OPM Disability Retirement: Which Forms, How to Fill Them Out, and What to Put

Filling out forms is a part of life.  At some stage in our lives, we are required to complete forms.  For Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who suffer from a medical condition, such that the medical condition prevents the Federal or Postal employee from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties as a Federal employee (which encompasses the full spectrum of positions, from secretaries, administrative assistants, to scientists, Information Technology Specialists, 1811 Law Enforcement Officers, etc.) or a U.S. Postal worker (including Craft employees, Managers, Postmasters, Supervisors, etc.), preparing a Federal Disability Retirement application may become a necessity.

Thus, the act of “form filling” must be confronted.  On computers, of course, if you have been completing online queries, the “autofill” option may be presented.  But the limitation of such an option, and the unavailability of that choice, should become readily apparent when attempting to complete the various “Standard Forms” required of a Federal Disability Retirement application.

For any remaining CSRS employees intending to file for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, the series embodied under the designation of SF 2801 must be completed, along with the SF 3112 series.  For all of the rest of the Federal employees and U.S. Postal workers who came into Federal or Postal Service after around 1985, and who are under FERS, the SF 3107 series must be completed, and as well, the SF 3112 series of standard forms.

Thus has the question, “Which Forms?” been answered.  As for the remaining two questions:  How to fill them out and What to put —  the “how” is, to put it mildly, with care and trepidation; the “what to put” is too complex to elucidate in this forum.  The series of “informational” forms — SF 2801 series for CSRS employees and SF 3107 for FERS employees — are fairly straightforward (e.g., full name, date of birth, Social Security number, agency name and location, military service, etc.).

It all comes back to the SF 3112 series which becomes problematic — for that is where the Federal and Postal employee must “prove” the nexus between one’s positional duties and the medical conditions by which one is prevented from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s positional duties.  For that, the Federal and Postal employee must go “outside” of the boundaries of the forms themselves, and consult documentation obtained from the doctor, and make legal arguments based upon wise counsel and advice.

As with much of life, it is never as easy as a bureaucracy promises; indeed, the complexity of life is in the very bureaucratization of administrative forums.

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