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

Informational OPM Forms (SF 3107) versus Specific Content OPM Forms (SF 3112)

Categories are important in order to properly bifurcate, distinguish, identify and comprehend for effective satisfaction and completion. If such differentiated distinctions are not clearly understood, one can easily be lulled into responding to a specific-content question as if it is merely “informational” in nature.

Thus, for the Postal and Federal employee who is formulating responses to Standard Forms for purposes of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, whether the Federal employee or Postal worker is under FERS or CSRS, the sequence of preparing for completion in providing satisfactory answers is important.

OPM form SF 3107 (the “SF” stands for “standard form”) requests basic, factual information data, such as the applicant’s name, address, agency information, marital status, whether and to what extent one wants to elect survivor’s benefits, etc. The accompanying form, Schedules A, B & C, requests further information regarding military service, whether time in the military was bought back, as well as any OWCP claims previously or currently submitted or received, etc.

Then, in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, again whether one is under FERS or CSRS, the accompanying SF 3112 series must be completed and filed. One’s mental status and intellectual antenna, however, should immediately be placed on high alert when encountering and engaging the SF 3112 series of OPM forms. For, in this series of Standard Forms (SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C, SF 3112D & SF 3112E), the distinguishing features should become immediately self-evident by the very nature of the questions queried. No longer are the forms merely requesting basic information; rather, interpretive considerations must be thoughtfully engaged.

Questions concerning one’s medical conditions; what medical conditions will be considered; whether one can later supplement the listing of medical conditions if further medical developments arise; whether there is room on the form itself for a full description and, if not, can a continuation of the form be attached; the impact upon the essential elements of one’s positional duties; what those essential elements are; and multiple other similar conundrums suddenly become presented, necessitating the switch from mere “information” to one of “specific content” directed by the change in the series of OPM forms from SF 3107 to SF 3112.

Paradigm shifts were made famous by Thomas Kuhn in his historically important work, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions. It is no less important to recognize that a paradigm shift is equally important in completing OPM Disability Retirement forms. While there is no book which guides the Federal or Postal employee, such as, “The Structure of Form-Filling Revolutions”, the identification and recognition that filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits requires an acuity of mind in filling out OPM forms, is an important step in reaching a successful outcome.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

 

SF 3112 and SF 3107

Advice and instructions for OPM Disability Retirement Forms:

SF 3112:  In Connection With Disability Retirement Under the Civil Service Retirement System or Federal Employees Retirement System

SF 3107: Application for Immediate Retirement (Also needed by Federal and Postal Employees applying for Immediate Medical Retirement)

Standard Forms tend to require tailored responses.  That is precisely what it is meant to do.  The very appearance of a Standard Form, or of any forms provided and required by the Federal Government, is intended to specifically contain and constrain responses, as well as an attempt to target a wide range of the population of ages and education groups.  What statutes, laws and regulations were promulgated by the formulation of the form; the history behind the legislative intent of the form; the extent of court cases, issuances of judicial or executive opinions — all form a compendium of the background in the final issuance of the form itself.

That is why the simplicity of the form itself is often misleading; as with all of literature, philosophy, theology and the countless disciplines indicated by the suffix of “ology”, it is the creativity of the complex manifested by the uncomplicated form which produces an appearance of simplicity from that which is complex.  Thus are we harkened back to the age-old question of Plato’s acknowledged differentiation between “Form” and “Appearance”, or of Aristotle’s fundamental distinction between substance and accident, in describing the entity or “Being” of a thing.  Forms, whether they be government forms or Platonic entities in the ethereal world, have a similitude not only in designation, but in the reality of our complex and complicated universe.

For the Federal or the Postal Worker who suffers from a medical condition, such that the medical condition begins to impact one’s ability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal job, the initial encounter with OPM forms in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, can be a daunting engagement.  The Federal or Postal Worker need not know the history of philosophy, or the references to platonic forms; but one should certainly be fully aware that there is an important distinction to be made between substance and appearance.

