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

OPM Disability Retirement: What Ifs

“What Ifs” are hypotheticals which can paralyze a process.  Often, such imaginary road blocks are pragmatic irrelevancies, and are better left alone.  Others, one should affirmatively confront.  

Thus:  “What if my Supervisor says…”  There are things in one’s control, and those which are not.  A Federal Disability Retirement application contains an implicit concept which must not be forgotten:  It is actually a Federal Medical Disability Retirement application. What the Supervisor says or doesn’t say is not ultimately relevant. Can the Supervisor’s Statement have an influence or impact?  Obviously.  But it is not one of those things which should be worried about, because it is beyond anyone’s control — for the most part.  

“What if my doctor won’t support my case?”  This is a hypothetical which one has control over, in filing for Federal Medical Disability Retirement benefits.  As such, one should make an appointment with the doctor before starting the process, or even contemplating starting the process, and have a frank discussion with the doctor.  Bifurcate those issues which one has control over, from those which one does not.  In filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, one needs to confront the reality of today, in preparation for tomorrow’s future.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Employee Medical Retirement: The Potential Drawback

One of the potential drawbacks in pursuing collateral employment issues concomitantly with a Federal Disability Retirement application is that, as such employment issues are active and clearly in the collective consciousness of the Agency, the Supervisor, and all involved, the issue itself often gets sneaked into a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS via the back door.  

This is not necessarily a negative thing, but can be a potential drawback if the Supervisor insists upon inserting the details of the collateral action in the Supervisor’s Statement.  Whether such insertion and accompaniment with a Federal Disability Retirement application is “proper” or not, is a separate matter.  From the perspective of the applicant who is awaiting a decision from the Office of Personnel Management, it matters not as to the proper actions of the Agency.  What such actions by the rogue supervisor does, is to deflect the focus away from the medical issue, and redirects the reviewing official/representative at OPM that the “reason” for one’s early retirement is not one based upon a medical issue, but rather, is because of stresses or other factors caused by a hostile work environment, harassment issues, etc.  This is normally a proposition which can be easily sidestepped, by arguing to OPM that whether or not such workplace issues have any basis or not, the treating doctor has nevertheless stated X, Y & Z.  However, it can still be problematic, and that is why collateral workplace issues should be avoided, if at all possible.

Sincerely, Robert R. McGill, Esquire

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: The Limitation of Agency Actions

Often, in the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, the client will ask the question, “Well, doesn’t that prove that I can’t do the job?”  Such a question invariably points to some action by the Agency — a letter or a memorandum; a statement which the Supervisor made, etc.  While it may be true that the Agency believes that a Federal or Postal employee is unable to perform, or is not performing, all of the essential elements of the job, remember that actions of the Agency can never replace the affirmative burden of proof that one is unable, medically, to perform the essential elements of one’s job.  

One must keep in mind that the Office of Personnel Management is a separate Agency which is not necessarily in communication with the Agency which employs the Federal or Postal employee.  The “mindset” of the Agency is not being considered by the Office of Personnel Management.  Whatever the motivations of the Agency in doing what it is or will do, is to a great extent irrelevant to OPM.  What the Agency is doing may well indicate “proof” as to other issues — i.e., inability to accommodate; acknowledgment that certain essential elements of one’s job is not being performed, etc. — but it does not prove that an individual is unable, as a result of a medical condition, to perform all of the essential elements of the job.  Only a doctor can do that.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: Coherence

A Federal Disability Retirement packet must be coherent.  This may appear to be “self-evident”, but there have been many disability retirement packets which, upon a denial and a review at the Second, Reconsideration Phase of the process, lack the coherent coordination which results in a credible disability retirement packet.  Coherence results from the simple review of the entirety of the information submitted to the Office of Personnel Management:  The applicant’s personal statement; the medical records and reports; the position description; any additional statements or attachments.

Now, there are certain elements of a Federal Disability Retirement application which cannot be controlled — such as the Supervisor’s Statement (SF 3112B) and the Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts (SF 3112D).  However, while one may not be able to “control” the coherence of those elements which are the purview of the Agency, there are certain steps which can be taken to preempt such uncontrollable injections from the Agency.

Regardless, it is normally not the SF 3112B or 3112D which makes for the incoherence of a Federal Disability Retirement submission; more often than not, the culprit is the Applicant him/herself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire