OPM Disability Retirement: Clarity in the Minefield of Procedural Opposition

Preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, can be a daunting and intimidating process without the opposition — whether intended or not — from one’s Agency or the U.S. Postal Service.  With such “opposition”, life can be made that much more difficult unless one knows one’s rights and the legal obligations of the Agency.  Human Resources Departments of various agencies often reveal peculiar characteristics.

On the one hand, the original raison d’être (the originating reason or purpose for existing) was presumably to assist the employees of the Agency in any and all personnel matters — from payroll issues, to job classification concerns, to preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management.  However, whether it is because “Management” co-opts the personnel in the Human Resources Department; or whether the employees in an Agency Human Resources Department merely take it upon themselves to become contrary and resistant to the needs and concerns of the very employees for whom the H.R. Department’s originating reason for creation are there for; regardless, it has become a commonplace paradigm that there exists an oppositional attitude towards the Federal or Postal employee filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Recognizing this “fact” is important before proceeding down the administrative morass of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.  Once recognized, it is important to be prepared to understand how one will, and must, maneuver through the administrative procedures in order to reach the ultimate goal — a favorable decision from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

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

Medical Retirement for Federal Workers: Basic Steps

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is often helpful to know the basic, physical procedural steps of filing.  It is the Office of Personnel Management which has the statutory mandate to make a decision of approval or denial on a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is located in Washington, D.C., with its intake office in Boyers, PA.  Thus, while the latter location is the central processing point where all Federal Disability Retirement applications are forwarded to by the various Agencies across the country, it is the former location which makes the decision of approval or denial on all Federal Disability Retirement applications.  

The various agencies themselves, from all across the United States, must process the applications by all current Federal and Postal employees by filling out certain portions of the application — the Supervisor’s Statement, Agency’s Efforts for Reassignment and Accommodation, Certificate of Service, Disability Retirement checklist, etc.  For Postal employees, the central H.R. Office is located in Greensboro, N.C.  

Once it is processed and routed through the National Finance Office, then it arrives in Boyers, PA where the initial processing of the Federal Disability Retirement packet begins.  From there, it is assigned a CSA Number (for FERS, the number begins with an “8”; for CSRS, it begins with a “4”), and sent down to Washington, D.C.  

For Federal or Postal employees who have been separated from Federal service for 31 days or more, the Federal Disability Retirement application must be filed directly with OPM in Boyers, PA, bypassing one’s former agency.

Some Agencies will have more localized Human Resources departments which comprise varying degrees of helpfulness and assistance; others have centralized H.R. offices with (again) varying degrees of efficiency and effectiveness.  As with all administrative processes in life, it is best to make “human” contact at each stage of the process, wherever possible.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Disability Retirement: Agency’s Personnel Department

It is always important for each individual, worker, and organizational entity to understand the “role” of one’s position, and that is often the problem with an Agency’s Personnel Department — the “Human Resources” Department of an Agency.  

The irony of being called “Human Resources” is probably not lost to most people, but it is the classic irony of being designated as X and acting in an anti-X manner.  The role of Human Resources Personnel, one would implicitly (and explicitly) expect, is one of assistance of a Federal or Postal worker in the filing, submission and attempt to initiate administrative personnel actions, including Federal Disability Retirement benefits under either FERS or CSRS.  

Yet, too many Federal and Postal employees have a sense (and often a justified one) that in attempting to obtain the assistance of the Agency’s Personnel/Human Resources Department in the processing of a Federal Disability Retirement application, that the H.R. Department is more of a hindrance than a help.  Now, such broad generalizations are often unfair to particular Human Resources personnel who are in fact very, very helpful to the entire process — but, then, all such generalizations tend to create an unfair net and capture those who run counter to the very generalizations espoused.  That is the very definition of a generalization.  

The role of an H.R. person is (or should be) one of neutral assistance.  Yet, because “management” and those who will remain with the agency long after a person has gone out on Federal Disability Retirement will be the ones with continuing power and influence within the agency, it is often to those “others” that the Personnel Department favors and shows a continuing bias for.  This is what is called “human nature”.  When human nature and human resources collide, it is often the former which wins out, to the detriment of the latter. That is why having an attorney — an advocate for one’s position — is often an important tool to utilize.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Human Resources Personnel

The problem with relying upon one’s Human Resources department to help in preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management (if in fact they are even willing to help, other than to provide the necessary forms — if that) is not based upon their lack of knowledge (some are fairly knowledgeable); rather, they work within the same mindset as the rest of government, and therefore unable to think outside of the paradigm of government regulations, rules, and statutory mandates.  

Furthermore, Human Resources personnel are not lawyers; as such, the moment there is a problem with an application — whether in its substantive presentation, or in the legal criteria which apply to the eligibility of any one Federal or Postal employee — they have a tendency to side with the Office of Personnel Management.  

That is not to say that there are not excellent H.R. Personnel — there are.  But H.R. Personnel are trained to assist in the procedural stream of making sure that the paperwork is all “in order”.  They do not comment upon — and nor should they — the feasibility or substantive credibility of a Federal Disability Retirement application under either FERS or CSRS.  

Furthermore, the number of years a person has been a “Human Resources Specialist” is not indicative of the competency of that person in providing any guidance; those who have been in Human Resources often box themselves into a paradigm of repetitive labor, and perform a task “because this is the way it’s always been done”.  That is never a reason to do something, let alone a good reason.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal Worker Disability Retirement: Agencies & SF 3112C

Agencies have an amazing ability to be inquisitive, especially into those areas which really do not concern them.  Often, Agencies will insist that, despite all of the relevant, pertinent, and desired medical documentation already having been attached to a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, the applicant/Federal employee “must” sign the Standard Form 3112C (“Physician’s Statement) , which becomes superfluous and irrelevant.  They insist that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) “requires” the form, which is an erroneous statement.  OPM has never required a signed SF 3112C so long as the Federal Disability Retirement application is accompanied by sufficient medical documentation to support the application.  Sometimes, the insistence by the Agency is merely based upon ignorance; other times, it is based upon an administrative and bureaucratic inflexibility to longstanding “procedures” which the Human Resources personnel cannot adapt to, or change, because “this is the way we’ve been doing it for X number of years”.  Still, there is a suspicion that in some instances, the “requirement” of SF 3112C is because of a more nefarious reason:  The Agency wants full access to all medical records, notes, treatment notes, etc.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire