OPM Disability Application Forms: SF 3112A and the Pathway through the Bureaucracy

Bureaucracy and creativity are conceptual opposites, rarely spoken in the same sentence, and never compatible, representing always a contrast in self-contradictory terms. For, it is the former which implies the negation of the latter, or the stamping out of any hint of the former’s influence upon the latter.  Bureaucracy refers to the mundane, of repetitive standardization and compliance with mediocrity; whereas the latter embraces the unconventional and the need to push the boundaries of acceptable norms.

When the two meet, it generally means a clash of sorts, and the encounter can rarely accommodate one another.  Further, one assumes that factual implantations implicate negation of creative allowances; and so one responds accordingly when voluntarily engaging in a bureaucratic process.

Standard Forms tend to prove the point.  The limited space presented; the manner of the questions posed; the real-world questions requested to be answered; all tend towards negation of any creative inclination. But creativity can imply something beyond mere fictional attestation. Rather, it can be the compiling of a response, but with words and choice of adjectives which enhance and enliven. Coherency and cogency are in themselves creative repositories, and placed within the confines of strictures of a bureaucracy, can awaken the souls of clerks and administrative specialists who pride themselves on the efficiency of mechanical laborings.

The Applicant’s Statement of Disability OPM SF 3112A, where the Federal or Postal employee who is filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, asks specific questions concerning one’s disability or medical condition, and its impact upon one’s ability or inability to perform the essential elements of one’s Federal or Postal position, as well as the impact upon one’s personal life and capacity for daily living. SF 3112A is, in many ways, the key and pathway through the passageway of the greater bureaucracy.

Whether the Federal employee or the Postal worker conforms to the Standard Form 3112 itself, is the question of how one approaches success or failure.  While the questions posed may seem straightforward, the creativity behind the questions reveal a silence muted by the complexity of the statutory history, the background of multiple case-law opinions and Merit Systems Protection Board findings, which have over the years expanded upon and creatively interpreted the limits of each query posed.

SF 3112A, for the Federal employee or Postal worker who is making a Federal Disability Retirement claim, is the pathway of creativity through the bureaucracy of the benefit known as Federal Disability Retirement. It is where the meeting, or the clash, between bureaucracy and creativity occurs.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire

Federal and Postal Disability Retirement: The Danger of Assuming Terms

Assuming knowledge is generally a dangerous endeavor to begin with; in a legal forum, assuming the meaning of a term can have dire consequences.  “Accommodation”, of course, is a particular term in the field of Federal Disability Retirement law which has a specific, narrow definition.  

Thus, for instance, on SF 3112A, there is a “loaded” question where the applicant for Federal Disability Retirement benefits is asked to choose the various options of one’s current status, and one of the choices provided is, “In pay status, and working with accommodation“.  Such a status is rarely the case, and in all likelihood, does not properly, technically or otherwise apply to anyone who is preparing, formulating and filing for Federal Disability Retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS.

Indeed, if that box is checked, the Office of Personnel Management would have every right to deny a Federal Disability Retirement application on that basis alone, precisely because (A) A Federal or Postal employee who has been accommodated, according to that term of art, is therefore assumed to be able to perform all of the essential elements of his or her job in accordance with the terms of the accommodated position, and (B) Since the Federal or Postal employee who has filed for Federal Disability Retirement benefits has been accommodated and can perform all of the essential elements of the positional duties, therefore it implicitly acknowledges that the medical condition complained of no longer prevents one from performing one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.  

Terms can have various conceptual meanings depending upon context and circumstances; particular terms may have very narrow definitions; in the field of law, terms of art must be interpreted in the greater context of statutes, regulations, and case-law expansion of meanings and import.  As the commercials often admonish:  don’t try this on your own; leave it to the professionals.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Esquire