OPM Form SF 3112C and the Sufficiency of the Physician’s Statement

Confusing necessity and sufficiency is always a precarious matter. That which is necessary may not be sufficient for a given purpose, and failure in understanding such a fundamental distinction can be fatal to a Federal Disability Retirement claim.

SF 3112C requires that a physician complete and provide essential medical information in the pursuance of a Federal Disability Retirement application. The form itself — SF 3112C — is the vehicle by which the medical documentation is obtained. It is “necessary” in the sense that SF 3112C delineates a guideline of the type of information which is needed in order to become eligible for Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

The form itself — SF 3112C — however, is to a great extent irrelevant (although, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management has recently required that a signed SF 3112C be included in the final Federal Disability Retirement packet, despite SF 3112E clearly stating that an “equivalency” of the form would satisfy the lack thereof, as in the attachment of the medical documentation itself), and it is instead the medical documentation through which SF 3112C is obtained, which is what is important.

Regardless, while the OPM SF 3112C constitutes the vehicle, is necessary, but is ultimately irrelevant in and of itself, it is a necessary form to the extent that it mandates the delineation of what information is required for eligibility and entitlement to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.

Will following the guidelines in accordance with what SF 3112C states, result in a successful OPM Disability claim? That is the question of “sufficiency”, as opposed to “necessity”.

Over the years, case-law and statutory interpretation and expansion of Federal Disability Retirement laws have greatly altered the landscape of a Federal Disability Retirement claim. SF 3112C is the vehicle of necessity, although the form itself is an unnecessary one. The greater question is whether it is sufficient to meet the legal weight of preponderance of the evidence, and that question must ultimately be answered by questioning the efficacy of the form itself.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Early Medical Retirement for Disabled Federal Workers: SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C & SF 3112D

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, the Federal or Postal employee will be asked to complete a mountain of standard government forms.  The forms themselves appear to merely request “information”.  Don’t be fooled.  It is not mere information; it is the basis upon which OPM approves or denies a case.  

For the CSRS employee (which is becoming rarer by the hour because of the replacement of CSRS with FERS back in the mid-80s), in addition to SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C & SF 3112D (which both CSRS and FERS employees must complete), Standard Form series numbered 2801 (SF 2801), along with Schedules A, B & C must be completed.  For FERS employees, in addition to the SF 3112 series (again, SF 3112A, SF 3112B, SF 3112C & SF 3112D), the Federal or Postal employee must complete SF 3107, along with Schedules A, B & C.  

These forms constitute the “nuts and bolts” of the Federal Disability Retirement application process.  Not only must “information” be provided in filling out these forms; there are “tricky” issues which must be addressed at the outset.

For example, SF 3112C is the “Physician’s Statement”, and is meant to be used in order to guide the physician into providing a detailed physician’s statement.  It is a confusing, convoluted form which often makes the doctor feel intimidated.  It is preferable to have the doctor address the elements requested on SF 3112C without actually using the 3112C.  However, if a Federal or Postal employee is unrepresented and unaware of this, then the potential disability retirement applicant may unknowingly sign the form, when it may not be in the best interest of the Federal or Postal employee to do so.  

Be aware; “information” is not a mere compilation of facts and figures; rather, information is always used — whether for, or against, something or someone.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: How and What

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, “how” one states something is often just as important as the “what” one says.

The latter is relevant for obvious reasons:  the subject of the statement is the “identifier” for purposes of directing the reader (in this case, the person who is handling your Federal Disability Retirement benefit application at the U.S. Office of Personnel Management) to focus upon a particular matter; but just as importantly, “how” it is said — i.e., the tone, tenor and context of the “what”.

How a medical report is stated will often determine the success of a Federal Disability Retirement application, more than what is expected to be said.  For, from the perspective of the Office of Personnel Management, the generic “what” (the subject matter of the application) will almost always contain the obvious:  that there is a medical condition; that the medical condition prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job; that the Federal or Postal worker will make statements and claims of an inability to perform certain key elements of one’s job because of one’s medical conditions, etc.

On the other hand, how it is stated:  Is it persuasive?  Does the doctor follow from a reasonable explanation to an unequivocal conclusion?  Is the doctor convincing?  While the “what” of a Federal Disability Retirement application, whether under FERS or CSRS, may be a necessary condition of a Federal Disability Retirement application, it may not be sufficient; sufficiency may be determined by how a Federal Disability Retirement application is prepared, formulated, and ultimately filed.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Corresponding Responsibilities

The problem with being responsible for something, is that the moment there are any consequences which result from the assertion of it, everyone lifts their finger and points it in another direction.

In preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, whether under FERS or CSRS, it is the responsibility of the Applicant to prove by a preponderance of the evidence, that he or she is eligible and entitled to Federal Disability Retirement benefits.  Yet, those who simply go through either the local or district Human Resources (sometimes euphemistically referred to as the “Human Capital” or appended with a conceptually interesting term, “Services”) Office, will be requested to sign SF 3112C, the “Physician’s Statement“, where, at the top of the form, a box for a return address exists.  The address to which the physician’s statement and medical records are sent, is often filled in as the Agency’s H.R. Office.

Thus, the consequence of such a chain of events will often be:  the individual Federal or Postal employee, who has the responsibility to prove by a preponderance of the evidence one’s Federal Disability Retirement application from OPM, will have a doctor, medical facility, psychiatrist, therapist, and any number of medical providers, directed to forward sensitive medical documentation directly to an agency’s Human Resources Office, prior to reviewing such documents for accuracy, effectiveness or requested formulation.  And if the Federal Disability Retirement packet is sent over to OPM, and is then denied based upon information which is either inaccurate or incomplete, to whom will the finger be pointed at?

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

OPM Disability Retirement: Quality & Quantity of Medical Report

In preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is often asked as to the quantitative sufficiency of the medical documentation to be submitted.

Qualitative sufficiency for Federal Disability Retirement applications, at least on a generic level, is an easy one to answer — the substance of the medical documentation must meet the legal standard of proof.  If the Office of Personnel Management or the Merit Systems Protection Board approves the Federal or Postal employee’s Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, then obviously both the quality and quantity of medical documentation met the standard of proof.  

But an answer based upon “after the fact” circumstances is rarely useful; the generic answer of, “Submit medical evidence such that it meets the legal burden of proof, of Preponderance of the Evidence”, might be well and good, but what does that mean?  

Ultimately, the reason why such questions as to sufficiency of medical documentary submission cannot be answered in a generic manner, is that each particular case is unique, and any imposition of a general rule is dangerous because, the moment the general rule is followed and violated (with a denial from the Office of Personnel Management), then the rule becomes obsolete and irrelevant.  

The quality of the medical documentation to be submitted must ultimately show to OPM that each of the legal criteria are met, and that there is a nexus between one’s medical conditions and the type of work that one performs.  

Quantity of medical documentation is ultimately determined by the quality of the medical narrative.  While generic in scope, the general approach is that one should submit only the extent of medical documentation sufficient to prove one’s case; and in each particular case, what that proof must consist of, is unique, particularized, and ultimately personalized to the individual Federal or Postal Worker who is preparing, formulating and filing a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS.

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

FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement for Federal and USPS Workers: Arming the Doctor after Disarming

It is one thing to provide an explanation of the process of filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS to the treating doctor; that is simply not enough.  Providing an explanation “disarms” the health professional.  While such explanation and helping the doctor to understand the process is certainly helpful, ultimately the treating doctor needs more than information; he or she needs guidance in order to “arm” one’s self with the tools necessary to help the patient. 

Fortunately, most doctors are professional, compassionate, and eager to help.  Writing medical reports are an administrative aspect of the practice of medicine which is not only a headache, but takes the doctor away from the valuable and limited time for actually treating the patient.  It is therefore important for the Federal or Postal employee who is applying for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS to “arm” the doctor with the necessary tools needed in order to successfully prepare, formulate and construct a sufficient and effective narrative report in order to “pass muster” with the Office of Personnel Management.  The first and primary rule in helping to prepare the doctor is to always protect and maintain the integrity of the doctor.  Truth in every endeavor, and especially in filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, should be the ultimate guiding light.  How that truth is stated, however, is where the guidance, tooling and “arming” comes into play.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire