Federal Employee Medical Retirement: Deprogramming a Preconditioned Approach

The preconditioned attitude of the general public is that, if X has a medical condition, then such medical condition, by the very nature of the condition itself, will either entitle one to benefits, or not.  Such an approach is what one is conditioned to expect — that by the very nature of the medical condition itself, means that it will either lead to, or not lead to, a specified result.  This viewpoint and approach is based upon a definitional standard, where the very essence of what it means to suffer from X already predetermines whether one is eligible and entitled to benefit Y.

Social Security assumes such an approach.  To some extent, so does OWCP, because the Department of Labor is willing to pay a certain amount of compensation based upon a predetermined calculus of a percentage rating, for loss of limb, loss of use, loss of functional capacity, etc.

This is why Federal and Postal employees who first contemplate preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, will attempt to tie the fact of having a medical condition with the question, “Does this qualify me for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?”  But that is the wrong paradigm to use in asking the question.  For, eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from OPM is not based upon a definitional ascription of a medical condition; rather, it is that “third element” — the connection between X and Y, X representing the medical condition and Y standing for the positional duties which the Federal or Postal employee must engage.

In many respects, Federal Disability Retirement answers the philosophical question which David Hume asked:  Is there a necessary connection between cause and effect?  For Federal Disability Retirement purposes, the answer is a resounding “yes”.

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

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

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Striving for an Unobtrusive Life of Quietude

When first entering the adversarial universe of trial lawyers, a kindly but seasoned opposition who easily made foolish mincemeat out of the flustered composite of inexperience and youthful exuberance, but later approached to compliment the young whippersnapper to give some sagely advice: “You have a yellow pad. That is good. You kept looking down at it as if it was a security blanket. That is revealing”.

Whenever I see a man with a roadmap, and it is my job to disrupt the travel route from Point A to Point Z, it makes my job easier to make the opposition take some circuitous routes to force the journeying adversary onto more interesting pathways, to make him take in the sights and travel in a zig-zag manner, rather than in the straight line he desires to take. Point taken.

Revealing too much can have the negative effect of allowing the opposition to know one’s travel route; and if the purpose of one’s mission is to make miserable any goal-tending individual and preventing him or her from attaining a life of unobtrusive quietude (as is often the superficial purpose in life of Supervisors, Managers and other minor dictators who control multiple miniature fiefdoms throughout the Federal and Postal Sectors of employment), then providing an insight into one’s itinerary is like posting a copy of the newly discovered treasure map on Facebook and expecting secrecy because you clicked on a few privacy settings.

It is, indeed, a sad world in which we live; for, if the goal of most is merely to attain an unobtrusive life of quietude, the minimalism of expectation is for each to respect the privacy-space of one another. But perhaps that is asking too much of humanity.

For Federal and Postal employees, whether under FERS or CSRS, who suffer from a medical condition such that the medical condition has interrupted the unobtrusive life of quietude, filing for FERS Disability Retirement benefits through one’s agency (if one is not yet separated from Federal Service, or has been but still within 31 days of such separation) is the administrative requirement. If separated for more than 31 days, then the Federal Disability Retirement application needs to be filed directly with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

In either event, of course, all Federal Disability Retirement applications end up at OPM.  But in so doing, timing, the extent of any prefatory information to be revealed to the agency; to whom; for what purpose; and the ultimate question: When? These are all questions and concerns which must be dealt with in a sensitive, thoughtful manner, and particularized to each situation.

Mapping out a strategy on the proverbial yellow pad is an intelligent approach to take; providing a copy of what one has prepared, to whom, when, and to what extent, will determine whether one’s journey is an unobtrusive straight line from point A to point B, or a zig-zagging line of confusions beset with multiple points of disquietude.

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