The initial encounter with an OPM form in preparing one’s Federal Disability Retirement application, will bring one in contact with the SF 3107 series, as well as the SF 3112 series of forms.  Issued by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (thus the acronym of “OPM”), both series of SF 3107 and SF 3112 have a long history of statutory, regulatory and legislative history. The Federal and Postal employee may be unaware of such a long history in the development of SF 3107 and SF 3112A; such lack of knowledge, however, already purposes an advantage to the Federal agency, to the detriment of the Federal and Postal Worker. But then, that is the whole purpose of keeping hidden that which constitutes the reality of Being, as in the ethereal Forms identified by Plato throughout his writings, in contradistinction to the appearance of things, which rarely represents the reality of what is going on.

Thus, a word to the wise: Do not let the simplicity of SF 3107 or SF 3112 series of OPM forms mislead you into thinking that the process of obtaining Federal & Postal Disability Retirement benefits is an easy path to travel.

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

CSRS & FERS Medical Disability Retirement: Platonic and Other Forms

Forms are interesting conceptual constructs:  They are created for ease of use; yet, concurrently, they contain, restrict, and by all appearances, limit the ability to go beyond the “form”.  Thus it is with Plato’s philosophical proposition of Forms — they represent the “essence” of what a thing is, as it is; and, like government forms, one is presumable unable to violate the essence in their particularized representative appearances.

The difference, however, between Platonic Forms and government-issued forms, is quite obvious:  Plato’s Forms represent the highest and best of any individual construct in the physical world; government forms rarely represent anything but a bureaucratic decision to force conformity upon anyone and everyone contemplating filing for a benefit.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the potential applicant must understand that he/she will be confronted with multiple and complex forms to complete.  How one completes each form; what one states on any given form; whether one answers the questions posed in an adequate or sufficient manner — each of these will have a direct and often irreparable impact upon the success or failure of a Federal Disability Retirement packet.

The forms themselves may appear simplistic in appearance and content (i.e., SF 3107 series for those under FERS; SF 2801 for those under CSRS; SF 3112 series for both FERS & CSRS); what they represent, however, constitute unstated complexities which can only be understood within the full context of the evolution of statues, regulations and case-law handed down throughout the years, which make up the entirety of the compendium of Federal Disability Retirement practice.

One would never have thought that government-issued forms would be as complicated to understand as Platonic Forms; but then, Plato never encountered the U.S. Office of Personnel Management — otherwise, he may never have proposed that there is indeed the existence of the Form of Beauty and Goodness.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Agency Human Resources

Ultimately, of course, as has been stated mundanely by many sources, the most valuable “human resources” which any company, Federal, state or local agency possesses, are the employees which perform the essential elements of all of the myriad of jobs and duties required in order to accomplish the mission of the entity.

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, if the Federal or Postal employee has not been separated from Federal service for more than thirty one (31) days, the entire Federal disability Retirement packet must be submitted through the agency Human Resources office, whether at the local level or the district level, for further processing before being forwarded to the Office of Personnel Management.

Even if the Federal or Postal worker has been separated from Federal service for over thirty one (31) days, the agency H.R. Office still must prepare and complete certain forms for submission to the Office of Personnel Management (e.g., the Supervisor’s Statement — SF 3112B — as well as the Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts — SF 3112D; Certified Summary of Federal Service, etc.).

Whether, and to what extent, the Human Resources Office is helpful in assisting the Federal or Postal employee in preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS is always up in the air. The feedback received over many years is one of uncooperative neutrality, at best, and open hostility at worst.

Exceptions to such an observation have certainly been encountered, with a satisfying sense of appreciation that, indeed, some individuals recognize that when the time comes that a Federal or Postal employee must by necessity file for Federal Disability retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, that is NOT the time to abandon the dictum that employees still “count” even though the worth of their work may have been somewhat (and temporarily) diminished.

A constancy of treating the Federal or Postal employee, at any stage of one’s career, is the key to fostering the loyalty of the workforce. Just a thought.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire