant who voluntarily applies for Federal Disability benefits is required to provide such information in order to prove eligibility, and such voluntariness justifies the request itself; and, secondly, there is a “need to know” such information in order to properly assess such information, based upon a preponderance of the evidence. Beyond the SF 3107 forms, the SF 3112 forms will ask for detailed information on the most personal of issues: One’s medical conditions and the impact upon employment capabilities and daily living issues; request of the Supervisor information concerning work performance; ask of the agency to assess and evaluate any capability for accommodating a medical condition; and a similar multitude of onerous, prying questions.

Filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits will require much of the Federal and Postal employee seeking a medical retirement annuity, in the very forms which allegedly “streamline” the process, and these will necessarily include SF 3107 forms and SF 3112 forms. In the end, however, when weighed comparatively against one’s health and the need to move on to a less stressful environment, the price one must pay is relatively cheap when considering the high cost of continuing in the same vein.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire